History of Manchester

Manchester-Overview

The parish of Manchester will be the location for a study on renewable energy strategy, through of a Wind Mapping study. This study is being undertaken by Wigton Wind Farm Limited, an agency of the Ministry of Energy and Mining, through the PCJ. Wind mapping will determine the wind blowing patterns across the island. It will also identify the best points for establishing wind farms. The study will advance the government’s agenda in managing energy resources under the National Energy Policy. The policy seeks to provide the framework for the sustainable management of energy resources and the development of viable renewable energy resources, which is expected to represent some 20 per cent of the country’s energy mix by 2030.

Manchester-Geography

Mountains

Manchester rivals its neighbour Trelawny for the title of Jamaica’s most mountainous parish.

The three main ranges running throughout the parish are the Carpenters Mountains, the May Day Mountains and the Don Figuero Mountains.  Of the three ranges the Carpenters Mountains is the highest, reaching as far as 2, 770 feet above sea level.

Caves

Over 90 per cent of the surface of the parish is covered with limestone and the geographic structure is characterised by many sink holes, cock pits, caves and underground cavities.

The main caves in Manchester are:

  • The Oxford Cave, located in upper Manchester is the largest in the parish, measuring approximately one kilometre.   It also has the distinction of being one of the prettiest in the island.  Located to the north of Mandeville the caves are well explored and relatively easy to negotiate.
  • The Coffee River Cave in Auchtembeddie, is not for the faint-hearted.  The tunnels are complex and more than half the passage ways that have been mapped out are underwater.

 THE GOURIE CAVE, WHICH IS SITUATED TO THE EASTERN EDGE OF THE COCKPIT MOUNTAINS, NEAR CHRISTIANA IS ALSO MOSTLY UNDERWATER.

Manchester-History

“An unfrequented wilderness” is how historian James Bridges described Manchester in the 1700’s.  Bridges would hardly recognise the quiet rural parish now. It is the hub of central Jamaica and many of its towns are thriving commercial and social centres.

 Location

 Located in south-central Jamaica, Manchester covers a total area of 320.5 square miles or 830.1 kilometres, making it the sixth largest parish in the island.  To its east is the parish of Clarendon and St. Elizabeth lies to its west and Trelawny to its north.

 Kingston, Jamaica’s capital is only 61 miles or 98 km away and Montego Bay, the island’s second city is 70 miles or 113km northwest.

History

 At the beginning of the 19th Century, coffee farmers in the hill districts of Clarendon, St. Elizabeth and the then parish of Vere, began a campaign to have a separate parish established.

The main reason for this action was the vast distance between the hill districts and the commercial and administrative centres of all three parishes.  The nearest public building was 40 miles/64 kilometres from the hillside communities of Mile Gully, May Day and Carpenters Mountain and none of these towns had a church.

On November 29, 1814 residents from all three communities made a petition to the assembly.  They asked for a new parish, with a capital which would meet their religious, civic, judicial and administrative needs. On December 13, 1814 the new parish was formed and named after the Duke of Manchester who was then serving as the Governor of the island. The capital was named Mandeville, after his son and heir. Two years later, the vestry was established and it served as the municipal authority.  The new governing body moved quickly to have public buildings erected in the capital, including a court house, a parsonage, a workhouse and a church.  By 1926 churches had also been built in Mile Gully, May Day and the Carpenter’s Mountains. In the days prior to the abolition of slavery, Manchester’s population was never as large as that of the surrounding parishes because the hill terrain was not suited for the cultivation of sugar which was then the island’s most lucrative crop. However, after emancipation many of the newly-freed slaves moved into the area to grow coffee and other crops on hillside farms.  This was the beginning of what is now a thriving agricultural industry and major money earner and employer for the parish. In the old colonial regime, Manchester had the prestigious distinction of being the most English of Jamaica’s parishes and it was known as “the playground for the landed European gentry”. In 1942 it was discovered that Manchester was the site of one of the largest deposits of bauxite in the country.  Bauxite is a red ore which is processed to produce alumina and eventually aluminium.  This discovery led to the growth and development of Manchester’s bauxite and alumina industries which facilitated the speedy development of the parish and Mandeville in particular. Today, the economy of Manchester is still deeply rooted in both bauxite and agriculture. About 60% of the lands in the parish are occupied by farmers.

Manchester-Special Attractions

Several of the parish’s leading factories are open for public tours.

  • The High Mountain Coffee Factory in Williamsfield is a must for Coffee fanatics.
  • The Pioneer Chocolate Factory, also in Williamsfield, allows visitors to  observe the making of chocolate from fine Jamaican Cocoa.
  • The Pic-A-Peppa Factory in Shooters Hill is another one of Manchester’s famous attractions.  There, Jamaica’s answer to famous Pic-A-Peppa sauce is manufactured.

The Manchester Club

Founded in 1868 this is the oldest member’s club in the Caribbean.  It has a ballroom and lounge, four hard tennis courts and a nine hole golf course. The town has affectionately been called “the Garden City” because of the flowers and plants which adorn most of its public buildings. The Parish Church which was built in 1820 and the Court House which was constructed in 1830 are still major attractions for visitors to the parish.

