History of Westmoreland

Westmoreland-Notable Personalities

Sir Clifford Campbell, Jamaica’s first native Governor-General, was a school teacher at Petersfield in the parish. Westmoreland is home to the Clarke family that has, for some time, been a leader in the industrial and commercial life of this parish. They founded the Westmoreland Building Society. Oliver Clarke is the Chairman of the Gleaner Company. Peter Tosh, noted musician, former member of the ‘Wailers’.

Lady Gladyse Bustamante nee Longbridge

Justice of the Peace, widow of the late Sir Alexander Bustamante, National Hero and former Prime Minister of Jamaica.  Lady Bustamante was born in Ashton, Westmoreland and attended Ashton Primary School in the parish. Lady Bustamante is also the author of Lady Bustamante’s Memoirs.

Roy Rayon, singer

Hazel Monteith, Broadcaster and Human Rights activist, festival song competition winner

Winthrop Graham, Olympian

Westmoreland-Attractions

Westmoreland boasts several special attractions ranging from the natural beauty of the sunset to the awesome attraction of historic monuments and buildings, as well as interesting communities and villages.

Bluefields House

Originally spelt ‘Blewfields’, this name was derived from the Dutch Abraham Bleevelt, who was a seaman.  Once a favourite assembling place for fleets and convoys, it was here that Henry Morgan sailed to sack Panama in 1670.  Where Bluefields now stands it is believed, stood the township of Oristan, no trace of which remains today, one of the three principal early cities formed by the Spaniards. Located ten miles eastward, Bluefields has a protected bay, with a small, pleasant white sand beach. It is a well-known attraction often enjoyed by visitors who find the clear, blue sea calm and relaxing.  The atmosphere is enhanced by individuals who provide meals of fish and bammy and other local favourites. The history of Bluefields is closely linked to the natural beauty of that location. In 1844 an English naturalist, Philip Henry Gosse spent eighteen months at Bluefields where he collected specimens of local flora and fauna. These were sent to the British Museum and also served as material for his two books, “Birds of Jamaica” and “A Naturalist’s Sojourn in Jamaica”. Bluefields, however, came into public view from as early as the seventeenth century in the battles of Henry Morgan and the militia.

Mannings High School

Mannings High School is the second oldest of its type in Jamaica. It was established in1738, twenty-eight years after Thomas Manning, a Westmoreland proprietor in 1710, left an endowment of 13 slaves, land, cattle and produce to endow a ‘free school’ in Westmoreland. In 1883 the school was refurbished to satisfy the Jamaican secondary education system that provided for a co-educational school in Westmoreland.

Savanna-la-Mar Baptist Church 

Savanna-la-Mar Baptist Church stands as a monument to the anti-slavery movement of the early 19thCentury when the movement was gaining momentum in the West Indies and England. Rev. Thomas Burchell, a Baptist pastor founded the church on June 7, 1829.

Negril Point Lighthouse

This historic structure was constructed in July1895 on the southwestern tip of Negril. Today it stands as a reminder of our colonial history and our colourful past.

The Fort, Savannah-la-Mar

The main road running through Savannah-la-Mar, Great George Street, bears all the hustle and bustle of the town.  In fact, running at right angles to the coast, it is a striking feature of the town.  At the end of this street is a historical monument – the ruins of a shipping fort, situated partly on land and mostly in the sea. The fort was never completed and so over the years, one wall has all but tumbled into the sea.  Part of the structure is still intact and the inside has become filled with seawater and is often used by residents as a swimming pool.

Cast Iron Fountain

Located near the courthouse in Savannah-la-Mar, the cast iron fountain was presented to the town in 1887 by E.J. Saddler, a Westmoreland planter. Over each of the arches supporting the Dome is an elaborate plaque with a Pelican Motif, and the admonition ‘keep the pavement dry’ is repeated to the four points of the compass.

Unusual Place Names

Present day Grange Hill was once known as Morgan’s Bridge as the property was owned at one time by Sir Henry Morgan, the buccaneer who became Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica between 1674 and 1675.

Seaford Town is a property of 5,000 acres (2020 ha) in the Montpelier Mountains, donated by the Governor of Barbados Lord Seaford, for the settlement of German immigrants in Jamaica.

Frome Sugar Estate in Westmoreland was probably named after a town in Somerset, England.

Save Rent, a district near Savanna-la-Mar, seems to be the corruption of the name of a Frenchman, F.E.N. Saverent who once lived there. He owned the property between 1773 and1811 and is buried there.

Negril, the former Punta Negrilla of the Spanish, up to the early 1960s was a sleepy fishing village cut off from the rest of the south coast as there was no road leading into the town from the southern side of the island. Today it is a booming tourism centre.

