Seville Great House
My oldest son, Raul, and I visited the Seville Great House in 2013. The Government of Jamaica has recently renovated the 301 acre Maima Seville Great House Heritage Park and they have done a marvelous job on not only the house but also the surrounding out buildings.
Christopher Columbus discovered Jamaica on May 5, 1494, and landed near the present heritage park. Christopher Columbus was shipwrecked and stranded in the area between 1503 and 1504. In 1508, the Spanish government gave Jamaica to the Columbus family and they made Christopher’s son, Diego, Governor of the West Indies. One year later, Diego Columbus’ lieutenant arrived on the island and began the construction of Seville la Nueva (New Seville). Columbus planned a grand city. This was the first Spanish town on Jamaica and became the first capital. A fort, cathedral, a governor’s palace and a sugar works were built. Later they moved the town to higher ground away from the mosquito breeding mangrove swamps and sixteen years later, the capital was moved again to Saint Jago de la Vega (now called Spanish Town) on the south coast.
In 1655, the English beat the Spanish at the Battle of Rio Nuevo and the Spanish left the island for Cuba. As a reward for his role in defeating the Spanish, Captain Samuel Hemmings was granted 2,500 acres of land in 1670, which included Seville la Nueva. In 1745, Hemmings’ grandson built a great house on the site of the original house as well as a slave village and a successful sugar works.
Hemmings built the house with two stories, but a hurricane blew the top story off about 1898 and it was never replaced. The structure is of waddle and daub construction with wood floors and English tiles. The doors are constructed of raised panel mahogany. The slash windows were later modified to include jalousies. The interior of the house has mahogany arches that separate the living and dining rooms. A veranda was constructed across the entire length of the north and east sides of the house to allow adequate ventilation and sunlight. There is a projected entrance portico with stone steps. The roof had a covering of cedar shingles. Additionally, a typical slave hut has been constructed on the property. Inside, an excellent museum has been arranged showing the life and times of eighteenth century Jamaica plantation life. One can also view the ruins of the sugar works.
The Maima Seville Great House Heritage Park is located adjacent to the north road A-1, approximately 12 kilometers west of Ocho Rios and approximately 1 kilometer west of the town of Saint Ann’s Bay. It is well signed and well worth the trip if you are in the area. The guided tour costs US$15 for adult tourists and US$6 for a child. For locals the price is JA$800 for adults and JA$300 for a child.
Topographical View of the Great House, Sugar Works and Slave Village at Seville Estate, St. Ann, Jamaica. Detail from an extremely rare Late 17th Century or Early 18th Century Map of the Harbour of St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann, Jamaica, dating between 1690 and 1722. Collection: The National Library, Kingston, Jamaica.
Seville Great House, St. Ann, Jamaica. Built in 1745 by Capt. Richard Hemming. From an Original Photograph, c. 1905. Collection: Brett Ashmeade-Hawkins