Martin’s Hill Orchid Sanctuary

Kirkvine

The 210 species of Orchids that exist in Jamaica, over 100 can be seen at this reserve. The sanctuary is home to over 30,000 plants, including 25 species which  are endemic to Jamaica.  The Epidendrum Scalpelgerum, which is hard to find to in the wild, grows at Martin’s Hill along with 20 other rare Orchid species.

Stephenson’s Gardens

Mandeville

The pride of Mandeville, this small and charming garden specialises in Orchids and Anthuriums.  The proprietor, Mrs. Carmen Stephenson holds the record for the most prizes in the Manchester Horticultural Show.

 FACTOIDS

  • Ortaniques, a citrus fruit which is a cross between an orange and a tangerine.

Manchester-Industry and Investment

Bauxite

Bauxite was discovered in Manchester in 1942 and the industry has been largely credited with the development of the parish.

Over 4000 persons are employed in the industry and Alcan Jamaican Company, the country’s first bauxite company operates its Kirkvine Works plant in the parish.

Agriculture

The agricultural industry has long been and still remains the primary provider of employment in the parish of Manchester. The soil and the climate are good for the cultivation of fruits such as strawberries and peaches, which are not typical in tropical climates.

The main crops are:

  • Citrus

Mandeville, in particular, is known for its numerous citrus groves where oranges, grapefruits and ortaniques are cultivated. The parish is also known as the home of the Ortanique.  This citrus fruit was developed by CP Jackson in 1920 and its title was coined by combining the words Orange, Tangerine and unique.

  • Coffee

Manchester is counted among the highest producing coffee areas in the country.

The High Mountain Coffee Factory in Williamsfield produces coffee comparable in quality to that of Blue Mountain, which has the distinction of being the world’s best coffee.

  • Irish Potatoes

A large portion of the Irish Potatoes that are consumed locally are grown in Manchester. Christiana is the main point for cultivation and the growers’ co-operative also has its headquarters there.

  • Snow Peas

A recent addition to Manchester’s agricultural industry, a snow peas crop matures in just 60 days.  The legume is considered a delicacy by lovers of fine cuisine.

Tourism

Ocho Rios and Negril are the towns traditionally associated with Jamaican tourism, but Mandeville has long been a player in the game.  At one point it was the site of two of Jamaica’s most popular hotels, the Mandeville Hotel and the Hotel Manchester. Without much fanfare or promotion it remains a popular spot among tourists who seek a change from the busy North Coast beach towns. The new wave sweeping through Manchester and much of the South Coast is community tourism. Residents in the local communities open their homes, providing meals, tours and accommodation for travelers.  Community tourism allows visitors to get in touch with the people of Jamaica, explore un-exploited areas such as mountains, valleys and un-crowded beaches.

 Libraries

THE MANCHESTER PARISH LIBRARY IS THE LARGEST IN THE PARISH. IN ADDITION, TWELVE OF THE TOWNS IN THE SURROUNDING AREAS HAVE LIBRARIES

HEALTH

 The Hargreaves Memorial Hospital is the only such facility in the island which is community owned.  The hospital started life as a Maternity facility in the 1920s which functioned as an adjunct of the Mandeville Public Hospital.

Manchester-Main Towns

Mandeville

When Manchester was established in the early nineteenth century there was no debate as to where the capital should be located.  What came to be known as Mandeville, was the natural choice because of its centrality. Mandeville was a popular place of settlement for British expatriates who enjoyed its temperate climate. The town was often described with fondness as a “typical English village”. Once referred to as a small rural capital, Mandeville is now one of the largest and most affluent urban areas in Jamaica. Mandeville sits atop a range of mountains which reach as far as 2000 feet above sea level, providing spectacular views of the surrounding areas.  The high altitudes are responsible for its cool climate. On average the temperature is 70 degrees F, a stark contrast to other geographic locations in the tropical island. The topography is also excellent for drainage. Consequently, there are few adverse effects from the estimated 2000 inches of rainfall which the town experiences on an annual basis. Today, however the so-called typical English village is said to be losing its European character.  With a rapidly moderinising landscape, dotted with several popular fast food franchises, the town is now being likened to a North American suburb.

Christiana

Now called Christiana, a Latin word which means Christian woman, this town was previously refered to as Barracks, because it was a favoured spot among British soldiers who went there seeking refuge from the heat of the lowlands. Christiana is the second largest town in Manchester and is probably most famous for its two main agricultural products – bananas and Irish Potatoes. Although Mandeville is the business centre of Manchester, Christiana holds its own as a site for commercial and social activity.

Porus

Located on the eastern border of Manchester, close to the parish of Clarendon, Porus is another thriving business centre.  The town’s largest industry is agriculture with coconuts, coffee, citrus and other fruits being the main crops.  Porus is also the gateway to Manchester from Kingston.

Mile Gully

Home to some of the best pasture lands in the parish, Mile Gully is a prime location for cattle farming.  Situated in north western Manchester, the rural community is the birthplace of the Jamaica Black and the Jamaica Red cattle.  It is also the location of the country’s largest livestock breeding research station.  Mile Gully is also the place where the legendary campaign for the new parish began.

Manchester-Calendar of Annual Events

High Mountain 10k Road Race

Held every January in Williamsfield, this exciting sporting event is contested by some of the best amateur and professional athletes in the country.

 The Manchester Horticultural Society Show

This gardening extravaganza is held every May on Labour Day and is one of the most popular flower show in the country.  The Society which was founded in 1865, is the oldest of its kind in Jamaica.

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