Culture & History in Saint Elizabeth Jamaica

Culture & History in Saint Elizabeth Jamaica
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Saint Elizabeth:
Cultural and Historic


Saint Elizabeth Jamaica has many very interesting historic and cultural buildings and sites. They include:
  • Accompong: This village located in St. Elizabeth is named after its founder Accompong, brother of Quao, Cuffy, Cudjoe, and Nanny, the leader and founder of Nanny Town. They were well trained warriors from the Ashanti area of West Africa. Accompong is the only remaining village in western Jamaica inhabited by the descendants of the Maroons. Situated on the south side of the Cockpit Country, the town was founded in 1739 when land was given to them as part of a Peace Treaty with the British. when the second war with the English broke out in 1795, the Accompong Maroons remained neutral and were left untroubled at the end of the war when all the other Maroon settlements were destroyed. Traditional ceremonies are held here on 6th January annually to commemorate the signing of the Peace Treaty and the establishment of the town. Most of the Maroons have gone to other parts of Jamaica to live but they are still proud of their African heritage.
  • Black River - The town of Black River, established close to the banks of the river after which it is named, is one of the oldest in the island. The exact date of its establishment is not known but an 1685 map of Jamaica identified its existence. The town itself is quaint and beautiful, looking southward, toward the shimmering blue Caribbean Sea. Black River was designed by the Leyden brothers of England, three wealthy men who were substantial land proprietors in the area. Today, it is nothing like the busy seaport town it was in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the area prospered from the lucrative logwood trade, exports of rum, pimento and cattle skin from nearby Holland, Vineyard and Fullerswood Estates. The town itself, because of its port, was vital to the slave trade. Slaves were brought here and sold at auction at Farquharson Wharf (see below). Over time, the town grew in size and importance and in 1773 it replaced Lacovia as the capital of St. Elizabeth. By the early 1900s the town was second only to Kingston, the national capital, in importance. The town has many important historic sites and structures and the buildings are of varying architectural styles. You will find examples of Georgian, Jamaican Georgian, British Colonial and Jamaican Vernacular architectural styles. Some of these buildings, particularly those to the western and northern sections of the town are wooden structures. Invercauld Great House, now transformed into a hotel, is probably the most imposing wooden Georgian building on the western side of the town. On April 8th, 1999, the town of Black River was designated a Protected National Heritage District by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

  • Black River Court House - The date of construction for the Court House at Black River is unknown however it is described as presenting a fine appearance from the sea and at once attracts the attention of visitors. "Court sessions were originally held at Lacovia, but was later transferred to the town of Black River by an Act dated December 6, 1788.
  • Black River Old Police Station - The construction date is unknown but it could have been built during slavery days. It is remarkable because it was built of molasses, white lime stones and broken bottles.

  • Black River Spa located in Black River was one of the more popular spas in the island up until the 1930s. The cold spring which is rich in sulfur and other minerals is believed to have healing properties. It is believed to have cured many ailments. Unfortunately this gift of nature has deteriorated substantially. Hopefully someone will invest and renovate it.
  • Farquharson Wharf – in Black River. The Slave Trade was carried on in Black River at this wharf (then called the “Town Wharf”) where slaves were sold by auction. Notices were published in papers, with comments on the slaves to be sold and the dates of the sale. The land proprietors would then arrive in their tandems (the buggy of those days) and make their purchases. In the early days, the Black River was crossed by a “Float”. It took pedestrians, donkeys loaded for market, mules etc., across. This was replaced by an extension bridge made of wood. When the bridge started to erode, the representatives for the parish invited the Colonial Secretary to see the condition. As a result, the present bridge was built. The bridge was officially opened by Sir Edward Denham in 1938.

  • Hampton School, like Munro College, originated with Robert Hugh Munro who, in his will in 1797, bequeathed a part of his estate to his nephew Caleb Dickenson and the Churchwardens of St. Elizabeth to set up a school in the parish for the education of as many poor children as the funds was able to provide for and maintain. Dickenson improved the property of Munro, so that when Dickenson died in 1821, he was far wealthier than his uncle had been. In his will, Dickenson desired that his Trustees carry out the wishes of his uncle to educate the poor. In 1858, a school for girls was started at Potsdam, on the same property as the Boys' School. This location was not satisfactory and the Girls' School was moved for a short time to Torrington, then to Mount Zion (now called Stirling). By December 1884, there were fewer than 12 girls at the school. In 1885, the school reopened at a new location, Malvern House. By 1891, Malvern House was given up and the school moved to Hampton, formerly known as Fort Rose. The Girls' School eventually became known as Hampton. The school is one of the leading Girls' Schools in the West Indies. There are some interesting buildings on the campus. The original great house from the 19th century is now the administration building. The Chapel, built in the 1920s, is said to contain the finest stained glass window in Jamaica.

  • Invercauld Great House – Located on High Street in Black River on the harborfront. Invercauld House was built in 1894 by Patrick Leyden for a member of the Farquharson family. It is a fine example of Jamaican Georgian architecture, and is typical of the elegant turn-of-the-Century waterfront homes built on High Street in Black River by wealthy merchants. The beautiful Great House is furnished with many pieces from this early era. The original building has been maintained and the attractive additions blend with the original style. Invercauld is a landmark building in Black River and it is currently used as a guest house.

