The past comes to life at the coastal town of Falmouth just 22 miles east of Montego Bay. Famous for it’s Georgian architecture, and rich colonial history that recently received a new lease on life, it is now a port town that has awoken from a deep slumber, and is ready to redeem its former glory.
Falmouth’s history is one of wealth, politics, revolution and love. It is this electric history that once again rumbles through the cobbled streets and brings the town to life. Falmouth was founded in 1790 from land owned by Edward Barrett. But it was the island’s biggest exports that lifted the town to fame—sugar and rum. The economic boom in the Falmouth of the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in the development of one of the most industrial towns in the Western Hemisphere. They received running water before New York City, and it’s meticulous planning illustrated one of the earliest urban planning developments.
Hotels, newspapers, thriving commerce and culture ruled Falmouth during its heyday. However, with the abolition of slavery came the demise of the sugar and rum production. Development slowed and the town fell into ruin, becoming a sleepy seaside town. Now this Sleeping Beauty has awoken, and is ready for it’s revival.
Don’t leave Falmouth without…
- Exploring the town by foot. It is essential to immerse yourself in the magic of Historic Falmouth. The town is noted historically for being one of the best preserved Georgian towns in the Caribbean. Recent restoration of the port delivers an authentic taste of life in Falmouth. The Albert George Shopping and Historical Centre was built in 1894 and was, in its heyday, the largest market on the island. Visitors can still find handmade local crafts and gifts.
- Learning about why Falmouth grew to such notoriety during the 18th and 19th centuries: rum. Be sure to visit the rum tour museum, to learn about the golden liquor’s history.
- Shopping. The town’s booming sugar and rum trade reflected Jamaica’s importance as the world’s leading sugar producer. So too slavery. When slavery was abolished in the 1830s, the economy and development of Falmouth began to decline, putting Falmouth at a standstill. What remains is the largest collection of colonnaded commercial buildings in Jamaica, best seen along Market Street.
- Seeing some churches. From its roots as the cosmopolitan city of its day and an elegant centre of commerce, Falmouth’s recent rejuvenation draws on the historical importance of the town. The Baptist Manse is one such building that speaks to this history. This imposing stone structure with wooden staircase was once the home of Jamaica’s most famous nonconformist Baptist preacher and abolitionist, Reverend William Knibb. It is also reputed to have housed the first Masonic Temple in Jamaica. Built in Rev. Knibb’s honour, is the Knibb Memorial Baptist Church, first built in 1844, but rebuilt in 1948 after it was destroyed by a fire. Baptists played a huge part on the abolitionist movement in Jamaica, with their efforts focused in Trelawny (of which Falmouth is the capital), because it had more slaves than any other parish on the island.
- And another church. Another interesting church is the Trelawny Parish Church of St Peter, built in 1795. Colourful stained-glass windows, and a graveyard that houses tombs over 200 years old, add to the church’s vibrant history.
- Learning of some "famous residents". Intertwined in Falmouth’s storied past, is that of love and poetry. The town’s most celebrated residents were the Barretts. Edward Barrett, the great great grandfather of English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, was instrumental in the foundation of Falmouth in the 1790s. Although Elizabeth never visited Jamaica, her uncle, Samuel, bequeathed to her all his Jamaican properties after she and her father fell out over her romance with fellow poet Robert Browning. One of the Barrett’s former residences, the Moulton Barrett townhouse is open for visitors.
- Breathing in history. Just seven miles from Falmouth, is Greenwood Great House, built by the Barretts in 1800. A fine collection of antique furniture and artefacts are housed in this Georgian-style home, including the Barrett’s original library (with rare books dating from 1697), oil paintings, Wedgewood china, and rare musical instruments. www.greenwoodgreathouse.com
- Crusing on the river. Trelawny is also famous for the beautiful calming waters of the Martha Brae. Take in the sights one a river-rafting cruise, the way Jamaica is supposed to be enjoyed. www.jamaicarafting.com
For more information go to www.visitjamaica.com and check out the Falmouth Heritage Walking Tour.