Parish Name: Clarendon
Capital: May Pen
Land Area: 1,192.9 sq km (460.6 sq mi)
Clarendon was named in honour of the Lord Chancellor Sir Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon. One of Jamaica’s youngest parishes, Clarendon was formed from a combination of three parishes: St. Dorothy’s, Vere and the old parish of Clarendon. Before the merger, its capital was Chapelton.
Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards and the English, the Tainos, Jamaica’s indigenous people, lived on Portland Ridge [now called Portland Point] (the part of the parish that juts out into the sea). Taino villages could also be found on the banks of the Rio Minho River, the island’s longest river, with the other villages on the banks of the Milk River.
Clarendon is also home to the Caribbean’s largest agricultural show: Denbigh Agricultural Show. For over 50 years Denbigh, an official Jamaican Independence activity, has been held every August for three days to celebrate Jamaica’s wealth of domestic and agricultural product.
Clarendon is located at the southern side of Jamaica, roughly halfway between the eastern and western ends of the island. It is bordered on the north by St. Ann, on the west by Manchester, on the east by St. Catherine and on the south by the Caribbean Sea. Clarendon is predominantly a wide plain, lying between the Braziletto Mountains in the east and the Carpenter Mountain (The Manchester Highlands) in the west.
The capital of Clarendon, May Pen, was once part of a property owned by Rev. William May. It is said to have begun as merely two inns on the bank of the Rio Minho. The town grew rapidly and in 1938 it was made the capital of the parish. It is now a large town and boasts many churches, factories, a courthouse, modern libraries and numerous stores.
A trip into north Clarendon necessarily includes a visit to Chapelton. This mountain town was once called “Chapel Town” because of St. Peter’s church originally built there as a chapel for the parish church in the plains. Over time the name was shortened to Chapelton. Records here date from 1666. In front of the church is the civic park. At the entrance a bust of maroon leader Cudjoe keeps watch. Behind him a clock tower that chimes the hour and half hour bears the names of citizens who died in World War l. Across from this is the police station and farmer’s market. Near the centre of the town on its own hill is Clarendon College.
Other Towns: Hayes, Frankfield, Rocky Point, Lionel Town
Important Jamaicans from the Parish
Hon. Daisy McFarlane Coke, OJ, born in Spalding’s, Clarendon, was an actuary who has the distinction of being the first Black woman to qualify as Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries in 1970. She became the first president of the Caribbean Actuarial Association.
Hon. Claude McKay, OJ, born in Sunnyville, Clarendon, was a Jamaican-American writer and poet, who was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
Linton Kwesi Johnson, OD, UK-based dub poet, was born in Chapelton, Clarendon before migrating to London in 1963.
Dr. The Hon. Olive Lewin, OM, OD, Jamaican author, social anthropologist, musicologist, and teacher best known for her recorded anthologies of old Jamaica folk songs, was born in Vere, Clarendon.