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Clarendon Jamaica
The History & Notable Places To Visit

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Halse Hall Great House | (Photo Credit: Jamaica Star)Clarendon Jamaica - Halse Hall Great House | (Photo Credit: Jamaica Star)

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

When many think of Jamaica, the first places that come to mind are Kingston, the islandโ€™s capital, Montego Bay, and Negril. Jamaica is indeed a small island in comparison to many other places, but there are still many places left out.

One such place that is frequently left out is May Pen and the entire parish of Clarendon.

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Clarendon on the southern part of the island. The parish is mostly flat except in the north and north-eastern sections. As a result, historians claim that if you fly over the parish, you will see Clarendon as a small town.

Between the Carpenter's Mountain (Manchester) in the west and the Braziletto Mountains. The Bull Head Mountain and Mocho Mountains also located in Clarendon is regarded as the geographical centre of Jamaica.

Is Clarendon a city in Jamaica?

No, Clarendon is one of Jamaicaโ€™s 14 parishes, its capital is May Pen.

Is Clarendon the largest parish?

Clarendon Parish is the third-largest parish in Jamaica by area.

What is the capital of Clarendon?

May Pen, the capital of Clarendon, is situated on the banks of the Rio Minho and is supposed to have started with two inns. It was previously part of the Reverend William May estate, which was named after him.

Travelling to May Pen used to be a hard undertaking because people travelling from east to west had to stay at inns when Rio Minho was distinct. Many well-known members of the public are believed to have drowned while attempting to cross the river.

A bridge was later built. Houses were built over time, and the community became the town of May Pen.

Why is it called May Pen?

It was a part of an estate named after its owner, Reverend William May, a slave trader who was born in England but then moved to Jamaica.

What are the goods produced in Clarendon?

The terrain of Clarendon allows for the production of most of the island's products, but sugar cane, coffee, citrus, cocoa, and vegetables are grown for export.

What is Clarendon Jamaica famous for?

The Milk River Bath, a mineral spa noted for the medicinal qualities of its waters, is located in Clarendon.

Most Popular Rivers in Clarendon?

The Milk River, Rio Minho, Pinders River, and Cave River are the five important rivers in Clarendon as well as the Thomas River.

The History of Clarendon Jamaica

Clarendon was named after Lord/Chancellor Edward Hyde, the first Earl of Clarendon, who served as one of Charles II's senior ministers. During the mid-nineteenth century, the parish of Clarendon absorbed parts of the old parishes of St. Dorothy and Vere.

Which ethnic group came to Clarendon?

The Tainos were the first to settle in the parish's southern plains, followed by the Spaniards. The growth of Clarendon began in the seventeenth century when Charles II granted land to former Commonwealth troops who had built sugar estates in the Rio Minho Valley, which is regarded as the earliest English settlement in Clarendon.

The names of these early settlers are still remembered in the valley, with localities like Ballard, Sutton, and Pennant bearing their names.

After the English took possession of the island from the Spaniards, they then established plantations in the plain in the following years. Cotton and indigo were the main crops grown, and indigo was used to make dye. The development of sugar cane unavoidably reduced the influence of cotton and indigo.

The development of canes in the plains was hampered by dry weather, but sugar could still be extracted. To help fix the problem, measures were put in place, including collecting water from the Rio Minho and the Milk River. However, this was short-lived due to the high cost.

The Slave Rebellion in Clarendon Jamaica

One of the earliest slave revolts in Jamaica took place at Sutton's Plantation in Clarendon in 1690. Because the land and the Great House were poorly protected, the runaways set fire to it. Many of the runaways were slain or apprehended later, while others joined the Maroons in the parish's northwestern reaches.

They continued to attack and burn numerous plantations at various sites. As a result, the government dispatched soldiers to the highlands in an attempt to defeat them. As the Maroons, commanded by Cudjoe, were eventually forced out of the Cave River Valley, first to the area near Ulster Spring and later into the Cockpit Country, the soldiers had some success. The Maroons had no more ties to the parish of Clarendon after then.

Carlisle Bay

Carlisle Bay, at Rocky Point, is located at the entrance of the Rio Minho on the south coast. It was named for the Earl of Carlisle, the Governor of Jamaica (1678- 1690). It serves as a poignant reminder of the major military engagement that occurred when the French invaded and sought to take Jamaica from the English.

England and France were at war in the 17th century, and the rivalry between the two countries expanded to the Caribbean. Because of the 1692 earthquake, the French Governor of St. Domingue (Haiti), Du Casse, believed that Jamaica was weak and could be easily taken.

He prepared to attack Jamaica in 1694. Jamaica, on the other hand, was not astonished because an English sailor who had been imprisoned at St. Dominique had already escaped and gone to Jamaica, where he broke the story. Sir William Beeston, the Governor, swiftly mobilized the militia and free men, as well as slaves, to repel the invasion. The French navy attacked on July 17, 1694.

The troops from Spanish Town arrived shortly after. The French were attacked right away and were forced to retreat and surrender. The governor of Jamaica decided to build Carlisle Fort the next year after the failed attack.

Notable Places in Clarendon Jamaica

  • St. Peterโ€™s Church (Alley)
  • May Pen Clock Tower
  • Halse Hall Great House
  • Bull Head Mountain
  • Danks
  • Portland Point Lighthouse
  • St. Paulโ€™s Parish Church โ€“ Chapelton

Clarendon, even though oftentimes overlooked, is rich in history and if for no other but to experience the healing of the mineral bath, you should definitely add the parish to your list of places to visit in Jamaica.

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References & Sources For Clarendon Jamaica

  1. History of Clarendon, https://nlj.gov.jm/history-notes/History%20of%20Clarendon.pdf  
  2. Clarendon Jamaica - The Third Largest Parish, https://www.jamaica-land-we-love.com/clarendon-jamaica.html
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