Falmouth Field Guide

Unity Church

Now part of the denomination of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, the United Church historically was the Falmouth home of the Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and the Congregational Church in Jamaica combined to form the United Church in 1965; the Disciples of Christ in Jamaica joined in 1992.1 Originally called St. Andrews Kirk or the Scots Kirk, the building was completed in 1834.

A group of seven Scottish immigrants to Jamaica formed a committee to establish the church and purchased the lot in 1830 for £300 from the Vestry of Trelawny Parish. The Vestry of the Parish acquired the land from the executors of Edward Barrett in 1808 and held it for twenty two years. One of the church elders was a saddle maker named Alexander Simpson. He bought a lot in Falmouth from Samuel Barrett Moulton Barrett in 1812, paying £70 for a 50 foot x 120 foot lot on the corner of George Street and Princess Street. Simpson’s grave remains visible in the churchyard.

Money for the church’s construction must have been tight. The Parish Vestry gave a grant of £700 for the building’s completion in 1832. The Vestry gave the Committee of St. Andrew’s Kirk another donation of £300 for the minister in 1834, and another £300 in aid to the church in 1836. Members of St. Andrew’s Kirk asked for an additional grant to help satisfy the church’s debt in 1838, but the Vestry determined that it could no longer legally use public funds to support religious institutions.

The church occupies an entire city block, facing Rodney Street, and bounded by Princess, Lower Harbour, and Newton Street, a location that has been called one of the coolest in the city. In keeping with the denomination’s Calvinist history, and partially because of limited finances, the church is a relatively austere red brick box with little architectural detailing, although the original pews were boxed in with doors.

When built, the primary entrance, a double door topped by a fanlight from the 1834 phase of construction, was the center bay of the north façade, facing the ocean, flanked by vertical four-panel, six-light windows that open on a pivot through the muntins, topped by a fanlight. Of the fourteen windows lighting the building, seven appear to have their 1834 fanlights intact. The remaining seven were replaced in the twentieth century. Along the western façade, four of the five windows have original window shutters, with later repairs. A door was cut into one of the windows on the eastern façade after the original construction phase; this is now the main access point into the church.

The bell tower, incorporated into the porch that shelters the door on the north façade, is supported by four thin cast iron columns. These were originally used in the interior of the church, to support a gallery with additional seating and the roofing system.

1 Ogilvie, Daniel L. History of the Parish of Trelawny (private publication: Falmouth, Jamaica: 1954) chapter 11. 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