On Sunday, I headed for a friend’s church up in the mountains of Clarendon. I figured I would swing by The Alley to get some photographs of the interior of the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church building. I had previously taken photos of the exterior during a weekday so I figured I’d take this Sunday to get see the inside. I arrived at 9:00 and stayed until 10:00 o’clock when I had to leave. Alas, no one showed up on the Sunday morning of my visit. However, I did manage to get some decent photos through the windows, which you can view below in this post. I had a particular interest in the church building because it contains many monuments to the past owners of the local sugar estates, on the interior walls.
Saint Peter’s Church is located in the town of The Alley (yes that’s right THE Alley). From what I understand, The Alley was quite the town in the 1700’s; in fact, it was called the Paris of the New World. Today, it is a sleepy town where most residents are employed by the local Monymusk sugar plantation or work in the Monymusk sugar mill and distillery. If the church building is any indication of what the town looked like in the past, it was certainly a beautiful town. I saw other evidences in the area of the grandeur that once was a town fitting the name of Paris of the New World. The Vere Parish sugar belt brought the prosperity to the region.
Saint Peter’s Church is the third oldest Anglican Church on the island of Jamaica. The church, originally built in Withywood (now Milk River) was founded in 1671 as the parish church of Vere Parish (now a part of Clarendon Parish). After the 1692 earthquake, the church moved to The Alley and they constructed the building in 1715. In 1722, a hurricane partially destroyed the building. The church rebuilt the existing building on the existing foundations and completed it in 1735. They constructed the magnificent building of red brick and stone quoins brought over as ballast in ships from England. The brick tower forms the entrance to the building and is accented by quoins, arched windows and crowned with castellation all painted dazzling white. The original slate roof has recently been replaced with a shingle roof, as evidenced by the piles of slate remaining along the exterior walls. Most of the windows are arched at the top. Unfortunately, an addition has been added to the back of the building constructed of unpainted concrete block. The stairs in the tower lead to a three-quarter ton bell cast by Mears of Whitechapel, London in 1857. This same foundry cast Big Ben in London. The massive organ was installed in 1847 and is said to be the oldest organ in the Commonwealth Caribbean. There are magnificent stain glass windows. The window on the east side of the building depicts the life of Jesus and the window on the west, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the Ten Commandments. Graves of colonialists and members that are more recent surround the building.
Exquisite marble monuments are on the walls and set into the floor. One wall monument calls attention to the one below as:
BENEATH THE MARBLE
IN THAT PEW HATH BURIED THE BODY OF
THE HONOURABLE JOHN MORANT ELDER
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
OCTOBER THE 7 ANNO DOMINI 1710
IN THE 44TH YEAR OF HIS AGE
AND HIS SON JOHN MORANT YOUNGER
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
FEBRUARY THE 6 ANNO DOMINI 17—
AND ALSO ELIZABETH
THE WIFE OF JOHN MORANT
In addition, the monument that bewails poor wretched survivor Elizabeth Osborn:
TO THE MEMORYOF
THE HON. KEAN OSBORN
OF CASWELL HILL IN THE PARISH OF VERE
AND OF MONPELIER SAINT THOMAS IN THE EAST
LATE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY IN THIS ISLAND
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFETE 4TH OF SEPTEMBER 1820
AT SAINT MONT SUR VAUIRAY IN FRANCE
ON HIS WAY TO ITALY
FOR THE HEALTH OF WRETCHED SURVIVOR
Monuments in the church building commemorate the following families (dates of death): Alpress, Collman (1840’s & 1850’s), Douet (1900’s), Edwardes (1820’s), Fowles (1900’s & 1910’s), Gale (1740’s & 1750’s), Gibb (1900’s), Gibbons (1710’s), Hannaford (1870’s), Husband (1900’s), Lewin (1970’s), Lewis (1830’s), McGilchrist (1760’s), Mitchell (1890’s), Morant (1720’s to 1750’s), Murdock (1930’s), Osborn (1800’s to 1820’s), Plummer (1970’s),
Pusey (1760’s & 1780’s), Read (1740’s & 1770’s), Robinson (1970’s), Scott (1970’s), Sympson (1840’s), Tillman (1910’s) and Wilson.
The church built the Mike Robinson Hall above the old rectory but it has since burned down. Just the stonewalls remain. It would have been great to ask who Mike Robinson was, but alas, I had miles to go and there was no one around to ask…maybe some other day. Therefore, I shall leave the long dead colonialists to stand guard until I return.
