Cultural and Historic
Cultural and Historic
With such a lengthy history in this parish, there are some nice historical and cultural sites to look for. They include:
- Bog Walk Gorge (a.k.a. Rio Cobre Gorge) - The name Bog Walk is derived from the Spanish words Boca de Agua which means water's mouth. The Rio Cobre River is one of the largest in Jamaica and cut a limestone gorge through this valley which is home to one of the most beautiful tropical watershed forests in the island. The sides of the gorge reach 700 feet in some places. In 1770 the first road was opened through the Gorge, making it one of Jamaica’s oldest roads. The first bridge, connecting both sides of the gorge, was originally constructed of logs which washed away in a flood. It was later replaced by the present structure, the Flat Bridge, which is built from cut stone and mortar. The present bridge has withstood countless floods. A marker there shows where the water rose to 25 feet above the bridge in 1933. Legend has it that at noon every Good Friday, the ghosts of all the slaves who drowned in the river appear for a short time. This is the main thoroughfare from Jamaica’s capital to the North Coast; it is heavily trafficked and is periodically closed to cars after hurricanes and heavy rains.
- Bushy Park Aqueduct - The Bushy Park Aqueduct was built with the help of slave labor between 1760 and 1780 and was a part of the Bushy Park Sugar Estate factory works. Mortar of crushed limestone, molasses, animal dung and dry grass were used to hold the bricks in place. It was used as a conduit to supply water from the Spring Garden River (ColeburnGully) to the sugar plantations for both irrigation and power to turn the waterwheel for the sugar cane operations on the Estate. The aqueduct, though not continuous, is about 1,800 feet long. Portions have been removed for railway and road construction. This is one of the few remaining aqueducts in Jamaica.
- Cast Iron Bridge: This Bridge spans the Rio Cobre River at the eastern end of Spanish Town. Built in 1801, this stately bridge stretches across the Rio Cobre River and is 81 feet long by 15 feet wide. It is reputed to be the oldest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The bridge is made of cut stone but the bridge itself is cast iron. It was built on a cut stone foundation dating back to 1675. The intricately carved iron is painted black. The iron bridge was listed by the World Monument Watch as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world for the year 1998.Plans are being developed to repair and return this national treasure to its former glory. The fact that it is still being used today is a testament to its builders. Pedestrians and cyclists in the area use it daily though it is closed to cars.
- Colbeck Castle: Mystery surrounds this ruin situated in open country about 1.5 miles northwest of Old Harbour. It is believed to have been built about 1680 by John Colbeck, a member of the invading English army in 1655. This was shortly after Britain captured Jamaica from the Spaniards. The castle is a huge 3-story structure with towers at each of its four corners. It could also be used as a fort (the British believed that Spain would try to re-take the island). No one knows if the building was ever completed and occupied. John Colbeck became an Assemblyman for St Catherine; he died in 1682. The walls of the ruin still stand to their original height. It is now owned by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.
- Emancipation Square: Emancipation Square can be found in Spanish Town and has some wonderful, historic buildings surrounding it. This is the only Georgian Square in Jamaica. Old Kings House (which was the residence of Jamaica’s Governors until 1872 when the capital was transferred to Kingston) and the House of Assembly were erected in 1762. The Courthouse was built in 1819 and used as a chapel and armory with the Town Hall upstairs. Rodney’s Memorial was erected later by the Jamaica House of Assembly to commemorate the British Admiral Lord Rodney’s victory over the French at the Battle of the Saints fought off the coast of Jamaica on April 12, 1782. The sculptor was the noted British sculptor, John Bacon. It weighs over 200 tons and remains intact although a hand was lost when it was taken to Kingston in a feud over the moving of the capital. There are two cannons on either side of the statue reputed to have been taken from the French flagship with canons inscribed with the motto of King Louis XIV.Kings House was destroyed by fire in 1925 but the façade was restored and stables remain. The stables were converted into a folk museum now called Jamaican People Museum of Crafts and Technology. The building to the south which was used as the courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1986. The old House of Assembly building houses the Parish Council. The garden in the center of the square is well kept and has stately royal palm trees. Hopefully this beautiful square will be restored.
- Flat Bridge - This Bridge, one of Jamaica’s oldest, was built sometime before 1774. When it was being constructed, the 16 plantations in the Bog Walk area were obliged to send one slave in every 50 to work on the River Road, sometimes called Sixteen Mile Walk. Gravel, marl, lime, sand and stone had to be dug. Slaves often lost their lives as they performed dangerous tasks in the Gorge. Between 1881 and 1915, the floor of the bridge was washed away and later re-floored with iron girders and buckle plates taken from the original flooring of the May Pen Bridge. Today, the bridge of three spans is supported by two piers and two abutments. In the 1930s it had metal handrails and later wooden ones, but these were consumed by the river over the years.
- Fort Augusta - Situated between Port Henderson and Passage Fort on the seaward side is Fort Augusta. Construction of the fort began in 1740 under very unusual conditions. It was built in a swamp area, known as Mosquito Point, which had to be filled and many of the workers suffered terribly from fevers and insects. The fort was completed in the 1750s and named Fort Augusta in honor of the mother of King George III. It was built to accommodate 80 guns to guard the western end of Kingston harbor. In 1763, the magazine with 3000 barrels of gun powder was struck by a bolt of lightning. Three hundred people were killed and windows up to 17 miles away were broken by the blast. The shocks created a crater which had to be filled before reconstruction could begin. By 1765, a new magazine was added to the fort along with a small wharf and a cistern. The fort is currently used as the island's only female prison.
