Kristin Rourke, with Brian Cofrancesco and Edward Chappell
Now known as the Baptist Manse, the building on the corner of Market and Trelawny Streets was built as a Masonic Temple in 1798. The Athol Union Masonic Lodge of the Scottish Constitution formed in that year and arranged for the construction of one of the first Masonic halls in Jamaica. Records from October 8, 1798 indicate that the Lodge was meeting in the Court House, then at the corner of Market and Duke Streets, while their building was under construction:
…the Right Worshipful Master and Wardens and brethren of Lodge No. II … have the use of the Court House for their meetings on their agreeing to make good any injury that the building may sustain in consequence of their Lodge being held therein.” 1
The four corner stones of their own lodge building were laid in an elaborate ceremony with Scottish and English Masons present in great regalia. The corner stones were placed east to west, symbolizing the Masonic belief in the movement of wisdom from the East to the West. According to Free Masons, details on the interior and exterior reflect the order’s teachings and techniques, although they are unrecognizable to the uninitiated. When completed, the Masons met on the second story and used the first floor as a dining hall. In 1832, the Athol Union Lodge, deeply in debt, was forced to foreclose on the property and relocate to another building two blocks down Trelawny Street. The temple was auctioned to the local Baptist church to settle Lodge’s debt.2 It is likely that this house served as a Manse for the great advocate for Emancipation, William Knibb, while he served as the pastor of Falmouth’s Baptist church.
The building façade is symmetrical with rusticated quoins at the corners, grounded by a projecting water table. The windows are surrounded by projecting frames surmounted by keystones, an ashlar belt course separates the first and second stories, and an early classical cornice appears on the porch pediment. Two hipped roofs of differing sizes interrupt the building’s classical symmetry; a large hip spans the two left bays, and a smaller hip covers the right bay. It is likely that the larger roof covered the main meeting space upstairs, while the smaller roof covered space with an unknown original use. Curious are the six-over-six windows surmounted by pointed arches of six panes on the second floor, an early Gothic element. Gothic windows might have been used to emphasize the mystical and exotic nature of the Masonic meetings held on the second floor. Gothic architecture was not common in the Caribbean at the end of the eighteenth century, and so the incorporation of these windows, along with the very early use of cut stone, makes the Baptist Manse an unusual building in Falmouth.
The interiors of the Baptist Manse have been altered significantly. The downstairs is now one open space with entrances in the center of the front and back of the room; at one time, a partition wall may have divided the space following the spatial divisions suggested by the two hipped roofs. The original staircase is in the northwest corner of the building. There is evidence of framing members, flooring, and wall plaster on the first floor, and the only original doors are the three-panel cedar doors on the front of the building.
Behind the Manse is an ancillary building, which was likely a kitchen, workspace, or worker’s quarters. In the 1970s, the building was expanded and converted from two rooms to a single undivided space. The outbuilding features some of the same cut-stone as the main structure, but with a rougher treatment of the masonry, suggesting that it was built along with the temple and intended as a more utilitarian space. The building has had many 19th and 20th century alterations including addition and removal of a chimney on the long south wall. This building, along with the main house, was stuccoed at some point.3
Falmouth Heritage Renewal began rehabilitating the structure in October 2002. In the years since, framing members on the ends of the structure, the hipped roof, and the north wall have been replaced. New walls and partitions have been built on the second floor, two windows from a demolished structure on Rodney Street near Park Lane have been installed, and the water table and walls surrounding the property have been restuccoed. Falmouth Heritage Renewal leased the building in 2004 from the William Knibb Trust, and currently uses the downstairs as their restoration workshop, while the upstairs houses visiting scholars.
1 Ogilvie, Daniel L. History of the Parish of Trelawny (private publication: Falmouth, Jamaica: 1954) chapter 5. Accessed 13 October 2010 from Ogilvie, Daniel L. History of the Parish of Trelawny (private publication: Falmouth, Jamaica: 1954) chapter 5. Accessed 13 October 2010 from http://jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Samples/histre05.htm
2 Ogilvie, Daniel L. History of the Parish of Trelawny (private publication: Falmouth, Jamaica: 1954) chapter 5. Accessed 13 October 2010 from Ogilvie, Daniel L. History of the Parish of Trelawny (private publication: Falmouth, Jamaica: 1954) chapter 5. Accessed 13 October 2010 from http://jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Samples/histre05.htm
3 Notes on the ancillary building from Edward Chappell unpublished building description: Baptist Manse - Rear Building, Market Street, Falmouth, Jamaica, August 22, 2002