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The last (hence the term 'wash belly') parish to be formed in Jamaica, Manchester Jamaica, has an area of 830.1 km2, and a population of 191,991, based on 2018 report by the Statistical Institute Of Jamaica.
It was coffee cultivation that led to its creation in 1814 and the founding of the town, its capital, Mandeville.
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Up to the early 18th century, the hilly areas that make up the parish were large‘y in wilderness. Then coffee cultivation was begun on a large scale and the Manchester hills were found to be particularly suitable for the crop. Soon the area became populated with coffee growers.
However, the new residents found themselves isolated from the surrounding parish capitals.
On 29 November 1814 the residents of Mile Gully, May Day, and Carpenter’s Mountain, petitioned the Assembly to carve out a new parish and establish a town that would make religious, judicial and civic centres closer to them.
That petition pointed out that no parochial or public building was closer than 64km to the majority of inhabitants of the area and there was no church!
On the 13th of December, 1814, the separate parish of Manchester was formed out of parts of the surrounding parishes of St. Elizabeth, Clarendon, and Vere, and named after the Duke of Manchester who was governor at the time.
The chief town of Mandeville was named after his eldest son. More on Mandeville here.
Since sugar was not grown commercially in the parish of Manchester, the plantation system never took hold there. After emancipation, the newly freed slaves became independent land settlers and continued to grow coffee and other crops. (See free villages.)
Manchester today produces much of Jamaica’s Irish potato crop as well as Citrus, Cattle, and Ground provisions.It is also one of the parishes in which bauxite is mined on a large scale.
Despite its economic contirbution to the country, Manchester Jamaica also has the dubious distinction of the Kendal train wreck!
On Septemer 1, 1957, a train returing to Kingston from Montego Bay crashed, injuring close to 700 persons and killing close to 200 - one of the worst disasters in Jamaica's history and one of the worst railway crashes in the world!
The excursion was organized by the St. Anne Anglican Church in Kingston.
Despite that, Manchester is home to some of Jamaica's most cherished heritage sites and attractions.
Other key historical sites in Machester Jamaica include:
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