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Community Factor: Emancipation Square Writer: Robert David Shaw Producer: Robert David Shaw Voiced by: Arnold Kelly 2013 August 19 Tape: The Emancipation Square

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The rich history surrounding Jamaica and the abolition of slavery is partly anchored in the town of Spanish Town, the then capital of Jamaica up to 1872 when Kingston was so designated. The 18th to 19th centuries was also the era when legislations were implemented and instituted. All this was done at the Emancipation Square, which was the heart of the old capital, Spanish Town, founded in 1534 by the Spaniards. Dubbed the most impressive landmark in Jamaica and the West Indies, the Emancipation Square was the place for huge parties and balls in honour of celebrities such as Sir Henry Bartley. And surrounding the square were houses of maids and servants. The Spanish houses are gone but the buildings here were erected by the English, partly on foundations from the Spanish era. To the east is the old House of Assembly. Built in 1762,The House of Assembly was the scene of many bitter debates and struggles between the Governors and the members of the Assembly. When the capital of the island was transferred to Kingston in 1872, the Assembly met at Headquarters House in Kingston. After this date, the Old House o f Assembly was used for several purposes. The structure now houses the offices and Mayor's Parlour of the St. Catherine Parish Council.

West of the Square is the old Kings House. In 1762, a new official residence for the Governor, King's House, was erected on the site of the Old Spanish Hall of Audience. The Hall was demolished in 1761 to make room for the new mansion. South of the Square is the Rodney Memorial. This elaborate edifice was created in honour of the celebrated British Admiral Lord Rodney. The Memorial, designed by the famous English sculptor John Bacon in 1801, commemorates Rodney's victory over a French fleet that had attempted to invade the island in 1782. To complete the Square on the south side was the last unit built, the Court House that was built in 1819. The site was originally a cemetery and later a Chapel. It was then altered to form an arsenal for small arms. This structure was eventually destroyed and the Court House was then erected on the site. The upper level of the building was used as a Town Hall. Throughout this era, many events took place here at the Emancipation Square including the Spanish Inquisition which operated here for a short while. Also, in 1865, Paul Bogle led a deputation here but was denied audience. This was also the place where Calico Jack Rackham, the notorious Pirate, who was captured at Negril in 1720, was tried here and sentenced to death. And one hundred and seventy-nine years ago, in 1834, the Proclamation abolishing slavery was read from the steps of the old Kings House.

And here is something that many persons probably did not know... the first University in Jamaica was established right here, in 1873 and operated for one year. The Spanish and English traditions are not present in the Emancipation Square, the way they were 251 years ago, partly as a result of fires that gutted several of the buildings in the area. But driving through this aged-old landmark, you still get the feeling that this very well may be the most impressive landmark in Jamaica and the West Indies. I am Arnold Kelly at the Emancipation Square helping to keep our communities connected.

Historic Spanish Town Square


Parish: St. Catherine Spanish Town, built by the Spanish after Sevilla Nueva (New Seville) was abandoned, dates from 1534. It was first known as Villa de la Vega, later St. Jago de la Vega and then Spanish Town. The town is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Jamaica. It was the capital of Spanish Jamaica from 1534 to 1655. When the English captured the island in 1655, Spanish Town remained the capital of the island until 1872 when this status was conferred on Kingston. Spanish Town still possesses memories of the past with its many historical buildings. The Emancipation Square is generally acclaimed to be the most impressive of its kind in the West Indies.

Old King's House

In 1762, a new official residence for the Governor, King's House, was erected on the site of the Old Spanish Hall of Audience. The Hall was demolished in 1761 to make room for the new mansion. This building formed the first unit of the civic square designed in the then popular Georgian style. In 1838, the proclamation of the abolition of slavery was read from the steps of King's House. The structure was destroyed by fire in 1925 leaving only the main eastern facade and the stables.

Old House of Assembly

This two storey brick structure was constructed around 1762. The House of Assembly was the scene of many bitter

debates and struggles between the Governors and the members of the Assembly. The Assembly Chamber was used occasionally to host balls to honour celebrities. In 1838 for example, the Assembly Chamber was used to host a ball in honour of Sir Henry Bartley on his arrival in Jamaica as Governor. When the capital of the island was transferred to Kingston in 1872, the Assembly met at Headquarters House in Kingston. After this date, the Old House o f Assembly was used for several purposes. The structure now houses the offices and Mayor's Parlour of the St. Catherine Parish Council.

Rodney's Memorial

This elaborate edifice was created in honour of the celebrated British Admiral Lord Rodney. The Memorial, designed by the famous English sculptor John Bacon in 1801, commemorates Rodney's victory over a French fleet that had attempted to invade the island in 1782. Rodney is made to resemble a Roman Emperor. A tavern dating from the time of the Spanish occupation, which is said to have also been where the mules and horses belonging to the Governor were tethered was demolished to make way for the statue.

Old Court House

This Georgian building on the south side was the last unit built to complete the Square. It was erected in 1819 at a cost of 15, 700 pounds. The site was originally a cemetery and later a Chapel. It was then altered to form an arsenalfor small arms. This structure was eventually destroyed and the Court House was then erected on the site. The upper level of the building was used as a Town Hall. In 1986, the Court House was destroyed by fire. Contact Information

Name: Historic Spanish Town Square Company: Jamaica Natinal Heritage Trust Address: 79 Duke Street Kingston

Phone: (876) 9221287- 8, 922-3990 Fax:(876) 967-1703 Email: tours@jnht.com Website: www.jnht.com

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