Jamaica’s rich history and culture are equally appealing as its white sand beaches and vibrant nightlife. Across the island visitors will find various monuments and relics that speak to a plantation era of both hardship and triumph. Sitting high on a hill 11km east of Ironshore in Jamaica’s western parish of St. James the fascinating Greenwood Great House is over 200 years old.
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Erected between 1780 and 1800, the Georgian-style building is one of many old (and original) plantation homes still accessible from the 1800s. Formerly owned by the family of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, the famous English poet, Greenwood is one of the best preserved great houses on the island. Boasting one of the finest antique museums in the Caribbean, some history buffs find the 15-room Greenwood even more interesting than the more popular Rose Hall Great House.
This estate has undergone less restoration and as such is a must-see for antique lovers and those wanting to experience a slice of 19th Century Jamaica. The property is of historical significance for two reasons.The first being the fact that it is situated on land given to Hersey Barrett (an officer in the expedition commanded by Admiral Penn and General Venables to capture Hispaniola from the Spanish in 1655 but settling with Jamaica instead) after he captured the island. Eventually, the family amassed 84,000 acres and assembled over 2,000 slaves to produce vast quantities of sugar.
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The house (unlike numerous other homes) was not destroyed during the slave rebellions of the 1830s which set fire to the dwellings of hated masters. The Barrett family’s most notable member was the author Elizabeth Barrett-Browning. The second reason the estate is noteworthy is that it is haunted (or so it is said) by two ghosts. Both of these shades have been photographed. One of the spirits is said to be a former female slave and the other is simply known as “the lady in grey”.
On display is the original library of the Barrett family, with rare books dating from 1697, along with oil paintings of the family, Wedgwood china, a court jester’s chair, rare musical instruments, and a collection of antiques and furniture including a mantrap used for catching runaway slaves. Among the highlights of the rare collection of musical instruments is a barrel organ and two polyphones, which the guide is happy to bring to life.
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As well as fascinating antiques, Greenwood Great House also boasts natural splendour. The house is set in a beautifully manicured garden and the top floor veranda affords the visitor a 180 degree panoramic view of the Caribbean Sea, with the curvature of the earth clearly visible. The view from the front balcony down to the sea is quite stunning. There’s also a pub on-site and the great house and grounds are often used for wedding ceremonies as well.
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