image courtesy of Boston Public Library | Licence: Public Domain
image courtesy of Boston Public Library | Licence: Public Domain

Montego Bay, from Reading Hill

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From the Collection


From 'A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica' by James Hakewill (1778-1843).

THIS view of Montego Bay is taken from Reading Hill, over which the King’s Road to Westmoreland passes. Immediately below the eye are the buildings on Mr. Scott’s wharf, rented by Mr. Home, between which and the town of Montego Bay the sea is dotted with the Islands which form a part of the Bogue estate. They are entirely unproductive, although the largest contains fifty acres, and has a spring of fresh water. Behind is the town, seated on a bay, which for beauty of form may vie with the most remarkable.

The first ship and house built at Montego Bay was about the year 1748; it was made a port of entry and clearance in 1758, and a free port at near the same time; and in 1815 the Courts of Law were removed thither from Savannah le Mar.

In 1759, by an Act of the Legislature, the Close Harbour Company was formed, and made a corporation and body politic. The swell, which arises from the action of the north-west winds on the gulph stream on the coast of America, is thrown back, and occasions the re-action of the sea upon the Bay of Mexico; from thence it is thrown on to the Islands, and of course into this harbour. It often comes after the wind has long ceased, and upon several occasions every vessel riding in Montego Bay has been thrown on shore. To guard, as far as human foresight was able, against the recurrence of similar accidents, a company of gentlemen, actuated by their feelings of humanity and patriotism, first formed a fund of £15,000 by shares of £100 each, for building a breakwater, a sort of mole, behind which the vessels might lay in security; but, beyond this sum, above £45,000 has at various times been expended upon the work, which is built in twenty-four feet water; the base is 120, and the upper part eighty broad.

This was the first company formed in the West Indies for the execution of any public undertaking. The holders get a return of from six to ten per cent. on their original shares, derived from a tax upon shipping granted at the time of their incorporation; but nothing for the sum laid out beyond the original subscription. The Close Harbour is calculated to hold thirty ships, and a vessel of 800 tons has loaded in it.
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Montego Bay, Saint James Parish, Jamaica