THE PARISH HISTORIES OF JAMAICA PROJECT
A HISTORY OF KINGSTON
BY DR JENNY JEMMOTT
Located on the south-eastern coast of Jamaica, Kingston is the smallest of Jamaica’s fourteen parishes. It overlooks the fine, natural harbour known as Kingston Harbour and commands a spectacular view of the majestic Blue Mountains away to the distant north of the parish. Kingston was the name given to both the town that came into existence in 1692 and to the parish of which the town was a part. Throughout its history, Kingston developed from a small town into an ever-expanding city, becoming the permanent capital of Jamaica in 1872. Although the smallest parish, Kingston is today, the most densely populated and is seen as the hub and heartbeat of the nation.
Kingston Harbour with a View of Kingston and the Blue Mountains in the Background Photo Courtesy of the JN Foundation
Writing a History of Kingston raised the issue of defining the parish as a geographical space which is separate from the neighbouring parish of St Andrew. The issue of where Kingston began and ended was not always easily resolved. This challenge arose mainly because from the twentieth century onwards, the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew have been increasingly treated as one general area known variously as the Corporate Area, Kingston and St Andrew and the Greater Kingston Metropolitan Area. Indeed, when most people refer to Kingston, they also include areas which are really in the lower parts of St Andrew. One only has to glance at Google’s Map of Kingston to see this. On this map, the name “Kingston” is applied to a much larger territory, much of it being outside of the official boundaries of Kingston Parish and belonging to the parish of St Andrew.
This blurring between the two parishes became quite pronounced in the twentieth century, when for administrative purposes, the local government bodies of the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew were merged in 1923 to form the unit known as the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC).
Also, over time, Kingston’s population increased and people established their homes in the area to the north, west and east of the original parish of Kingston. These newer residential areas (suburbs) were still regarded as Kingston in the public’s eyes even though by strict boundary lines, they were really a part of St Andrew. (The boundaries of Kingston Parish will be fully discussed in a later section). Therefore, for many, it became the acceptable practice to use the name Kingston to describe the residential overflow of the parish of Kingston into the adjoining parish of St Andrew, further blurring the separateness of Kingston from St Andrew.