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Saint James
Jamaica-Saint James.png
Location Latitude18°31'N
Longitude 77°59'W
Capital City Montego Bay
Major towns Adelphi, Cambridge, Montpelier, Catadupa, Fairfield, Somerton, Irwin, Dumfries
County Cornwall
Area 595 square km
Rank Jamaica's fourth smallest parish
Population 200,000 (2008)
Commerce Tourism, Agriculture, Industry

St James is a suburban parish, located on the north west end of the island of Jamaica. Its capital, Montego Bay, derived from the Spanish word Manteca (lard) because many wild hogs were found there from which they made lard. It was named publicly the second city of Jamaica, behind Kingston, in 1981. However, Montego Bay became city in 1980 through an act of the Jamaican Parliament. The parish is the birth place of The Right Excellent Samuel Sharpe (died 1833), one of Jamaica's Seven National Heroes.

Brief history

When the Spanish occupied Jamaica, Montego Bay was an export point for lard, which was obtained from wild hogs in the forests. In many of the Jamaica's early maps, Montego Bay was listed as "Bahia de Manteca" (Lard Bay). The parish was given the name "St James" in honour of King James II by Sir Thomas Modyford, the island's first English Governor. At the beginning of the English rule, the parish was one of the poorest; it had no towns, few inhabitants and little commerce, except for the exported lard. However, after the treaty with the Maroon in 1739, St James became one of the most important sugar producing parishes. Annually, more than 150 ships arrived in Montego Bay bringing slaves and supplies, and taking sugar. Commerce developed as wealthy merchants and planters erected many elaborate town houses. In 1773 Montego Bay had the only newspaper outside of Kingston - The Cornwall Chronicle.

A fire, in 1795 and again in 1811, destroyed many parts of Montego Bay. After being rebuilt, it was again destroyed in 1831 by a rebellion led by Sam Sharpe. This rebellion was as a result of the slave owner's reluctance to free the slaves, even after England proposed that they end slavery. Sam Sharpe, at first, tried to advocate passive resistance, but a group of slaves became violent and began setting fire to buildings and the surrounding plantations and cane fields. As a result of being the main planner of the rebellion, Sam Sharpe was hanged in the Montego Bay market place, which is today known as Sam Sharpe Square.

After emancipation in 1834, the fortunes of the town and parish declined until the banana trade was promoted by J E Kerr and Co. This prompted the start of tourism in Jamaica. A Freeport was constructed in the 1960s, and later, a cruise ship terminal was opened. Montego Bay was accorded city status on May 1, 1980. The Sangster International Airport, one of the two on the island, is the hub for the national airline, Air Jamaica.


The parish is bordered by Trelawny in the east, St. Elizabeth in the south and Hanover and Westmoreland in the west. It covers an area of 594.9 km², making it one of the smallest parishes in Jamaica. The population was an estimated 178,000 in 2001.

About two-thirds of the parish consists of limestone. The Nassau Mountains, which rise from St. Elizabeth, south of the parish, extend diagonally across St James. The range then decline to a point just south of Montego Bay. Its highest point is approximately 1524 metres above sea level.

Great River, which serves as the boundary between St James and its neighboring parishes Hanover and Westmoreland, and the Montego River, which rises in central St James and flows north, then west to Montego Bay, are the two main rivers.

The city of Montego Bay may be roughly divided into two sections: the tourist area, which occupies the northern section of the bay along the shore line, and the commercial and industrial sections, which are second only to Kingston in size and volume of trade.


Today, Saint James is one of the fastest growing parishes on the island with large credits going to Montego Bay, because it is seen as some sort of alternative to the overpopulated Kingston and Saint Andrew Corporate Area.

Agricultural activities include forestry, and the production of sugar cane and other domestic crops. There are approximately 60 manufacturing establishments in the south of the parish, mainly for garment, woodwork, and food processing. There are also many industrial zones, including The Montego Free Zone, Bogue Industrial Estate, and Ironshore.

Tourism is the main source of employment in the parish; one in four persons are employed in tourism. The major forms of employment in tourism are: 1)craft vending in the three craft markets in the parish, Harbour Street Craft Market, Old Fort Craft Market and Success Craft Market; 2)tour bus operating for such companies as JUTA and JCAL tours; and, 3) working in the many famous hotels located in the parish. Over 500,000 tourists annually visit St James, and this accounts for one-third of the revenue generated by tourism islandwide; Montego Bay is often called the Mecca of tourism in Jamaica.


There are many famous hotels located in the parish of St. James, most of them in the Rose Hall area. These include: Doctors Cave Beach Hotel , Wyndham Rose Hall, the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Half Moon Hotel and the newly built Iberostar Hotel located in Lilliput.


  • Rose Hall Great house is the most famous in the parish, and probably in the island. It was built on a hill, two miles east of Ironshore in 1770 by John Palmer, the Custos of St James, who named the house after his wife, Rose. The house attracts over 100,000 visitors per year. The attraction to the house is triggered by the legend of 'The White Witch Of Rose Hall', Annie —the wife of John Rose Palmer— who reputedly murdered all three of her husbands, before being strangled by her slaves. It is believed that her ghost still haunts the property. In the Christmas/Sam Sharpe rebellion of 1831, slaves destroyed the house and it was left in ruins for over a century. John Rollins, a wealthy American, bought the property in 1966, and restored the house to its former grandeur.
  • Rio de Camorones or the Creek Dome was the source of drinking water until 1893. The dome still stands (although it no longer provides drinking water).
  • Old Fort was built in 1774 to protect the town. The old cannon is still pointing out to sea.
  • The Cage was a jail for recaptured runaway slaves. It is now used a Tourist Information Centre and museum.
  • St James is noted for its fine beaches. These include Greenwood, Rose Hall, Ironshore, Mahoe Bay, Walter Fletcher, Doctor's Cave, Cornwall Beach, Montego Freeport, and Spring Gardens.

Notable people


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