At one time Jamaica was a prosperous island dotted with great estates, large houses and even a few castles. Approximately two miles north of Old Harbor is Colbeck Castle in one of the Jamaica’s Heritage Parks. Bonita and I emerged out of the scrub, after traveling through the surrounding farmland and an amazing sight confronted us, a castle, ten miles from the south coast.
Colonel Jon Colbeck came to the island in 1655 with the English invasion force lead by General Venables and Admiral Penn. At this time, the forces defeated the Spanish and drove them off Jamaica back to Cuba. The crown granted the twenty-five year old Colonel Colbeck 1,340 acres of a formal Spanish estate for his service. Since there was still a perceived danger from the Spanish, Colbeck decided to build a castle. He designed the fortified structure three stories high and in the shape of a seventeenth Italian villa which was a rectangle 89 feet by 116 feet. Red brick quoins (masonry bricks at the corners of walls) and brick arches accent the dressed limestone walls. The large brick arches connect the four corner towers. Surrounding the castle is a low wall with “L” shaped outbuildings at each of the corners, which may have been designed for defense. Each of the outbuildings has a different and distinct design. It appears that the northwest building was the kitchen/bakery (due to the presence of brick ovens) and had a small pool. The northeast building has a beautiful arched façade and may have been constructed as a stable as the large opening should be able to handle horses and a cart. It also had a vaulted basement. The southeast building was probably the guard room. The southwest building had two large underground vaults probably used for storage and possibly cells. At one time, this castle even had a moat and was the largest building in Jamaica. Colonel John Colbeck went on to a distinguished career as a member of the Jamaica Assembly and at one time was the Speaker of the House of the Assembly.
The Jamaica National Heritage Trust sign says, “Colbeck must have been a rather solitary man for there is no evidence of relatives. When he died at the age of 52 in 1682, he left his fortune to his executors with a few small bequests to various persons. He left twenty pounds to the parson to preach his funeral sermon and donated money to the Saint Dorothy Anglican Church to purchase glass windows and iron bars. Colbeck also bequeathed a ring to Sir Henry Morgan, the former pirate who became the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica (1674-5, 1678, and 1680-2). A monument is housed in the Spanish Town Cathedral on which is inscribed the words, ‘He died amidst great applause.’”
It’s easy to find Colbeck Castle. From Kingston, take the T-2 Toll Road to the Old Harbor turnoff. Turn north under the overpass, go through town, straight across the square with the unusual clock tower and then continue to follow the road north, following the signs to Colbeck Castle. Your route eventually narrows down to a one lane dirt road to the ruins.