Every day that I spend on my construction project in Clarendon Parish, I look out over the Wray and Nephew New Yarmouth cane fields and in the background the rum distillery. During certain times of the year, when the wind blows from the west (very unusual) and the rum distillery is in operation (part of the year) the distinct smell of fermentation reminds me that a rum distillery is in the neighborhood. This distillery is not a newcomer to Jamaica.
John Carver owned sugar estates in the old Vere Parish in the early 1700s and when John
Ward, Second Viscount of Dudley and Ward (1704-1774) married Mary Carver, the Jamaica sugar estates passed onto the Viscounts and Earls of Dudley and Ward. The family owned the New Yarmouth sugar estate in Vere Parish and the Rymesbury and Whitney sugar estates in Clarendon Parish at least until the mid 1800s, well after the slave emancipation. Upon the death of John Ward, the estates passed onto John Ward, the Second (1725-1788). Since John Ward had no sons, the title and the estates passed on to his half brother, John William Ward (1781-1833). John William Ward eventually served as the British Foreign Secretary between 1827 and 1828 and was admitted into the Privy Council as Earl of Dudley. Additional information about the Ward family is easily found online. I find no evidence that the Wards ever visited Jamaica and would therefore be considered absentee landlords.
According to the 1817 Jamaica Almanac, the New Yarmouth Sugar Estate had 220 slaves and 203 cattle. The sugar mill was extensive and the cane rollers were driven by wind power provided by a substantial stone wind mill tower. By 1831 there were 236 slaves, in 1838 there were 186 apprentices and the 1845 Jamaica Almanac reported that the estate consisted of 852 acres.
The ruins of the sugar mill are easy to find today nestled in the shaded hamlet made up of Wray and Nephew employee houses. The stone tower is now used as a water tank tower and the brick and stone sugar works are easily found in the underbrush.
New Yarmouth Sugar Estate Photo Gallery
New Yarmouth Sugar Estate Location Map
During my hunt for great houses in the Vere Parish (now included in Clarendon Parish) I “discovered” the Pusey Hall Great House down a narrow dirt road surrounded by Monymusk cane fields. I parked my truck on the road, walked up the concrete walk, between two brick columns and knocked on the door. I told the occupants, employees of the nearby sugar works, that I was photographing great houses and they gave me permission to photograph the outside and adjacent property. By today’s standards, it wouldn’t be considered a “great house” but back in the eighteenth century it probably rivaled any other houses in the neighborhood. The house was probably constructed in phases with additions added after the original house was built. Today, the house exterior walls are covered with stucco and painted white. The roof is now corrugated metal. There is a large porch across the front, which is now screened. There are extensive brick buildings behind the great house, which probably were used as shops, stables and/or storage but are now used as a goat corral. These walls are very thick. Additionally, the original kitchen (?) building is still standing constructed of Spanish walling.
Benjamin and Mary Pusey were the original owners of the estate and eventually moved to Cherry Hill and Cherry Garden Estates. The Pusey Hill Estate then passed on to William Pusey (1741-1783) and his wife Elizabeth. William Pusey became a Colonel in the Middlesex Regiment of Horse Militia and represented Vere Parish as a Member of the House Assembly. The daughter of Benjamin and Mary Pusey, Elizabeth Mary Pusey married Samuel Wint and their son John Pusey Wint (1781-1876) was sent to England for his education, married an English woman, returned to Jamaica for a time and eventually returned to England where he died. A marble monument to William and Elizabeth Pusey is on one of the interior walls of the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church building in The Alley, not far from the estate. According to the 1811 Jamaica Almanac, the owner was John P. Edwards who owned 360 slaves and 157 cattle. Edwards died in 1823 and the property passed to his heirs and at the time the estate owned 249 slaves and 268 cattle. By 1828, the estate was sold and ceased to exist on the property rolls.
Pusey Hall Great House Photo Gallery
Pusey Hall Great House Location Map
Sometimes it’s a bit hard finding a great house, even when it is standing there right in front of you. I knew, via old maps, the approximate location of Hillside Estate. I drove a short distance out of Hayes, left the paved road and headed through the cane fields toward a small hamlet that existed on the side of well…the hill side. I drove past a large hulk of a house adjacent to the ancient stone irrigation ditch and quizzed the villagers. They indicated that this village was indeed called Hillside but knew nothing of a great house. I then reversed my direction and drove up into the yard of the largest hose in the neighborhood. I asked the inhabitants, who worked for the sugar estate, when the house had been built. They indicated that they thought it had been built in the 1960s. The old house had burned down and this house was built on the foundations. Ah ha…sure enough, underneath the overhanging second floor were the obvious walls of the original house. The square-cut stone walls belied its older construction.
