A couple of months back I visited the Bromley Pen and during our visit, Johnathan Edwards, the owner of Bromley mentioned that there were other two great houses in the area, Bellevue and Mount Plenty. Therefore, when I called, the owner didn’t seem surprised to hear from me. We were headed back to Kingston from the north coast the following day so I called and received a gracious invitation from the owners of Mount Plenty to come and visit. We had sketchy directions to the farm. We started at Walkerswood and by phone the owner guided us through the twists and turns to their beautiful home. We passed through two stone columns marked Mount Plenty and up a gravel driveway. On either side was the well tended pasture populated by Jamaica Red Poll beef cattle. The owners met us on their side porch and gave us a tour of their home. Bonita, my artist wife and Laura, who is also an artist, discussed each other’s art. I was particularly interested in the operation of the ranch. We also discussed how the owners are involved in raising funds for the Boy’s Town School in Trench Town as well as their involvement in the local schools.
Both Mount Plenty and Bellevue properties are adjacent and part of the same farm. They are perched near the top of the local mountains and the property plunges five hundred feet to the White River Gorge, which is the parish line between Saint Ann and Saint Mary Parishes. At a narrow part of the gorge, a slim arched bridge crosses the river. It is part of the original El Camino Real (The King’s Road) which stretched from Rio Nuevo to Spanish Town. The locals have always called the bridge, The Spanish Bridge.
Mount Plenty was long the home of John Hiatt, the Custos (Superintendent) of Saint Ann Parish who was born in 1722 and died in 1820 at the age of ninety-eight. John Hiatt’s 1820 probate inventory following his death is eighteen pages long with details of the slaves, livestock, produce (pimento, citrus and coffee, furniture, fixtures down to the last branding iron and mosquito net). Later, Mount Plenty was owned by Thomas Roxburgh, a reputed son of King Edward VII, his descendant Frank Roxburgh and Pat and Bernard Cooke. Mount Plenty is famous for the breeding of race houses. Mount Plenty boasts the original polo field in Jamaica where polo was played over one hundred years before it became popular in England.
Mount Plenty Great House is a three story building. The basement is constructed of square-cut stone, the walls of which act as the foundation for the wooden two stories above the basement. The second story is reached from the front by stone stairs and a wrought iron banister on either side. A pedimented portico projects from the hip roof to form the verandah for the main entrance. Like most vernacular buildings in Jamaica, the verandah wrapped around the building but it has been closed in by successive owners. The woodwork above the front door and front windows is magnificent. The lower half of the second floor is clad with wood shingles, painted green and the upper half consisting of louvers and sash windows is painted white. The third floor is the attic that has within it a sweeping cedar shingle hip roof with dormers that create additional habitable space. To the rear is a pimento barbeque that was used to solar dry Jamaica’s indigenous Pimenta dioica, the world renowned pimento or allspice. The second floor has been converted into an art gallery where the owner displays her works.
Mount Plenty Great House Photo Gallery
Mount Plenty Location Map
Our Visit to Bromley Pen
Bonita and I made our way from Kingston to Spanish Town and then to the T-3 toll road. The toll road was a pleasant surprise, a four lane, divided highway up over the worst of the mountains dividing north Jamaica from south Jamaica. The rest of toll road is being constructed and someday it will make an easy trip from Kingston to Ocho Rios. At the end of the toll road, we passed Moneague College and followed narrow winding roads to Bromley Pen near Walkers Wood, home of Walkers Wood Jerk Seasonings and condiments. We almost missed the turn, through two stone gate posts, but there was no mistaking the gorgeous house situated at the top of the hill. We parked our pickup truck, walked through the beautiful tropical gardens to the front door and there we met Johnathan Edwards at the top of the mountains that overlook the hamlet of Walkers Wood.
Bromley was established as a nine hundred acre pen in the 1700s to supply the local plantations with meat. It was one of many properties, which included sugar estates and pens owned by Sir John Pringle, a doctor and Johnathan’s great grandfather, who moved from Scotland in the 1850s. Over the following years, Sir John acquired over thirty properties and became the largest landowner in Jamaica. Bromley Pen is the last of those estates. Johnathan educated us on the finer points of the difference between a great house and pen. A great house was associated with sugar plantations, whereas a pen was the associated with the raising of livestock. The new owners built Bromley Pen on the foundations of a Spanish fort that had excellent views of the trail (now the road) that connected north and south Jamaica. Mr. Edwards showed us the loop holes (holes in the walls to aim a rifle at an enemy) in what is now the basement. Over the years, the past owners added the upper part of the house with its wooden structure with a wraparound verandah and many windows to allow the cool mountain breezes to pass through the building. At the front of the house is an elegant porte cochere (a covered entrance large enough for vehicles to pass through but now used a grand staircase) with square wooden columns. There is a large octagonal bay area fixed with louver windows and lattice work above the windows. The house is forest green and white. ‘The owners still use Bromley as their residence and have several retreats for the arts and yoga during the year from the US and Canada. They can be contacted at their website at http://bromleyjamaica.com or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BromleyJamaica.