During the nineteenth century, the parish was an area of sugar cane plantations, with a majority of black peasants after the abolition of slavery. The Morant Bay Rebellion started on October 11, 1865, with a march by hundreds of peasants from the parish to the court house to protest poor conditions in the parish. After seven men were shot and killed by volunteer militia, the peasants burned the court house and other nearby buildings; a total of 25 people died on both sides in this confrontation.
Over the next two days, hundreds of black peasants took control throughout the parish. The governor ordered troops to arrest and suppress the rebels; they killed more than 400 persons outright and arrested more than 300, in both cases including many innocent people. Many of those arrested were executed, flogged or sentenced to long terms. This was the only major peasant revolt (as distinguished from slave rebellions and worker uprisings), in Jamaican history. The court house was rebuilt. It stood until 2007, when it was burned down. Court functions were held in other facilities before a new court house was completed and opened in 2014.
Opposite the court house is a memorial garden for the Jamaican soldiers who lost their lives during World War 1. At the centre of the gardens, a monument has been erected in their honour.
Behind the court house is a small park containing the ruins of the Morant Bay Fort. The fort dates from 1758 and was designed to hold nine guns. Three cannons remain there today. During an excavation behind the court house in 1973 in the park, the bodies of 79 people were discovered. They are believed to have been killed during the 1865 rebellion. Their remains were reinterred in a mass grave in the park. A plaque was installed to commemorate their lives.
The Morant Bay Rebellion began as a protest outside the court house. It was destroyed by fire during the rebellion but was rebuilt afterwards. This historic court house was destroyed by fire in 2007. A statue of Paul Bogle, sculpted by Edna Manley (wife of Norman Manley and mother of Michael Manley), had been installed outside the court house, but it was put into storage after the 2007 fire.
A new court house was completed and opened in August 2014. "The 9,013 square-foot building includes two courtrooms with jury boxes, two judges’ chambers, a registry, clerk’s office, jury room, witness room, lunch room, sick bay, holding area with police post, public sanitary facilities, and a 40 feet container for storage of files and accommodation for the bailiff."
Located to the West of the Court House. It was constructed in 1865 to replace another church which previously occupied the site.
- Clinton Hutton, "Review: 'The Killing Time': The Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica by GAD Heuman, Social and Economic Studies Vol. 44, No. 1 (MARCH 1995), pp. 191-205, via JSTOR; accessed 13 July 2016
- "Justice Minister hands over new Morant Bay courthouse", Jamaica Observer, 3 August 2014; accessed 13 July 2016