St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The owner of Romney Manner and Wingfield Estate and operator of Caribelle Batik, Maurice Widdowson says he is delighted and humbled to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his contribution to tourism
“I am thrilled at several levels to be perfectly honest, probably one of the main levels is the fact that the recommendation came as a very pleasant surprise from members of the Taxi Association who approached me some time ago and said how would I feel if they recommended me to get a national honor, well I felt elated, particularly as it came from what in fact are literally are my main partners in my Caribelle Batik business.”
Mr Widdowson is among eight people to be honored on Wednesday, June 14th by Governor General Sir S W Tapley Seaton.
The Wingfield Estate was originally owned by Sam Jefferson 11, the great great grandfather of the US President Thomas Jefferson who sold the Wingfield portion which contained the Red House to the Earl of Romney who renamed it Romney Manor in the 17th Century.
“Just over forty years ago, I had a dream and an ambition, and an objective, I found Romney Manor, it had been abandoned for a few years, it was an old and run-down estate but it was remarkably beautiful in my eyes, not what I saw, but what I imagined and we set about over the years taking an abandoned property and creating something wonderful.”
In 1834 Lord Romney freed enslaved Africans on the estate in defiance to the British Parliament making the estate the first to emancipate Africans.
Concerning the history, Maurice Widdowson said, “My obsession has been with the historical elements of the property that we have down in Old Road and its place in history is remarkable and that is what I am continuing to work on, in fact on the left hand side of my desk today I have just received about a seventy page report from the City of London museum about the Romney papers, it is giving me a great insight into many things I didn’t know.”
Caribelle Batik itself was founded in 1974 by Mr. Widdowson and has grown into a top tourist attraction over the years.
“I can only say that it has become the most popular tourist destination in St. Kitts, and ranks in the top few in the Caribbean region. The contribution to tourism, is, what is tourism about? Well it’s really about, to me, about employing people and improving their lot, and I think that we have 36 full-time employees and had at least that number for many, many years, so on many levels that objective has been fulfilled.”