A little historical data can be gleaned from the old Jamaica Almanacs. In 1878 the attorneys for the estate were Latreille J. R. and Thomas Ellis. Gordon T. R. was the overseer. In 1900 the estate was owned by Miss Harvey and Mrs. F.G. Pearce and the attorney was F.M. Ellis. In 1904 they had 591 acres of sugar cane and 5,482 acres in other uses. The mill was steam powered using the centrifugal method. They produced 187 hogheads of sugar and 197 puncheons of rum. Another little detail gleaned by the historical record was that the local newspaper ran an ad on 15 October 1814 stating: Runaway Slave-William, an Eboe, to Hillside Estate, Vere, and no mark.
That’s about all I have on the Hillside Estate in the old Vere Parish (now part of Clarendon Parish). If anyone else has additional information, I would appreciate receiving it.
Hillside Great House Photo Gallery
Hillside Location Map
After leaving the Monymusk distillery and great house, I drove out through the main gate to the great house (now a school) and noticed a windmill tower and the first floor of what appeared to be a great house. After talking to the locals, I discovered it was indeed the ruins of Bog Great House which burned down approximately five years ago. An eight year old boy testified that he had been born in that house but he now appeared to living in the kitchen out building. The house appeared to have had a pillared portico that was accessed by double flight of stone stairs. The bottom half, made of square-cut stone, would have been used for storage and a hurricane shelter. The second story was gone but would have contained a drawing room, dining room and several bedrooms. The windows were probably louvered which would allow the cooling breezes to flow through the house in this very hot parish.
Nearby was the ruin of a windmill that would have powered the sugar mill rollers. The sugar mill had been converted into an office and I learned at one time the sugar workers would receive their pay at one of the windows. The mill is now abandoned and the roof has blown off.
The first recorded owner of Bog Estate was John Morant in 1811 who owned 493 slaves and 160 livestock. However, the Morant family had vast sugar estates in Vere Parish, where Bog Estate is located, at least as early as the eighteenth century. He was born in Clarendon Parish to one of the oldest British Colonial families. He was educated in England, moved back to Jamaica and upon the death of his father inherited his vast estates. This allowed him to move back to England and upon his death the Jamaican estates became John’s (the boy in the painting). Bog Estate remained in the family at least until 1878. The Bog Plantation is recorded to have been in sold to Alfred Pawsey by 1900. The 1904 Jamaican Almanac records that the Owner was Alfred Pawsey and the Attorney was W.J. Noad. During that year, 450 acres of land were in cane and 3,579 acres in other uses. The sugar mill was steam powered using a centrifugal process. It produced 210 hogheads (one hoghead equals 238 liters/62 gallons) of sugar and 264 (one puncheon equals 318 liters/84 gallons) puncheons of rum.
James Mitchell Gibb was born about 1807 and lived in the Bog Estate with his wife Mary Ann in 1855. His son John James Gibb was born in the house on 25 September 1854 and died at the age of four months. Two years later Mary Ann died in child birth on 20 June 1856 and the daughter, Jessie Mary Ann died at the age of three months. Due to the deaths of his younger siblings, the oldest son, Robert Charles Gibb trained to be a medical doctor in London and then moved to Jamaica to specialize in tropical fevers. James Mitchell Gibb died in the Hermitage Great House on 10 November 1890 at the age of 83 years. During his life he also owned Hermitage Estate, Banks Estate, Carlisle Estate and Salt Pond Pen.
Bog Great House Photo Gallery
Bog Great House Location Map
I work in Clarendon on the Vere Plains. Vere was a parish in its own right until it was folded into Clarendon Parish along with Saint Dorothy Parish in 1814. The Spanish settled in the area in the sixteenth century and used the large spacious savannah to raise cattle and horses. In 1655, an Englishman by the name of Thomas Lynch, who was part of the invasion force which took Jamaica from the Spanish, named the province after his first wife Vere. Eventually, as sugar became the white gold of the colonial era, much of the plains were converted to sugar production. Vere Parish was (and still is) noted for its sugar production and as early as the 1600’s had 27 sugar mills.
From my place of work, I can see several ancient great houses, so it is only logical that I investigate these properties, most of which today still are on producing sugar properties. This will be the second post (the first was Halse Hall-see my earlier post) of this area.