Unigue Qualities

Lining the approaches to the sugar capital, Frome, are raised wooden cottages with redwood louvers separated by glass, representing a sharp difference in the architectural styles. Bicycles, bicycles and more bicycles. Just about everyone rides a bicycle in the Frome area of Westmoreland – no doubt a cheap and efficient means of transport especially on the flat lands of the region.

Westmoreland-Main Towns

Savanna-la-Mar

The capital town of the parish, this is the centre of commercial activity in Westmoreland.  This chief town is located about 33 miles from Montego Bay.

Negril

This famous attraction is located in the west Westmoreland constituency and is a part of the Negril cluster, which includes Negril, Sheffield and Mount Airy.  The most prominent economic activity in Negril is tourism.

Bethel Town

In 1857 a Dorsetshire family bought Bethel Town, then known as Kew Park. The Town was established as a free village in the 19th century. In the mid-nineteenth the property was established as a sugar plantation.  However, with the decline of sugar, the owners turned to citrus and cattle farming.

Seaford Town

Seaford Town is popular for its significant number of German descendants. It is said that the Germans settled in Seaford Town on 500 of partially cleared woodlands in the 18th century. The town was named after the British planter Lord Seaford.

Grange Hill

Grange Hill is a rural town located in the Grange Hill electoral division in the constituency of West Westmoreland. It is a large farming town located in a cluster of communities, namely Mint, Belle Isle, Top Lincoln and Kings Valley.

Bluefields

Bluefields, originally spelt ‘Blewfields’, is one of the towns on the coast and is believed to have been ’Oristan’, one of three towns established by the Spanish after their arrival in 1655. Bluefields was the home of the former Philip Henry Gosse, the renowned naturalist who collected rare plants and animals for dealers in Canada in the early 19th Century. Bluefields is today a tourist attraction with lengths of white sand public beaches. The Great House still stands, marking the location of the Bluefields estate which years before was the place of residence of several Spaniards.

Westmoreland-Industry and Investment

Popular economic activities in Westmoreland are tourism and agriculture.  Tourism now plays an important role in the parish’s development. Agriculture, however, has always held a secure spot in Westmoreland’s economy with the historically prominent Frome Sugar Estate. Mining is not a very prominent industry in the parish but residents are employed at bauxite companies in neighbouring St Elizabeth and Manchester.

Sugar Cane

Sugar cane, the main crop produced in Westmoreland, thrives well due to the abundance of rainfall and the resulting fertile soil. The major sugar estate in Westmoreland, Frome Sugar Estate, was built in 1938.  This Estate not only marks the beginning of an era in sugar production but it has also played an important role in Jamaica’s history.  It was the centre of activities in the struggle towards self-government.  At a time when the West Indies Sugar Company (WISCO) had a factory on the estate, the workers began a strike due to poor working conditions and wages and damaged the estate by fire.  This led to a violent uproar in which many persons were killed and injured. The strike at Frome triggered strikes in Kingston and other sections of the island that eventually led to the arrest and imprisonment of Alexander Bustamante who later became a leader of the emerging labour movement. At present, Frome, along with Monymusk is the largest estate in the island.  Together they produce about 1/3 of the Jamaican sugar crop. The total area of Frome is 30,000 acres, about 1/7 that of the parish.  It is the greatest single source of employment of the parish. In addition to sugar cane, Westmoreland was once well known for its production of rice, which was grown on the marshlands for commercial use. Agricultural activities once provided a leading source of income in Westmoreland until the early 1970’ss when Negril was developed as a major tourist destination.

Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector is the third largest sector in the parish. The sector produces selected manufactured items that include food and drink, beverages and tobacco, animal feed, textiles and textile products and printing.

Tourism

Westmoreland has contributed greatly to the tourist industry, adding to Jamaica’s popularity as a prime Caribbean tourist destination.  The popular 7-mile long Negril beach complements the parish’s natural attraction to visitors.

Negril

Negril has been described as a “stretch of sun, sand, surf, silence and solitude … the island’s last outpost of tranquility…” It was formerly a small fishing village accessible only by parochial road from Savanna-la-Mar.  In 1950 this western tip of the island was opened as a tourist resort, experiencing growth during the 60s and 70s with a few small villas and hotel operations along the beach. These humble beginnings of a tourism Mecca lay the foundation for a thriving industry as investors acquired lots and constructed small hotels along the coast of Negril. Negril is now the third largest employer in the accommodation sub sector of the tourist industry. The hotels, located on the beautiful white sand beach stretching along Norman Manley Boulevard, offer one of the alternatives provided by Negril.  Another alternative offered to tourists and locals are the hotels and guesthouses found in the more secluded and rustic ‘west end’ of Negril.  It is here that diving off the cliffs and watching the sunset are quite popular relaxing activities. Although tourism in Negril is known world wide, tourists are now becoming attracted to the natural scenery and the exceptional foliage of the deeper rural sections of Westmoreland.

