Plantations are a part of Jamaica’s rich history. These are often referred to as Great Houses, which is what the main house on a plantation was referred to as far back as the 17th century. In those days, the Great House was the seat of authority, and this is where the planters lived.
The size of the home was determined by the amount of land that was owned, and the wealth of the plantation owner. Plantation houses, or Great Houses, were typically two story houses, with the bottom of the house being constructed out of brick, cut stone, and mortar, and the top of the house being constructed of wood. These homes often have huge wrap-around verandas, sash windows, and jalousies.
The plantation houses in Jamaica include Belmont, Bellevue, Admiral Mountain, Cherry Garden, Mona, Bloomfield, Marlborough, Stokes Hall, Good Hope, Greenwood, Rose Hall, Marshall’s Pen, Highgate, Seville, Mount Plenty, Roaring River, Thetford, Tryall, Halse Hall, Quebec, Brimmer Hall, Bromley, Green Park, Prospect, Ramble, Cardiff Hall, York Castle, and Seaman’s Valley.
There may not be enough time on your trip to visit them all, but there are definitely a few that you absolutely must not miss, starting with Rose Hall. Rose Hall is not only the most popular plantation house in Jamaica, from a tourists point of view, it is also famous worldwide.
The home was built by George Ash in the mid 19th’s century for John Palmer, for which he was paid 30,000 pounds. A later mistress of the house, Annie Palmer, was married to John Parks Palmer, and was reportedly extremely cruel to her slaves, and it is also reported that the slaves eventually murdered her. It is also rumored that Mrs. Palmer murdered her husband, John Palmer, although there are those who don’t believe that either of these things are true. Annie Palmer has been referred to as the White Witch of Rose Hall.
Aside from historic plantation houses, you can also visit and tour working plantations in Jamaica. The Croydon Pineapple and Coffee Plantation is very popular, and is located in Catadupa. Here you can walk through the vast coffee groves, taste exotic fruits, eat sugarcane, and enjoy a barbequed lunch, served with…you guessed it, Blue Mountain Coffee.
Prospect Plantation is another interesting tour. Numerous crops, including coffee and allspice, are grown here, and the tour is ‘tractor driven.’ From the tour, you will arrive at spots where you can see what is believed to have been Columbus’ first view of Jamaica, and also, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Cuba, which is approximately ninety miles away.
Visit the Sun Valley Plantation, which is very old, and still family owned and operated, to view banana crops. Note, however, that if there are less than eight people registered for a tour of Sun Valley, the tour is cancelled.
Again, you really should make it a point to visit at least one or two plantations, and their great houses, while you are in Jamaica. This is where you can really get a sense of true Jamaican history.