History of St. Catherine

St. Catherine – Some Interesting Place Names

Above Rocks – primarily name for its geographical location, it is the most westerly extension of the Blue Mountain Range.

Troja – a village and railway station, this name was possibly derived from the word “Trojan”.

Grateful Hill – this name reflects the thankfulness of citizens in this area for the generosity of Mr. George King who donated a plot of land to the Baptists for erection of a church.

Feather Bed Lane – named by a humorous traveler who noted this lane was so unsuited for vehicular traffic that, “it was anything but a featherbed to travel on”.

St. Catherine – St. James Cathedral (Spanish Town)

Built in about 1525 on the site of the Spanish Chapel of the Red Cross, this cathedral stands today as the oldest ecclesiastical structure in the British Empire (outside of the United Kingdom). When the British conquered the Spanish in 1655, the English destroyed the existing cathedral, and built in its stead an Anglican church which was demolished by an earthquake in 1714. In 1843, the church was named the cathedral of Anglican Diocese, in the honour of the patron saint – St. James. This cathedral is built in the form of a cross. Constructed in brick, it reflects a Romanesque and a Gothic architectural style. The aisles are dotted with the tombstones of many notables in Jamaican history. Situated near to the hose of Assembly and the Old King’s House, the St. James cathedral is currently the chief church of the Anglican denomination in Jamaica and contains the earliest existing Anglican records some of which date back to 1668.

St. Dorothy’s Church

Popularly called “Tamarind Tree Church”, St. Dorothy’s is located in Old Harbour. Built by early English settlers in the island, St. Dorothy’s is one of the oldest churches in St. Catherine. The land on which this church is built was donated by Colonel Fuller (an outstanding Parliamentary officer who arrived in the island with Penn and Venables) and his wife, Catherine.

Old Iron Bridge

This bridge is the oldest of its type in the Western Hemisphere. Built in 1801 at a cost of about £4000, it is only used today by cyclists and pedestrians. It has been partially restored by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. The JHNT spent over J$12 million to restore the foot of the bridge, which was being eroded by the Rio Cobre, as well as repair a hole in the roadway.

St. Catherine – Monuments and Historic Buildings

Ferry Inn

Established on April 17, 1864 under, “An act for the ferry between St. Catherine and St. Andrew”, the Ferry Inn was first built as “a tavern or victualling-house near the Ferry. It became the most important posting house in the island and was especially popular with the wealthy. The lower floor of the present inn still consists largely of the original stonework.

Passage Fort

First known as “The Passage” (the point of Spanish embarkation from St. Jago de la Vega- Spanish Town), this fort was used by Captain William Jackson and Sir Anthony Shirley, Englishmen from Barbados and St. Kitts respectively, who landed here in 1642 and went on to plunder Spanish Town. Another major historical event connected with this fort was 1655 landing of Admiral Penn and General Venables. Having failed to capture Haiti (Santo Domingo), the English expedition came to Jamaica, attacking Passage Fort with some 36 ships, troops numbering 7,000, and a sizeable regiment. After the initial advance, the Spaniards deserted the fort, fleeing from the advancing English invaders. A few days later, the Spaniards surrendered relinquishing their 161- year hold on the island.

Port Henderson

Named after Colonel John Henderson of the 18th Century British militia, this fishing village once had a health resort near its mineral spring. It is part of a wider area known as the “Hellshire (Healthshire) Hills”. Port Henderson was built as a rival to Passage Fort, and is said to have provided better accommodation for ships. Near the end of the 19th century, a temporary Marine/Zooloy laboratory was operated here by students of the John Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland). Port Henderson is the site of several historic buildings which have been restored and preserved as national monuments.

Fort Augusta

Located between Port Henderson and Passage Fort, Fort Augusta was constructed in the mid 18thcentury. Originally the major fortification on the western side of the harbor, all ammunition and inflammable material had to be left here by vessels bound for Kingston. Designed by Admiral Knowles (who later became Governor of Jamaica), Fort Augusta is now used as a prison.

The Barracks

Built in the 18th century, this old Army Barracks has long been associated with military activities.

Colbeck Castle

At one time partially destroyed by fire, this 18th century castle was named after Colonel John Colbeck- a member of the 1655 conquering English forces under Admiral Penn and General Venables – who later became an active Assembleyman for the parish of St. Catherine. The castle stands on the west bank of the Colbeck Gully, about a mile and a half to the north-west of Old Harbour.

The Square

The Spanish Town Square (or Parade) is enclosed by four buildings, considered to be among the most important relics in Jamaica.

  • The Old King’s House
    • Home to the Governors of Jamaica for some 100 years, King’s House, on the west of the square, occasionally housed the Council Chamber, and welcomed many distinguished visitors in its day. Burnt down in 1925, Old King’s House has been partially restored and is now the home of the ‘Folk Museum’ which was established in 1961.
  • The Rodney Memorial
    • Located at the northern side of the Spanish Town square, this memorial contains a statue crafted by John Bacon, of the famed British Admiral, Lord Rodney. It commemorates his victory over the French at the “Battle of the Saints” on April 12, 1782, off the coast of Jamaica.
  • The Old House of Assembly
    • Opposite the Old King’s House is the red-brick building which was the House of Assembly until 1872 when Jamaica’s capital was transferred to Kingston. The Supreme Court was also housed there, as well as the offices of the Island Secretary, Provost Marshall, the Register in Chancery and the Clerks of Crown and Court.
  • The Court House
    • The Court House occupies the southern side of the Square and was built by James Delancy in, about, 1819. This building was used for Circuit and Resident Magistrate’s Courts, the Court of Petty Sessions and as the Courts Offices until fire destroyed it. The town Hall, operated by the Parish Council, was also located here.

