Planet Suffolk: Bringing together the Suffolks of the world

Suffolk, West Grand Bahama, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas

The subdivision of Suffolk is located at 26° 32’ N 78° 39’ W on the island of Grand Bahama in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.  Grand Bahama is the northernmost of the islands of the Bahamas, and the closest major island to the United States, lying 55 miles (89 kilometres) off Florida.  The island is approximately 530 square miles (1,373 square kilometres), and it is the fourth largest of the islands of the Bahamas.  West Grand Bahama is one of 31 districts of the Bahamas established in 1996.  The district covers the entire western portion of Grand Bahama Island, excluding the city of Freeport, which forms its own district.   

Population:- There is at present no permanent population in the subdivision of Suffolk.  The population of Grand Bahama in 2010 was 51,756 and that of the City of Freeport 26,910.    

How to get there:-

By Road:  Exit the airport and turn left to Independence Circle (roundabout) and take the second exit down East Mall.  At the third roundabout (Ranfurly Circus) take a left turn along East Sunrise Highway.  Continue along the Highway across the Casuarina Bridge over the Grand Lucayan Waterway until the junction with the Grand Bahama Highway.  Turn left onto the Grand Bahama Highway.  The entrance to the Suffolk subdivision is the third exit on the left and it is gated.  This is the last road before the bridging point over the Grand Lucayan Waterway (the bridge has yet to be built – see below).

There are no railways in the Bahamas.

The island is served by the Grand Bahama International Airport also known as Freeport International Airport.

Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5 hrs).  Daylight saving time in summer + 1 hr.

Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)

History & Derivation of Name

Grand Lucayan Waterway

Suffolk Court & Suffolk Street

City of Freeport 

History & Derivation of Name

This Suffolk has been on the drawing board for a long time.  It is a case of the promise of great things to come. The Grand Bahama Development Company Limited (Devco) owns over 70,000 acres of land on Grand Bahama Island.  Devco has two shareholders: the Grand Bahama Port Authority (see City of Freeport, below) and Hutchison Development Bahamas Limited.  Devco is responsible for master planning most of the land zoned for tourist/commercial and residential use, and undertakes development in its own right as well as selling land to third party developers.  The company’s plan for land sales and settlement was laid out in a 1964 publicity brochure.  It looked to develop 40,000 individual lots in 45 subdivisions with a seven mile seawater canal system allowing access to waterfront residences.  One of the goals was to create new residential areas that would make permanent community life possible, rather than temporary holiday homes that would be rented out.

In 1970 Suffolk Units 1 and 2 were added to Devco’s development ventures and the first plans of the subdivision wer
e drawn up.  By 1978 the seawater canal system was in place (see Grand Lucayan Waterway, below).  The Suffolk subdivision was to be built just west of the Grand Lucayan Waterway situated south of the Grand Bahama Highway.  Suffolk property values would increase dramatically once the Grand Bahama Highway bridge project was completed.  The Highway would give direct and speedy access from the Airport, whereas all traffic at present had to be routed via the Casuarina Bridge, the only bridge over the Waterway connecting the east and western ends of the island.

               The Approach to Suffolk!!!

However, because of the world recession that followed, by 1977 these developments were no longer considered viable at that time.  There was a widespread decline in investment in the Bahamas, and tourism also declined as Americans were drawn to Europe because of reduced costs in getting to that continent.  Nevertheless, with improved investment prospects at the turn of the century the plans were given the go-ahead.  Suffolk subdivision was laid out, paved roads have all been built and named, and the subdivision is fully serviced with power, telephones and cable TV.  Access to the subdivision is gated; Suffolk has both commercial tourist lots and single family residential lots available.

The only problem was, as at the beginning of 2016, that there was no bridge across the Waterway, and no houses had been built. (See Grand Lucayan Waterway, below, for the construction of the Sir Jack Hayward Bridge.)    

