History of the Graeme Hall Swamp
The Graeme Hall swamp was once part of a 373-acre plantation estate partially owned by the Kirton family in the 1600's. Owen Graeme occupied a section of the land at this time and upon his death in 1661, his portion was left to Evan Graeme. In 1715, a George Graeme sold land to James Elliot and then later in 1722, George Graeme and Philip Kirton collaborated to sell, lease, purchase and then resell the same 105 acre parcel of land. The wife of James Elliot, widowed in 1724, sold the Elliot portion of land to George Graeme. Upon the eventual death of George Graeme, his son Alexander Graeme inherited the land. Alexander and his wife Margaret, had made provisions for the inheritance of the land and so following their death, the court redistributed the estate.
John Pollard Mayers acquired the estate, now 240 acres in size that increased following the acquisition of adjoining land owned by John Peers. However, he relinquished the land to John Cholmely Roach after a heavy debt. The chain of debt continued and the land, presently 242 acres was promised to Jacob Belgrave, a free mulatto in 1820.
Jacob Belgrave never received the land since John Roach renege on his agreements. The ensuing court battle was long and drawn out. Jacob Belgrave died in 1828 despite having offered the highest bid on the auctioned land. The matter was not settled upon his death but the court ruled in the favour of the widow of Jacob Belgrave, Elizabeth Ann, as the rightful heir of the estate. John Roach and John Mayers made great attempts to obstruct Elizabeth Ann Jacobs from inheriting the land but the transfer was sealed in 1829. Once again, Elizabeth Ann following her death made no provisions for the land. Between 1829 and 1842 the ownership of the land is vague.
The ownership of the land in 1842 was recorded as Thomas Perch and eventually Mr. Jones. The manager of the estate, Edwin Clarke eventually purchased the land in 1892. The sons of Edwin Clarke, George and Dudley, inherited the estate in 1931 upon the death of Edwin Clarke. Dudley purchased his brother's share and finally sold the entire site, now 289 acres in size, to the Government of Barbados in the 1960's. The Agriculture Development Corporation was responsible for the lands until the early 1970's. The land was eventually sectioned and distributed among the various ministries of the government. South Coast Development Ltd. purchased the section owned by the Greame Hall Gun Club in 1969.
To date the Government of Barbados still retains ownership of the eastern section of the Greame Hall Swamp. The western section is owned by the Greame Hall Nature Sanctuary.
ShootingThe potential of the site for wildlife was exploited around 1927 with the development of the shooting trays. A series of banks and canals were built on the eastern side using felled mangrove trees and covered with soil and grass was allowed to grow. Shooting was initiated in the early 1800's and was not banned as an activity in the swamp until 1981.
Land Reclamation and Development
A series of structures reduced the connection between the swamp and the sea. These include a bridge, highway, sluice gate and the embankment. The highway linking Bridgetown with Oistins was constructed around 1715 and the bridge in 1871. The sluice gate was constructed about 1920 with three gates leading down to the canal to the sea. Disrepair led to the loss of two of the sluice gates. The remaining bridge is maintained by the Department of Public Works. The installation of the embankment marked another separation of the swamp. The embankment was used to divide the swamp into parcels that could be sold by Wexter. The embankment cut off the oceanic and fresh water supplies to the eastern side and led to flooding and poor drainage conditions. These problems persist to date. The Western Lake was created in 1973 and the fill was used to reclaim the trays on the south and west side of the lake. This area constituted 12 acres destined for unapproved commercial activity. Land reclamation activity was repeated in 1980 on the west side of the lake. White Mangroves were cleared and the area covered with marl. These activities added to the problem of flooding which continues today.
A malaria epidemic occurred in Barbados in the early 1920's and the canals created to attract birds became breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Fish were introduced by the Sanitation Department of the Ministry of Health to control the larvae. This action was repeated in the late 1950's using a species of Tilipia.