A harmonious contrast between the old and the new, Manchester’s capital is a booming business centre set amidst rolling hills and lush vegetation. The town is situated some 2000 feet above sea level, and is one of the more peaceful and attractive places on the island. The name Manchester comes from the days when the Duke of Manchester, who later established the capital and named it after his son, the Viscount of Mandeville, in 1816, governed Jamaica. Wealthy English settlers and expatriates favoured this part of the island, building impressive mansions and country homes here because the landscape reminded them of their own countryside in climate, temperament and aesthetic. Today, a large number of the residents here are Jamaicans who have lived abroad for many years, usually in England, and who have returned to retire.
When in town, do take time to appreciate the delightful examples of Jamaican architecture, a blend of classic Georgian style created with local materials. Of particular interest is the Mandeville Court House, built in 1820 with limestone blocks cut by slave labour. The courthouse, one of only four original public buildings, has a portico supported by Doric columns flanked by a curving double staircase. See also the Manchester Parish Church, the Mandeville Jail and Workhouse (now the Police Station), and afterwards, stop for drinks at the historic Mandeville Hotel.
Home of Jamaica’s first major bauxite mining facility, Mandeville is today a prosperous metropolis because of the mineral found in the blood-red soil. The process of excavating is a fascinating window into an important element of Jamaica’s economy, and WINDALCO, the West Indies Alumina Company, offers complete mine tours on appointment.
Mandeville has retained many characteristics of its Colonial heritage. One in particular, the English tradition of maintaining and nurturing complete gardens around fabulous mansions is still a favourite among residents here. The most famous garden in Mandeville is Mrs Carmen Stephenson’s Garden, a delightful showcase of Jamaican flowers and an award-winning orchid greenhouse. Mrs Stephenson is an active member of the Mandeville Horticultural Society, the oldest of its kind in the Western hemisphere. In addition to maintaining her famous garden, she also runs a small flower shop in the Manchester Shopping Centre that is supplied by the garden. Most days, Mrs Stephenson would be more than happy to chat for a few minutes about the variety she keeps in stock. Please stop by the shop or call ahead to make an appointment to see the famous garden.
Say Hello To:
Diana McIntyre-Pike is a local authority on just about everything and a phenomenal resource for information on Mandeville and the South Coast. Diana also runs Countrystyle Tours, a local community tourism initiative. She has lived in Manchester all her life and knows the area very well. Stop in and say hello and she will take over from there!