Suffolk subdivision is surrounded by the subdivisions of Explorer Bay, Windsor Bay and Emerald Bay which all sit on the Grand Lucayan Waterway just south of the Grand Bahama Highway and west of the promised bridge.  Suffolk subdivision itself comprises two units containing in total 206 lots ready for building.  All of the roads in these subdivisions are named after towns and villages in the county of Essex, England: Dagenham, Debden, Dunmow, Dunton, Harlow, Heybridge, Maplestead, Matching, Mundon, Notley, Pattocks (a district of Basildon), and Roxwell.  In Suffolk subdivision, there are Essex Road, Essex Court, and Essex Close; Mundon Road, Mundon Drive and Mundon Avenue; Pattock Close and Pattock Drive; Maplestead Road and parts of Maplestead Drive.  
It seems strange that one of the subdivisions should be given the name Suffolk when all of the roads within it relate to Essex.  We can only surmise that the name “Suffolk” evokes images of leisure, pleasure and comfort associated with the idyllic rural countryside found in Constable paintings, and for publicity purposes this name better represents the eastern counties than would an “Essex” subdivision.  Unfortunately, in the United Kingdom “Essex” has become a stereotype for a certain area of youth culture associated with promiscuity, brashness and vulgarity.  We hasten to add that this is far from the truth.  However, it is more than likely that the derivation of “Suffolk” had something to do with the co-chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, Sir Edward St George, who was a keen enthusiast of horse-racing.  His brother Charles ran the Sefton Lodge stables at Newmarket in Suffolk and on the latter’s death in 1991, Sir Edward continued to run the Newmarket stables as the Lucayan Stud (the Lucayans were the pre-Columbian people of Grand Bahama - see City of Freeport section, below).

                                                                                                                                                     Suffolk subdivision - as it is

We thought that we had better warn our readers that the advertising literature seems to overlook the fact that among the flora surrounding these developments are the manchineel trees.  The Spanish name is “manzanilla de la muerte” which means “little apple of death”.  This refers to the fact that the manchineel (Hippomane mancinella) is one of the most poisonous trees in the world and it is found extensively in Grand Bahama.  In fact, it’s not just the fruit (which does resemble little apples) that is poisonous, but the entire tree is toxic to humans and animals.  The tree should never be used as a cover when it rains as on such occasions it oozes a white sap, so standing beneath the tree can cause blistering of the skin.  Burning the tree releases extremely toxic fumes which can cause blindness and respiratory problems when humans come into contact with the smoke.  Consumption is generally fatal.

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Grand Lucayan Waterway

The Grand Lucayan Waterway project was begun in 1967 and completed in 1978.  It is a man made canal that cuts across Grand Bahama Island and the waterway was to be a shortcut from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sea of Abaco, an approximately 62 miles (100 kilometres) long saltwater lagoon lying over the Little Bahama Bank.  The waterway is only about 7 miles long.  It was cut out of the coral rock, and the sand on the bottom is generally just a shallow layer over limestone.

The construction of the canal effectively cut Grand Bahama in two, so in 1970 the Casuarina Bridge was built across the central part of the canal carrying the East Sunrise Highway.  However, the development plan envisaged a second bridge built further to the north to carry what was to be the main thoroughfare on the island, the Grand Bahama Highway.  This would take people and goods directly from the airport to the eastern end of the island, which could then be opened up for development, avoiding the crowded part of Grand Bahama that was along the southern coastline.  The economic downturn in the last decades of the 20th century put this on hold and, despite announcements that the Grand Bahama Highway Bridge would be built in 2011, this never materialised.  This meant that people on the eastern part of the island continued to be dependent on only one crossing place to reach the main shopping centre, the harbour, airport, medical facilities, and their places of work ....the Casuarina Bridge that has a 30-ton limit, but takes loads frequently in excess of 50-tons.    

