Our Georgian Heritage
Read Part I here. Read Part II here
All members of our human family deserve equal measures of dignity and
respect, after which, is then maintained or forfeited by an individual’s own
actions. The key word here is: “RESPECT” - a word that conjures consideration or thoughtfulness of others, and includes emotions such as: empathy and understanding. Had this idea been practiced more often, we all might have had a better coexistence with each other and a more peaceful world; whereas, the lack of it promotes unrelenting incivility and global turmoil.
People of conscience have moral obligation to speak out against any form of
inhumanity, past and present, because societies are not destroyed by the
strength of a few but rather by the spineless indifference of the masses. But
there are those of us who refuse to even turn the pages of a book; we tend to
rely on the sanitized versions of a history that was written by the perpetrators themselves and spoon-fed to us in school. We mindlessly absorb everything by rote and, consequently, most of us are sadly lacking in this respect. Many of us are having great difficulties overcoming years of bad indoctrination and misinformation, or simply don’t have the stomach to deal with some of the disconcerting facts of history; while, naturally, those who benefited from these past misdeeds have no problems with the status quo.
The inconvenient truth is that our state of ignorance is not the result of a lack of information, but rather, apathy. History is more than time and place. It allows us to “think critically” about the greatest question humanity has ever asked: WHY? And one can finish the question any way one wants.
From my perspective as a Jamaican who happens to be a Humanist, I can
understand the lack of interest that some people are exhibiting where things of this period of history is concerned. I too have no desire to lionize these
Georgians, nor to glorify a period of such gross avariciousness and moral
indifference, that such evil atrocities could so willfully be devised to cause
so much anguish and desolation to so many of our fellow-human beings for the purpose of creating their own selfish grandeur.
Nevertheless, I propose that, as we do the immorality of imperialism and
the barbarity of piracy, which eventually waned to facilitate the more lucrative agrarian brutal slave/master’s way of life, we should also recognize and appreciate the significance of preserving the memory of this colonial epoch and all its salient remnants as an indelible part of our past, and a decisive and influential component of our nation’s evolution. History should be accepted for what it is; not what we would like it to be.
The Georgian Society of Jamaica mission statement is as follows:
"We are committed to the preservation, restoration and maintenance of
Jamaica's historic buildings, monuments, artifacts, works of art, furniture and fixtures particularly those belonging to the Georgian Period (1720 - 1850) to causing where possible legislation to be enacted, rescinded or altered to enable those things to be accomplished and to stimulate interest in and promoting our appreciation of the value of Jamaica's heritage."
As a member of the St James branch; I can honestly say that the committee
of this organization, under the enthusiastic direction of our president: Mrs.
Trina Delisser; is genuinely dedicated to this project, because we consider it
incumbent on ourselves to do all that is possible to hold on to all tangible
material manifestations of this momentous past, which is intricately woven into the fabric of our history.
Among our varied endeavors are: informative organized trips, walk-a-bouts
and a variety of cultural events that are specifically structured to raise funds
and awareness. This also includes an annual Georgian ball which is held in a
great house estate in order to dramatically revive the period; complete with
17th to18th century inspired costumes, music, dances that are appropriate to the sensibilities that were unique to our island, in an effort to give today’s
generation a visual glimpse of what was once a part of our eclectic Jamaican
All vestiges of our past, however imperfect, serve as vital evidences of how we as a nation became the way we are, and therefore ought to be embraced as “legacy,” and an integral part of our rich Jamaican heritage.
I invite you to share your thoughts by clicking on "add comment" below the Tweet button at the end of this post. If you are new to this blog please
Guest Blogger, Nerissa Braimbridge is a Jamaican born; former business woman,
who was awarded Woman of the Year, 1975, in the new business idea field, by the Multi-Occupational Society of Manhattan, NYC. Named International Woman of the Year, 1995/96 - in recognition of her services to the business world, by IBC, Cambridge, England, and listed in the 6th edition of Personalities of America - for Services in Arts and Communications by ABI, USA. Mrs. Braimbridge is world traveled, and World Cultures and Humanities are her passion and interests. She may be contacted via email.
