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Cinnamon Hill Great House

Hyde Hall & Cinnamon Hill 048

Ever since I visited the Greenwood Great House in 2007, I have known about the Cinnamon Hill Great House. I just didn’t know how to access it. I finally figured out how to see the great house. The Cinnamon Hill Golf Course winds around the Cinnamon Hill Great House and around and through the ruins of the Cinnamon Hill Sugar Works. It was named for the wild cinnamon trees that grew on the property. Not being a golfer, it was obvious that the way to see the great house and ruins was to hire a caddy as a tour guide. We first headed up the hill on golf carts, past the Barrett’s cemetery to the ancestral home of the Moulton-Barretts. The house was built during two time periods. Edward Barrett, Esq. (1734-1798), a wealthy sugar planter, built the house in two stages. The one-story West Wing on the left was the original house, built between 1764 and 1765. It contains the drawing room and dining room and originally had four bedrooms in the attic. The two- story east wing on the right was added between 1780 and 1785 to provide more space for the growing family and to provide six cooler, larger bedrooms. It also contains a sitting room and a library. The house is constructed of square-cut stone as is the kitchen outbuilding. The gable roof on the west wing and the hip roof on the newer east extension are covered with cedar shingles. The west wing has a stucco treatment but the east wing is exposed stone. There is a large verandah to the rear, which in the past, provided a terrific view of the sugar works and the Caribbean Cinnamon Hill Johnny CashSea below. The Barretts were ancestors of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the poetess (see my post on the Greenwood Great House). After over one hundred years, the family was forced to sell Cinnamon Hill Estate in 1878. It has been owned by George Robertson, Joseph Shore, the Henderson family and finally John Rollins who presently owns the property. For over thirty years, the home was owned by the country musician Johnny Cash but has since reverted back to John Rollins.

The photo to the below is a view of the drawing room in the 1765 portion of the house. It had three-foot thick walls with gun-ports in case the house needed to be defended from a slave rebellion or an attack from pirates. The plantation was also defended by a cannon battery during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


The area around the great house has become wooded since the 1973 photograph. After a photo tour around the house, our “tour guide” took us down to view the old aqueduct and sugar mill ruins. We followed the golf cart paths around the ruins The most obvious remnants of the sugar works is the remains of the aqueducts which carried water from the Little River to the water powered cane mills. At hole number 17, the aqueduct funneled water into a Mirrlees and Taft horizontal cane mill.

The old 18th century sugar works was powered by water from the aqueduct, built in 1764 by Edward Barrett, Esq., which brought water from the Little River across the road to the water mill.  The mill also contained the trash house, the book-keepers barracks (see my posts on sugar plantation management), the large two story curing house and the boiling house with its tall stone chimney. The sugar mill and rum distillery was closed down in 1912 when the Central Sugar Factory was opened at the adjoining Rose Hall.

Cinnamon Hill Water MillA close-up of the ruins of the 18th century water mill, shows the rusting remains of the old machinery inside. A 19th century newspaper advertisement for the sale of Cinnamon Hill Estate, published in The Colonial Standard on the 24th of April, 1874, describes this water mill as follows: “There is a powerful horizontal cane-mill by Mirrlees and Taft driven by a fine iron wheel, the later being worked by a never failing stream of water which after leaving the mill is utilized for irrigation purposes.” The firm of Mirrlees and Taft was located in Glasgow Scotland.rlees and Taft driven by a fine iron wheel, the latter being worked by a never failing stream of water which after leaving the mill is utilized for irrigation purposes”. The firm of Mirrlees and Taft, which was located in Glasgow, Scotland, made sugar mill machinery for many Sugar Plantations in Jamaica during the 19th Century.

Locating the Cinnamon Hill Golf Course is easy to find east of Montego Bay. The club house is located on the south side of the main north highway. There are many resorts in the area offering lodging.

Cinnamon Hill Great House Photo Gallery

Greenwood Great House

After a restful night at Half Moon Resort, Bonita and I made the short drive to Greenwood, drove up hill and into the parking lot at the rear of Greenwood Great House. Patricia, our guide for the tour, met us at the gate. The house has been continuously lived in by the owners since it was built and they have kept it in immaculate condition down through the years. The present owners, Bob and Ann Betton, every morning since they bought the house, get up, make the beds in Richard Barrett’s bedroom and open the house for tours. Richard Barrett, the builder of the house, would feel very comfortable there today because the house, unlike other great houses in Jamaica still has the original furnishings down to the Barrett’s library.

The first Barrett in Jamaica was Hercie who came with his wife and son from Barbados in the England invasion of 1655, landing with Cromwell’s army. The Barretts prospered in politics, plantations and the development of Jamaica. They were members of the House of Assembly, made Justices of the Peace and Custos’ (Supervisors) of Parishes. They owned 84,000 acres of land and thousands of slaves. The town of Falmouth was built on Edward Barrett’s land. It was a vast clan. As poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (of “How do I love thee, let me count the ways” fame) wrote, “We, you know, number our cousins after the tribes of Israel.” That could be said of her Jamaican relatives alone: four of her brothers worked in Jamaica and it was her cousin Richard Barrett who built Greenwood Great House. When Edward Barrett, Elizabeth’s father, moved to Wimpole Street London, he had an annual income exceeding 60,000 pounds per year, a kingly income. The saying in London of a person of extreme wealth was, “Wealthier than a West Indies planter.”