The waterway was built with high hopes of developing this area of Grand Bahama Island.  There were many indentations cut out along the waterway which allowed the homes to have immediate access to water where they could moor their boats at their own quays.  Owners would have access to the Sea of Abaco and the Atlantic Ocean.  Unfortunately it never really got off the ground.  There was not enough money to keep the Waterway dredged and the second bridge was never built as originally planned, along with other financial difficulties that have been encountered.  

In February 2014 a contract was signed to construct the Grand Bahamas Highway Bridge.  The bridge is more than 200 feet long with a span of 88 feet and has a 35 foot clearance above the waterway with a capacity of 55 tons.  The estimated date of completion was by June 2015.  However, the construction was delayed by snags and it was not until 2 May 2016 that the bridge was finally opened.  The bridge, which cost $4.3 million, was named the Sir Jack Hayward Bridge.  Sir Jack Hayward, principal owner of the Grand Bahama Port Authority Ltd, was instrumental in spearheading construction of the new bridge, warning that an alternative was needed to replace the 60 year-old Casuarina Bridge.  Sadly, in January 2015, Sir Jack Hayward passed away before he could see his vision realised.  (See City of Freeport, below, for further detail on the contribution made by Sir Jack Hayward to the island’s prosperity.)


Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Gladstone Christie is pictured centre along with members of Sir Jack Hayward family, officials of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, and other Government officials carrying out the Official Ribbon Cutting, declaring the Sir Jack Hayward Bridge on Grand Bahama Island ‘officially open’ on May 2, 2016. (BIS Photo/Vandyke Hepburn) 





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Suffolk Court & Suffolk Street

As well as the subdivision of Suffolk detailed above, Grand Bahama also boasts a Suffolk Court & Suffolk Street. These are located in Freeport, & are around 12½ miles (20 km) from the subdivision of Suffolk.

Suffolk Court is a development on a private peninsula to the south of Pinta Avenue.  Pinta was the name of one of the galleons of Christopher Columbus.  Suffolk Court probably takes its name from nearby Suffolk Street (previously Suffolk Lane) which is a main road that comes into Pinta Avenue about a third of a mile to the east.  

Built in 2008, Suffolk Court is a six acre private, gated peninsula of waterfront residences, located adjacent to the famous Xanadu beach & Xanadu Hotel, only ten minutes drive from Freeport International Airport.

Suffolk Court was designed & built by the Irish property company Harcourt Developments.  It consists of 85 apartments in five, five storey buildings.  These include one & three bedroom apartments on the lower floors, with penthouse suites on the top floor of each building.  Each apartment has a balcony overlooking either the water or the communal gardens.  Mooring berths for boats up to 40ft are available for lease or purchase by residents.

Suffolk Lane was laid out early as part of the development to the south of the centre of Freeport in the late 20th century.  The developer appears to have adopted British county names for four of the five main roads in this area: Yorkshire Drive, Hampshire Drive, Inverness Lane and Suffolk Lane.  The other one is named Churchill Road.

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City of Freeport

The earliest inhabitants of Grand Bahama Island were the Siboney, a people who subsisted on fishing.  They vanished and were replaced by another Caribbean group, the Lucayans.  When Christopher Columbus discovered the islands in 1492 there were 4,000 Lucayans living on Grand Bahama Island.  The Spanish exploited the Lucayans for use as slaves and by 1520 the last eleven were taken to Hispaniola.  Thereafter Grand Bahama remained uninhabited until the 1650s, when it became the haunt of buccaneers.  The British claimed the Bahama Islands in 1670, but it was not until 1720 that the Crown successfully rid the island of pirates.  The island was not permanently settled until about 1806, although annually resorted to by lumbermen of the other islands for its timber.  After slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834 a few freed slaves arrived on Grand Bahama and survived by subsistence farming and fishing.  Smuggling to the nearby American coast was a lucrative, but dangerous, pastime.  The population never rose above 400.  In 1955 Freeport was no more than a pine forest.  There were no resorts; Grand Bahama was one of the least developed of the islands, a place where a few hundred people made their living off the sea.  No one could have imagined then that the island would become a tropical Caribbean playground and commercial centre; no-one other than an American businessman, Wallace Groves.

