Cranbrook Pen and Blenheim Estate
Cranbrook Pen is now the location of Cranbrook Flower Forest Nature Park. The Spanish began settling the area in 1494. The area of Cranbrook was extensively settled by the Spanish. They produced sugar there and raised cattle that provided a large amount of the cured beef, hides and tallow to provision the ships that carried the Conquistadors on their invasions of Central and South America. Cranbrook Pen was also near the site of a Spanish sugar mill prior to the invasion of the English. The English came in 1655 and moved onto the Spanish ranches in the area naming the cattle operation Cranbrook Pen and naming the sugar estate Blenheim Estate. The earliest reference to Cranbrook is found in the 1818 Jamaica Almanac. In the historical record, the property is attached to the Blenheim estate suggesting it was owned by the same persons throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. In 1809 John Moffat owned both Cranbrook and Blenheim estates along with 338 slaves and 29 cattle. Between 1818 and 1938 there are four persons named as owners: John Moffat, Robert Robinson, D.L Townsend and C. Calder. In 1857 the size of Cranbrook and Blenheim was 980 acres and by 1938 it was reduced to 841 acres. Cranbrook was primarily a pen which raised cattle for the operation of the Blenheim sugar estate. It was also partially used at a pimento plantation and the supply of ground provisions.
At the entrance to Cranbrook Flower Forest are the restored remains of an old sugar mill. The mill is believed to be around 200 years old and now houses a museum and a gift shop. We were able to walk through the beautiful gardens bordering Little River admiring the flowers and other foliage. Numerous peacocks on the property rewarded us with their magnificent array of tail feathers.
As we drove back toward the north road (A-1) I noticed a brick smoke stack due north of Cranbrook Pen. Knowing that Cranbrook Pen was attached to Blenheim Estate, I assume that the smoke stack belonged to the sugar mill on that estate. This parcel of land bordered the Caribbean Sea. Additionally, there were stone ruins behind the cattle pens that looked like it might have been a great house and the kitchen to the rear. This will probably require additional research to confirm this bit of information. In any event, I have included the photographs of the Blenheim (?) Estate buildings along with the Cranbrook pen photos. This Blenheim Estate should not be confused with the home town of Alexander Bustamante in Hanover Parish. Blenheim is named for Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire England. It was given to John Churchill, the First Duke of Marlborough by a grateful nation for his victory at Blenheim over the French and Bavarians during the War of Spanish Succession that ended in 1704. It has been in the possession of the Spencer-Churchill family for over three hundred years. It was the birth place and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill. Judging by the photos below of the two buildings, the owner of the Jamaican Blenheim never achieved the illusions of grandeur he anticipated for his estate.
Cranbrook Gardens is located five kilometers west of the town of Priory on the north road A-1. Turn toward the mountains (away from the sea) and travel a short distance on a poorly maintained road to the garden entrance.