"Few physical traces of Bahamian slave culture have survived. Rather more - but still relatively few - physical traces of white Loyalist plantation society have endured. Physical reminders of both, however, are found in abundance and in a coherent pattern at Clifton Cay in the form of slave cabins and kitchens, plantation walls, the ruins of William Wylly’s great house and numerous other structures and artifacts from the period. In their totality, they represent one of the most complete tangible and enduring links to our ancestors and their way of life."
— Perry G. Christie, March 9th 2000
Address made at Clifton Point for Clifton Preservation
Proposed gated community development previously planned
for Clifton &
Lucayan hut replica at
Johnstone Beach. Lucayans settled along the shore and worshiped more inland
The Great House ruins are the remains of residence of William Whylly. The cut limestone block walls and the surrounding grounds still hold the fragments of the day to day lives of The owner and his slaves.
The Slave Village is one of the best representations of slave settlements and the life of both African slaves and freedmen. These were the quaters of the slaves of The Whylly Plantation.
The Johnstone Ruins were built as a really sound structure and the true testament to this is the fact that despite being near the salt ocean air, the building structure survives. It is believed that some commercial activity took place here because of the amount of coins used in that period were found at the site.
The Banana Hole is part of a natural cave network underneath Clifton. Caves served as a place of worship and burial for the Tainos.
In the aftermath of emancipation, the lands of Clifton was host to farming activities, then changed hands to potential real estate developers before being acquired by Sir Harry Oakes in 1935. By 1998, plans were developed for a $400 million high end real estate development which would encompass all of the land that is established as a park today. This is what sparked the period of united activism that lobbied for the preservation of not just a plot of land, but one of the most historically comprehensive sites in The Bahamas.
The fight for the preservation of Clifton heralded an important message about the priority of national heritage over national economic development at any cost, or at least to the usual road map of "progress". Throughout the 1990's the campaign for Clifton grew momentum from newspaper and web editorials to organized committees with the backing and involvement environmentalists, cultural enthusiasts and politicians. These groups and individuals are in particular; The Clifton Cay Coalition, the Clifton Park Committee, activist Keod Smith, environmental activist Sam Duncombe, Vivian Whylly, Rev. C.B. Moss, Michael Stevenson, Mellissa Sweeting, & then Opposition Leader Perry Gladstone Christie. They together made various cases for Clifton as a World Heritage Site.
This movement climaxed in 2000 in a series of demonstrations, motorcades, resolutions and international support.
Opposition leader and head of the Progressive Liberal Party Perry Gladstone Christie made a commitment at Clifton point in March 2000 to compulsory attain the 208 acres of Clifton for the creation of a national park should his party be returned to power. By March 22, 2000, the interest in Clifton by the prospective developer was officially withdrawn, throwing the residential development of Clifton in permanent limbo.
The birth of Clifton began as an act of The Bahamian Parliament in 2004 with the creation of the Clifton Heritage Authority. By that time the Progressive Liberal Party was voted into power, and Perry Gladstone Christie was Prime Minister. The authority was entrusted with 208 acres of land which contains some of the most important relics of our Amerindian, Colonial and Slavery past. It is mandated with the responsibility to develop and maintain a National Heritage Park that heightens our cultural, historical and ecological awareness.
The development of of Clifton as a National park since the creation of the authority has been a daily, ongoing process.
The Clifton Heritage National Park opened officially as a Heritage park on April 9th, 2009, confirming the commitment of the government and the CHA to its mandate and the promises demanded by that political and environmental activism that claimed victory in 2000. Since 2009, we are continuing to fulfill the master plans for development, adding, revising and capitalizing on our treasures for the benefit of The Bahamian people and the cultural enrichment for all those who drawn near from around the world to come and see.
THE LOYALIST ERA & SLAVE TRADE
THE ARAWAK PERIOD
The Amerindian peoples called the Lucayans, settled along these 700 islands and made this their home long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus and his Spanish adventurers in 1492. Initial studies of the area reaped significant discoveries of Lucayan settlements along the shore.
The remnants of their lives found at Clifton, and throughout The Bahamas gives us clues to piece together their daily lives and rituals. The Lucayans lived along the shoreline, eking out an existence through fishing and sustenance farming. For housing, huts were made out of narrow logs and branches in rectilinear or circular designs, with palm thatching for roof material.
The Islands of The Bahamas was a Crown Colony of Great Britain. During the 18th and 19th centuries, these islands experience a rise in population from loyal colonial citizens fleeing the American Revolution. These people, referred to as Loyalists, were British subjects and they were granted land and titles by the reigning monarch in compensation for their losses left behind in the American Colonies. The loyalists drew into the Atlantic Slave trade for human resources for their plantations and general running of their households.
The area now known as Clifton were granted to several people who established plantations. Their names were John Wood, William Whylly, Lewis Johnston & Thomas Ross. The remains at Clifton are what is left of the Whylly and Johnston Plantation.
The slaves of the plantations of Clifton worked from dawn until dusk, cultivating crops, clearing roads and building. These were mainly captured Africans and their offspring born into slavery. The slaves of William Whylly enjoyed particular, which included being able to marry, work for their freedom, and celebrate Junkanoo, and festival which has endured to this day in The Bahamas as a parade.
Caves were used for worship and burial inland. Rituals were led by the chief of the tribe, called The Cacique, who's demonstration of leadership, strength and faith were vital to the success of a village. Ceremonies included the use of tobacco, sacrificing of animals and food for the keeping of their household idols and ancestors, which were believed to be vital for survival of the people through the seasons, in times of peace and in strife.