On the way back to Kingston, after a weekend of hunting great houses in Hanover, we decided to track down Ackendown Castle which is supposed to be located across from the entrance of Whitehouse Sandals. Sure enough, we turned onto a road between two posts, headed up the hill and found the Ackendown Great House. It didn’t look much like a castle, but hey, no telling what is called a castle in Jamaica. The house is abandoned, so I dutifully took pictures of the great house from all directions and even drew out a house plan.
As I was drawing the floor plan, Bonita called out to me, “Hey, there’s another building off to the east.” I looked over and sure enough, there was a small stone structure without a roof. I fought my way through the underbrush and upon entering I found a 1962 diesel engine. The building in a later life must have been for other purposes than its original use.
As I was investigating the stone building, Bonita called out again, “There’s a wall over there. It looks like a church.” Again, hidden in the foliage was a two story tower with gothic arched windows. It had several graves just outside the doorway so I assumed it was a chapel of some sort until Bonita said, “There’s another tower over to the east.” It turned out to be another tower and in the underbrush, I discovered a stone wall between the two. A tunnel connects the two towers. The towers and the wall between were made of square-cut stone. The roofs as well as the windows have vanished. It appears that at one time the area was cleared of brush because there were park benches scattered about, but the site is slowly returning to the jungle.
The towers stand on a slight rise above and to the northwest of the Ackendown Great House. The two towers are constructed of square-cut limestone and connected by a stone wall of the same material and an underground tunnel (approximately 2 feet wide x 5.5 feet high). The towers are approximately thirty feet square and had three floors. The tunnel enters the basement of each tower. The basement of the west tower is said to have a tunnel that goes to the sea. The eastern tower has three rooms in the basement that were probably used for storage. In the western tower are two fireplaces set in the west walls of the second (ground floor) and third floors. In each tower the middle floor was raised to ground level. It is assumed that the third floor was constructed of wood which is no longer extant. There were two windows facing south (toward the Caribbean Sea) and one window facing east and west in each tower. There is a large amount of slate on the ground, indicating the roofs were once covered with slate shingles.
The masonry style is unusual for Jamaica; in fact the windows are reminiscent of many medieval castles. The arched openings are two centered with a central joint, no keystone and an even number of voussoirs (the wedge shaped stones forming the curved part of an arch). The castle may have been built for defense against a possible invasion by the French or Spanish but the large windows make me believe that might be unusual.
It is thought that the first Campbell in Jamaica was Colonel John Campbell who was born in Inverary in Argyllshire in 1673. He was part of a failed Scottish colony in the Darien Isthmus of what is now the country of Panama. Rather than return to Scotland, he decided to settle in western Jamaica and established a sugar plantation near Black River. He encouraged many of his nephews to come to Jamaica as planters and it may have either been one of those nephews or a grandson who built Ackendown Castle. He died in 1740 and the inscription on his tomb reads:
HERE LIES THE HON. JOHN CAMPBELL
BORN AT INVERARY, ARGYLLSHIRE, NORTH BRITAIN
AND DESCENDED FROM THE ANCIENT FAMILY OF AUCHENBROCK
WHEN AS A YOUTH HE SERVED SEVERAL CAMPAIGNS IN FLANDERS.
HE WENT AS CAPTAIN OF THE TROOPS SENT TO DARIEN
AND ON HIS RETURN TO THIS ISLAND, IN 1700,
HE MARRIED THE DAUGHTER OF COL. CLAIRBORNE
BY WHOM HE HAD SEVERAL CHILDREN.
IN 1718 HE MARRIED ELIZABETH (NOW ALIVE) RELICT OF COL. GOMES.
HE WAS MANY YEARS MEMBER OF THE ASSEMBLY,
COLONEL AND CUSTOS OF SAINT ELIZABETH.
IN 1722 HE WAS MADE ONE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL.
HE WAS THE FIRST CAMPBELL WHO SETTLED ON THE ISLAND
AND THRO’ HIS EXTREAM GENEROSITY AND ASSISTANCE
MANY ARE POSSESSED OF OPULENT FORTUNES.
HIS TEMPERANCE AND GREAT HUMANITY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN REMARKABLE
HE DIED JANUARY 29, 1740. AGED 66 YEARS
An equally deserving possible candidate for the establishing of Ackendown Estate would be Colonel John Guthrie, who was also one of the Darien refugees. In any event, John Graham Campbell, son of Colonel John Campbell married a Guthrie and eventually ended up with the estate.
The Campbells were related to Captain William Bligh (of Mutiny on the Bounty fame) and it is not surprising that the first breadfruit trees from Captain Bligh’s second (successful) voyage were planted near the Ackendown estate, a locale of many Campbell settlers.
According to a stone plaque, the castle was built by Archibald Campbell (possibly a grandson of the above mentioned John Campbell) as evidenced by the plaque on one of the walls:
HERE LIE THE REMAINS OF
OF THE FAMILY OF AUCHENBRECK
IN ARGYLL IN SCOTLAND
THIRD SON OF THE HON. JOHN CAMPBELL
OF NEW HOPE IN THIS PARISH
DIED 21ST APRIL 1833
AGED 52 YEARS
THIS CASTLE WHICH IS NOW HIS MONUMENT WAS BUILT BY HIM
The only problem with that plaque, according to the Jamaican Almanacs published during the lifetime of Archibald Campbell, is that at no time was Archibald Campbell listed as the owner of Ackendown estate. The Jamaican Almanac lists his older brother as the owner of the estate. Whether or not Archibald built the castle is open for debate, but he certainly didn’t own the property. In fact, judging by the architectural look of the castle, it may have been constructed before he was born. In 1932, Archibald’s leaden casket was discovered in the floor of the east tower. His body was placed in an oak casket and buried north and adjacent to the west tower. At that time, a member of the Campbell family placed the plaque. So the question for my readers is: Was the castle truly built by Archibald Campbell or his brother or the Guthrie family or was it built before he was born? Will we ever know?
The castle is easy to find, directly across from the Whitehouse Sandals Resort gate. I wonder how many people, staying at the resort know that there is such an interesting ruin within a short walking distance?
Ackendown Castle Photo Gallery