Falmouth: Decaying Georgian Charm
Start: Water Square.
Finish: St. Peter's Anglican Church.
Time: 45 minutes.
Best Times: 10am-4pm.
Worst Times: 8-10am and 4-6pm -- more traffic then.
The port town of Falmouth lies on the north coast of Jamaica, 37km (23 miles) east of Montego Bay. It makes for an interesting morning or afternoon tour. Laid out in 1790, Falmouth is the best-preserved Georgian town on the island, although it is ramshackle. Talks of restoration are just hot air at this point, and it's hard to imagine that such a sleepy town was once the busiest port in Jamaica (most of its port business shifted east to the larger harbor at Kingston long ago). Don't be surprised to share the streets today with wandering donkeys and goats.
Leave your car at Water Square; you can explore the town on foot in about an hour.
The best place to begin your walk is:
1: Water Square
The town's center, this is a large, spacious plaza at the east end of Falmouth. It was named for a large old circular stone-built reservoir erected in 1798 to store water from the Martha Brae River.
Facing Water Square is:
2: Albert George Shopping & Historical Centre
This is still a market, rather claptrap but thriving, with little handicrafts stores. It was constructed in 1895.
From here, walk 1 block east toward the water to see:
3: Phoenix Foundry & Central Wharf
At the corner of Lower Harbour and Thorpe streets, the foundry dates from 1810. In its heyday it manufactured iron bedsteads for the British army. In back is a sad reminder of Falmouth's past, the Central Wharf, where slaves were brought ashore to be auctioned off to plantation owners.
To the immediate west of the foundry stands:
4: Tharp House
Near the junction of Thorpe and Seaboard streets, this was the in-town residence of John Tharp, notorious as the largest slave owner on the island. Today it's still disliked by locals, but for a different reason: It shelters the Falmouth tax office.
After viewing the property, continue northwest along Seaboard Street to:
5: Falmouth Courthouse
This is the grandest building in town, a Georgian courthouse constructed in the Palladian style with Doric columns. The courthouse is guarded by cannons on each side. Originally the courthouse dated from 1815, but a fire swept through it in 1926. The present building is a reconstruction.
From the courthouse, head northwest along Seaboard Street until you come to Market Street, cutting right at this point and heading in the direction of the sea. You'll come to:
6: Barrett House
This was the Falmouth townhouse of Edward Barrett, a rich planter, and one of many houses owned by the Barrett family (of which Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a member).
From Barrett House, walk south again as if returning to Water Square. At the intersection of Market and Cornwall streets, you come to the:
7: Baptist Manse
This was once the abode of the island's most passionate abolitionist, William Knibb, a Baptist preacher who angered sugar planters with his fiery speeches attacking slavery.
After seeing the manse, continue down Market Street until you come to Duke Street, at which point you head west. After 1 block, turn left on King Street to see:
8: William Knibb Memorial Church
At the corner of George and Duke streets, this chapel was rebuilt following its burning by the British during the Christmas Rebellion of 1831.
Return to Duke Street and continue 4 blocks west to:
9: St. Peter's Anglican Church
Built in 1795 and enlarged in 1842, this is the oldest extant building in Falmouth and the second oldest church on the island. Visit its interior to see its stained-glass windows.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.