Overview of Westmoreland
|Location||Latitude 18degrees 21'N
|Recognised Parish Language||Spanish|
|Area||807 square km|
|Rank||Jamaica's eighth largest parish|
|Population||141,000 in 2001|
|Population for Savanna-La-Mar||19,863 in 2001|
|Commerce||Tourism, Agriculture, Manufacturing|
Westmoreland was founded in 1703, and was most likely so named because it is the western most parish on the island. The parish boasts rain-fed fertile soils and low relief, well suited for sugar cane. The topography consists mainly of hills and slopes of moderate elevation. The remaining quarter of the parish consists of low lying alluvial plains and some 10,000 - 12,000 acres of wetlands. Savanna-la-Mar is the capital town of Westmoreland. It was developed as a port from which sugar was exported and dates back to around 1730. The Spanish name Savanna-la-mar means "Plain by the sea" refers to its immediate environment. The port was built at the end of a straight road that runs perpendicular to the coastline. The road was flanked by flat mangrove swamps, which limited the lateral expansion of the development. The resulting linear development was unlike many other ribbon-like developments along the coast. The town of Frome is located some 5 miles away from Savanna-la-Mar, and boasts one of the few remaining sugar factories in the country. Unfortunately exporting activities at the Savanna-la-Mar port ceased in 1985 and sugar is now exported from Ochio Rios. Next to sugar and rum in importance is the cattle industry, which produces dairy and beef. Farming of rice, bananas, coffee, ginger, pimento and honey were also popular in the parish in the mid 1960s.
There has been a decline of the traditional agrarian industries of sugar and cattle over the years. This decline has been largely due to a shift in the local and macro economy from natural resource based industries to the more human resource based one such as tourism and financial services. The parish also produces diverse agricultural products such as sugar cane, cocoa, coconut, coffee, citrus and pimento. The fishing industry in Westmoreland currently ranks second in the island.
The parish of Westmoreland is situated south of the parish of Hanover, southwest of Saint James, and the northwest of Saint Elizabeth, in the county of Cornwall.
There are over 10,000 acres (40 km²) of morass land, the largest part of which is called the Great Morass. This contains plant and animal material collected over centuries. The morass can be mined as peat, an excellent source of energy, and it also serves as a natural sanctuary for Jamaican wildlife. The remaining area consists of several hills of moderate elevation, and alluvial plains along the coast.
There are numerous rivers in the parish. The Cabaritta River, which is 39.7 kilometres long, drains the George's Plain and can accommodate boats weighing up to eight tons. Other rivers include the Negril River, New Savanna, Morgan's, Gut, Smithfield, Bowens, Bluefields, Robins, Roaring, Great and Dean.
Brief History of Savanna-La-Mar
Savanna-la-mar being the chief town of Westmoreland is 33 miles from Montego Bay, and was formed in 1730, About a quarter of the parish consist of the principal area of Sugar cultivation, and next to sugar its most important industry is cattle-raising, both for dairy products and beef.
Date retrieved: June 02, 2009
Savanna-la-mar was founded about 1730, before which time the principal settlement was at Queen's Town, a few miles inland at the crossroads now called Cross Path or Banbury Savanna la mar, 'the plain by the sea' is hardly appropriate to the town itself, which is built on a strip of land running down to the sea between the mangrove swamps which hem it on both sides. The town has suffered disastrously from hurricanes, notably in 1748, 1780 and 1912.
At the best of time Savanna-la-mar was not considered healthy; a well-known treatise on the Flowers of Jamaica, published in 1791 by Dr. Robert Jackson, was based on the author's experience as physician there for some years before the hurricane.At Savanna-la-mar there was not even a vestige if a town (the parts only of two or three houses having in partial ruin remained as if to indicate the situation and extend of the calamity) the very material of which it had been composed had been carried away by the resistless fury of the waves, which finally completed what the wind began.
The population of Westmoreland in 1996 was 135,600 of this, 49 % was male while 51 % was female. This accounts for 5.4 % of the island’s population and is the eight largest among the parishes in the Jamaica showing a 0.73% growth rate between 1982 and 1991. Fertility, mortality and migration influence this population size. The population distribution of Westmoreland indicates a large rural population of 80% with a growing urban population of 19.3%.
The parish is projected to have a population of 210,300 persons in 2005. The current growth of the many townships in the parish supports the expansion in the population.
The physical characteristics of the parish influence the economic activity. Sugarcane cultivation, an outgrowth of the colonial period dominates the plains. The coast is another notable feature in the west, for which sections of Negril a remainly used for tourism (i.e. as an economic activity). The East and the hilly interior, is dominated by the production of cash crops and small livestock for the sale in the domestic markets. The parish has farmers who have been among the top producers of quality foods in the island and several have been the recipients of many awards at the premier agricultural shows for several years. Manufacturing, such as agro-processing (Grace Food Processing, as an example), and fishing also play an important economic role.
1.4 Towns within the Parish
Table No1: Main Towns in the Parish.
|Savanna-La-Mar||The parish capital, a sub regional centre, administrative, commercial, and marketing and retail sector dominates and acts as strong influence to the growth of the town. Small scale, informal sector commercial activity plays a continued role in employment and urbanization.|
|Bluefields||A coastal town, established by the Spanish on their arrival in 1655. Presently a tourist attraction with white sandy public beaches. Landmarks, such as the Great House, has historic significance.|
|Bethel Town||Established as a Free Village in the 19 the century. In 1857 a Dorchestire family, the Williams’ bought Bethel town, then known as Kew Park. The property changed hands in the mid nineteenth century and was established as a sugar plantation. Presently citrus cultivation and cattle farming dominates.|
|Seaford||Significant for the existence of a number of German Descendants. It is said that the Germans settled in the town on 500 acres of partially cleared woodlands in the 18 Century. The town was named after the British planter Lord Seaford.|
|Grange Hill||Located in western Westmoreland, the town consists of a cluster of small communities – Mint, Belle Isle, Top Lincoln, and Kings Valley. Grange Hill is a large farming town. A high population density exists, leading to overcrowding, average household size is 7 persons and 75% of the population is below 35 years. Sugar Production is the major form of economic activity.|
|Negril||Located in western Westmoreland constituency, a Tourist Resort Area, having many chains of all inclusive hotels. Employment rate for Negril is higher due to tourism as the economic base. The area present a development challenge and is home to the Negril/Green Island Area Planning Authority, the UDC, and the NRCA all having specific mandate for managing the land resources. The Negril area is a significant contribution to the property tax revenue stream. The NWC has recently implemented a central sewerage system and potable water supply schemes.|