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Jamaica’s Fascinating Fretwork

I’ve been photographing examples of fretwork in Jamaica’s architecture for several months now. My fascination with the art form goes back to my childhood and the house I grew up in.  Fretwork, similar to the one below, decorated the transoms – the space above the doors – and allowed air to flow freely through the house.

Transom fretwork

On a transom

Fretwork is ornamental work that is made up of three dimensional interlacing designs. It has been around for more than 3,000 years. The Egyptians used inlays that were fretted in their furniture, and fretwork has been popular in Europe and North America since the 1800s.

Fretwork would have come to Jamaica around the same time. Examples can still be seen on official buildings that were constructed following the Georgian style, as well as private homes.

Below are some examples of fretwork I’ve captured.

Fretwork at Westgate Shopping Centre, Montego Bay

Sam Sharpe’s story told in fretwork

These panels at Westgate Shopping Centre in Montego Bay, captured my attention. I’ve been shopping here almost every week for more than a year and had no idea until I began this post that they depicted the Sam Sharpe rebellion, which took place in 1831. Sharpe, a preacher, was born in the parish of St. James, and is one of Jamaica’s National Heroes.

Fretwork at Westgate Shopping Centre, Montego Bay

Another panel of the Sam Sharpe story

The work was designed by Margaret Robson and Will Robson in collaboration with architect, Cosmo Whyte. It was built by Magic Toys.

Fretwork at Westgate Shopping Centre, Montego Bay

Westgate Shopping Centre, Montego Bay

Fretwork at Falmouth building

On gables

Fretwork can be found on gables and on window coolers.

Other uses of fretwork, Falmouth

Window cooler

Fretwork on an eave in Falmouth

Another example

These details add beauty and character to the buildings they adorn.

What kinds of architectural details do you look for when you travel?


This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!




  1. Yes, I agree, Johanna. They’d make beautiful decorations and bring fairy tales to mind.

  2. You’re welcome, Jill. Glad you find them interesting.

  3. Glad you like, Amy. I think we all are guilty of that. It’s so easy to focus on where we’re going, excluding everything else.

  4. Great to meet you too, Seana! Thanks for stopping by.
    Blogging certainly does give us the chance to travel the world without leaving home. Hope you get to visit Jamaica and see some of the fretwork.

  5. I find that those things are usually the most interesting.
    If you have any photos, would love to see some of them, Tonya.

  6. You’re welcome, Maria Alexandra! They’re also called latticework

  7. They sure do. Glad you love it.

  8. It sure is. Thank you!
    Saw some on a beautiful house yesterday but couldn’t stop to capture it.

  9. Thanks, Leigh. Those windows are new to me too. I’ve seen a few more, also in Falmouth, and I really like them.

  10. I agree, Debbie, they are quite pretty. I’d love to add a few touches to my home as well.

  11. Glad you learned something new from this post, Kate.
    Yes, there’s a warmth to the first one, a really homey feel.

  12. These sights are just breath-taking! Thank you for sharing your wonderful experiences with us. Excellent post.

  13. I’ve never seen window coolers before.

    The rebellion fretwork reminds me of Indian or Thai imagery.
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  14. I like that name, Narelle. That’s exactly what they are.
    And it does look a bit Indian or Thai.