** Note: The views expressed by all of our guest bloggers are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Georgian Society of Jamaica
Part II: Transgressions
The slavery phenomenon has a long, varied and in-depth global history; so for this particular narrative, let me just briefly explain that the European empires started to expand into the New World in the 15th century, but they lacked one major resource - a work force.
In most cases the indigenous (native) peoples of the new colonies had proved unreliable (most of them were dying from ill-treatment and diseases brought over from Europe), and Europeans, who were unsuited to the climate, suffered under tropical diseases. Africans, on the other hand, were strong, excellent workers. They often had experience of agriculture and keeping cattle; they were used to a tropical climate, resistant to tropical diseases, and so, could be “worked very hard.”
The Portuguese first embarked on the slave trade with West Africa, and for two hundred years, 1440-1640, had a monopoly on the enterprise (it is notable that they were also the last European country to abolish the institution). By the 16th century, Western Europeans had developed an organized system of trading slaves, now known as “The Transatlantic Slave Trade” - a shameful episode of human history, when certain covetous and unscrupulous groups preyed upon, and exploited their fellowmen for their own personal enrichment. It was during this time that racial discrimination and other mechanisms of oppression were
conceived and formulated.
The concept of biological “races” is absolutely absurd to any scientifically informed person who now knows that the human family is a single species, but most of us were ignorant of what we know today. Even so, in earlier times in Europe, the major question and concern was whether one was a Christian or a Heretic. “Race” was never an issue before the 16th century;
it developed as a social construct, to which the misconstrued biblical myth of “Ham’s Curse” was added as reinforcement, during European’s aggressive invasions into other people’s countries, as they sought to degrade the natives in order to set themselves up as superior conquerors.
Among other shrewd maneuvers and devious strategies was the idea of an alleged divine mandate referred to as: “Manifest Destiny
” while bearing the so-called: “White Man's Burden
.” This was expressed with the bible in one hand; ostensibly saving the heathen souls of the colonized peoples of color, while the other hand was busy grabbing lands and resources everywhere they went; for the most part, to get their share of the spoils of imperialism and conquest.
By the 18th century, the Georgians had embarked on the profitable Transatlantic Slave Trade, which peaked and grew rapidly, making the island of Jamaica one of Britain’s most valuable possessions for more than 150 years, and enabled many colonists, who came to the island as “nobodies” to return to England to live as rich, respectable gentries of importance. The profits gained from this most undignified form of human subjugation also helped to finance the Industrial Revolution. This Slave Trade was controlled by a small group of wealthy planters and merchants who had great political power, which they used to fight those who opposed it.
Eventually, the practice of slavery in the British Empire was abolished on August 1, 1834; thanks to the work of reformers such as William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and many other decent persons of conscience.
One of the ironies of the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act was that it was the slave owners, not the
slaves, who were compensated at the emancipation of slaves. The Anglican Church (the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG) – today the world's oldest Anglican mission - owned the 800 acre Codrington slave plantation on the Island of Barbados in the 18th and 19th centuries) received 8,823 pounds sterling in compensation for its loss of over 400 slaves. The Bishop of Exeter, along with three of his colleagues received some 13,000 pounds in compensation for over 660 slaves.
Incidentally, when the slave trade accounted for the transport of a staggering 6 million Africans, not counting the millions lost at sea, Britain was the worst transgressor - responsible for almost 2.5 million. This is a fact that is often forgotten by those who regularly cite Britain's prime role in the abolition of the slave trade. Also, bear in mind that there has never been an
official apology for the injustices of slavery and its aftermath - a necessary requirement for the ruptured souls of this faction of humanity to heal.
