Manchester is located in west-central Jamaica and is bordered by Saint Elizabeth on the west, Clarendon on the east and Trelawny on the north. Manchester’s capital is Mandeville which is notable for being the only parish capital not located on the coast or a major river. However, at an elevation of 2,061 feet, it has a lovely climate ranging from lows of 55°F in December to a high of 88°F in the summer months.
Manchester is one of Jamaica’s newer parishes, formed in 1814. It was named after the Governor of Jamaica, William Montague, Duke of Manchester, whose administration was the longest in the history of the island (a period of 19 years from 1808 – 1828). Mandeville (the capital), established in 1816, was named after his eldest son who carried the title, Viscount of Mandeville. But the parish was inhabited long before that! Evidence of a Taino/Arawak settlement was substantiated in 1792 when carvings were found in a cave in the Carpenter’s Mountains (now at the British Museum).
The parish covers about 320.5 square miles and is the 6th largest in area. The population is approximately 190,000 with over 30,000 residing in the capital of Mandeville. Some of Manchester Parish’s other major towns are Christiana, Devon, Mile Gully, Newport, Porus and Williamsfield.
Manchester is interesting topographically because there are three mountain ranges running through the parish - the Carpenters Mountains (highest point in the parish of 2,770 feet), the May Day Mountains and the Don Figuerero Mountains. Over 90% of the surface is limestone, so there are over 100 caves, along with sinkholes and underground passages. Gourie Cave (near Christiana) is the longest known cave in Jamaica at 11,499 feet. The Oxford Cave (near Auchtembeddie) is the largest and was once a roosting site for a possibly extinct bat species. Smokey Hole Cave (in Cross Keys) is the deepest known cave at 639 feet.
There are very few (and they are small) rivers in the parish, notably the Alligator Hole, Alligator Pond, Gut (probably names for the German word for good), and Swift Rivers. Some of these rivers run mostly underground, like Hector’s River which falls underground at Troy, continues for nearly 4 miles, then rises below Oxford Cave as One Eye River. Manchester also has large deposits of bauxite and parts of the parish have been strip-mined as a result.
Because the area is mountainous, there is no large-scale cultivation of crops like sugar cane, which requires large plots of land. Consequently Manchester never had sugar estates. The slaves worked on coffee plantations and, after emancipation, became independent coffee farmers. But bananas, coffee, pimento (allspice), annatto and ginger are grown, and the parish is noted for its citrus (oranges and grapefruit) which are exported. In 1920, the ortanique was developed in Manchester by Charles Jackson; it is a cross between the orange and the tangerine and is also a popular export. Irish potatoes are grown in the Christiana area.
Many of the first Jamaican organizations and businesses began in Manchester. The Manchester Horticultural Society formed in 1865 and is one of the oldest in the world. The Manchester Gold Club began in 1868 and is the oldest sports club in the Caribbean. The Mandeville Hotel, one of the oldest in the Caribbean, opened in 1875. Mandeville’s growth can be attributed to the opening of operations by the Alcan Bauxite Company, which built houses for its workers and attracted many educated Jamaicans because of the relatively high wages. Also, the legendary Jamaican Pickapeppa hot sauce is manufactured in Shooter’s Hill, Manchester.
One of the notable people who comes from Manchester parish is The Right Excellent Norman Washington Manley (1893-1969), one of Jamaica's seven National Heroes, a leading lawyer in Jamaica in the 1920s, who founded the left-wing People’s National Party. He was born in Roxborough. Others include Ernest Ranglin OD, guitar virtuoso, Lee "Scratch" Perry CD, a dub pioneer from Kendal, and Byron Lee OJ CD, from Christiana, a celebrated musician and leader of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, who were three of the most important Jamaican musicians of all time; Donovan Bailey, the former Canadian sprinter and Olympic gold medalist who once held the 100-meter world record, was born in Manchester parish in 1967 and immigrated to Canada as a young teen, Arthur Stanley Wint (in Plowden, 1920-1992) who was the first Jamaican Olympic gold medalist in the 400-meters at the 1948 summer Olympics in London, and reggae artists Garnett Silk (from Bromelia), Jepther "Luciano" McClymont (from Davey Town), Andre "Jah Mason" Johnson and Degree (formerly General Degree, born Cardiff Butt).
There are so many great things to do and see in Manchester parish. Check them out here.