Clarendon is located on the southern side of the island, about half-way between the island's eastern and western ends and is bordered by Manchester to the west, Saint Catherine to the east and Saint Ann to the north. The capital of Clarendon Parish is May Pen, which is said to be the fastest growing rural town near Kingston.
May Pen was established as a plantation settlement by the British between 1660 and 1683 on a crossing point of the Rio Minho River. It was named for the Reverend William May, who owned the estate here. May served as rector in Kingston, and his son went on to become custos of Clarendon and Vere.
Clarendon was named in honor of England’s Lord Chancellor Sir Edward Hyde (1609-1674), 1st Earl of Clarendon, who was an English historian and statesman, and grandfather of two British monarchs, Mary II and Queen Anne.
The parish covers about 462 square miles and is Jamaica’s 3rd largest parish in area. With an estimated population of just over 237,000, it is also one of the most populous parishes in the island. (About 60,000 live in the capital, May Pen.)
Toward the northern end of Clarendon lies the Bull Head mountain range (2,800 feet) which is considered to be the geographic center of the island. The Rio Minho River flows the length of the parish. Portland Point, the southernmost point of Jamaica, lies on the small peninsula that juts out on the south side of the parish. On the same peninsula are Portland Cottage (which regularly makes the news for its susceptibility to flooding, especially during hurricanes) and two separate towns called Rocky Point; one is a residential community on the west side, and the other is a port on the east side used primarily for shipping alumina.
Residents of this primarily rural parish raise most of Jamaica’s tobacco, along with cotton, allspice (which Jamaicans call pimento), ginger, indigo, bananas, coffee, sugar cane, cocoa and livestock. May Pen is an important citrus packing center, famous for Trout Hall oranges.
Clarendon is also known for copper mining, and for processing Jamaica’s major mineral, bauxite, mined mostly in nearby Manchester parish. The 1.425 million metric ton alumina refinery in Clarendon is owned 55% by Alcoa and 45% by the Jamaican government.
Nearly 60 caves have been discovered in Clarendon. The famous Jackson’s Bay Cave on the Portland Ridge peninsula contains fossils, pottery shards, rock carvings and rock paintings, evidence of Arawak/Taino Indians. Discovered in 1964, it's considered to be one of the most beautiful caves in the Caribbean.
Clarendon is the birthplace of several famous artists such as singers Millie Small CD (Clarendon, 1946, who had a huge hit in 1964 with My Boy Lollipop), Cocoa Tea (born Calvin George Scott), Freddie McGregor (Clarendon, 1956), Barrington Levy (Clarendon, 1964), Everton Blender (Clarendon, 1956), Derrick Morgan (Mocho, 1940), Toots Hibbert OJ (May Pen, 1945, of Toots & The Maytals), Linton Kwesi Johnson (Chapelton, 1952), Dennis Alcapone (Clarendon, 1947), and is the birthplace of world champion boxer, Glen Johnson (Clarendon, 1969). Clarendon is also the birthplace of Orette Bruce Golding (Chapelton, 1947), leader of the Jamaica Labour Party and recent Prime Minister of Jamaica.
For a fascinating glimpse of what Clarendon Parish was like under British rule, take a look at the official 1670 Clarendon Census from that time. They counted 143 landowner families and only 1,430 people living in Clarendon then!
There are so many interesting things to see and do while you are visiting Clarendon parish or just passing through. Check them out here.