The effect of all these evil transgressions engendered dangerous neurotic cascades of reverberating negative dispositions and thinking among humanity around the world…that is further perpetuated through the generations. The collective psychological and material damages, especially to the grossly disenfranchised, was, and continues to be, horrific, but as Thomas Jefferson (American 3rd US President (1801-09) said: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
Check back for the final of this three part series: Our Georgian Heritage
_____________________________ Guest Blogger, Nerissa Braimbridge is a Jamaican born; former business woman, who was awarded Woman of the Year, 1975, in the new business idea field, by the Multi-Occupational Society of Manhattan, NYC. Named International Woman of the Year, 1995/96 - in recognition of her services to the business world, by IBC, Cambridge, England, and listed in the 6th edition of Personalities of America - for Services in Arts and Communications by ABI, USA. Mrs. Braimbridge is world traveled, and World Cultures and Humanities are her passion and interests. She may be contacted via email.
The Georgian Era
Part 1: The Whys and Wherefores of Colonialism
By: Guest Blogger - Nerissa Braimbridge
The Georgian period (1714 to 1830) architecture is said to have developed in England out of the Classical Revival that dominated Europe during the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras.
This period, characterized by an enthusiasm for classical antiquity, was popular during the reigns of King George I, II, III, and of course, the notorious IV of England. Scattered around the island of Jamaica are some still intact buildings of this glorified period, when wealthy estate owners built their homes in this particular style while competing with each other in acquiring lavish traditional luxuries that were appropriate for the tropics.
Many of these buildings still stands in the historic town of Falmouth, Trelawny, which was conceived, planned and developed during this phase of the British colonization of the island, and are unique in the Caribbean; to the point where this town, which was known for its role in sugar production, was declared a national monument by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) in 1996. And while presently undergoing major restoration and development; is fast becoming a major destination for tourists.
Unfortunately however, elsewhere around the island, a disheartening number of these Georgian structures are succumbing to the damaging effects of natural disasters, neglect, or what is often referred to as “progress.”
The Georgian Society of Jamaica, which was founded in 1967 by Geoffrey de Sola Pinto, recognizes the historical value of these period buildings, and over the years has sought to prevent further destruction by promoting the preservation, restoration and maintenance of these landmarks, monuments and artifacts. One has to wonder: “why isn’t there more appreciation for, and concern in maintaining these magnificent edifices? What happened to our Jamaican pride in this regard?”
Jamaicans are a proud people, who are usually quite comfortable in their distinct sense of self, but history, as we all know, is a matter of perspective. While admiring the elegant extravagances of these stately homes and celebrated opulent lifestyles, we should not ignore the gravity of this period’s malevolent history and its decadent effects on the psyche and sensibilities of our populace.
Most of this populace are the direct descendants of those wretchedly treated African slaves, who got no credit for their back-breaking efforts in building these massive structures of brick, cut stone and mortar. These were under some of the most miserable inhuman conditions (many of whom died in the process), and whose descendants still bears the pathological scars and ongoing negative repercussions of this appalling segment of history.
Annandale Great House, St. Ann
The Road to Annandale
The final stop on the Georgian Society tour is Annandale Great House, located outside the village of Epworth, near Ocho Rios. I was quite excited about this one since I was told that my grandfather once worked on the property.
Built in 1760, the Great House commands breathtaking views of the mountains. We found the entrance and our able driver maneuvered the bus through the main gate. I was giddy with excitement and couldn’t wait to get there … perhaps that was why I began to feel that we had been driving for such a long time that we were no longer in St. Ann. It's a HUGE property, about 600 acres.
Finally I was able to get a glimpse but before we could tour the house an even more urgent matter had to be dealt with. LUNCH! I kid you not, I would WALK back there just for more of that delicious chicken they served up at the onsite restaurant.
Though I was quite full and feeling an onset of fatigue, I decided to walk it off and see if I could get some shots of the Great House before going inside. Ooo la la what a sight! It reminded me of Rose Hall Great house in St. James and had that unmistakable symmetry that I’ve grown to appreciate. I ran around, dodging manure so I could see as much as I could.
