The town of Port Royal is today part of the parish of Kingston and is served by the same parochial body. But, it was Port Royal and not Kingston that originally held the interest of the world. Port Royal was the headquarters of the English buccaneers, those “colourful criminals” of whom so much has been written.
The buccaneers harassed Spanish ships and were covertly encouraged by the British to do so. Henry Morgan, the most famous rascal of them all, after giving up his reckless ways, was knighted and appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica.
Port Royal became wealthy from the goods plundered from the Spanish and soon became known as the “wickedest” city in the world because of the riotous life of the town’s inhabitants.
In 1692, an earthquake and tidal wave destroyed two-thirds of Port Royal. The surviving residents of the ill-fated buccaneer haunt fled across the water to the first piece of land they could get their feet on – Colonel Barry’s Hog Crawle, a place where pigs were kept – the site of the present city of Kingston.
Some time later the “migrants” sailed back across the harbour to Port Royal.
In 1703, a fire in Port Royal destroyed most of those buildings that the earthquake had spared, as well as several of those buildings that had been restored. Port Royal residents migrated once more, across the harbour, most never to return. And so, out of Port Royal’s demise, Kingston found its genesis.
At the time of the 1692 earthquake, since Jamaica had no Governor, an Advisory Council decided to buy about 200 acres of the Crawle to establish a new town.
The new town was bounded on the south by Harbour Street. East, West and North Street defined the remainder of Kingston and in later centuries these borders would extend in all directions. The original grid pattern of Kingston, remains the same today except for a few additions. The streets were named after those men who were councilors at the time when the town was founded.
Kingston developed at a phenomenal rate and soon became the centre of trade and commerce in the island. The population of Kingston grew to such an extent that it spilled over in the north into St. Andrew.
Wealthy residents of Kingston began buying old “pens” in St. Andrew. “Pen” originally referred to a farm where livestock was kept, and until recently, many areas in St. Andrew were still called pens. “Pen” soon came to be considered a derogatory term for places where people lived and many of these pens were renamed “gardens”.
As the town grew, so did its waterfront, and the amount of traffic through the port in Kingston was 22 per cent more than all other ports in the island combined. Kingston, because of its location, also benefited from the trade in contraband with Spain’s recalcitrant colonies in the Caribbean.
One historian pointed out that Kingston possessed “beauty, safety and wealth, order, plenty public amusements and commercial occupations that augured well for its future as a potential capital for Jamaica.
Somewhere around the mid-eighteenth century, the Governor of Jamaica, Admiral Charles Knowles, sought to have the capital city of Jamaica removed from Spanish Town to Kingston. This led to a great deal of wrangling in the House of Parliament as it was felt that Kingston, being only fifty years old at that time, could never succeed Spanish Town as a suitable capital. Spanish Town had been the capital of Jamaica for 230 years.
Admiral Knowles’ proposal met with strong support from the Members from Kingston and other eastern parishes, and a harsh and vigorous opposition from Members from Spanish Town and the western parishes.
Admiral Knowles ensured that the Bill to make Kingston the capital city was passed, and hastily sent off to Britain for it to be made Law. The Governor was so confident that the Bill would be passed in Britain that he had the island’s archives and the Superior Courts packed off to Kingston from Spanish Town. Knowles then demitted office as Governor, confidant that Kingston was now the new capital city of Jamaica.
Knowles’ successor, Henry Moore, announced on October 3, 1758, that the King had not allowed the Bill making Kingston the capital city of Jamaica. Kingston’s brief reign as Capital City was brought to an abrupt end. The pillars of government were consequently returned to the cobbled streets of Spanish Town. On the day of their return Spanish Town took on a carnival-like atmosphere, rubbing salt into the wounded pride of the Assemblymen from Kingston.
KINGSTON – CAPITAL OF JAMAICA
Over a hundred years passed after Admiral Knowles’ attempt to remove the capital of Jamaica to Kingston when, in 1865, Governor Sir John Peter Grant was assigned the awesome task of re-organising Jamaica after a period of civil upheaval which had resulted in the Morant Bay Rebellion. In this uprising, citizens from St. Thomas marched on the courthouse in Morant Bay to protest, among other things, the unjust arrest of some of their colleagues.
History records Sir John Peter Grant as making the most radical changes in the administration of Jamaica. It was under his governorship that Jamaica underwent the transformation from self-rule to Crown-Colony government. The island’s recalcitrant Assembly was abolished and replaced by a Legislative Council under the direction of the Governor. It was at that time that the twenty parishes in the island were reduced to fourteen, parochial boards were set up to run local government affairs, and the police force modernised. The Institute of Jamaica was established and would, in later years, become a storehouse on the island’s literature, art, science and botany. Grant encouraged the cultivation of botanical gardens and it was during his time that many of these gardens were first laid out.
Part of John Peter Grant’s re-organisation of the island included the relocation of the capital from Spanish Town to Kingston. The city of Kingston continued to grow and spread beyond its borders in to the surrounding parish of St. Andrew.
St. Andrew was one of the first parishes to be established by Law in 1867, having been known prior to that time as Liguanea. “Liguanea” is one of the few surviving Taino words. Presumably, it stems from the word “iguana” meaning lizard.
