Falmouth, Jamaica

Coordinates: 18°29′24″N 77°39′40″W / 18.490°N 77.661°W / 18.490; -77.661
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Historic Town
Falmouth is located in Jamaica
Coordinates: 18°29′24″N 77°39′40″W / 18.490°N 77.661°W / 18.490; -77.661
Founded byDon Rafael Matas
Named forFalmouth, Cornwall, England

Falmouth (Jamaican Patois: Falmot) is the chief town and capital of the parish of Trelawny in Jamaica. It is situated on Jamaica's north coast 29 km (18 miles) east of Montego Bay. It is noted for being one of the Caribbean's best-preserved Georgian towns.

The town was meticulously planned from the start, with wide streets in a regular grid, adequate water supply, and glorious public buildings. It had piped water earlier than New York City.


Founded by Thomas Reid in 1769, Falmouth flourished as a market centre and port for forty years at a time when Jamaica was the world's leading sugar producer.[1] It was named after the town of the same name in Cornwall, which was the birthplace of governor of Jamaica Sir William Trelawny, who was instrumental in its establishment. Falmouth was built upon the coast of Trelawny at a place previously known as Martha Brae Point. In 1774, there was only one dwelling in the port of Falmouth, and by 1781 there were only between 8-10 houses there. However, by 1793 the port had expanded rapidly to the point where there were over 150 dwellings there.[2]

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Falmouth was one of the busiest ports in colonial Jamaica. It was home to masons, carpenters, tavern keepers, sailors, planters and people of other occupations. It was a wealthy town in a prosperous parish with a diverse ethnic mixture. Within the parish, nearly one hundred plantations were continuously producing sugar and rum for export to Europe. Jamaica, during this period, had become the world's leading sugar producer.[citation needed]

All the above made Falmouth a central hub of the triangular trade in the Atlantic, with the town's economy based almost entirely on slavery. In Falmouth Harbour, as many as 30 merchant ships could be seen on any given day, many of them Guineamen transporting slaves from Africa or rum and sugar manufacture produced on nearby plantations for export to Europe as part of the triangular trade.[citation needed]

As a result, starting in 1840, Falmouth's fortunes as a commercial centre declined after the passage of the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act. This decline, and lack of support for development, have left many of its early buildings standing. The streets are lined with many small houses known for their unique fretwork and windows, major merchant and planter complexes, and commercial buildings, all dating from 1790 to 1840.[citation needed]

Falmouth in the 1840s by Adolphe Duperly

While Falmouth saw little commercial advancement after the 1840s, houses continued to be built. The town's buildings, the old and the not-so-old, make up the historic townscape of Falmouth. These shared characteristics weave the varied building styles into a distinctive pattern of early Jamaican architecture, and a critical mass of each variety makes the town an unusually distinctive place.[citation needed]

Places of interest include the Albert George Shopping and Historical Centre, dating from 1895; the former residences of planters John Tharp and Edward Barrett; and the St Peter's Anglican Church, built in 1795.[citation needed]

Infrastructural development[edit]

A new $180 million port was built to accommodate the newest and largest cruise ships, including Royal Caribbean International's Oasis class. The port opened in early 2011[3]

Falmouth was the site of the opening ceremony for the ICC 2007 Cricket World Cup. The ceremony was held in the newly constructed Greenfield Stadium about 5 km (3 miles) from the town centre.[4]

Plaza in Falmouth, photo taken from the cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas

Notable people[edit]

The following Falmouth natives have had a significant impact on the cultural or socio-political landscape of Jamaica:

Historic architecture[edit]

Falmouth has a number of interesting historic buildings in the Jamaican Georgian architectural style which are in need of preservation and restoration. One organization that has taken an interest in this work is Falmouth Heritage Renewal (falmouthjamaica.org), a United States-based non-profit organization.[5]

Buildings of note include:

  • Falmouth Court House
  • St Peter's Anglican Church is one of the oldest in Jamaica.[6] Its supporting columns are of solid mahogany and its floor is inlaid with crosses of mahoe and mahogany.
  • Falmouth All-Age School is housed in a former army barracks, Fort Balcarres.[7]
  • Greenwood Great House (which once belonged to the Barretts of Wimpole Street, London) now houses the largest collection of rare musical instruments in the island.[8]
  • Falmouth Post Office which is located on Market Street. It is in need of repair, but is still a functioning building from the Georgian era. A number of old colonial buildings on Market Street are from this period, however, they have not been kept in good condition throughout the years and are generally in a state of decay.

The Glistening Waters[edit]

The Glistening Waters is located in Falmouth's Luminous Lagoon, where the Martha Brae River and the waters of the Caribbean Sea meet. The mixture of these two bodies of water create bioluminescence micro-organisms that when disturbed at night glow brightly. The Glistening Waters is only one of four such locations in the world and the only location where the luminary reaction can be seen 365 days of the year regardless of the temperature or the weather.


  1. ^ "Falmouth, Jamaica". royalcaribbean.com.
  2. ^ Journals of the Assembly of Jamaica, Vol. 9, 29 November 1793, p. 243.
  3. ^ "New Jamaica port open for business - Gadling". Gadling. 24 March 2011.
  4. ^ Hines, Horace (11 March 2007). "Falmouth gets its chance today". Jamaica Observer. Archived from the original on 14 March 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Falmouth Heritage Renewal". Archived from the original on 29 March 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  6. ^ Church in profile St Peter's Church
  7. ^ Riding to Barracks with Hugh Shearer
  8. ^ "Greenwood Great House".

Further reading[edit]

  • Boom Town of the 19th Century [1] By Dr. Rebecca Tortello.

External links[edit]

Falmouth, Jamaica at Curlie