Jamaica’s rich history and culture are equally appealing as its white sand beaches and vibrant nightlife. Across the island visitors will find various monuments and relics that speak to a plantation era of both hardship and triumph. In the 1800’s heyday of King Sugar, the Parish of Trelawny, Jamaica boasted almost one hundred plantations. For the architecture or heritage buff, the Parish and in particular it’s capital, the coastal town of Falmouth is a virtual goldmine.
When sugar was king and the profits from the sweet gold made the fortunes of men, families and nations, Falmouth was considered to be the most cosmopolitan city in the western world, the “Paris of the Indies”. In the late 1800s, following the demise of sugar as a globally lucrative agricultural product, Falmouth began a steady decline in importance, and soon the harbour, which once welcomed close to thirty ships in one day, saw fewer than that in a month. Now the sugar money is long gone, but many of the splendid original buildings remain, some in ruins, others masterfully restored to their former glory.
Falmouth is now considered one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved towns from the Georgian era. Its historic district is a National Heritage site with many late 18th-century and early 19th-century buildings still standing. Points of interest in this historic town include everything from stunning buildings to enchanting rivers, landscapes and natural phenomena. Located in the town’s centre is Water Square – the site of one of the first public water systems on the island. Falmouth residents had piped water before New York City.
Closer to the coast you’ll find The Armoury – Fort Balcarres – a 15-square-foot structure with walls four to five feet thick. The Cannon at Fort Balcarres is one of the original two that remain of the 1811 fort built to defend the harbor. Just off the main road you’ll find St. Peter’s Anglican Church – the first church in Trelawny, built in 1796. Tharp House – built in 1785, this was one of three houses owned by John Tharp, the largest land and slave owner in Trelawny during the sugar era.
Other interesting sites include The Old Baptist Manse – originally built as a Masonic temple, this later became the residence of the “Great Emancipator” William Knibb. William Knibb Memorial Baptist Church – the second Baptist chapel in Falmouth built 1837 by William Knibb, which essentially acted as the headquarters of the anti-slavery movement on the island. The Court House – built between 1815 and 1817, this served as host to many town gatherings, from balls to poetry readings, and now houses the Parish Council offices. The Falmouth Heritage Walking Tour is a great way to see these.
There are also many other nearby sites worth visiting. Located just minutes outside of Falmouth, sitting back from the main road the Good Hope Great House was built around 1755 and consists of one thousand acres, bordering the Martha Brae river travel to the ruins where the water wheel and kiln still stands today; take a short stroll near the Martha Brae River and ride in the buggies once used by the planters, walk through the ruins of buildings that were once the jewel of the Caribbean. The equally stunning Greenwood Great House is located just west of Falmouth in the hills overlooking the sea, this house was built by the Barrett family between 1780 and 1800, and now offers daily tours.
Literally glowing in the dark under the moonlit sky, the Luminous Lagoon at Glistening Waters is also well worth a visit. Located just east of Falmouth, this is one of Jamaica’s most spectacular natural wonders. Enveloped by mangroves the lagoon is home to microscopic organisms that emit a phosphorescent light when the water is agitated. As the water is disturbed, you’ll see an iridescent light illuminating the waters below. The phosphorescence is so thick that moving fish in the water are said to resemble shooting stars.
Courtesy of: Island Buzz Jamaica