Richard’s father-in-law, Phillip Anglin Morris, designed Greenwood mainly as a show piece in which to entertain when Richard was made Speaker of the Assembly. The family main house was nearby Cinnamon Hill, once owned by American entertainer Johnny Cash. Greenwood was built of square-cut stone with a seventy-one foot verandah, which, along with the numerous jalousies and the constant breezes from the Caribbean, make it a wonderfully cool building. The view is glorious from high on the hill; you can see the country below and the Caribbean Sea beyond.

Attached to the end of the building is a later addition, one of the first indoor bathrooms built in Jamaica. To the rear of the house is the separate kitchen (built as an out-building due to the fear of fire and to reduce the heat in the house). Between the kitchen building and main house is the covered Whistler’s Walk, so named because the slaves were required to whistle when they carried the food to the main house to assure the owner’s they weren’t sampling their burden.

Richard Barrett built a ballroom, which is now the dining room, for his life of splendor. As Judge of the Supreme Court of Jamaica, three times Speaker of the House of Assembly and Editor of the Jamaica Journal, he was expected to entertain lavishly. The dining room is resplendent with items from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries from the Spanish chandeliers to the Wedgewood china, from the Ming porcelain to the three hundred volume Barrett library. The library has books such as a Barrett’s Eton diary of 1832, a signed first edition of Dickens’ “Domby and Son”, William Cobbett’s “Rural Rides”, Thomas Carlisle’s “French Revolution” and the oldest book in the library is a 1671 edition of “Julius Caesar”. Also included is the 1870 edition of Jamaica Pocket Book, which has an advertisement for the Brox Outfitting Establishment, selling ladies riding habits for the Caribbean in either tweed or flannel (think of the heat ladies). There are also eightieth and nineteenth century maps of Jamaica, busts of Gladstone, Edward Barrett, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. There is an elaborate inlaid Broadwood piano (the piano maker for Beethoven) that belonged to Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII of Denmark and a harp made in London by Sebastian Erard in 1862.

Art work adorns the walls. There are several portraits of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. There is a print of Thomas Lawrence’s Pinky, who was Sarah Goodin Moulton; Elizabeth Browning’s aunt who died shortly after the painting was completed at the age of twelve years old. There are also many other Barretts staring down from the walls. There are pictures of bare knuckle boxers Tom Sawyer and Ben Caunt for whom Big Ben is named.

The planters lived extravagantly as if they were in London. There was a dearth of musicians in Jamaica in the 1700’s so the Barretts imported the largest collection of polyphone music boxes in the West Indies. These music boxes still pump out waltzes when the handles are cranked.

Most of the house is made of stone with the woodwork painted white. The hip roof is covered with cedar shingles. As with many great houses in Jamaica, there are:

  • An elaborate outer stairway to the second floor living quarters.
  • A large living (or ballroom) and dining room.
  • Mahogany doors.
  • A detached kitchen connected to the main building by a whistling walk.
  • Outside toilets until this house installed one of the first indoor bathrooms in Jamaica.
  • Gun ports and an area for refuge in case of attack.

There was a thirty-seven year feud between Richard and Edward (Elizabeth’s father) over their grandfather’s legacy. Edward was finally forced to sell Elizabeth’s beloved childhood home in Herefordshire England. She wrote concerning Richard of Greenwood, “He was a man of talent and violence and some malice who did what he could at one time to trample poor Papa down.”

If you plan to tour any ONE Jamaican great house, insist on the Greenwood Great House. This is the most authentic of the lot and I have toured a lot of them. The contact information is: Telephone 876-953-1077; Email; Website

If you are an independent traveler, go to the town of Greenwood on the north coast, east Montego Bay on the north road A-1, turn at the traffic light and head uphill following the signs to Greenwood Great House. You’ll be able to see it from the highway, high on the hill.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use.

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith

I love thee with a love I seem to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose

I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

Greenwood Great House Photo Gallery

Greenwood Great House Location Map


Spring Vale Pen

William Atherton owned Spring Vale Pen at the same time he owned Green Park Estate (reported on in a previous post) in the late 1700s. Spring Vale was used to raise cattle which were used to raise mules and oxen necessary to haul the cane, run the sugar mill and other estate work. Since the Spring Vale Pen was up in the cooler mountain climate with fewer mosquitoes, it was used by the Planting Attorney, Overseer, Bookkeepers and other British managerial staff to recover from the malaria and yellow fever prevalent in the coastal Green Park Estate and as a refuge from the coastal heat. In the 1824 Jamaica Almanac stated that Spring Vale Pen had 186 slaves and 571 head of cattle and was 1,972 acres in size. In 1910, both Green Park and Spring Vale were sold by the heirs of Edward Atherton. The house is presently the office of Valley Fruit Company which grows pineapple, papaya and sugar cane. For additional background information, especially during the 20th century, one can go to the following website: .

The house is located in a beautiful meadow surrounded by mountains. It is made of two foot thick stone walls which some parts have been covered with stucco and painted white and other parts still show the natural rock. The trim has been painted a forest green. A verandah extends across the front and right sides of the house. The roof is an “M” style, common in the larger great houses of Jamaica. The original roof was cedar shakes, as evidenced by the underside of the roof but is now covered with a corrugated metal roof. The windows are a combination sash and louver styles. The first and second floors are made of wide mahogany wood planks as well as the interior walls. The floors are a dark wood, the walls are white and the doors are painted forest green. There are numerous interior louvers and lattice work to facilitate the flow of the cool mountain breezes.

Spring Vale Pen is located 4.4 kilometers south of Deeside Baptist Church and 8.7 kilometers south of Wakefield. The road is mainly gravel with occasional asphalt paved patches.

Spring Vale Pen Photo Gallery