Parish Name: Manchester
Land Area: 827.8 sq km (319.6 sq mi)
On November 29, 1814 at the beginning of the 19th Century, coffee farmers in the hill districts of Clarendon, St. Elizabeth and the then parish of Vere, petitioned to have a separate parish established. They asked for a new parish, with a capital which would meet their religious, civic, judicial and administrative needs. The main reason for this action was the vast distance between the hill districts and the commercial and administrative centres of all three parishes.
On December 13, 1814 the new parish was formed and named after the Duke of Manchester who was then serving as the Governor of the island. The capital was named Mandeville, after his son and heir.
In the days prior to the abolition of slavery, Manchester’s population was never as large as that of the surrounding parishes because the hilly terrain was not suited for the cultivation of sugar which was then the island’s most lucrative crop. However, after emancipation many of the newly-freed slaves moved into the area to grow coffee and other crops on hillside farms. In the old colonial regime, Manchester had the prestigious distinction of being the most English of Jamaica’s parishes and it was known as “the playground for the landed European gentry”.
In 1942 it was discovered that Manchester was the site of one of the largest deposits of bauxite in the country. Bauxite is a red ore which is processed to produce alumina and eventually aluminium. This discovery led to the growth and development of Manchester’s bauxite and alumina industries which facilitated the speedy development of the parish and Mandeville in particular.
Today, the economy of Manchester is still deeply rooted in both bauxite and agriculture.
Manchester is located in south-central Jamaica. To its east is the parish of Clarendon while St. Elizabeth lies to its west and Trelawny to its north. It rivals its neighbour Trelawny for the title of Jamaica’s most mountainous parish. The three main ranges running throughout the parish are the Carpenters Mountains, the May Day Mountains and the Don Figueroa Mountains. Of the three ranges the Carpenters Mountains is the highest, reaching as far as 2, 770 feet above sea level.
Mandeville, the parish capital, sits atop a range of mountains which reach as far as 2000 feet above sea level, providing spectacular views of the surrounding areas. The high altitudes are responsible for its cool climate. For this reason Mandeville has been and continues to be a popular place of settlement for British expatriates. The town has been often described with fondness as a “typical English village”. Once referred to as a small rural capital, Mandeville is now one of the largest and most affluent urban areas in Jamaica.
This town was previously referred to as Barracks, because it was a favoured spot among British soldiers who went there seeking refuge from the heat of the lowlands. Christiana is the second largest town in Manchester and is probably most famous for its two main agricultural products – bananas and Irish Potatoes. Although Mandeville is the business centre of Manchester, Christiana holds its own as a site for commercial and social activity.
Located on the eastern border of Manchester, close to the parish of Clarendon, Porus is another thriving business centre. The town’s largest industry is agriculture with coconuts, coffee, citrus and other fruits being the main crops. Porus is also the gateway to Manchester from Kingston.
Home to some of the best pasture lands in the parish, Mile Gully is a prime location for cattle farming. Situated in north western Manchester, the rural community is the birthplace of the Jamaica Black and the Jamaica Red cattle. It is also the location of the country’s largest livestock breeding research station.
Important Jamaicans from the Parish
The Rt. Excellent Norman Washington Manley, National Hero, Manchester’s most famous son is undoubtedly National Hero Norman Washington Manley. Mr. Manley, Jamaica’s first premier, was born in Roxborough, Manchester in 1893. An outstanding athlete, scholar and lawyer, Mr. Manley rose to national prominence during the labour disputes of 1938. That year, he founded the People’s National Party (PNP) and led the fight for universal adult suffrage.
The Hon. Byron Lee OJ, CD, born in Christiana, Manchester on 27 June 1935, was a Jamaican musician, record producer, and entrepreneur, best known for his work as leader of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.
Dr. Arthur Wint, OD, known as the Gentle Giant, was born in Plowden, Manchester. He was the first Jamaican to ever win an Olympic gold medal winning the 400 metres at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London.