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Stewart Castle, Off the Main in Trelawny Jamaica

A year or so ago, Dr. Ivor Connolley of Falmouth Heritage Renewal asked me to join them for a site visit to Stewart Castle. I was unable to go but I was curious and intrigued.

A castle – in Jamaica? Where was this Stewart Castle and why hadn’t I heard of it before?

But as happens sometimes, life got in the way and I forgot about Stewart Castle. Then on one of my trips to Kingston, I spotted its hard-to-miss yellow, black and green sign about ten miles from Falmouth, capital of Trelawny. So that’s where it is, I thought to myself. The next time, I decided to stop.

Stewart Castle is a fortified cut-stone mansion that was owned by James Stewart who came to the island from Scotland in 1754. By 1756, he owned 167 acres. The Castle was built around 1880.

I didn’t know what to expect as we turned off the main highway on to Stewart Castle Drive, a bumpy road that is overgrown, in parts, by a variety of shrubs that I didn’t recognize, and trees. We followed Stewart Castle Drive, which is no wider than one lane, as it meanders through a small community of modest homes, looking for the Castle. After about a half mile, we saw the turn off.

Situated on a small hill, its location would have given James Stewart clear views of his workers below. (If you’ve been reading my blog about plantation houses in Jamaica, you’ll notice that they were all built at higher elevations offering the owners unobstructed views of their operations.)

Though now in ruins and surrounded by a thicket of fruit and other trees, it isn’t hard to imagine how Stewart Castle might have looked back when the estate hummed with the activities of the three-story main house and a sugar works.

The amenities included a cellar, indoor water tank and a fortified outhouse. In addition, there were indoor gun ports, and a perimeter wall protected the estate and the family from attack.

By 1799, Stewart Castle had expanded to 1200 acres, including quarters for the 300 slaves who kept the sugar works in operation. With its proximity to the Caribbean Sea, there probably would have also had a jetty to load sugar for transport to ships in Falmouth harbor.

Although the castle’s stone-cut walls still look relatively solid from a distance, I didn’t get too close as I was unsure of the condition of the structure, and I might add, I’m afraid of things that creep and crawl. I didn’t do much exploring of the grounds so I’m not sure what, if anything, remains of the sugar works.

JB Kidd's Stewart Castle

J.B. Kidd’s Stewart Castle 1835

Stewart Castle remained in the Stewart family for three generations. It passed to Stewart’s son, also named James, who established Stewart Town, a community in Trelawny, and became custos of the parish in 1812.

The estate changed hands several more times before Kaiser Bauxite Company bought it in 1930 and turned over the Castle, in ruins, in 1960, to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust Company.

Archeological digs on the property have unearthed a Taino site. There have been proposals to transform the property into a park.

JB Kidd’s painting of Stewart Castle from daacs.org.

This week, I’m linking this post to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox and  Travel Photo Monday. Be sure to check out the other photos that are posted there.

 

Memorial Plaques at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Falmouth

One of the first things you notice when you enter the Falmouth Parish Church of St. Peter the Apostle (St. Peter’s), is its colorful stained glass windows. The most eye-catching one sits over the altar and is flanked by the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.

St Peters interior

Interior of St. Peter the Apostle

The first church in the parish of Trelawny and one of the oldest on the island, St. Peter’s was built in 1796 on land that the wealthy planter, Edward Barrett, donated. It was constructed from local limestone and bricks that were imported from Liverpool, England.

In addition to its original pulpit, baptismal font, and furnishings made of Jamaican mahogany, it was difficult to ignore the plaques lining the wall. Most date to the 1800s, and were mounted in memory of prominent people who were likely members of St. Peter’s.

Reading the inscriptions, I smiled at the qualities that were considered commendable back then – cheerfulness, sincerity, generosity, benevolence, piety, usefulness, integrity even a mild disposition – and at some of the phrases that sound so cumbersome and out-of-place now.

Here are a few the ones I found interesting:

Samuel

Samuel Earnshaw

In Memory of Samuel Earnshaw Esquire, of Colchis Estate in this Parish. A man of unassuming manners and unimpeachable integrity who from a spirit delighting in acts of generosity and benevolence. Distributed the blessings of life bestowed upon by the Divine Power, with a cheerful and liberal hand.

He died at his residence on 19th of September 1824. Affectionately deplored by his afflicted Wife. Regretted by his numerous friends and not unlamented by those, who personally unacquainted with him, yet were sensible of reputed worth and sincerity.

Joseph Hodgson, Esq.

Joseph Hodgson, Esq.

thi

John Marnoch

Sacred to the memory of The Honorable James Stewart, Custos Rotulorum and Representative in Assembly of this Parish, Judge of the Supreme Court and Major General of the Militia who departed this life on the 4th day of August 1828 aged 66 years.

He devoted his life to the public service of this his native country as a legislator. He was no less distinguished for his eloquence than for the wise policy of his measures. As a judge he adorned the seat of justice by the dignity of his character and the integrity of his decisions.

As chief magistrate of this parish, he endeared himself to its inhabitants not alone as the watchful guardian of the public peace

But as the beneficent promoter of their private interests and individual happiness and in testimony of the grateful feelings with which they revere his name they have erected this monument to his memory.

Mary Aitken

Mary Aitken

Linking up this week with Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to stop by and check out more photos and stories from around the world.