Wallace Groves, a Virginian, came to the Bahamas in the 1940s after serving time in a penitentiary for mail fraud.  He had been a very successful financier in New York City during the 1930s.  He bought a lumber company, and was keen to the possibilities of the island as a tourist destination.  Less than 100 miles away was the United States and its thriving post-war economy.  In 1955 Groves approached the Bahamian government with his idea to build a city that catered to both industry and tourists.  Shortly after, the document known as the Hawksbill Creek Agreement was signed on 4th August 1955, and the City of Freeport was born.  The Agreement granted 50,000 acres of pine forest, swamp and scrubland to Groves’ company, The Grand Bahama Port Authority Ltd (GBPA), with an option of adding additional acreage, which was later taken up, increasing the area to 138,000 acres (230 mls2).  To encourage investment, it also freed the Port Authority from paying taxes on income, capital gains, real estate and private property until 1985 - a provision that has since been extended to the year 2054.  The GBPA was mandated by this Agreement to build a deep water harbour, an industrial community and required infrastructure for the city.  Moreover, it was given responsibility for the development, administration and provision of services within an area called the ‘Port Area’ (a 230 sq. mile tax-free zone on Grand Bahama).  The agreement also conveyed to the area the legacy of a “free port” with substantial tax concessions for financial, commercial and industrial enterprises that set up businesses there; hence its official name - the City of Freeport.  

Through the GBPA, of which Groves was the majority stockholder, he owned the airport, most of the port facilities, and at one time held the exclusive gambling licence for Freeport.  The casino holdings were criticised for attracting a criminal element to the island, and Groves operated in a monarchial style, controlling the police and exiling those who opposed him.  Nevertheless, during the 1960s he established Freeport.  The city grew rapidly; the airport was opened in 1961 and Port Lucaya, the tourist centre, was established in 1962.  Some 214 miles of road and hundreds of buildings were built, including six hotels, three 18-hole golf courses, two casinos, a hospital/clinic, modern schools, an international shopping centre and an international airport.  Nevertheless, there were concerns that the influx of wealthy Americans was mainly white southerners who practised discrimination against black Bahamians, and a form of segregation arose whereby the black population lived away from Freeport as they could not afford the living costs of that city, as much as they were excluded.

It became clear that the political climate was changing as the Bahamas headed towards independence, and Groves brought in the British financier, Sir Charles Hayward, to help development on Grand Bahama Island.  Hayward in turn introduced Sir Edward St George who had served as Chief Magistrate in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, from 1956 to 1960.  In 1967 a new government came to power in the Bahamas that considered the situation in Freeport to be unacceptable.  In 1969 Groves sold his controlling interest in the GBPA, and in the following years many of the wealthy Americans left the island, as they found the political change not to their liking.  Sir Edward St George and Sir Charles Hayward, then his son Sir Jack Hayward, co-operated with the new government in transforming the economy of the island.  In 1979, in the space of 30 days, Sir Edward St George and Sir Jack Hayward succeeded in raising $42 million to buy out Wallace Grove’s 42 per cent shareholding in the Port Authority, giving the two overall control of the GBPA.  The two British businessmen worked hard during the difficult eighties and early nineties to keep Grove’s vision alive.

In just over 50 years Freeport became the commercial, industrial and tourist centre on Grand Bahama Island, and by 2004 it had helped Grand Bahama to become the second most populous island in the Bahamas.  Several cruise ships stop weekly at the island, and the tourist industry is centered on the southern coastline.  In addition to tourism, the other major industries of Freeport include one of the largest container ports in the world, serving the eastern seaboard of the United States, and major dry docks for cruise ship refurbishing.

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