St. Andrew stretches from Cross Roads to Rockfort in the east, and reaches up into the Blue Mountains, sharing borders with St. Thomas, Portland, St. Mary and St. Catherine. The whole area of land on which Kingston and St. Andrew are sited is composed of a mixture of sands, loam, gravel and clay, and is known as the Liguanea Plains. In 1923, Kingston and St. Andrew were amalgamated to create the Corporate Area of Kingston and St. Andrew.
Kingston is reckoned as one of the fourteen parishes while also being the capital of Jamaica.
It occupies an area of less than 22.0 sq. km (8.5 sq. miles), while St. Andrew is sited on a total of 430.7 sq. km (166.3 sq. km (166.3 sq. miles). Together, Kingston and St. Andrew occupy a total of 452.4 sq. km (174.7sq. miles). Although Kingston is the smallest parish, it is also the most densely populated of Jamaica’s fourteen parishes. Together with St. Andrew, it has a population of 669,500 (ESSJ 2011).
The two parishes, now commonly referred to by Jamaicans as the Corporate Area, are still administered by one parochial board, the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC).
This “Corporate Area” is divided into 15 political constituencies that are subdivided further into Parish Council divisions. The KSAC (along with various departments and agencies of Central Government and their various contractors) provides Kingston and St. Andrew with the general services that it needs e.g. road repair, garbage collection, maintenance of public facilities, etc.
Since Independence, there has been a major thrust by government and private sector interests alike to redeem the “Old City” from the harsh effects of urbanization. The first step in this revitalization was the construction of a new commercial and shipping area known as Newport West, on reclaimed lands west of the original layout of Kingston. A new waterfront highway Ocean Boulevard, along with a new complex of shops, office buildings and apartments, were also constructed downtown.
Kingston is, naturally, the seat of the administration of Justice. The Supreme Court is to be found on Sutton Street in the heart of the city. Police stations are situated at central spots through the Corporate Area, and here, as throughout the island, the services of the police may be accessed through a central Radio Operation Centre that can be contacted by telephoning 119.
The KSAC Act, and various Laws and Regulations define the duties and powers of the KSAC. The ‘Act’, ‘Laws’ and ‘Regulations’ have been revised from time to time. Special laws define some of the major responsibilities of the KSAC, such as Poor Relief Services and Public Health.
Laws Affecting the Operations of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation:
- The Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation Act
- The Kingston & St. Andrew (Abandoned Cemeteries) Act
- The Kingston & St. Andrew Building Act
- The Kingston & St. Andrew Fire Brigade Act
- The Kingston & St. Andrew Water Supply Act
- The Kingston Cemetery Act
- The Kingston Improvements Act
- The Kingston Public Gardens Act
- The Kingston Local Improvements Act
- The Land Clauses Act
- The Local Improvements Act
- The Local Improvements (Community Amenities)Act, 1977
- The Burial Within Town’s Limit Act
- The Cremation Act
- The Juveniles Act
- The Parishes Water Supply Act
- The Parochial Roads Act
- The Pensions (Parochial Officers) Act
- The Poor Relief Act
- The Port Royal Brotherhood Act
- The Keeping of Animals Act 1979
- The Pound Act
- The Provident Fund Act
- The Public Gardens Regulation Act
- The Public Health Act
- The Registration (Strata Titles) Act
- The Registration of Titles Act
- The Restrictive Covenants (Discharge & Modification) Act
- The Road Traffic Act
- The Towns and Communities Act
- The Town Nuisances Prevention Act
- The Jamaica Library Service Act
- The Municipal Service Commission Act
- The King George VI Memorial Park Act
- The Town & Country Planning Act
- The Urban Development Act
- The Housing Act
- The Loans ( Local Authorities) Act
- The Quarries Act
- The Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act
- The Holiday With Pay Act
The Council, comprising the elected representatives of the inhabitants of the Corporate Area of Kingston & St. Andrew is the primary policy-making body. Committees are appointed by the Council in accordance with Section 118 of the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation Act to carry out certain delegated responsibilities. Each of the services mentioned hereunder fall within the ambit of one of these Committees of the Council.
Construction of new roads, improvement and maintenance of existing road, drains culverts, bridges, street naming and house numbering. (Responsibilities for Road maintenance transferred to Ministry of Construction Works 1985.)
Initiation of preventative measures against the spread of disease and epidemic carried out by:-
Public Health Medical Officers
Public Health Inspectors
The Council of the Corporation is the Local Board of Health under the Public Health Law.
(Responsibilities transferred to Ministry of Health 1985.)
Indoor Relief: Eventide Home
Outdoor Relief: Poor Dole
(Responsibilities transfered to Ministry of Welfare 1989. Returned to K.S.A.C. April 1989.)
Collection and disposal of garbage;
Cleaning of streets and drains;
(Duties being performed by Metropolitan Parks and Markets – 1985.)
Road traffic movement;
Traffic enforcement carried out by means of Traffic Wardens
Installation & Repair of Street Lights
TOWN PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT
Matters re. subdivision of private property, building operations, demolition of dangerous buildings, etc.
PARKS & CEMETERIES
(Leased to Ward Theatre Foundation 1987)
MUNICIPAL POLICE (SPECIAL D/Cs)
Regulating and Licensing Places of Amusement;
Regulating and Licensing Barbers and Hairdressers;
Regulating and Licensing Beauty Salons and Barbershops;
Regulating and Licensing Signs and Billboards;
Regulating and Licensing Butchers;