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Spanish Town

Saint Catherine Parish
Spanish Town
Type of Location
About Location

Spanish Town is the capital and the largest town in the parish of St. Catherine in the county of Middlesex, Jamaica.It was the former Spanish and English capital of Jamaica from the 16th to the 19th century. The town is home to numerous memorials, the national archives, a small population, and one of the oldest Anglican churches outside of England (the others are in Virginia, Maryland and Bermuda).The Spanish settlement of Villa de la Vega was founded by governor Francisco de Garay in 1534 as the capital of the colony. Later, it was also called Santiago de la Vega or St. Jago de la Vega.Indigenous Taino had been living in the area for approximately a millennium before this, but this was the first European habitation on the south of the island.When the English conquered Jamaica in 1655, they renamed the capital Spanish Town.Since the town was badly damaged during the conquest, Port Royal took on many administrative roles and functioned as an unofficial capital during the beginning of English rule. By the time Port Royal was devastated by an earthquake in 1692, Spanish Town had been rebuilt and was again functioning as the capital. Spanish Town remained the capital until 1872, when the seat of the colony was moved to Kingston. Kingston had been founded in the aftermath of the 1692 earthquake. By 1755, serious rivalry from lobbyists caused increasing speculation about the continued suitability of Spanish Town as the capital.In 1836, Governor Lionel Smith observed that "the capital was in ruins, with no commercial, manufacturing and agricultural concern in operation." To worsen the situation on the heels of the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, Sir John Peter Grant ordered the removal of the capital in 1872 to Kingston which had come to be considered the natural capital of the island. After the seat of government was removed, Spanish Town lost much of its economic and cultural vitality.

Built on the West Bank of the Rio Cobre, the town lies thirteen miles from Kingston on the main road. As a site of historical importance, its history was shaped by its experiences within two significant colonial periods. These periods are the Spanish from 1534–1655 and the English from 1655 -1782. The history of Spanish Town lives on in the remains of the old buildings in its street names that mark it as the start of Jamaica's overall history. Reminders of Spanish Jamaica include Red Church and White Church Streets, symbolic of the Spanish chapels of the red and white cross, as well as Monk Street, in reference to the monastery that once stood nearby. Nugent Street and Manchester Street were named for British Colonial Governors, George Nugent and William Montagu, 5th Duke of Manchester. King Street received its name because it runs past King's House and Constitution Street, near to the Square, it also refers to the fact that the island's administrative centre used to be located there. The centre of the town boasts a few Regency buildings, including the Rodney Memorial and the facade of the Old King's House, which was the residence of the governors until 1872.

How to Reach

By Air

The closest major airport is Tinson Pen Aerodrome (KTP / MKTP). This airport has domestic flights from Kingston, Jamaica and is about 13 km from the center of Spanish Town, Jamaica.Another major airport is Norman Manley International Airport (KIN / MKJP), which has international and domestic flights from Kingston, Jamaica and is 19 km from Spanish Town, Jamaica.

By Train

The now disused Spanish Town railway station formerly provided access to four lines are Kingston to Montego Bay,Spanish Town to Ewarton,Bog Walk to Port Antonio and Linstead to New Works The station opened in 1845 and closed in October 1992 when all passenger traffic on Jamaica's railways abruptly ceased.

By Road

Spanish Town is on the main A1 (Kingston to Lucea) and A2 (Spanish Town to Savanna-la-Mar) roads.It is well served by buses, mini buses and taxis, which operate from the Spanish Town Transport Hub.

Key places to visit
Old Iron Bridge, The Rodney Memorial, The Anglican Cathedral, Martin Street


Places to Visit

Old Iron Bridge

A restoration project began in 2004, with funding provided by American Express through the World Monuments Fund.Nevertheless, progress was slow until 2008, when a renewed restoration effort was made.A first phase of restoration was completed in April 2010, when the repair of the abutments allowed the bridge to be reopened for the public.More recently, violence has prevented the bridge from achieving the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Rodney Memorial

created by renowned sculptor John Bacon in honour of Admiral George Rodney, a key player in the successful British defence of the island from French invaders, was “kidnapped” in 1876 by the city of Kingston when Spanish Town ceased to be the capital. Irate residents of Spanish Town argued their case through the correct channels, but their protests fell on deaf ears, until one day the statue was removed from Kingston and returned by force to its original home. In the process, the statue lost an arm, but is still loved dearly by the residents of Spanish Town as an integral part of the town’s heritage and aesthetic.

The Anglican Cathedral

the oldest of its kind in the Western hemisphere; the Spanish Town Iron Bridge, the oldest cast-iron bridge in the Caribbean; the town square, with stunning examples of Georgian architecture are all very much worth a visit.

Martin Street

within walking distance of the Plaza Majora is the famous Cecil’s Restaurant, the most frequented eating place in the old capital.It is no wonder this place is a local favourite: hot tasty food in copious quantities for reasonable prices is served in a cool, dimly-lit room with soothing Reggae music playing in the background.Every day he rides his bicycle down to the market to buy fresh vegetables for the day, although he has retired from running the restaurant.Still, he appears occasionally in the restaurant to make sure that all is going well.

Right Time to Visit

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