Shaw Great House
It was going to be easy to visit the Shaw Great House. After all, according to the Lonely Planet Jamaica Guide, “Shaw Park Gardens is a tropical fantasia of ferns and bromeliads, palms and exotic shrubs, spread out over 11 hectares centered on an 18th century great house.” It was even located on a map. We followed the map and soon realized this was the wrong way. We asked the locals and they suggested we could either climb down the steep bank, wade across a river and hanging by vines, scale the vertical bank on the other side OR drive around to Milford Road and turn right at the high school. After several dead ends we made it up the hill to the Shaw Park Gardens. I got out of our vehicle and told the tour guide that I would like to visit the Great House. He looked at me with a puzzled look and told me, “There is no great house here.”
“But the guide book says there is a great house here,” I said.
“Nope, nothing but the gardens.”
“Right here in the Lonely Planet Guidebook, it says, ‘This is a tropical fantasia of ferns and bromeliads, palms and exotic shrubs, spread out over 11 hectares centered on an 18th century great house.’
“Sorry no great house.”
“And here on the Jamaica Travel and Culture website it says, ‘Shaw Park Gardens were originally part of the Shaw Park Estate, an opulent property named after its first owner, John Shaw. The estate came into prominence after it was sold to the Pringle family in the early 20th century. The Great House was converted into a hotel, the Shaw Park Hotel. Flora McKenzie Pringle Stewart lovingly cultivated the hotel’s garden. It is these gardens which are now Shaw Park Gardens.’”
“No great house.”
Presently the security guard walked up and heard the conversation and replied, “I remember, as a boy, the great house but it burned down in the 1950s.”
Ahh, so it goes, hunting for great houses in Jamaica. Sometimes I find them in pristine conditions and other times, just ruins barely visible in the undergrowth or in this case burned to the ground.