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St. Catherine – Monuments and Historic Buildings

Ferry Inn

Established on April 17, 1864 under, “An act for the ferry between St. Catherine and St. Andrew”, the Ferry Inn was first built as “a tavern or victualling-house near the Ferry. It became the most important posting house in the island and was especially popular with the wealthy. The lower floor of the present inn still consists largely of the original stonework.

Passage Fort

First known as “The Passage” (the point of Spanish embarkation from St. Jago de la Vega- Spanish Town), this fort was used by Captain William Jackson and Sir Anthony Shirley, Englishmen from Barbados and St. Kitts respectively, who landed here in 1642 and went on to plunder Spanish Town.

Another major historical event connected with this fort was 1655 landing of Admiral Penn and General Venables. Having failed to capture Haiti (Santo Domingo), the English expedition came to Jamaica, attacking Passage Fort with some 36 ships, troops numbering 7,000, and a sizeable regiment.

After the initial advance, the Spaniards deserted the fort, fleeing from the advancing English invaders. A few days later, the Spaniards surrendered relinquishing their 161- year hold on the island.

Port Henderson

Named after Colonel John Henderson of the 18th Century British militia, this fishing village once had a health resort near its mineral spring. It is part of a wider area known as the “Hellshire (Healthshire) Hills”. Port Henderson was built as a rival to Passage Fort, and is said to have provided better accommodation for ships. Near the end of the 19th century, a temporary Marine/Zooloy laboratory was operated here by students of the John Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland).

Port Henderson is the site of several historic buildings which have been restored and preserved as national monuments.

Fort Augusta

Located between Port Henderson and Passage Fort, Fort Augusta was constructed in the mid 18th century. Originally the major fortification on the western side of the harbor, all ammunition and inflammable material had to be left here by vessels bound for Kingston. Designed by Admiral Knowles (who later became Governor of Jamaica), Fort Augusta is now used as a prison.

The Barracks

Built in the 18th century, this old Army Barracks has long been associated with military activities.

Colbeck Castle

At one time partially destroyed by fire, this 18th century castle was named after Colonel John Colbeck- a member of the 1655 conquering English forces under Admiral Penn and General Venables – who later became an active Assembleyman for the parish of St. Catherine. The castle stands on the west bank of the Colbeck Gully, about a mile and a half to the north-west of Old Harbour.

The Square

The Spanish Town Square (or Parade) is enclosed by four buildings, considered to be among the most important relics in Jamaica.

  • The Old King’s House
    • Home to the Governors of Jamaica for some 100 years, King’s House, on the west of the square, occasionally housed the Council Chamber, and welcomed many distinguished visitors in its day. Burnt down in 1925, Old King’s House has been partially restored and is now the home of the ‘Folk Museum’ which was established in 1961.
  • The Rodney Memorial
    • Located at the northern side of the Spanish Town square, this memorial contains a statue crafted by John Bacon, of the famed British Admiral, Lord Rodney. It commemorates his victory over the French at the “Battle of the Saints” on April 12, 1782, off the coast of Jamaica.
  • The Old House of Assembly
    • Opposite the Old King’s House is the red-brick building which was the House of Assembly until 1872 when Jamaica’s capital was transferred to Kingston. The Supreme Court was also housed there, as well as the offices of the Island Secretary, Provost Marshall, the Register in Chancery and the Clerks of Crown and Court.
  • The Court House
    • The Court House occupies the southern side of the Square and was built by James Delancy in, about, 1819. This building was used for Circuit and Resident Magistrate’s Courts, the Court of Petty Sessions and as the Courts Offices until fire destroyed it. The town Hall, operated by the Parish Council, was also located here.