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Is Kingston The Oldest Town In Jamaica?

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new_kingstonIs Kingston The Oldest Town In Jamaica?

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

Looking at Kingston now, you can see it took a great many years to make it the city it is today which is very crucial for the economic stability of the entire island. But, would you believe me if I told you Kingston was never a part of the original plan of Jamaica?


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Before 1692, there wasn't even a place in Jamaica named Kingston. Let’s go back a few years.

When the Spanish arrived in the 1400s by way of ship, they wasted no time in establishing “Santiago” as a colony of Spain and pretty soon the slave trade began.

They arrived on the northern coast of Jamaica, believed to be in St. Ann and the first town to be established was Sevilla Nueva, modern-day St. Ann’s Bay. Eventually, Sevilla Nueva was eventually abandoned for St. Jago de la Vega in 1534 which would become the capital of Spanish Jamaica.

Another major town established by the Spanish was Port Royal which was more accessible for passing ships than Spanish Town was, so the Spanish would dock their ships in Port Royal and then transport their wares and the enslaved people to St Jago de la Vega. This made Port Royal the “unofficial capital city” as many persons would stop in Port Royal and skip Spanish Town entirely.

These two towns worked in tandem in sparsely used Spanish settlement.

The Spanish were on a quest for gold on the island and since none was found, the country was barely inhabited during their rule. But that all changed when the British began to govern Jamaica.

In 1655, when the British attacked Jamaica, St. Jago de la Vega was one of the first places to be overthrown and after successfully capturing the very weakly protected Jamaica, the English renamed St. Jago de la Vega to simply Spanish Town.

Spanish Town remained the capital until 1872 when the title was transferred to Kingston.
A visit to the old capital now would see remnants of the town's Spanish and British occupation.

Is Kingston the oldest city in Jamaica?

No, Spanish Town remains the oldest continuously inhabited town on the island as it has consistently housed residents since it was formed in 1534.

Is Kingston Jamaica’s first capital?

No, Jamaica’s first capital was Spanish Town or St Jago de la Vega. Spanish Town is often called “Spain” by locals.

Why Was Kingston Established?

The British kept the already formed towns and so Port Royal and Spanish Town continued in their roles on the island. But all that would change, beginning with the catastrophic earthquake that claimed the lives of many Port Royal residents and sunk the majority of the town.

They then had to relocate to the Liguanea Plains but because it was not designed to accommodate that many persons, many of them died.

The government had to then purchase land to construct an entirely new town called Kingston. A good number of Port Royal residents stayed in Kingston but many went back to the city they had known and tried to rebuild it.

Disaster would bring them back to Kingston as a great fire claimed what was left of the old city and many of the newly constructed buildings as well.

After this, no real efforts were made to rebuild Port Royal and the focus shifted to Kingston instead.

Kingston began to see rapid growth; by 1716 it was the largest town on the island. And then business slowly began to leave Spanish Town for Kingston where the possibility to earn more was far greater.

Merchants and residents of Kingston and Eastern Parishes lobbied for the capital to be moved however, this would not be realised until 1872 when it was officially given the title of capital.

How old is Kingston Jamaica?

Today, Kingston is 331 years old from the time it was established and it has been our capital for 151 years. The most recent census puts its population at 937,700.

How old is Spanish Town?

Spanish Town is 489 years old, making it Jamaica’s oldest town.

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References & Sources For Is Kingston The Oldest Town In Jamaica?

  1. Today Kingston is the centre of trade, manufacturing, shipping and so much more, for the entire nation of Jamaica.
  2. Barbee-Wooten, D. (2020) Kingston, Jamaica (1692- ), BlackPast. Available at: https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/places-global-african-history/kingston-jamaica-1692/ (Accessed: January 24, 2023).
  3. The history of Jamaica (no date) Jamaica Information Service. Available at: https://jis.gov.jm/information/jamaican-history/ (Accessed: January 24, 2023).
  4. Port Royal (2023) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Royal (Accessed: January 24, 2023).
  5. (no date) Jamaica National Heritage Trust - Jamaica - Spanish Town. Available at: http://www.jnht.com/site_spanish_town.php#:~:text=Jago%20de%20la%20Vega%20and,status%20was%20conferred%20on%20Kingston (Accessed: January 24, 2023).

Is Kingston The Oldest Town In Jamaica? | Written: January 24, 2022

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