After meeting with Michael Schwartz at his Windsor Great House in Windsor, I headed back toward Sherwood-Content. Upon leaving the driveway I encountered Sonny looking for a ride to Sherwood-Content to sell his bunch of bananas to purchase bun and cheese (a must have for Easter). He asked for a ride, to which I answered, “It’s going to cost you. You have to show me the location of the Content Pen in Sherwood.” He said, “I suppose you want me to put out my ganga (marijuana) before I get in.” to which I answered in the affirmative. A little way up the road, he hopped out of the pickup truck, disappeared into the bush and few seconds later deposited a bunch of bananas in the back of the truck, which must have weighed fifty pounds. Along the way, he pointed out the various medicinal plants along the road. He seemed to be very knowledgeable on the identification but a bit hazy on the uses. Medicine generally requires the understanding of both parts of the equation. He directed me up a steep hill to the Baptist Pastor’s house. Behind the modern house was the Content Pen. Finding these great houses is half the fun.
The house is a two story affair with a rock first story and a timber and rubble second story. The building has three hip roofs (a modified “M” type roof), each covering a third of the building. This roof system may have been used when additions were added to a house or to limit the span on more than two bearing walls. In any event, it is terrible to keep rain leaks away since the first place to start leaking is in the valley between the two roofs. It is the place where corrugated metal first rusts. On the sides, each section had large sash window. Across the front was a two story verandah. The wooden second story veranda is supported on stone pillars. The first story is painted red and the top story is painted white. It looks like it maybe the original paint job. A portion of two walls is all that remains of the kitchen out building. Nearby were numerous houses that probably housed the overseer and slaves. Those buildings are still is use today.
The estate was small at 58 acres and was used for the raising of livestock. There was a large portion marked out as “Negro Lands” where the slaves grew their own food. It eventually became a Baptist pastorium or manse. The Stirling family owned the pen as well as the Hampden Estate (I will cover Hampden Great House in another blog) and probably used the pen to supply work animals for the extensive sugar operation.
Sir James Stirling (1679-1749) of Glasgow Scotland had 22 children, forcing many to seek their fortune outside of Scotland. Several of his sons moved to Jamaica as merchants and planters. Archibald Stirling (1710-1783) established the Hampden Estate and Content Pen. Upon Archibald Stirling’s death, Sir William Stirling-Maxwell took over ownership of the Jamaica properties and ran them for 25 years.
It is rumored that Englishman William Knibb died in the great house. He is one of Jamaica’s official Heroes for his work in the abolition of slavery in Jamaica.
As a side note, Sherwood-Content claims to be the home town of Usain Bolt the holder of the world record in the 100 meter and 200 meter races. Bolt was actually born in the nearby town of Windsor, a town that is almost non-existent.
The great house is up the hill on a dirt road opposite the Waldsensia Baptist church.