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Spanish Town is the capital and the largest city in the parish of St. Catherine in the county of Middlesex, Jamaicamarker. It was the former Spanish and English capital of Jamaicamarker from the 16th to the 19th century. The city is home to numerous memorials, the national archives, a small population, and one of the oldest Anglican churches outside of England (the others are in Virginiamarker, Marylandmarker and Bermudamarker).


A 1774 engraving of Spanish Town's colonial offices
The Spanish settlement of Villa de la Vega was founded by governor Francisco de Garay in 1534 as the capital of the colony. Later, it was also called Santiago de la Vega or St. Jago de la Vega. Indigenous Taino had been living in the area for approximately a millennium before this, but this was the first European habitation on the south of the island. When the English conquered Jamaica in 1655, they renamed the capital Spanish Town. Since the town was badly damaged during the conquest, Port Royalmarker took on many administrative roles and functioned as an unofficial capital during the beginning of the English reign. By the time Port Royal was decimated by an earthquake in 1692, Spanish Town had been rebuilt and was again functioning as the capital.

Spanish Town remained as the capital until 1872, when the seat of the colony was moved to Kingstonmarker. Kingston had been founded in the aftermath of the earthquake of Port Royalmarker in 1692.

By 1755, serious rivalry from lobbyists caused increasing speculation about the continued suitability of Spanish Town as the capital. By 1836, Governor Lionel Smith observed that "the capital was in ruins, with no commercial, manufacturing and agricultural concern in operation". To worsen the situation on the heels of The Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, Sir John Peter Grant ordered the removal of the capital to Kingston (1872) which, with its spectacular harbors and major trade links had come to be considered the natural capital of the island. After the capital was removed Spanish Town lost much of its life and grandeur.

Points of interest

The centre of the town boasts a few Regency buildings, including the Rodney Memorial and the façade of Old King's House, the residence of the governors until 1872.

The history of Spanish Town lives on in the remains of the old buildings in its street names that mark it as the start of Jamaica's overall history. Reminders of Spanish Jamaica include Red Church and White Church Streets, symbolic of the Spanish chapels of the red and white cross, as well as Monk Street, in reference to the monastery that once stood nearby. Nugent Street and Manchester Street were named for British Colonial Governors, George Nugent and William Montagu, 5th Duke of Manchester. King Street received its name because it runs past King's House and Constitution Street, near to the Square, it also refers to the fact that the island's administrative centre used to be located there.

Built on the West Bank of the Rio Cobre the town lies thirteen miles from Kingston on the main road. As a site of historical importance, its history was shaped by its experiences within two significant colonial periods. These periods are the Spanish from 1534 -1655 and the English from 1655 -1782.

Present Day

St. Jago de la Vega Cathedral.
The population of Spanish Town nowadays is 160,000 (2009 population estimate). The population of Spanish Town, like the rest of the St. Catherine has been growing rapidly.

Today, Spanish Town is sometimes referred to colloquially as "Spain Town" or "Prison Oval" within Jamaica. The latter nickname is a reference to the cricket pitch or oval located just outside the St. Catherine District Prison where some inmates can get a limited view of the sport through their cell windows. Association football is also played at the Prison Ovalmarker; Rivoli United F.C. is the major team.

Spanish Town boasts the oldest iron bridge of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, which was erected in 1801 at a cost of £4,000.. It also had one of the first Spanish Cathedrals to be established in the new world. This was built around 1525. Many Christian denominations have churches or meeting halls in the town including a Roman Catholic Church and Wesleyan, Baptist and Seventh-Day Adventist chapels. There is also a Mosque.

In the town standing untouched in character is an historic alms-house and a public hospital and a maximum penal institution built in the eighteenth century. There is in the town itself a factory where dyes are made from logwood, (the grandfather of the author of this webpage, Rosemarie Greene, worked as the factory’s timekeeper all his life, and was the minister of the “Life Line Mission” in Spanish Town on French Street, where the store “Anderson’s Store now stands), and a rice processing plant. In the neighborhood are five large sugar estates, a milk condensary and a large textile mill.



Spanish Town is on the main A1 (Kingstonmarker to Lucea) and A2 (Spanish Town to Savanna-la-Marmarker) roads.

It is well served by buses, mini buses and taxis, which operate from the Spanish Town Transport Hub.


The now disused Spanish Town railway stationmarker formerly provided access to four lines:

The station opened in 1845 and closed in October 1992 when all passenger traffic on Jamaica's railways abruptly ceased.

Notable incidents

In popular culture

External links




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