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St. Mary Heritage Sites

Rio Nuevo Taino Site

Situated along the Rio Nuevo Valley Basin and into the hills as far south as Bellevue, some ten miles away, is a complex of Taino sites. The largest Taino site in this area,A view of the eastern section of the Taino site the Rio Nuevo Taino Site, is named after the river that it overlooks. It covers an area of some 21, 000 square metres. B. Jo Stokes who has done extensive research in the area, states that the main road cuts directly through the site separating it into two ownership parcels.

The south portion of the site is owned by the Ocean Ridge Housing Development and has been completely destroyed by heavy machinery over a decade ago when a coconut field was planted. The portion of the site on the north side of the road is owned by George Rose and is relatively intact with the exception of a road, constructed during the 1970s, which cuts through a main portion of the site.


Annotto Bay Baptist

Built in 1824, it was the first Baptist Church to be constructed in St. Mary. The Church was among those supporters of the Colonial Church Union. It was, however, rebuilt in 1835 with funds collected by William Knibb and Thomas Buxton who were renowned abolitionists.

The building stands on the seaward side of the main road leading from Annotto Bay to Port Antonio just beyond the Annotto Bay Police Station. The Church itself is of a single rectangular plan form with a pitch roof. All the doors and windows have pilasters, architraves and surrounds executed in plaster, in which various decorative motifs have been cut. A similar cut plaster bend adorns the interior and exterior walls at cornice height and is inscribed with biblical quotations and other exhortations relating to goodness.


Castleton Botanical Gardens

Located on either side of the Kingston to St. Mary main road, is Castleton Botanical Garden. It was established on the 19th November 1862 as a result of dissatisfaction with the site at Bath, St. Thomas. Shortly afterwards, Castleton Gardens became one of the great gardens of the Hemisphere with its rich variety of plants. In the past Castleton had over four (4000) thousand species of plants from the great English Garden at Kew. In 1897 there were one hundred and eighty (180) species of palm in the Palmetum. Many plants introduced in the island in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were planted here. These included the Poinciana, Bombay Mango, the Spathodea, Navel Orange, and tangerine.

Many interesting plants can still be seen at Castleton today. These include, the strychnos from which medicine (and poison) strychnine is obtained, the Velvet Apple, West Indian Mahogany and specimens of coffee.

Nestled in the hills of St. Mary, Castleton Gardens is a haven for nature lovers who want a cool, quiet place to relax. Added to the attraction, is the cooling water of the Wag Water River, where visitors may have a swim. Many visitors walk from Temple Hall to the Garden to picnic because they find walking along the winding Castleton road interesting and scenic.

One can walk on either side of the Garden and get a very close view of the trees and flowers while listening to the chirping of numerous birds. The lush green grass provides an ideal setting for the weary who may lie and sleep or view the blossoms of the plants and listen to the rushing water of the river.


Rio Nuevo Battle Site

Rio Nuevo St. Mary is the site of the final pitched battle between British and Spanish forces to determine possession of Jamaica. The Spanish defeat following five years of guerrilla warfare led by Spanish Governor Arnaldo de Isassi placed Jamaica definitively in English hands. Spain formally conceded Jamaica to England by the Treaty of Madrid in 1670.

The Beckford family who owned a significant portion of the property on which the battle took place, donated approximately one acre of this land to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT). The JNHT has currently given a Licence to the Rio Nuevo Heritage Foundation for its occupation, use and maintenance of this property.

The inscription on the Rio Nuevo battle site marker reads:

The Rio Nuevo Memorial 

“The stockade that once stood here was captured on the 17th June 1658 by Colonel Edward D’oyley and the English forces under his command after a gallant defence by Don Cristobal de Ysassi the last spanish govenor of Jamaica.”


Firefly House

Firefly was the home of British Playwright Noel Coward. It was originally called “Look Out” by the famous pirate Henry Morgan since it had been used for that purpose. Noel Coward discovered the site while on an excursion in the area.

A statue of British Playwright Noel Coward sits on the Firefly property.

He later purchased the property and built the house which now stands on it. He renamed it Firefly Hill because of the little glowing insects to be seen on the property. Coward died at the age of seventy four (74) at Firefly after having written many of his famous plays there. He was buried at Firefly on his favourite spot.


Heritage Sites by Parish


Learn more about Jamaican Heritage sites here.

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