The earliest mention I can find for the Morelands Estate was in the 1811 Jamaica Almanac where it recorded that it was owned by James Mitchell, deceased, who had 488 slaves and one stock animal. Also that year Mr. Mitchell (or his heirs) advertised in a newspaper: “Run-away Slave-Smith, a Papa, to Moreland Estate, no marks but marks of sores his face and right hand from yaws. 5 October 1811.” In 1816, the heirs of James Mitchell owned 504 slaves and 153 cattle. By 1818 the son and heir, James Mitchell, the younger, owned 630 slaves and 164 cattle. The following almanacs listed the number of slaves around 600. By 1878, James Mitchell owned both Morelands and Amity Hall Estates and Thomas Ellis was his attorney and manager. In 1900, J.H. Mitchell owed both Morelands and Saint Jago with G.W. Muirhead as his attorney (see post on sugar plantation management).
As I was roaming around the Monymusk sugar works, I would ask people if they knew of any great houses in the area. I asked one man at the community of Bog, “Do you know where the Morelands plantation is located. He pointed toward the road and said, “If you turn right at the paved road and drive toward Lionel Town, you’ll see a dirt road headed toward the Monymusk distillery on the right. If you turn left, that is the road to Morelands. They have a big house there.” I took his advice and at the turn noticed a large area of trees out in the middle of the cane fields. That ended up being the location of the great house along with the hamlet of Morelands.
I bounced down a dirt road and drove up to a great house that has seen its better days. A young boy and girl were playing in the front “yard”. I asked them if their parents were at home. Shortly a woman came out of the house, I told her what I was doing and asked if I could take some photographs. She replied in the affirmative, so I walked around the outside of the house taking photos from all angles. When I came back around to the front I asked, “Would you mind if I take some photos of the inside. I realize you are not prepared for visitors but I would really like to go inside.”
She replied, “I don’t mind if you pay me.”
I replied, “Sure, I’m used to that.”
“Follow me,” she said leading me on a tour of her house. “This is not really my house. I work for the sugar company and they let me live here.”
“Your house certainly is grand. I would have loved to see it a hundred years ago. That bead board ceiling must have really been splendid. Are those your children?”
“These are really not my children,” pointing to the two young ones following us about. “Their father died last year.”
As most Jamaica great houses, the living quarters are on the second level. The house is constructed of brick, probably brought as ballast in returning ships that carried sugar to England. The outside has been covered with a coating of stucco and then painted green. The leaking hip roof is presently corrugated metal, but at one time was probably covered with cedar shingles. There is a brick curb on the south side of the house, which possibly lined the carriage-way in front of the main entrance but now is the kitchen entrance. The house was possibly modified over the years, adding a second floor verandah to the east side. The interior rooms are painted green and pink with a white bead board ceiling. The hardwood floors are painted red. I didn’t see any evidence of electric ceiling lights and I noticed cooking was done in the kitchen on a charcoal brazier in the middle of the floor. A square-cut stone water tower is nearby. There was no evidence of a colonial kitchen outbuilding.
Adjacent to the house is an abandoned concrete block building which I understand at one time stored chemicals for the cane fields which push right up to the hamlet. I saw no evidence of the large sugar mill shown in the above photograph, which once was adjacent to the settlement.
Morelands is located just north of Lionel Town, about a two kilometers to the east off the paved road between Hayes and Lionel Town.
Morelands Great House Photo Gallery
My Visit to Halse Hall Great House
I work at Jamalco, an alumina refinery near May Pen along the southern coast of Jamaica. Today, I had a meeting at the Halse Hall Great House owned by Jamalco.
During Spanish colonial rule, the estate was known as Hato de Buena Vista (Ranch or the Beautiful View). When the English drove out the Spanish in 1655, they rewarded various army officers with captured estates. Major Thomas Halse was given Hato de Buena Vista, and he renamed it Halse Hall. He built his great house in 1680 on the foundation of the Spanish hacienda, which sported a magnificent view of the 436-meter tall Mocho Mountains. He built his house like a fortress with thick walls. Security was further strengthened with British troops stationed at all four corners. During this time, Halse raised hogs and cattle.
After Thomas Halse died in 1702, his son, Francis, expanded the structure to its present grandeur in the 1740s during the era of great prosperity and security due to high sugar prices. He developed the house into a grand two-story building with a set of sweeping opposing steps to the grand entrance. The house has a solid feel due to the thick walls and large timbers. The interior white walls emphasize the dark wood work and hardwood floors. The main entry room has a spectacular vaulted ceiling. Since purchasing the Great House in 1969, Jamalco has beautifully preserved this cultural treasure of colonial Jamaica.
Halse Hall Great House, Clarendon, Jamaica. From a Photograph by an Unknown Photographer, c. 1912. Private Collection.
Slaves cutting Sugar Cane on Halse Hall Estate, Clarendon, Jamaica. From a Hand-Coloured Engraving after an original Watercolour by Sir Henry Thomas De La Beche, 1823. Private Collection.