St James Jamaica -
The Fourth Smallest Parish

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St James Jamaica is a suburban parish located on the north-west end of the island. Its capital is Montego Bay. The name Montego Bay was derived from the Spanish word 'Manteca', which means lard, because many wild hogs were found there from which lard was made.

St. James is Jamaica's fourth smallest parish measuring just about 595 square km. The 2008 census recorded that the parish had a population of 200,000. St. James Jamaica is located in the county of Cornwall with bordering parishes Hanover, St. Elizabeth, Trelawny and Westmoreland. For the geographic enthusiast it is said to be located at Latitude 18°31'N and Longitude 77°59'W.

This parish is the birthplace of one of our National Heroes, The Right Excellent Samuel Sharpe. It is also the resident parish of the Donald Sangster International Airport.

Today, Saint James is one of the fastest growing parishes on the island with large credits going to its capital city, Montego Bay, because it is seen as an alternative to the overpopulated Kingston and Saint Andrew Corporate Area.

St. James Jamaica Map

Agricultural activities include forestry, and the production of sugar cane and other domestic crops. There are approximately 60 manufacturing establishments in the south of the parish, mainly for garment, woodwork, and food processing. There are also many industrial zones, including The Montego Free Zone, Bogue Industrial Estate and Ironshore.

Tourism is the MAIN source of employment in this parish. It is recorded that one in every four persons are employed in tourism. There are so many famous hotels located in St James Jamaica, most of which are located in the Rose Hall area. Some of these include Doctors Cave Beach Hotel, The Ritz Carlton Hotel, Iberostar Hotel, Wyndham Rose Hall and the Half Moon Hotel.

Alone with its great line up of hotels, St. James is noted for its fine beaches. These include Greenwood, Rose Hall, Ironshore, Mahoe Bay, Aquasol Theme Park, Doctor's Cave, Cornwall Beach, Montego Freeport and Spring Gardens.

The History of St James Jamaica

St. James was one of the second group of parishes formed in Jamaica and is said to have been named by Sir Thomas Modyford in 1665, for the Duke of York who later became King James II. Located in this parish is “Mellila” the site of the first town built by the Spaniards in Jamaica. It is believed that the first Jamaican migrant set sail with Columbus from “El Cabo de Buen Tiempo” (Montego Bay’s original name), for life in the “Old World”. Along the coastal area of St. James, remains of Jamaica’s original inhabitants, the Tainos, have been located. They are referred to as the “Fairfield People” in honour of a site near Montego Bay where characteristic examples of their pottery have been found.

In 1795, the Parish was turned upside down by the Maroons in the interior who took up arms again after decades of peace. Montego Bay became the headquarters of the governor, the Earl of Balcarres, who came to personally direct operations against them, and it was from here that the Trelawny Maroons were put aboard ships in the harbour that eventually sailed to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Montego Bay also witnessed the final act of the last slave uprising. The ‘Christmas Rebellion’ of 1831-1832 that engulfed the western parishes. Under martial law the slaves were tried in the courthouse and over 300 of them were hanged at the Parade, now called SAMUEL SHARPE SQUARE where there is a memorial to the leader Samuel Sharpe.

Monuments and Historic Buildings in St James Jamaica

The Cage

This was built in 1806 as a wooden jail for runaway slaves, unruly seamen and other vagrants. The “Cage” is now used as a Tourist Information Centre and a small Museum.

The Cage St. James Jamaica

Rose Hall Great House

This most famous of Jamaican Great Houses became notorious when Annie Mary Patterson, a Haitian, married its owner John Rose Palmer, and came to live there. It is said that she practiced voodoo and popular legend holds that she murdered all three of her husbands and was in turn mysteriously strangled.

The Rose Hall Great House has been restored to its 18th century grandeur. It was opened to the public on February 26, 1971.

Rose Hall Great House St. James Jamaica

St. James Parish Church (Burchell Memorial Church)

Built in 1824 and named for the pioneering Baptist missionary Thomas Burchell, this church was destroyed by mobs during the Christmas Rebellion of 1831. Its present structure is built upon the restorations completed in 1837.

One of the most impressive churches in St James Jamaica, this Parish Church was constructed in 1872. It is built in the shape of a Greek cross, with the bell tower located at the western end. Seriously damaged by an earthquake in 1952, the James Parish Church has since been completely restored. Excellent monuments of Sir Richard Westcott and Henry Westcott, done by the renowned sculptor John Bacon, are located here.

St. James Parish Church (Burchell Memorial Church)

Old Slave Ring-Cotton Tree Lodge

A semi-circular structure which closely resembles an arena, prospective buyers came here to view slaves who were on parade. Located on the grounds of the Rerrie’s House in Montego Bay, the Ring is said to have belonged to a “Morishe” or slave leader.

The Creek Dome

The story of this creek goes back to the Spanish era when two little girls (one a free Spaniard and one a slave) in pursuit of a crab that had disappeared under a stone, discovered an underground stream of water.

The Creek Dome Montego Bay Jamaica

The stream was named “El Rio de Camarones” – the River of the Crabs. Montego Bay’s sole source of drinking water for many decades, the Creek was eventually dammed and harnessed. An oval-shaped building about 20 feet (6.1m) high and 10 feet (3.0m) wide was erected over the stream to protect the water which rose to the surface of the road and flowed towards the area.

Popularly called “the Dome”, this structure served its purpose well until 1957, when an earthquake shifted the floor of the creek flowing under the Dome thus changing the course of flow. There is now no water at the bottom of the Dome. It stands as an historic monument, reminiscent of the period of the Spanish occupancy of Jamaica.

There are a number of places to visit in St James Jamaica when you visit the parish. So feel free to explore as much as you can.

Jamaica Information Service, St. James. Kingston: Jamaica Information Service, (Parish Profiles), 1991.
Map of Jamaica, 1895
Senior, Olive, Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage. St. Andrew, Jamaica: Twin Guinep Publishers Ltd., 2003
Statistical Institute of Jamaica

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