Parish Council Divisions

East           –                Bethel Town

Leamington               Luther Buchanan – Member of Parliament

Darliston

Whitehouse

Central      –     Frome

Savanna-la-Mar        Roger Clarke – Member of Parliament

                        Savanna-la-Mar North

Cornwall Mountain

Petersfield

West          –     Sheffield

Little London            Wykeham McNeil – Member of Parliament

Grange Hill

Negril

                        Friendship

Westmoreland-History

The history of Westmoreland is quite vivid and interesting, more so because the major towns have their individual and unique histories and legacies that all contribute to the richness of the parish’s past.

Savanna-la-Mar

Savanna-la-Mar, a Spanish settlement, was declared the parish capital in 1730. Sabana-de-la-Mar, the Spanish name for the town, means “the plain by the sea”. During English occupation of the island, the “de” was dropped and the name became Savanna-la-Mar. Sometimes this is abbreviated to Sav-la-Mar. Flanked by swamps on both sides Savanna-la-Mar was developed as a port facility because of its south coast location that facilitated the shipping of sugar and other products during the peak production periods. The town was destroyed by hurricane 18 years after it was declared the parish capital. According to Bryan Edwards, in 1748 “the sea bursting its ancient limits overwhelmed the unhappy town and swept it to instant destruction, leaving not a vestige of man, beast or habitation behind. So sudden and comprehensive was the stroke that I think the catastrophe on Savanna-la-Mar was even more terrible, in many respects, than that of Port Royal.” In 1790, 1912 and1979 the town was destroyed by hurricanes and tidal waves, and many people died. Following these disasters, famine and pestilence plagued the town. However, the people of Savanna-la-Mar quickly rebuilt the town each time and today it is a centre   of commercial activity along the south coast.

Negril

Most of the history of Negril, formerly Punta Negrilla, has to do with the part it played in different wars. Because ships were always under attack from enemies, those traveling to England always traveled in convoys, arranging to meet at a safe spot.  The chosen spot was Negril. The British used Long Bay at Negril to ambush their enemies. Quite often, they attacked Spanish ships that were on their way to Cuba. Negril also has a strong association with Admiral Benbow who fought bravely in the war between England and France.  This hero of war gathered his ships at Negril to sail out and attack the French. It is also from this point that British ships sailed during the war of 1812. The Spanish saw Negril as a place for commanding sea power.  In 1582 the Marques de Villa Lobbos, Abbot of Jamaica, described Jamaica as being “of very good and commodious ports, deep and spacious enough to hold 200 sail, such as Negril”.

The Legend of Calico Jack Rackham

The history of Negril is also closely associated with the popular legend of Calico Jack Rackham.  The legend tells the tale of a young lady, Anne, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner in Charleston, South Carolina who left her lifestyle of comfort to marry a sailor by the name of James Bonney. After the marriage, however, her enraged father disinherited her. To escape the vengeance of his father-in-law, Bonney fled with his bride to the island of New Providence in the Bahamas that was then a haven to more than 1,000 pirates, including the notorious Blackbeard and Calico Jack Rackham. However, soon after the couples’ arrival Calico Jack quickly wooed Anne and shortly after, they put together a crew of pirates and set sail together. Soon after their retreat, the couple’s ship, bearing the booty of a recently plundered Spanish vessel, dropped anchor at Negril Bay.  However, unaware to Calico Jack, they were being followed by a boat captained by one Barnet who, along with his men, boarded the pirates’ ship and launched an attack.  The pirates were soon defeated and the ship came under Barnet’s control. Calico Jack and his crew were tried and condemned to death at a court of Vice-Admiralty in Spanish Town. He was executed at Gallows Point on the Palisadoes strip in Kingston and his body gibbetted on the cay off the coast of Port Royal, named after him as a warning to other pirates. Today, two centuries later, scuba divers are still searching for the wreckage of Calico Jack Rackham’s pirate ship.  This wreckage along with beautiful marine life, has attracted scuba enthusiasts to Negril for many years.

