1902 – Our Ancestral Home


I love this drawing.

Apart from my close family, nobody has ever seen it. I have the drawing in a frame and it has been hanging proudly on my stairwell since 2008. I see it every time I walk up and down my stairs.

I have decided now is the right time to share it.

I will tell you all about the estate in a while, but first let me explain how this drawing came about.

I visited Southfield in August 2004. It was a mesmerizing experience to see the old Hodgson home but it saddened me to see it in such ruin. Doors and windows hanging off, corrugated metal roof etc. I wished that I could have seen it in it’s original glory. “I needed to bring our ancestral home back to life.”

Four years after going to Southfield, I approached a local artist and asked him if he could take on an a very unusual project. I asked him if he could produce an artist’s impression of how Southfield Pen Great House would have looked in 1902, when Mass Teddy and Mabel first moved into their marital home.

Home Visit

I visited the artist’s home and consulted with him for a few weeks. By using gathered historical evidence, photographic evidence, video evidence and oral evidence, I provided the artist with a ‘mental image’ of how the property would have looked during that period.

I asked him to include things that would originally have been on the estate, coffee trees, coconut trees, horses, buggy, water trough, flower garden, detached stone kitchen, stone wall perimeter, horizon etc.

There was a big problem! He told me that he couldn’t draw it without having images that he could use as a reference to copy. All I had though was photographs showing the home in a ‘ruinous state.’ It was a big challenge for him but he took it on with determination and great excitement. He had never had such a challenging project laid before him.

Thatched Roof

I gathered all the photographic evidence that I had in my possession showing the property and estate. The house would originally have been built with a wooden roof – probably cedar wood – but it only had a thatched roof when Mass Teddy and Mabel first moved into it in 1902.

I was aware from my research that a huge storm in 1933 had ripped off the thatched roof of the house and that Mass Teddy had replaced it with corrugated metal sheeting at a cost of sixpence per sheet. Inside the house, the original solid timber roof supports may have been damaged and altered.

I asked the artist if he could draw the house to show its original thatched roof, not the corrugated Iron. I provided him with a photograph of the kitchen which still had its thatched roof and asked him to use that as a reference point.

I gave him a series of photographs that had been donated by relatives or taken by me. The house and kitchen, the Hodgson horses, the shape of the horizon, the buggy house etc.

House, Kitchen, Coffee Trees 2001
Kitchen, Thatched Roof 2001
Hodgson Horses, Buggy House, House 1967

Drawing Revealed

When the drawing was complete, he invited me to his house for the big reveal. He had the drawing concealed under a sheet, I couldn’t see it. My heart was pumping to see what he had produced. The occasion could have done with a drum roll as he swiftly took the sheet off to reveal it. I was totally overwhelmed when I saw it. I was so happy with what he had produced, I couldn’t stop thanking him enough.

I am very proud of this drawing.

My Stairway

Origins Of The Estate

The estate of Southfield Pen was originally founded c1740 by Mass Teddy’s paternal ancestors, the Parchment’s of Great Britain. The estate was about 160 years old when Mass Teddy and Mabel first moved in “We are related to the Parchment’s” (Conversations with my father in 1999)

Contained On The Homestead

The homestead was surrounded by a stone boundary wall to keep it separate and private from the workings of the estate.

  • Southfield Great House (Possibly with a verandah)
  • Separate Kitchen
  • Buggy House
  • Horses
  • Water reservoir Catchment (Saint Elizabeth suffered droughts)
  • Boundary Wall (see photo Farm School blog)
  • Trimmed Lawns
  • Flower Garden
  • Coffee, Mango, Plum, coconut trees. Pimento Spices etc.

“When I was young, I remember seeing the remains of a mill on the estate” (Telephone Conversation with Hortense Parris née Hodgson, daughter of Mass Teddy and Mabel)

Owners Of The Estate

Since being built-in the 1700’s there has only been four families who actually owned Southfield Pen Estate. All four families were very wealthy and of British origin. They handed down the property successively from relative to relative.