St. Catherine – Quick Facts

Location

  • On the southern coast of Jamaica to west of St. Andrew, east of Clarendon and south of St. Mary and St. Ann.

Political Divisions

  • South-East
  • East- Central
  • South
  • North- West
  • South- West
  • Central
  • West- Central
  • North- East
  • South- Central

Area

  • 1192.4 sq. km. (460.4 sq. miles)

Population Size

  • 499,600 (ESSJ 2010 figure)

Housing

  • Housing Units  98,523
  • Dwellings  128,974
  • Households 134,378

(STATIN 2001 Census figures)

Capital

  • Spanish Town
  • Spanish Town had its beginnings in 1534 and was built by the Spanish after Sevilla Nueva (New Seville) was abandoned. It was first known as Villa de la Vega, later St. Jago de la Vega and then Spanish Town. The town has the distinction of being the oldest continuously inhabited city in Jamaica. Between 1534 to 1655 it served as the capital of Jamaica under Spanish rule, then later when the English captured the island in 1655, it remained the capital of the island until 1872.  That year Kingston became the capital of Jamaica. Spanish Town has an illustrious past, evidence of which still stands in its many historical buildings.

Main Towns

  • Old Harbour, Linstead, Bog Walk, Ewarton, Portmore

Main River

  • Rio Cobre

Ports

Port Esquivel – This first- class deep water pier was created by Alcan Jamaica Limited and given the original Spanish name, that of the first Spanish Governor Juan d’ Esquivel.  Located at Old Harbour, Port Esquivel handles bauxite, petroleum products and domestic cargo. There is also an oil storage facility which supplies the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo.) electricity plant at Old Harbour.

Airstrips

  • There are three privately owned landing strips at Caymanas Estate, Worthy Park Estate and Port Esquivel. (Airports Authority or CAA)

Government Institutions

Hospitals: Spanish Town, Linstead

Educational Institutions

  • Basic Schools – 211
  • Infant – 4
  • Primary – 74
  • All-Age – 13
  • Primary and Junior High – 7
  • Special – 1
  • Technical High – 2
  • Secondary High – 20

(Source : Jamaica School Profiles 2010-2011, MOE)

Training Institutions

  • Portmore H.E.A.R.T Academy
  • Old Harbour HEART Academy
  • Twickenham Park Police Academy
  • G.C Foster Sports College
  • Portmore Community College
  • Hydel University (Private)

Indigenous Flora and Fauna

  • Jamaican Iguana
  • Mountain Bay Plant (Hellshire, Worthy Park Hills)

Main Elevation

  • Mount Diablo (St. Ann/ St. Catherine- 686 m.)

St. Catherine – Overview

St Catherine is bordered by St. Andrew in the east, Clarendon in the west, and by St. Mary and St. Ann in the north. It is ranked as Jamaica’s third largest parish with an area of 1,197.2 sq km, smaller only than St. Ann and St. Mary. It is one of the most highly populated parishes, with 18.5% of the country’s population. The parish is home to the most populous residential community in the Caribbean, Portmore. Portmore has seen outstanding growth over the years.  Data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica show that the population in Portmore moved from 5,000 in 1970 to its most recent population figure of 159,974 (Census 2001 figures). There have been large increases in other towns as well. Old Harbour, Linstead, Bog Walk and Ewarton together account for 12.4% of the total population of the parish. The Mandela Highway, a four-lane roadway connects Spanish Town with Kingston. Portmore is connected to Kingston by a section of Highway 2000, a 23-kilometre tolled motorway which connects Kingston, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, sections of Hanover, Westmoreland, Manchester and St Elizabeth. Spanish Town connects with Bog Walk via the picturesque Bog Walk Gorge. North of Bog Walk are the towns of Linstead (population 15,046 – Census 2011 figures) and Ewarton (population 10,699) and the towering Mount Diablo. East of Spanish Town is the town of Old Harbour (population 23,610 – Census 2011 figures). The Bodles Agricultural Station is located on the outskirts of Old Harbour. Five kilometres (3 miles) from Old Harbour is lies Old Harbour Bay, the largest fishing village in Jamaica. The area has been upgraded recently. Alumina is shipped from Port Esquivel which is located near the border of St. Catherine and Clarendon. Portmore became a municipality by an Act of Parliament on June 19, 2003, before which the area was administered by the St Catherine Parish Council. Municipal status allows for the mayor to be directly elected by the people.

Profile of St. Catherine

The parish of St Catherine is poised for multi-million-dollar investment that is expected to provide hundreds of jobs for Jamaicans. The Government has announced that ground will be broken soon to begin the first phase of the infrastructural development of the Caymans Economic Zone, which will link the business districts of Kingston and Spanish Town. The Zone is expected to become a marketing hub for manufacturers from Jamaica and overseas.

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