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Greenwood Great House

Greenwood Great House has the best collection of Victorian-era furniture, musical instruments, and china in Jamaica, perhaps even the Caribbean.

Part of the 84,000 acre estate that belonged to the wealthy Barrett family whose relatives were the British poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her aunt, Sarah Moulton Barrett, who was also called Pinkie. Moulton Barrett was born in Jamaica and was immortalized in the painting, Pinkie, by the British artist, Thomas Lawrence. Both Pinkie and Thomas Gainesborough’s Blue Boy, hang in the Huntington Gallery in San Marino, California. A copy of Pinkie’s painting can also be seen at Greenwood.

Not only does Greenwood Great House have the best collection of antiques, it is one of a few great houses that were never burned during the 1831 slave revolt that destroyed most of Jamaica’s great houses. It has also been occupied continuously since it was built in 1790 by Richard Barrett, a member of the family and a former speaker of the Jamaican House of Assembly.

Greenwood Great House - china cabinet
China cabinet
Greenwood Great House - Step ladder
Step ladder
Greenwood Great House - Step ladder unfolding
Step ladder unfolding
Greenwood Great House - Step ladder chair
Step ladder chair
Greenwood Great House - antique furniture
Antique furniture
Greenwood Great House - screw-press
Screw press

Household linens were put between two pieces of flat board. The top piece was then lowered all the way down by a screw, that way flattening and smoothening the clothes.

Greenwood Great House - chamber pot
Chamber pot
Greenwood Great House - bed
Antique bed
Greenwood Great House - Wind organ
Wind organ
Greenwood Great House - Rosewood inlaid piano
Rosewood inlaid piano

This rosewood inlaid piano was built by John Broadwood, who also made pianos for Beethoven.

Greenwood Greathouse is located in the community of Greenwood, St. James. It is 15 miles from Montego Bay and 7 miles from Falmouth. Open daily from 9-6 p.m. Guided tours cost US$20 per person.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.

How Greenwood Great House Is Connected to Pinkie

Greenwood Great House, the entertainment home that once belonged to the family of Pinkie, subject of the famous painting by Thomas Lawrence, looks largely the same now as it would have when she left Jamaica more than 200 years ago.

Though she died of whooping cough at age 12, about a year after its completion, because of the painting’s resemblance to Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, she has become more easily recognizable than her famous niece, the poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Pinkie was born Sarah Goodin Moulton Barrett in Jamaica in 1783. Her father was Charles Moulton Barrett. She left the island with her brothers around 1793 to further her education in London.

Greenwood Great House, image from the Internet
Greenwood Great House, image from the Internet

The Barretts had established themselves in Jamaica in 1655. Hersey Barrett, was an officer in the unsuccessful 1655 raid on Hispaniola (now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic) that was led by Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables. Following their defeat in Hispaniola, the British captured Jamaica, which was less fortified, from the Spaniards later that same year and Hersey Barrett was granted lands on which he settled.

Greenwood Great House - dining room
Greenwood Great House – dining room

In time, the Barrett’s fortune from sugar grew. They owned 84,000 acres straddling two parishes – St. James and Trelawny – and 2,000 slaves. When Pinkie’s brother, Edward, father of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, was head of the family, he reportedly received income in excess of 60,000 pounds a year, a considerable sum in those days.

Greenwood Great House
Greenwood Great House

The family resided at Barrett Hall, which was located in the hills a few miles from the border of St. James and Trelawny, and entertained at Greenwood Great House, further down the hill. They also owned the nearby Cinnamon Hill Great House, and a house in London, which is near what is now Selfridges.

The 15-room Greenwood Great House is a Georgian-styled mansion that was built in 1790 by Pinkie’s cousin, Richard Barrett, who was a speaker of the House of Assembly and custos rotulorum (representative of the governor) of St. James.

Greenwood Great House - Pinkie painting
Greenwood Great House – Pinkie painting by Thomas Lawrence. Image Wikipedia

During the Christmas slave revolt of 1831, many of the more than 200 great houses in Jamaica were razed. Fortunately for the Barrett family, they had been good to their slaves and their properties were spared.

Greenwood Great House, which was purchased in 1976 by Bob and Ann Betton and carefully maintained, has always been occupied. It houses the finest collection of antique furniture in the Caribbean, the Barrett family’s Wedgwood china and their library numbering about 300 books with some first editions dating to 1697.

Also included in the collection is a grandfather clock which tells the time and date (it was accurate the day I visited), a punch clock, clothes press, desks with secret compartments, a step ladder that unfolds into a chair, paintings, letters, and rare musical instruments, among them a rosewood inlaid piano made by John Broadwood, who reportedly was the only piano maker whose work satisfied Beethoven. The instruments have been restored and are all in good working order. In this video, Bob Betton, demonstrates one — the polyphone, an upright music box that plays parts for several voices or instruments.

One fascinating piece is a chatelaine, which the lady of the house would have used to keep items such as scissors, thimble, notebook, pencil, etc., handy. It would have been worn attached to her belt.