This façade was a mystery to me. It felt as if it wanted to be symmetrical and even tricked me at one point. I am still quite drawn to that line of axis. I absolutely love the window treatment
There was one main axis that linked the entrances and led to the outdoor kitchen (which still functions – seeing it was well worth the smoke inhalation). Enjoy the photos below.
If you missed my previous blog posts -- Part 1 and Part 2 - just scroll down the page to read them all.
Written by Latoya Gail, Georgian Society member and owner of Ayo Designs in St. Ann.
Continuing my trek with the Georgian Society of Jamaica -- we went far into the hills to get to the second Great House. My anticipation increased when I started to glimpse parts of it and I began to wonder just what I would see.
The Geddes House
If ever there was a house that confused, intrigued and fascinated me the most, this would definitely be it. The house is a mystery in and of itself. I was quite perplexed with the layout and even now I can’t figure out where the ‘main entrance’ is.
Welcome to Geddes Great House, located in Brittonville in the “garden parish”. It was built by Rev Geddes in 1792 and stands 1972 ft above sea level. The Great House survived intact over the years but began to fall into disrepair during the first half of the twentieth century. It landed in the hands of furniture designer Burnett Webster in 1962 and he undertook a complete programme of restoration and upgrading, installing bathrooms, kitchen, swimming pool and electricity, many of the furniture pieces found inside were built by him. It changed hands again and underwent even more restoration and modern additions.
The landscaping though is quite exquisite! Quaint courtyards flood the spaces as well as a tropical array of flowers.
It felt surreal, as if I was experiencing a series of houses and as I walked though the spaces. I found my self climbing and descending stairs of various types and landing in even more interesting and peculiar rooms. I was told that one of the owners was quite eccentric. I do wish there was a better way to explain how it felt but I’m at a loss for words and sadly I feel that even my photos are inadequate.
AND THEN! I got to the back/back-side… and it was if I’d entered another zone entirely. I’d taken a passage to India! Check out the photos below:
Check out my next blog post which covers our third and final stop for the day -- to a Great House on 600 acres of land. I'm quite excited as I wass told my grandfather used to work on this property.
If you missed part 1 in the series you can get it here
.Written by Latoya Gail, Georgian Society member and owner of Ayo Designs in St. Ann
Liberty Hill Great House, St. Ann
Exploring the Great Houses in the Garden Parish - Part I
by Latoya Gail
I took a refreshing break from my mundane life to go exploring with the Georgian Society – St. Ann/St. Mary chapter. We didn’t go very far, our journey kept us in the garden parish. There are so many wonderful historic buildings hidden away in the hills and though the routes to get to them were rough and rocky, it was well worth it!
Liberty Hill Plantation
The first stop was Liberty Hill Plantation on the outskirts of Lime Hall [told you ... we didn't go far!], which was originally built in the 1740's at 1200 feet from sea level and was a thriving pimento plantation. It originally had cut stone walls which were later plastered over though you can still see the outlines.
I’d been there before but this was the first time I actually went inside. I absolutely fell in love with the upstairs attic. They still had the ‘trap doors’ leading to spaces which were used to hide contraband.
It also stands as an archaeological site -- an Arawak kitchen midden was found which is thought to have been used to supply Columbus and his men with food. Other artifacts were also discovered over the years.
The garden and landscaping is lovely and I was quite captivated by it. It has undergone somewhat dramatic restoration and is now marketed as a destination for weddings, retreats and other such events. They also have a spa which uses numerous ingredients found on the property, including loofah scrubs. Finally, one cannot miss the breathtaking views!
Check back soon to read about the next leg of our tour -- the one great house
that I can only describe as a surreal experience.
My Visit to A 17th Century Spanish Fort
by Andrew Roblin
About five years ago, after reading a description in the estimable "Rough Guide To Jamaica," I spent the night at River Lodge, Robins Bay at what may be our island's best-preserved Spanish fort. According to the "Rough Guide," River Lodge is near the cove from which the last Spanish Governor Don Cristobel Arnaldo de Ysassi* fled Jamaica. It seems likely Ysassi stayed at the fort.
