Nicholas Gyles

No Dates

Claimant or beneficiary


Slave-owner in Jamaica, reportedly unreconciled to Apprenticeship. Possibly the brother of John Gyles (d. 1827), pioneer of the Australian sugar industry who had lived on his [unnamed] brother's sugar plantation in Jamaica on leaving school and later acted as an overseer (by inference between c. 1795-1815).

  1. 'Nicholas Gyles the proprietor of Recess plantation, an individual prominent in the recent contest, which terminated in the dismission of Dr Palmer from the magistracy.' Sturge and Harvey cited Nicholas Gyles's letter to a friend in London which states that 'without coercion, no good can be done after the termination of the apprenticeship'. Apprentices could never be improved or changed 'so long as they are black'. Mentions 'the coffin', an imprisonment room and that 'the proprietor said it had not been used since 1834.'

  2. Benjamin M'Mahon said of Nicholas Gyles when the latter was overseer on Halifax estate: 'His disposition was cruel in the extreme. No man ever made larger crops of sugar: but, to effect this, he nearly destroyed the whole of the estate labourers by his tyrannical and oppressive conduct.'


Niel Gunson, 'Gyles, John (?–1827)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 2 July 2018.

  1. Sturge & Harvey pp. 327-328.

  2. Benjamin M'Mahon Jamaica Plantership (London, 1839) pp. 201-2.

Associated Claims (2)

£327 19s 7d
£2,242 11s 7d
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)

Associated Estates (8)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1826 [EA] - 1832 [LA] → Guardian
1820 [EA] - 1823 [LA] → Attorney
1818 [SY] - → Overseer

In 1839, Benjamin M'Mahon described the treatment of one group of enslaved people on Halifax estate by overseer Nicholas Gyles: "In 1818, Mr. Nicholas Gyles was overseer of Halifax estate, in [St Mary’s] parish. His disposition was cruel in the extreme. No man ever made larger crops of sugar: but, to effect this, he nearly destroyed the whole of the estate labourers by his tyrannical and oppressive conduct. Many of them were chained together while at work; and at night remained in the dungeon, with irons upon their necks and feet. Their food was either raw corn, or plantains, which was greedily devoured, without any kind of cooking. After six hours' rest, they were again taken out of the dungeon, and driven by the whip until the following night. From fifteen to twenty of them were worked by Mr. Gyles the whole year round, Sundays not excepted, in the manner I have described. The dungeon was underground, and had the most loathsome appearance. I have heard effective labourers say, that they did not think they could survive in it for one day. Mr. Gyles at this time had a savage African, who was in the habit of visiting the dungeon in which these poor creatures were lodged, and of carrying with him a pair of pincers, with which he pulled the hair from their heads. As an additional torture, he would sometimes employ this fearful instrument to flay their skin from their flesh. This driver was not only esteemed by Mr. Gyles for his cruelties, but was rewarded with innumerable little indulgences. After some years, however, Mr. Gyles himself was discharged; when it was found that the estate labourers were not only in a state of the most wretched debility, but, with a very few exceptions, were actually without any children to supply their place. Such are the fearful consequences of the cruelty which is resorted to for the forcing of crops, and the necessary results is the destruction of the estates capital by death of the labourers and stock."

1839 [EA] - → Not known
1821 [EA] - 1831 [LA] → Owner
1832 [EA] - 1839 [LA] → Owner
1815 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Owner
1832 [EA] - → Lessee