St. Peter's Anglican Church
Although the British took control of Jamaica in 1655 and brought the religious traditions of the Church of England, Falmouth did not have an Anglican Church until the 1790’s. Construction of a church had been under consideration for decades, and wealthy landowner Edward Barrett designated half an acre in the center of his property – known as “Palmetto Point Pen” – for a church as early as 1771. On March 14, 1791, the Justices and Vestry of Trelawny Parish met at Martha Brae – the parish seat at the time – and decided that a “National Church” should be built in Falmouth on the land allocated by Barrett. John Tharpe, who owned Tharpe’s Wharf, a townhouse, and Good Hope Plantation, gave the rest of the parcel occupied by the Anglican Church and churchyard in 1794.1 The contract for the church and the sum of £9,000 were awarded to William Danny in 1791. Danny’s requirements were a church with walls three feet thick and twenty feet high, with accommodations for three hundred people, and using the best white limestone available. Danny was to complete the church in eighteen months. The church was finally completed in 1796, with the exception of four interior column capitals, which were installed soon after September 1800.2
The original contract and church specifications did not include plans for a clock tower and on June 29, 1796, the church wardens were charged with seeking someone to “erect a sufficient Belfry for suspending the Town Bell and Clock and pay the expenses thereof.” Within the year, a sixty-foot tower was constructed and three bells along with an eight-day, three-dialed clock were installed. Two years later, in 1798, Messrs. Burmingham and Robertson were paid £750 to build a dome or cupola atop the belfry to protect the clock tower and clock devices from the rain.3
Nearly forty years later, in 1837, a font was given to the church, a gift which marks the beginning of a period of renovations and construction. Calls for a new organ began in January 1839, increasing in 1840 when the Organ Committee deemed the instrument “unfit for any place of worship.”4 They recommended the purchase of a new organ, and the old one to be fixed and sent to Swanswick Church in Clark’s Town. Apparently, with some attention, the organ would be fine at a smaller parish. The year 1841 brought discussions about expanding the church and a period of substantial building changes. The most significant change was a sizable addition to the structure. James Gerard won the contract for construction, bid at £1,570 sterling, with an additional £1,300 sterling for his masonry. Work was nearly complete by April 1842, and by January of the following year, only decorations and steps needed to be finished. The addition stretched westward, into the burying ground, built atop the graves of those already interred; in the 1950s, Daniel Ogilvie stated that these gravestones remained visible beneath the addition. In early 1845, Rev. Griffith Griffiths, Rector, requested the repositioning of the pulpit and reading desk inside the church, citing bad lighting and exposure to excessive heat as his primary complaints, and the addition of the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and Decalogue on imported wooden panels above the altar. Soon after, the clock tower was heightened to allow the clock to run for eight days, and in 1848, the cupola was sheathed in sheet lead and repaired. In 1866 the Church was disestablished and public funds could not be used for the maintenance of Anglican churches in Jamaica, perhaps the reason for no further changes to the church (with the exception of modifications to the cupola).5
Today, St. Peter’s parishioners enter on the longitudinal side of church, pass through an entrance vestibule, and arrive in the nave with the altar to the left. Four columns enclose a square space centered in the nave, two of which are the originals made of wood, stipulated in the contract with William Danny in September 1800, and two of which are replacement masonry. Much of the interior has remained untouched since the mid-nineteenth-century additions, and the ceiling cornice, font, pulpit, pews, and “Bible Table” are original. The clock in the tower is original with intact gears and parts but is no longer functional.
The exterior of the church is Georgian in appearance, an early example of the architectural tradition apparent across Falmouth. The façade of the church is bilaterally symmetrical with a clear distinction of volumes and the use of classical quoins to distinguish building corners. String courses on the exterior denote the height of the interior space, and a parapet tops the roof of the nave, hiding the shallow gabled roof from view. A wooden balustrade surrounds the conical cupola on the clock tower. The main entrance and tower are centered on the structure and emphasized by a slight protrusion of the central bay.
St. Peter’s Church is a well-preserved artifact from early Falmouth. With much of the original fabric intact, it is and an outstanding example of monumental construction in Trelawny Parish and Anglican church-building practices in colonial Jamaica.
1 John Tharpe to the Anglican Church, 1 August 1794, Deeds, Island Record Office volume 424 folio 170
2 Ogilvie, Daniel L. History of the Parish of Trelawny (private publication: Falmouth, Jamaica: 1954) chapter 6. Accessed 18 October 2010 from http://www.jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Samples/histre06.htm
3 Ogilvie, Daniel L. History of the Parish of Trelawny (private publication: Falmouth, Jamaica: 1954) chapter 6. Accessed 18 October 2010 from http://www.jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Samples/histre06.htm
4 Ogilvie, Daniel L. History of the Parish of Trelawny (private publication: Falmouth, Jamaica: 1954) chapter 6. Accessed 18 October 2010 from http://www.jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Samples/histre06.htm
5Ogilvie, Daniel L. History of the Parish of Trelawny (private publication: Falmouth, Jamaica: 1954) chapter 6. Accessed 18 October 2010 from http://www.jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Samples/histre06.htm