I slept in the fort's turreted tower. My room overlooked a lovely piazza framed by vine-covered walls and centered on a large outdoor fireplace. This Spanish fort, which is believed to have been built in the 17th century, includes several other rooms adapted for travelers and a cool thatched-roof dining area served by a modern kitchen. I had a wonderful breakfast there.
At last notice, River Lodge was run by a friendly German expatriate, Brigitta Fuchsloder (Telephone: 995-3003). [Full disclosure: I like Ms. Fuchsloder. She safeguarded a pair of flippers I forgot at River Lodge, allowing me to retrieve them six months later.]
River Lodge makes for a great rustic getaway for travelers looking to escape the beaten path. I enjoyed the wild, secluded beach within a few minutes walk. A picturesque little stream runs beside the property. And the "Rough Guide" says there are several impressive and seldom-visited waterfalls nearby.
Robins Bay sits between Port Maria and Annotto Bay. Coming from Port Maria, you'll see a bus stop on the left with "Robin's Bay" clearly written on it. The road isn't bad to begin with, but quickly deteriorates--even at election time. Best to take this trip in a vehicle with good tires and a high suspension. I got a flat tire on one of my trips down this road.
Before visiting River Lodge, it's best to call ahead. I dropped in unexpectedly a few weeks ago. The owners weren't around, but a caretaker let me reacquaint myself with this charming and uniquely Jamaican historic site.
* GSJ Footnote: In 1657 Don Cristobal Arnaldo de Ysassi led strong guerrilla forces in the interior of Jamaica. He had been appointed the last Spanish Governor of Jamaica. Two expeditions from Cuba came to the north coast to help him. General Doyley attacked both times by sailing around the island from Kingston. He defeated Ysassi near Ocho Rios in 1657 and at Rio Nuevo in 1658, the last named being the biggest battle ever fought in Jamaica. Ysassi continued to hold out until 1660, when the defection of Maroon allies made his cause hopeless, and he and his followers escaped to Cuba in canoes.
Excerpted from "The Geography & History of Jamaica" published by the Gleaner
I am over halfway through an extended visit to Jamaica and I became particularly interested in the Georgian Society as I'm an architectural journalist in my homeland of Ireland with a degree in the History of Art and Architecture. Conservation lies very close to my heart.
Having been thrown into the vibrant, colourful and slightly mad world of Jamaica a little over a month ago, there are countless subjects and issues which I have been swept up by. The architecture here reflects clear influences of African, Spanish, and British descent, but it is the structures built here during the Georgian period which have really tugged on the heartstrings. This architecture is so often beautiful, intricate and sorrowful when witnessed in anything less than a fair state.
The Georgian buildings are romantic and elegant with their formal pillars, balustraded porticoes, sash windows, square, symmetrical shape and usually exquisite fretwork. With the small size of Jamaica, it’s hard to imagine there would be as many wonderfully interesting structures as there are, yet I have been enchanted by buildings in Montego Bay, Ochi and of course Falmouth, nevermind all of those I have only seen in photos.
It's said that the life of a place exists beyond its inhabitants because of its architecture. The buildings that stand hold an incredible amount of history. They have stood through celebrations, wars and revolutions that the country faced in its time. They are the mute testament to that country's soul. I believe that architecture can represent its people better and more aptly than any other facet, because buildings can be almost immortal. It is therefore imperative that these beautiful buildings be conserved and maintained as much as is humanly possible.
Most people say they know what architectural conservation is, and nearly as many say they believe it is vitally important, yet so few really get involved. Jamaica has such a dynamic and varied history, so many stories to tell but many people don't seem to recognise the significance of preserving the fabric of that history. What is a place at all without its history, it's culture, its heritage?
What we need to see is people getting angry enough to make things happen, to make the planning authority wake up and galvanize others into thinking about this issue and taking action too. Architecture is another language of a country, and the glorious patois is alive and kicking in Jamaica while Georgian buildings stutter and disappear.
What can you do to make sure Jamaica's lifeblood is kept flowing?