Castle of dreams
Old Harbour farmers look forward to fulfillment of vision for Colbeck site
The proposed rehabili-tation of Colbeck Castle in Old Harbour, St Catherine, is highly anticipated by the locals of the Colbeck District. They hope that it will help to improve the area’s aesthetics, attract tourists, and provide an opportunity for revenue generation in the community.
In an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, local farmers Stacy Leslie and Hermine Lewis, who reside in the vicinity of the castle, said they were disappointed with the structure’s present state of deterioration and looked forward to seeing it restored to its former splendour.
Though they regret not having seen any work done to the site yet, they have long heard about this proposal.
The restoration of the historic site, which has stood the test of time for more than 340 years, was requested by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in 2017 when he urged the National Housing Trust (NHT) and the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) to collaborate to make it a reality during his remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Villages of Colbeck Castle phases one and two housing developments.
The concept is that the castle and its grounds will be transformed into a heritage park and will become an ideal family-friendly destination, especially with the various housing projects under development by the NHT and private developers nearby, bringing together more people in the area.
The vision calls for the construction of restrooms for visitors to the location, the installation of perimeter fencing, security posts, parking, storyboards with facts about the site, seating, and additional trees and flowers to add beauty and provide shade.
Leslie stated that newlyweds would frequently come from far and wide, as well as both in and just outside of the community, to capture their wedding photographs at the location due to the enticing appearance of the 40-foot-tall, stone and brick, four-storey ruins of the castle.
Chiming in, Lewis expressed her desire to see a museum established on the grounds as well as concession stands for residents to use by selling food items to the anticipated swarms of youngsters who would, undoubtedly, visit on weekends and holidays, similar to the setup of Devon House, an 11-acre historical property in St Andrew
As it is now, the building is devoid of a roof, windows, and flooring. Sections of the walls are prone to collapse, and other areas of the castle are infested with termites and covered in hanging roots and weeds.
But residents will have to wait a while longer for the renovations to be completed as the approximately J$258 million project is still in its infancy stages, according to Lorna Bailey, director of public education, public relations and communication at the JNHT, who spoke with The Gleaner yesterday.
The collaboration between the JNHT and the NHT will result in a three-phased project. The first phase will see the development of the heritage park’s landscape, infrastructure, and amenities. Phase two will involve the stabilisation of the castle and outbuildings, and phase three entails the development of castle and outbuildings for adaptive reuse.
Bailey explained that the reason for previous delays in the progress of the project was because of an initial proposal for the removal of the aqueduct and for an alternative access road to be used. However, those issues have been resolved, and the decision to keep the aqueduct and to rehabilitate the current access road has been made.
Currently, discussions are still ongoing and to answer the question of who will fund the project.
Bailey stated that all the proposed designs have been finalised up to this point and that the public would be informed after final decisions have been made.
“Upon completion of the project, we are hoping to achieve a newly renovated castle and park in a historic space for all to visit and enjoy albeit children coming to play at the playground, a snack area for persons to purchase ice cream and other delights, recreational spaces for adults to relax and have picnics and bathroom facilities. There will be storyboards to tell of the history of the castle as well as a tour guide. The space will also be available for rental for all occasions such as weddings, private parties, video shoots, et cetera. The site will be marketed to both locals and foreigners and will be a great addition to the heritage tourism offerings in central Jamaica,” Bailey said.
Colbeck Castle is currently owned by the JNHT. It is situated in open country about two miles north of Old Harbour and is 500 feet above sea level.
A palladio style of architecture, it was adopted and designed along the lines of a 17th-century Italian mansion.
According to the JNHT, there is considerable mystery associated with the construction and use of the site as no one is sure if it was ever completed or lived in or the exact date it was built. It is thought that the building might have been intended to be part of the defence for the island as a rallying point for the St Dorothy and Clarendon militia. There are four outbuildings associated with the main castle. It is thought that these buildings were used for domestic purposes. Colbeck Castle became a National Monument in 1985 and was declared a national heritage site in 1990.
For further information, the JNHT can be contacted at Tel: 876-922-1287-8 or 876-922-3990 or 876-924-9531