Upon the invitation extended by Dr. Ivor Conolley of Falmouth Heritage Renewal in collaboration with the University of Virginia Field School in Historic Preservation & the Digital Archaeological Archives of Comparative Slavery (DAACS), I along with a few members of the Georgian Society of Jamaica’s St. Ann/St. Mary and Falmouth Chapters volunteered to assist with the recording of buildings as well as conducting some archaeological investigations/excavations at Orange Valley.
Rich in history, the estate was first purchased from the Allen family in 1757 by Herbert Newton Jarrett 11 who had a great part to play in the existence of what was without a doubt one of the most impressive ruins that has been wonderfully preserved; the Slave Hospital. It was the work of Architect E. Earl and when built in 1797 by H. Jarrett, was one of only three to provide a hospital for its slaves.
The well ventilated Symmetrical cut-stone structure with Venetian windows all around was once rendered in lime mortar which over time faded away. [I must say I prefer seeing the cut-stone anyway] The interior which was built with timber is not existent today and there is no evidence of the location of the staircase(s) which would lead to the upper floor. At the entrance is the Latin inscription which translates as “not unmindful of the sick and wretched’. At that time there were few hospitals which were built of this calibre.
We continued along to the Great House which was built about 1760 by Herbert Newton Jarrett II.
Up until the late 1900’s it was still standing in fairly good condition but unfortunately it collapsed as a result of thieves slowly stealing away the remarkable structure. (Quite similar to what happened to the RADA building in Falmouth) Today one would never know that it once was a beautiful two storey dwelling that overlooked the slave hospital and sugar works mill.
Special thanks to Brett Ashmeade-Hawkins for allowing me to use his photos and quite a bit of the information here.
It had enclosed galleries along the entire front on both the second and third floors. Behind the Entrance Gallery on the second floor was a large square central Drawing Room flanked by a Dining Room on one side and a Library and a Bedroom on the other. Behind the upstairs gallery on the third floor was another large share central room, used as a family Sitting Room, flanked by 4 more Bedrooms, two on either side. There were also two enclosed galleries which ran the entire length of the back of the house on the second and third floors which contained the mahogany staircase which connected the second and third floors.
The second floor front gallery was used as an Entrance Hall and the second floor back gallery was used as a Breakfast Room. The third floor front gallery, which was later partially opened up in the centre, was definitely used as an outdoor Sitting Room. It had a wonderful view over the Overseer’s House and Sugar Works and much of the plantation. The third floor back gallery was basically just a staircase hall.” Brett Ashmeade-Hawkins
In the 18th century Orange Valley was the second largest sugar plantation after Tharpe’s Good Hope. The ruin still in existence now is one of the best examples of the layout and buildings.
After the decline of sugar production, the estate reinvented itself and in 1966 became the first commercial stud farm. To date this is still an active component of the family business now run by Alec Henderson and his wife.
With that out of the way, it was on to the main event. I insisted that I was going to do some manual labour so I borrowed some gloves….. IT LOOKS EASIER THAN IT ACTUALLY IS. Two minutes later I was out of breath but felt quite accomplished. So yes, you guessed it, I went right back to taking photos!
Once completed, the labeled bags were taken to the ‘washing station’ where the artifacts were cleaned and laid out.
Finally, I had this wild idea that it would be fun to frolick in the grass SO KeVaughn humoured me and took a couple of photos …. I’m guessing this is why I found a few not so friendly critters on me :S SERVES ME RIGHT! I dare not share the full extent of my escapade lest I be forever teased about it!
Thanks also to this video that I found on the ‘Hidden Treasures’ website! Really nice episode: http://vimeo.com/9135868