And now for something completely different…
Prime Jamaican Real Estate…..
The ‘Great Houses’ of Jamaica…
Jamaica’s heritage properties deserve much more than a mention; if an illustrated book doesn’t already exist, then it needs writing! Jamaica’s ‘Great Houses’ (from the plantation era) are numerous and magnificent. To visit one is to step back in time and relive the past. Some are more famous than others and some more well-preserved but they all have their own fascination and a story to tell.
Let’s start off with Jamaica’s most famous or should I say, infamous?
Rose Hall Great House
Not far from the golden beaches of Montego Bay, sits Rose Hall Great House, surely the most written about and intriguing of all Jamaica’s Great Houses. Rose Hall is a magnificent Georgian structure, built out of cut-stone on its first two levels and stucco on the third and uppermost levels; surrounded by 6600 acres. The main entrance to the second level is a perfectly symmetrical, cut-stone, and very grand staircase. The furniture, which is all made from Jamaican mahogany, is genuine 17th, 18th and 19th century.
Rose Hall was built in 1770 by George Ash for Mr. John Palmer, then Custos of St. Thomas and his wife, Rosa. The couple died without issue and their grand-nephew, John Rose Palmer, inherited the house. In 1820 he married Annie Mae Patterson, the 2nd and last mistress of the house who, legend has it, was and still is, the most well-known inhabitant! Therein lies a tale, you’ll have to Google that one: the ghost of Annie Palmer, the ‘White Witch’ herself….
Rose Hall was purchased and renovated privately during the 60’s and early 70’s and is now a major tourist attraction.
Moving on to another Great House and another beauty…..
Good Hope Great House
Good Hope Great House really is a beauty; from its high raftered ceilings to its pinewood and wild orange floors. The estate consists of one thousand acres and is located just outside of Falmouth, Trelawny on Jamaica’s North Coast; sitting back majestically from the main road in ‘splendid isolation’.
The Good Hope estate was built around 1755 and was home to one of the largest sugar fortunes ever made in 19th century Jamaica. The original owner, Colonel Williams, acquired the estate via a land grant. The Colonel was the grandson of one of the first settlers in the island after its conquest by the English. Good Hope later became the property of one John Tharp who became the largest land and slave owner in Jamaica.
The estate has been carefully restored and contains a rare inventory of historic buildings. The Great House has a total of 10 bedrooms throughout its three buildings: the Old Great House with four bedrooms and the Coach House, formerly a carriage house 250 years ago, now has 5 bedrooms. Every room at Good Hope is furnished with 18th and 19th century Jamaican antiques.
Like Rose Hall, it is a major tourist attraction.
Just two of these magnificent old plantation houses to whet the reader’s appetite. In the next Heritage Properties article, I will tell you all about Greenwood Great House and Marlborough Great House., each has its own story. Watch this space……….
Heritage Properties of Jamaica
Prime Jamaican Real Estate is an understatement when describing The ‘Great Houses’ of Jamaica. One of the island’s most famous and well preserved, right down to its Wedgwood china place settings is Greenwood Great House; close to the border where the parishes of Trelawny and St James, Greenwood has overlooked the surrounding community for 211 years.
Visitors often find this 15-room tribute to Georgian architecture even more fascinating than Rose Hall, probably because it hasn’t undergone nearly as much restoration plus it has a more genteel, literary past; an altogether less “scary” history.
This magnificent residence was erected between 1780 and 1800 and was home to Richard Barrett a member of the famous ‘Barretts of Wimpole Street’ no less! Richard was cousin to one of England’s renowned and best beloved poets; Elizabeth Barrett Browning whose immediate family was one of the largest landholders of that era. On display within these sturdy old walls, is the Barrett family’s original library complete with many rare books dating as far back as1697, along with portraits in oil of the family, exquisite Wedgwood china, rare musical instruments and a marvellous collection of antique furniture. In the grounds is a well-preserved glass carriage which, in its day was the Barretts’ own horse-drawn hearse. This Great House is one of if not the best, preserved and well maintained in Jamaica.
Greenwood, in all its splendor, is open for tours daily and hosts functions at the property by special request.
Greenwood Great House, very much alive and well and central to Jamaica’s tourist industry.
And on to yet another monument to Jamaica’s marvellous history and colonial architecture: Marlborough Great House.
Situated in Spur Tree in the parish of Manchester, Marlborough is said to have been built circa 1795 and designed by one Mr. Forsyth, a Scottish architect. The house is a finely proportioned Georgian residence with regency influences. A significant feature of the building is its high and imposing portico, which raises its large columns right up to the roof, the gutting of which is made of fine copper.
The first known owner of Marlborough House was the Honourable Richard Boucher. He was an Assembly Member of the then new Parish of Manchester and he also later became Custos of the Parish. The Bouchers are believed to have been Haitian refugees who came to Jamaica in about 1792.
This Great House boasts three bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with a well- proportioned kitchen and dining room with large storage space on the lower level. A one-bedroom cottage together with a four-bedroom cottage also sit on the property.
Leading up to the house itself is a dramatically long driveway which ends in the secluded serene picturesque grandeur of the house itself set majestically on just under 10 acres of fertile land famous for luscious fruit-bearing trees.
And, Marlborough House is currently still a private residence, very much lived in; it has certainly stood the test of time. Mr. Forsyth of Scotland certainly knew how to build a good, solid house that would last!
More Jamaican architectural treasures to come….