Falmouth is the capital of the parish of Trelawny, which is on the north side of western Jamaica, and it is essential that we know the origin of Trelawny in order to understand the history of Falmouth.
Martha Brae Village, not Falmouth, was the first capital of Trelawny. It was chosen shortly after 1770, and its appeal was based on its history and location.
The Spanish settlers founded Martha Brae Village as a way station to and from the northwest coast of the island. It was one of the few Spanish settlements that survived the British conquest in 1655, not that the British had deliberately set out to destroy any of the existing Spanish villages.
Martha Brae Village was simply left alone when the British began to settle the colony. Its close proximity to Martha Brae River made transportation cheap and relatively easy, and one of the first official tasks of the Town Council of Trelawnyin 1772 was to clear the river of obstructions, so that boats and barges could safely navigate its waters.
Martha Brae Village suffered from a number of significant weaknesses. One was that it had only 50 acres of land and all of this was on high ground. If Martha Brae Village was to become a major port town in the northwest, then 50 acres of land was not enough. As the population increased, the town would outgrow the available land space, so a different capital was needed. Martha Brae River was also the only route to its coastline, which was navigable for no more than two and a half miles. The alternative in this instance was land transportation, but again this meant incurring additional costs for the construction of roads, and as pointed out earlier, planters in the area were not eager to incur additional costs, unless, of course, those costs were absolutely necessary for the survival their businesses.
Recognising the need for a new capital, the Trelawny Town Council established a Commission to look into alternative locations. Edward Moulton Barrett was selected chairman of the Commission. It is not known if he used his position as chair to influence the decision of the Commission, but the land on which the new capital was built after 1790 curiously enough belonged to the Barrett family and was called the Barrett Lands. If it was that Moulton Barrett used his position for personal gain, then the notion that history never repeats itself means little in Jamaica.
Falmouth Parish Church
Built in 1795, the Falmouth Parish Church (also known as St. Peter’s Anglican) is the oldest public building in the town. The land for the church was donated by Edward Barrett, part of whose estate had been bought to lay out the town.
Constructed in brick and stone, the Church is a good example of vernacular architecture derived from classical forms. After an 1842 extension, St. Peter’s stands as one of the largest Anglican churches in the island. There are two galleries in the Church one to the north and the other to the west. Four massive and monumental timber columns support the roof. The monuments on the interior walls of the Church date from the early nineteenth century. The church organ was donated by John Tharpe Esq., the original owner of Good Hope Estate in the parish of Trelawny. Graves spanning over two hundred years can be found in the churchyard.
Kettering, in Duncans Trelawny, was named after the birthplace of the late Reverend William Knibb in Northampton, England. He came to Jamaica as a teacher of slaves in Kingston at a school established at East Queen Street Baptist Church in 1825.
On this site is located the ruins of an impressive cut stone mansion, which became known as Stewart Castle. The building was originally fortified for protection against attack. There are loopholes for fire muskets placed strategically around the entire building. From all indications the building seemed to be of three storeys consisting of a cellar, ground floor and first floor. It is a rectangular stone building with square towers at opposite corners.
In 1957 Mr. Charles Cotter excavated a Taino Midden found on the property. It was found that the site offered valuable insights into the dietary habits of the Tainos.
Material excavated included a variety of marine shells perforated and unperforated e.g. giant conchs, giant crab limbs, breast bones of birds and turtle bones. Ownership of the properties on which the ruins and the Midden are located was transferred to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust by Kaiser Bauxite Company.
Granville in Trelawny was originally 90 acres of land acquired by Reverend William Knibb, a Baptist minister. His purchase of the land for use as a free village was sanctioned by the Missionary Society of England. The settlement was named after Granville Sharpe, advocate of the abolition of slavery.
Heritage Sites by Parish
- St. Andrew
- St. Ann
- St. Catherine
- St. Elizabeth
- St. James
- St. Mary
- St. Thomas
- Jamaica Heritage Sites