and Homes from Colonial Era Jamaica
Jamaica has attracted the interest of those from far away places for
centuries. First inhabited by native peoples, including the Arawak,
Jamaica then spent time under Spanish rule before being possessed by
the British. The wealthy classes of these European nations controlled
vast territories in Jamaica, building large and profitable plantations,
increasing their wealth with profits made on export products. They built
fabulous mansions and homes, many of which still stand today, restored
and open to tourists.
Certainly the most famous of these colonial era great houses is the
Rose Hall Great House, located on Rose Hall Highway, which is a short
drive outside of Montego Bay. The lurid rumors and supernatural tales
that have been associated with this house for centuries have excited
imaginations for generations, inspiring several novels and books to
feature it as a backdrop. The home was built by John Palmer, originally
of Britain, during the latter part of the 18th century. At one time,
it was a vast plantation, where 2,000 slaves tended the sugar cane and
The wife of John Palmer’s grandnephew achieved notoriety through the
rumors of numerous murders, sexual impropriety of – what was then –
the highest degree, abject cruelty to the slaves of the plantation,
voodoo, witchcraft, and her own violent death. Known now as the White
Witch of Rose Hall, some believe her restless spirit still wanders there
today. Tours are available every day between 9am and 6pm, with the final
tour of the day starting at about 5:15pm. There is an admission fee
of $15 for people 12 years of age and older and $10 for children 11
years and under.
Another late 18th century home of interest is the Greenwood Great House,
located on Route 1A, a short drive outside of the Montego Bay area.
This remarkable example of Gregorian influenced architecture was the
home of Richard Barrett, who was the cousin of the famous poet Elizabeth
Barrett Browning. This 14 room structure retains more of its original
feel than do others of the era, as it has endure less renovation processes
and still contains a great deal of the original furnishings, oil paintings
and household items, including fine china. Among these is a collection
of musical instruments that is simply amazing to see. Not surprisingly,
the family library is a part of the tour, and has books dating back
to the 1600’s. This lovely, historic home is open to the public daily,
from 9am to 6pm. There is a $12 admission fee for those 12 years of
age and older, and a $6 fee for children 11 and under.
There are many more of these great houses that are open to the public
for tours and exploration. Among them are the Seville Great house and
Heritage Park, in Saint Ann, home to numerous artifacts and relics of
interest and includes views from a variety of perspectives in Jamaican
history, the Brimmer Hall Estate in Ocho Rios, and the Appleton Estate.
These beautiful structures, shadowed by the oppression of the people
upon which they were built, hold an important place in the history and
culture of Jamaica. Any one of them is certainly worth an afternoon’s
time to marvel and contemplate.
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