Rivers

Numerous rivers and streams provide water to the parish. The parish lies on the Georges Plains and is drained by the Cabaritta River, which can accommodate boats weighing up to 8 eight tons for 12 miles. Among the many rivers are: Negril River which is 5.3 kilometres long, New Savanna, Morgans Gut, Smithfield, Bowens, Bluefields, Robins, Roaring, Great, Deans which is 17.1 kilometres long and Cabaritta River which is 39.7 kilometres long. Other rivers are the Roaring and Great Rivers (not to be confused with rivers of similar names in other parishes).

Transport

Bus service in Westmoreland is provided by individuals and companies who operate licensed buses on scheduled routes. Buses from Savanna-la-Mar and Negril travel to Black River, Kingston, Mandeville, Falmouth, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio, St. Ann’s Bay and Spanish Town traveling as far as 181miles.

Roads

The original road network for the island was developed in the 18th Century as a belt following the coastline and encircling the island. Road types in Westmoreland include arterial, secondary and tertiary roads. One of the roads which was developed in the 18th Century links Savanna-la-Mar to Montego Bay by way of Whithorn at an elevation of 1000 feet.

Seaport

One of Jamaica’s inactive ports is Savanna-la-Mar that was established as a shipping station for sugar and bananas in the 17th Century.

Water

Rainfall is the primary source of water resources enabling the collection of direct rainwater, surface water and ground water. The National Water Commission (NWC) utilizes the surface and ground water resources as the major source of water supply to the parish. 84.1% of the population receives drinking water from National Water Commission.

The Cabarita River and the Great River provide 6,852 milligrams cubic feet of water each year and this is used in both urban and rural locations for agriculture and other private industries as well as exported to other parishes.

Health

The Savanna-la-Mar Hospital provides healthcare to the parish as well as sections of St. Elizabeth and Hanover. There are 20 health centers in the parish

Agriculture

Sugar sane production has been the mainstay of the agriculture economy and is supported by the rainfall and fertile soil. Frome Sugar Factory in Westmoreland was built in 1938 and marks the beginning of the present era of sugar production, with the growth of factories throughout the island and an increase in production. Frome is classified as one of the three leading sugar-producing areas in Jamaica. Rice was once grown on the marshlands for commercial use and with sugar cane provides a permanent income to small farmers. On the coast, the residents depend on fishing. Westmoreland has 19 fishing beaches with over 9900 fishing boats engaged in the industry. Crayfish and shrimp are obtained in large supply from the rivers. Other crops produced include pimento, cocoa, with ginger and coffee cultivated in the highlands. The logwood and flowering trees in the parish provide a natural habitat for bee production. Major agricultural products include sugar, pimento (allspice), bananas, coffee and honey. Agricultural activity, the leading source of income in Westmoreland, was challenged by tourism in the early 70s when Negril became the ideal place for tourism in the island.

Westmoreland-Location and Geography

Westmoreland is adjoined on the North by the parish of Hanover and on the East by St. Elizabeth and St. James.

Population                                       

145,700 (ESSJ 2011)

 Geography and Environment

Westmoreland, located at the west end of the island, boasts a maritime tropical climate. The parish experiences heavy rainfall from May to June and September to November.  Due to slight seasonal changes in temperature and rainfall, affected by changes in elevation, winds are lighter here than in other areas of the island.  Temperature fluctuates from an average low of 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit to an average high of 86.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Westmoreland has a combination of white limestone, marl, sand, gravel and coral reefs.  The coastal areas in particular have loose sand, gravelly and deltaic deposits resulting from erosion. The parish bears a limestone plateau, coastal plains and interior valleys.  The coastal plains are made up of alluvial deposits and cultivable lands.  However, there are also large areas of swampland. The popular Great Morass is a large swamp area, which covers thousands of acres. Plant and animal material have collected on this land over the centuries and is thereafter mined as peat – a great source of energy.  The wetlands, common to the parish of Westmoreland, serve as a natural sanctuary to Jamaica’s wildlife. The fertility and lush vegetation of the parish is greatly maintained by the various rivers and streams that are important sources of water.  Lying on the Georges Plain, the parish is drained by the Cabaritta River, which is able to accommodate boats of up to eight tons for 19.3 km (12 miles) from its mouth.

Westmoreland-Overview

Westmoreland is a taste of the rustic countryside with a dash of sea and sand. The parish was so named in 1703 because of its location as the westernmost parish in Jamaica. The parish bears some resemblance to colonial Jamaica, reflected in its architecture and quaint towns.  In the busy town of Savanna-la-Mar, the capital, bicycles are a common mode of transportation, giving visitors a nostalgic feeling. It is a lovely parish with dense forests and greenery, a picturesque countryside dotted with concrete and wooden structures. This unique and beautifully rustic parish is home to the famous Negril, located in the county of Cornwall at the western end of Jamaica.

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