- Highgate House – This Georgian-style building is considered to be the oldest structure in the district of Sligoville. Highgate House was built as a summer residence on the country estate called Government Mountain, for Governor John Dalling, the first Governor to occupy the house. In 1779, Government Mountain was sold to Charles D'Aquin, a French coffee planter. Of all the Governors who owned Highgate House, it is significant that the one with which the house is most associated is Howe Peter Brown, the Marquis of Sligo. The Marquis implemented the Emancipation Act of August 1, 1834. Sligoville, which is the first free village in Jamaica, was named in his honor. The property is presently owned by the Government of Jamaica.
- Jamaica People’s Museum of Crafts and Technology on Emancipation Square in Spanish Town celebrates the creativity and industry of the emancipated slaves who made new lives for themselves in the towns and rural villages across Jamaica. The garden here contains old farm machinery, a hand-turned sugar mill and more. The small museum houses old prints, models, and maps of the town’s layout in the 1700s.
- Linstead Market - Stop in Linstead to visit the famous Linstead Market on your drive between Ocho Rios and the South Coast. (See more information here.)
- Phillippo Baptist Church - This church, erected in 1827, is named after the Baptist Missionary James Phillippo. He was very instrumental in the formation of Sligoville, the first free village formed in Jamaica for ex-slaves. He remained there for fifty years. In the churchyard lies his remains, and that of his daughter and wife.
- Port Henderson – Poke around Port Henderson which was established in the late 18th century as a port town and received the fast ferry to Spanish Town (Jamaica's capital at the time). The town became very fashionable during the 19th century because it had a natural spa. But the town was badly damaged by hurricane Charlie in 1951 and the famous spa was destroyed. Now Port Henderson is a peaceful fishing village. The main attraction is the collection of Georgian Buildings which have been carefully restored by the Jamaican National Trust. Restored buildings and ruins include the Green Castle Great House, the Apostles Battery, Gun Emplacement, Bullock's Lodge and the Longhouse. The most notable of the restored buildings is the Old Water Police Station which is now home to the Rodney Arms restaurant, named after the Admiral George Brydges Rodney who successfully fought off the French invasion of Jamaica in 1782. Rodney lived a quarter of a mile uphill from the coast where the elevation provided an excellent vantage point. The site is now called Rodney's lookout.
- Saint Dorothy’s Anglican Church - St. Dorothy's Anglican Church is located about two miles from Old Harbour and was built on land donated by Colonel Thomas Fuller and his wife, Catherine Fuller in 1681. Old Harbour was once a part of the Parish of St. Dorothy, hence the name.
- Sligoville - In 1835 Rev. James Mursell Phillippo, a Baptist Minister and abolitionist, purchased land in the hills of St. Catherine in anticipation of the abolition of slavery. This land was then divided into lots for the former slaves. Henry Lunan, a former slave on the adjoining Hampstead Estate, purchased the first lot of land. The settlement was named Sligoville in honor of Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquis of Sligo, then Governor of Jamaica. Sligoville, located about 10 miles north of Spanish Town, was the first Free Village in Jamaica.
- Spanish Town - Spanish Town, built by the Spanish after Sevilla Nueva (New Seville) was abandoned, dates from 1534. It was first known as Villa de la Vega, later St. Jago de la Vega and then Spanish Town. The town is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Jamaica. It was the capital of Spanish Jamaica from 1534 to 1655. When the English captured the island in 1655, Spanish Town remained the capital of the island until 1872 when it was relocated to Kingston. Spanish Town still has many wonderful historical buildings. Emancipation Square is said to be the most impressive of its kind in the West Indies. The Spanish Town Historic District was declared a National Monument by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust in 1994. For a panoramic video of the historic Town Center, click here.
- Spanish Town Cathedral (a.k.a. St. Jago de la Vega): This is the oldest Anglican Church outside of England which also serves as the St Catherine Parish Church. It stands on the site of the Chapel of the Red Cross which was one of the first Spanish (Roman Catholic) churches to be built in the Americas around 1525. It was destroyed by Cromwell’s soldiers in the mid 15th Century. The present church was completed in 1714 on the same site with materials from the previous building. The tower which was added in 1817 is topped by one of the few steeples found in the Caribbean. There are stained glass windows, fantastic marble pieces and it houses Jamaica’s second oldest pipe organ. The black and white tiles in the aisle are said to date back to the original Spanish church. The Church once contained Baptism and Marriage Registers dating from 1668, and burial records from 1671. The tablets and tombstones tell an interesting part of the history of the island. Sir Thomas Modyford, Governor of Jamaica from 1664 to 1671 is buried here. For a panoramic video of St. Jago de la Vega Cathedral, click here.
- White Marl Taino Midden and Museum: This museum built in the shape of a Taino chief’s hut is located on the site of an Arawak/Taino village on the Kingston to Spanish Town highway, adjacent to the White Marl Primary School. The peaceful Arawak/Taino Indians, who inhabited Jamaica from 700-1600AD, were wiped out as a race. Their immune system was unable to withstand the introduction of European diseases, and they succumbed entirely within 150 years of Columbus' discovery of the island. To date, over 200 Arawak sites have been excavated in Jamaica and many relics are on display at this small museum, which was established in 1965 and holds the national collection. The Midden is considered one of the most important Taino sites in the Caribbean. There are hunting and fishing implements, jewelry, carvings and pottery. A reconstructed Arawak village is behind the museum further up the hill. The village was originally on the banks of the river, now called the Rio Cobre, but the river has changed course and now flows a few miles east of the museum. Also see the Institute of Jamaica’s information here.
For our listing of hidden gems, beaches, waterfalls, recreational stuff, and other fun things to do in this parish, click here.