  • Lacovia Tombstones: At the junction of the Lacovia main road and one of the roads to Maggoty lay two tombstones. On one is a large marble slab with the inscription "To Thomas Jordan Spencer" who died in 1738. The other is unmarked. The story goes that a duel at a nearby tavern resulted in the death of both men. They were buried side by side. Tombstones known as the "Lacovia Tombstones" were erected in memory of these men. Spencer's tombstone bears a crest which indicates that he was a descendant of the late Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.
  • Lover’s Leap Lighthouse - This Lighthouse was built by the Engineering Department of the Port Authority in Jamaica. It is the most recent lighthouse built in Jamaica. The Lighthouse stands at approximately 1,600 feet above sea level and is powered by three different power sources: a generator, electricity and a set of batteries.

  • Magdala House in Black River was built in the late 19th century. It was built for Tom Leyden, who with partner William Farguharson of Leyden and Farquharson Shipping Company, were two of the richest men in Jamaica in the mid 1880s. The house is a 2-story Victorian building decorated with fretwork

  • Munro College Buildings - Munro College is an all boys' high school. It stands 2,650 feet above sea level, on the highest peak of the Santa Cruz Mountain in Potsdam. When coffee plantation owner Robert Hugh Munro died in 1798, he willed a sum of money "for the endowment of a school in the parish of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica for the education of poor children of the parish." These funds were bequeathed in a trust to his nephew, Dr. Caleb Dickenson and the churchwardens of the parish and their successors to be used to establish and operate the school. But the funds were used for other purposes until 1856 when the government directed that the remainder of the trust funds be used to establish Munro & Dickenson Free School in Black River. The following year the school was moved to Potsdam, and was at that time the only high school for boys in the western Jamaica. The name of the school was later changed to Munro College. In 1858, Mount Zion, a high school for girls was founded. That school was later relocated to its present site at Malvern, and renamed Hampton School. The chapel, built in 1912, is the most beautiful building on the campus.

  • Pedro Bank Pedro Bank is an underwater cultural heritage site located 50 miles southwest of Jamaica. With its islets, cays and rocks and a total land area of 170 square miles, it is the location of one of the two offshore island groups of Jamaica, the other one being the Morant Cays. The four Pedro Cays are uninhabited but are important seabird nesting and roosting areas. They are considered part of the parish of Kingston, for all purposes except taxes. Pedro Bank contains shipwrecks, sunken vessels and other objects of archaeological interest located above or below the surface of the land or floor of the sea. In 1512, 1602 and 1605, Spanish vessels were lost on La Vibora, a large and treacherous sandbar area now known as Pedro Bank. In 1691, four Spanish merchant galleons ran aground here in poor weather. The ships were lost but the people were saved. Three of the ships remained intact but one burned above the water line. Silver was abandoned aboard the ships and Spain issued a decree to recover it before the British, nearby in Jamaica, got there first and took it. Vast stretches of underwater reefs are covered with a dense growth of Elkhorn coral, which to a wary sailor could easily appear to resemble fangs of a snake. The Spanish referred to the eastern end as "la Cabeza de la Vibora" (the head of the viper) while the southwestern end was known as "el Cascabel" (the tail of the viper). Galleons were also lost here in 1730 and 1755. Archaeologists estimate there are over 300 shipwrecks on Pedro Bank. Today Pedro Bank is the main harvesting ground for Queen Conch in the Caribbean and is highly valued by Jamaica’s fishing community.

  • St John the Evangelist Church (a.k.a. St Elizabeth Parish Church or Black River Anglican Church) – Although a tablet on the tower notes the laying of a foundation stone in 1837 it is believed that this pretty yellow brick church is much older. The church has a pair of monuments erected in 1828 to the memory of Robert Hugh Munro and his nephew Caleb Dickenson. Munro bequeathed his estate in trust to his nephew and the church wardens and their successors to form a free school for the poor children of the parish. The tombstones outside the west entrance are for Duncan Hook (1741 -1779) and his four children by a 'free mulatto' who lies beside him. He had to have a special act of Assembly passed to give his mistress and their children the same legal status as white people. Without it they could not have been buried in the churchyard.
  • Waterloo Guest House stands on High Street in Black River. It is the oldest facility of its kind to be found in the town and was the first home in Jamaica to be lit by electricity. It was originally owned by the Shakespeare family, said to be relatives of William Shakespeare. It was then purchased by John Leyden, an Englishman who, along with his brother, brought the first car to Jamaica. The house was named after the battle of Waterloo. Remarkably, most of the lumber is still in tact as are the tiles on the verandah and the tiles on the walkway. The Leyden brothers lived with their wives at Waterloo. The two wives could not get along and the brother decided to build his wife her own home down the street from Waterloo. (See Magdala House above.) The graves of Mr. John Leyden and that of his dog are on the premises. His tomb is a spectacular showpiece of marble.

For our listing of hidden gems, beaches, waterfalls, recreational stuff, and other fun things to do in this parish, click here.


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  1. I wish more people would write blogs like this that are actually fun to read. With all the fluff floating around on the internet, it is rare to read a blog like this instead.

  2. I was looking for Flagaman, but to no luck.

  3. Hi! What about Flagaman were you looking for? History, origin of the name?

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