Slave Owners

I am ashamed to admit that the first three families were slave owners at Southfield Pen. The Hodgson’s however, didn’t come to Jamaica until after slavery was abolished. There is solid evidence – that I shall show at another time – which proves that the Hodgson’s were keen supporters of the anti-slavery movement. The Hodgson’s owned Southfield Estate for the longest period (about 140 years)

All these four owners of the estate came to Jamaica in this order and then owned the estate during these periods;

  • The Parchment’s   (c1740 – 1785)
  • The Bromfield’s   (1785 – c1830)
  • The Chisholm’s   (c1830 – c1865)
  • The Hodgson’s   (c1865 – 2004)

“The Bromfield’s lived in our house” Mass Teddy and all his children used to say this.

How It Was Constructed

The stone that was used to construct the house and kitchen was cut from the natural  rock by the slaves that belonged to the Parchment and/or Bromfield family. At the period it was built, sand and mortar was not available, so lime and dirt was used as mortar to bed the stone. (wattle & daub?)

As it stood, when Mass Teddy owned it in the 1900’s, I can confirm that the house surprisingly still had Georgian wooden doors and windows from the 1700/1800’s period. It had a door on the front, back and side.

There were six or seven Georgian sash windows going round the house. Were these original elements re-used to rebuild the great house after storm damage or are we actually looking at the original 1700’s home itself?

I contacted a Jamaican Great House historian who confirmed to me that the kitchen is definitely the original 1700’s structure, but he was not 100% sure about the house, he thought he may have been built after the kitchen.

Mass Teddy built a side extension to his home sometime in the 1900’s.

How The Home Was Furnished

At the time Mass Teddy and Mabel first moved in, the house contained these rooms, areas and items;

  • A Drawing Room
  • Mass Teddy and Mabel’s Bedroom
  • A Maids Room
  • A Dining Room
  • Large Bedroom divided into two bedroom ‘apartments’ by screens
  • A wooden Floor
  • Wooden Beams
  • Victrola Gramophone
  • Old Four Poster Bed (Came from England. Dated 1895)
  • Old Crockery
  • Antique Furniture
  • Family Bible
  • Photographs
  • Other Items

“I spoke about slavery. I am just the messenger, reporting a story. It has been shocking to read the horror that my African and Jamaican ancestors went through to make the wealth for the white colonists. I am not proud of it, but I think the story needs to be told to understand the journey our African ancestors went through, when they taken to Jamaica and went beyond. It is part of our story. You can read it, but you don’t have to be proud of it” Robert Roy Hodgson

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8 thoughts on “1902 – Our Ancestral Home

  1. Robert,
    Thank you for your continued labour of love in bringing our family`s journey to life.The artist`s impression is incredible and the attention to detail is authentic.
    We are not defined by our ancestors involvement in slavery, we can only learn from their mistakes and move forward.
    I applaud you for your extensive research whereby we are educated about our heritage.
    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you like the drawing Carol, the artist done a great job. 😀
      Yes things did change and move forward concerning slavery. Just one example can be seen when a slaves grandaughter (Mabel Victoria Bent) ended up actually owning a Great House!
      I feel happy to be handing down our story. Mabel’s daughter Hortense, the only surviving child, once asked to me to “Pass down from generation to generation for all to see” I think it is so important to tell the true story.


  2. Wow..thanks for this. I am not from Southfield but from a neighbouring district (Tryall). Reading your blog created a connection!!! I am trying to learn more about my family…the Gales/Gayles of Tryall.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Evol
      Thanks for visiting my blog.
      There are a lot of Gales/Gayles in the Saint Elizabeth Registers. If you do a search for the Gales/Gayles on Google you might find something of interest. Merrick Gayle, once of of the Southfield Hardware shop may also be able to help you, he knows a lot about Southfield’s history. Best wishes. Rob


  3. Wow, my father Dudley Charles Parchment grew up in Southfield. I have never been lucky enough to visit, however, this year I am. I found this very interesting but shocking to hear that the Parchments slave owners. Hopefully I will visit Southfield at last.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Catherine, yes it is not good to hear about slavery, it’s a shame that it is in our history. Parchment is a very prominent name in Southfield. If you get the chance to go there you will enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks for visiting my blog.


  4. Thanks for saying that we are not defined by the mistakes of our ancestors. Indeed we must learn from them and,l think that we, in Jamaica, have to some extent .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Cecil

      I’ve been away from the blog for quite some time, but am now just starting to respond to all the comments and messages that I’ve missed.

      I do think it’s right that we try to learn from the mistakes of our ancestors, this so true.

      Thanks for visiting!



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