Greenwood Great House - Chatelaine
Greenwood Great House – Chatelaine

Just outside the main house, are two posters: one advertising for the purchase of “Negro Coopers,” the other announcing that a slave woman, Mary Gold, had run away. It’s unclear whether they are connected to Greenwood. There’s also a mantrap, a horrific looking contraption that was used to capture runaway slaves, as well as a bathtub that was carved out of a single piece of wood, water jars and farm implements.

A few yards from the house is the kitchen, now a licensed bar called The Level Crossing. Our guide explained that as the slaves carried food from the kitchen to the house, they were required to whistle. The thinking being that if they whistled, they wouldn’t be able to steal the food. On the other side of the kitchen/bar are the souvenir shop and garden.

The 17-foot verandah at Greenwood Great House provides a commanding 180 degree view of what would have been the Barrett family holdings, which stretched east to west as far as the eye could see and right down to the Caribbean Sea. From this vantage point, you can also see how the land curves into the sea. Standing on the verandah, it isn’t difficult to grasp what it must have been like to be a Barrett, with all you own — land and slaves — right at your feet.


Not surprisingly, Greenwood Great House is said to have its own ghosts, two to be exact, but the Bettons do not emphasize that information. They don’t have to — there’s so much more than that to see and experience at Greenwood, a magnificent relic of 19th century plantation life.

Greenwood Great House -- part of the view from the verandah
Greenwood Great House — part of the view from the verandah

Getting there: Greenwood Great House is located 15 miles from Montego Bay, 7 miles from Falmouth, off the main highway in a community called Greenwood. Make the turn at the shopping plaza and follow the signs up the hill.

Hours: 9-6 p.m. everyday

Guided tours: US$20

Phone: 876-953-1077

What to Do When Rain Threatens Your Vacation

A Carnival cruise ship pulled into port this morning for its daylong stop in Montego Bay and within two hours of docking, clouds covered an anemic sun and the rain began. Immediately, I thought of the passengers who undoubtedly would be looking forward to a day of sun and fun. How would they spend their day, if the rain continued? 

Carnival Cruise Ship, Montego Bay
Carnival Cruise Ship, Montego Bay

Call me pollyanna but I always thought the vacation gods would smile on all my trips but I know differently now. Here’s what I recommend:

* Pack Rain Gear: Since weather is unpredictable, it’s always advisable to put a small umbrella, rain slick or hat in your luggage, especially when traveling to tropical destinations.

* Check the Weather: Outside of the hurricane season (June to November), except for the occasional rainy day, the weather is usually the same from day to day. But if you happen to be traveling between June and November, there’s a chance (even though years can pass before a hurricane actually hits), a hurricane can form. If you’re concerned, plan cruise vacations outside this period. If a hurricane does form and threatens to interrupt or prolong your vacation, follow the advice of the cruise lines and stay safe.

* Indulge in Indoor Activities: Take a book or magazine to read if the weather turns nasty. If you have internet connection, catch up on email. Visit a museum or go see a play. Spend a day at the spa. Do some shopping or catch up on sleep.

* Keep a Positive Attitude: The most important thing is to keep a positive attitude. Don’t let bad weather ruin your mood or spoil your vacation.

5 Things to do in Montego Bay if it rains:

* Take a taxi to one of the Great Houses – Both Rose Hall and Greenwood Great House offer guided tours of their properties. Rose Hall was the home of Annie Palmer, also known as the White Witch of Rose Hall. Greenwood Great house belonged to the family of the English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Both charge admission fees.

* Visit the Rastafari Indigenous Village – Catch the vibe at this indigenous village located about a 15 minute drive from the port. Listen to drumming, get a lesson in plants and herbs that are native to the island and enjoy an ital meal.

* Pamper Yourself – Book a Jamaican Coffee or Sugarcane Body Scrub at the Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort.

* Have a meal – Montego Bay’s “Hip Strip” a section of Gloucester Avenue populated by hotels, restaurants (Margarittaville, the Bobsled Cafe, etc.) and shops, is a great place to eat or spend a rainy day.

* Explore Jamaica’s rich ethnic and cultural heritage with a trip back in time at the Outameni Experience.

When planning a vacation, be prepared for bad weather and plan accordingly. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!



Treasure Beach, Featured Post

I’ve been featured in the Cheapflights blog in their Travel Bloggers choice series. Take a look at why I think Treasure Beach, Jamaica is a destination everyone should visit.
Treasure Beach
View from a villa
Cheapflights is the UK’s leading flight deals provider and if you haven’t already booked your flights to Jamaica, take a look at their site.
Since my arrival in Jamaica, I’ve been soaking up everything around me, especially flowers. Many, like this one, the Shrimp Plant, are new to me. Some I know but have forgotten their names.
Shrimp Plant, Jamaica
Shrimp plant
I’m surprised how many fruit trees I don’t remember. I know the popular ones, like the mango, banana, coconut. But guava, naseberry, starapple, for example, if they’re not in fruit, I’m lost. So I’m also getting re-acquainted.
While I’m doing that, please take a look at my post on Treasure Beach and a few of my previous posts on Jamaica.