Historical Sites

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HISTORICAL SITES
 
The parish boasts many Historic Buildings, large sugar estates and Guest Houses. Many of the former, unfortunately, are in ruins - but are classified as being among the most scenic and impressive in their day. However, those which have been maintained are:

  • Mannings High School
  • Savanna-La-Mar Parish Church 

THE OLD BUILDING MANNING'S SCHOOL
 
MANNING'S SCHOOL (the second oldest of its type in Jamaica) is a secondary High school managed by a broad of trustees and financed by Government. The present enrolment is 830.
 
New blocks of classroom buildings are grouped around the playing field behind the old timber  school house with its belfry and gabled roofs.  In 1710 Thomas Manning, a Westmoreland proprietor, left thirteen slaves with land and the produce of a pen and cattle, to endow a free school for the parish, and in due course - twenty - eight years later - the school was established. It survived some thin times, as in 1792 when the trustees claimed that owing to injudicious loans made by their predecessors, funds for carrying on the school depended entirely on the rent of fifteen Negroes leased to AA. W. Tomlinson Esg, while $600 arrears of salary were owing to the previous schoolmaster, who was threatening to sue. The present educational structure of the school really dates from the reorganization of Jamaican Secondary Education in 1883 which provided for a boys' school in Westmoreland furnishing 'a good middle-class education', and the establishment of a girls school.
 
THE PARISH CHURCH
 
The old Parish Church of Savanna-la-mar was pulled down in 1904 in order that a new and more suitable building be erected in its place.  The old building took the place of what must have been the first church erected there in the seventeenth century or early in the eighteenth century church stood somewhere along the sea beach. It was destroyed in the storm on October 3, 1780. For some years services were held in a temporary building, and in 1797 the foundation stone of the second church was laid, but it would seen that it was only intended to be a temporary structure.  It was opened for divine service in 1799, so considering that it was a wooden building it had done good service. While excavation, the old foundation stone was discovered, and it was inlaid a brass plate in fine state of presentation. The new building is a stone structure with a clerestory of wood. It was in length 50ft. With a apse 13ft. 6in. by 23ft. It is dedicated to St. George. The foundation stone was laid on St. George's Day, 1903, and the building was consecrated St. George's Day 1904.
 
It is significant that Jamaica's first native Governor General is a son of the parish of Westmoreland.
 
CAST IRON FOUNTAIN
 
The Cast iron Fountain near the Courthouse, presented to the town in 1887 by E. J. Sadler of Acton House a Westmoreland planter, was evidently designed for use in an English town. Over Each of the arches supporting the dome is an elaborate plaque with a pelican motif, and the admonition 'Keep the pavement dry is repeated to the four points of the compass.
 
THE OLD FORT
 
At the seaward end, beyond the Customs House and market Great George Street terminates at the walls of the OLD FORT. On the land side, the wall of great masonry blocks is intact, but on passing through the gateway the interior is found to be filled with sea-water, forming a basin used by town residents for an early morning or late afternoon swim. Basically this state of affairs seems to be more and more two hundred years old for when Admiral Knowles inspected Savanna-la-mar in 1755, he pronounced it to be "in my opinion is the worst port in the island very shoal water defended only on reefs, but the inhabitants thought proper to lay out $16,100 upon a fort never finished, and a third of it at least is fallen down into sea.
 
From the Terence of the small  restaurant-bar within the fort there is a view of some miles of the coast in either direction. About half a mile is the rusted hulk of a large freighter which went aground in the storm of 1912, when five other ship was driven on shore  but eventually refloated. On the west side of the fort is WISCO PIER, where sugar  conveyed by dump trucks from the company's factory at Frome is loaded, into lighters, to be towed out across the shallow harbour to a freighter anchored off-shore. Until recently, when competition in the wold market made bulk  loading essential, the sugar was bagged at the factory and loaded in that form. During the crop season, from January to June or July, there is a constant stream of trucks from the factory, and their backing and maneuvering and the shedding of dark cascades of sugar into the waiting barges goes on under arc lights far into the nights, when off and on the flashing light of the harbour buoy shows up a tug with its train of lighters, or the dug-out canoes of local fishermen slipping out to sea in with their bamboo fishtraps.

When a Ship 'SAILED' down Great George Street.
 
 It was an incredible sight. There, as if by magic, lay the good schooner "Latonia" smack in the middle of Great George Street in Savanna-La-Mar. The strange situation became even stranger when the ship's crew clambered down out of the craft and fled.
 
This episode was only one of the numerous bizarre happenings during the great hurricane of 1912, which almost completely destroyed the southern and western parts of the island, and which caused dozens of deaths
 
October 1912 was rather dry, an unusual situation in Jamaica. Up to the first of November the situation remained the same. On November 12 a notice appeared in the press under the head "Storm Notice". The release, from the meteorological office stated that there was a storm 400 miles southwest of Kingston, but ended reassuringly "there is no need for alarm". If ever a weatherman goofed, this one did.
 
For nine days the rain continued, swelling every stream, every river, and every gully. On November 21 nature struck in all her awesome power. Howling in from the sea came, the terrific wind, smashing trees, houses and anything obstructing its path.
 
By the time the hurricane had completed its work of destruction, the towns of Monte-go Bay, Lucea, Green Island and Savanna-la-mar were almost completely wrecked.  For days no news of the devastation reached the other sections of the inland; and while the people in the eastern parishes were lamenting the loss of some of their cultivation, their brethren in the west were mourning their dead and bewailing their almost complete destitution.
 
It was only after the United Fruit Company Ship "Admiral Dewey" sailed out of the 7Port Antonio to investigate, that the rest of Jamaica had become aware of what had happened in the Southwest. As the ship sailed into Monte go bay Harbour it was greeted with the grisly bloated, floating corps. The north gully for days has been raging torrent, pouring thousand of tons of water into the sea surged forward and the waters of the gully made downtown Monte go Bay into a lake. Some forty persons were drowned.
 
So serious was the damage Wrought by the gully that regulations were subsequently passed forbidding any building in its course.
 
One report stated:  "Montego Bay faced the sunlight on Tuesday a ruined isolated town. The once proud northwestern town has been laid low, smashed almost to pieces".
 
The "Admiral Dewey" sailed on to Green Island, which was reported to have been so badly hit that there was no response from the shore to the communications from the ship.
 
At Lucea an estimated 70 percent of the buildings were wrecked. A number of ships which were in the harbour were smashed and one schooner which had just put out for Montego Bay went down with all on board. As observer said: "Every visage off vegetation has been swept clean, and Montego Bay, Green Island, Lucea and Savanna-la-mar will practically have to be rebuilt".
 
It was Savanna-la-mar, which appeared to have suffered the most. According to reports. Only Mannings High School, the teacher's residence and the Bank of Nova Scotia were left intact. To add to the misery of the wind and rain a tidal surge swept the waterfront, completely ruining it and inundated a wide area around Great George Street. It was this surge that carried "Latonia" and her lucky crew to the safety of the land.
 
Later, as the Governor and party visited the scenes of ruin, a reconstruction programmed was put underway and relief brought to the suffering thousands.
 
As the years went by, many of the horrors of the great hurricane were forgotten, but all who saw could never forget the curious sight of the "Latonia" and her crew "sailing" up Great George Street.