"Spanish Town" Top 5 Page for this destination Kingston Things to Do Tip by toonsarah
Kingston Things to Do: 37 reviews and 58 photos
Spanish Town was founded by the Spanish and was the island?s first capital, from 1534 to 1872. Today it is mainly an industrial city and from the outskirts you might not give it a second glance, but at the heart of its historic centre is the stunning, if run-down, Parade Square. This square itself is an attractive space, with tall Royal Palms and other tropical trees. It is surrounded on all four sides by gorgeous Regency buildings. On the north side is the Memorial to Admiral Rodney, commander of the fleet that defeated the French in 1782 and secured centuries of peace for the island.
On the west side of the square is the façade of Old King's House, which was the residence of the governors until 1872. This must once have been an elegant building, but it was destroyed by fire in 1925 and now only this brick façade remains (although there is apparently a small folk museum tucked away behind it somewhere, which we didn?t visit). A plaque on the wall (photo 4) commemorates the proclamation of the emancipation of slaves in Jamaica and all British territories, which was declared here in 1838.
Opposite this, on the east side, is the former House of Assembly, which like the Old King?s House dates from 1762. It now houses the local council offices for Spanish Town and when we were there had a steady stream of locals visiting, but it?s not open to tourists. Finally, on the south side of the square, a modern (but Georgian style) courthouse replaces the 19th century one burned in a fire in 1986.
Just off the square you?ll find other old buildings, again rather run-down and ramshackle. My impression was that Jamaica is less interested in promoting its history as a tourist attraction, focusing instead on the admittedly lovely natural wonders and of course its beaches. I think they?re missing a trick in not smartening up and promoting these historical buildings, but at the same time the faded grandeur is very photogenic.
But if you do decide to wander away from the square to check out the rest of the town, be aware that Spanish Town has a bad reputation for gun crime in Jamaica, so go carefully, especially if you?re here after dark.
Finally, a bit of trivia for literature buffs that I picked up while reading up on Spanish Town: Bertha Rochester, the insane wife of Edward Rochester in Charlotte Brontë's novel "Jane Eyre", came from here.
Directions: Twelve miles west of Kingston. If driving, take Washington Ave or Marcus Garvey Drive and follow the signs (c. 30 minutes). Or you could take a taxi, or hire a driver for the day as we did.
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