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Suffolk Park, St Thomas Parish, Surrey, Jamaica

Suffolk Park is a populated place in St Thomas Parish in southeast Jamaica. It is approximately 6 miles north of Port Morant at 17° 57 0 N 76° 17 0 W on the banks of the Plantain Garden.river.

Population:-Unknown, but likely to be very small.

How to get there:-

By Road: From Kingston, take the A4 eastbound along Jamaica’s southern coast. At the crossroads where the A4 turns east to Amity Hall, turn left through Wheelerfield for Suffolk Park. From the north, take the A4 passed Amity Hall then turn right at crossroads towards Wheelerfield.


No rail service.

Nearest airport is Norman Manley International, Kingston.

Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5 hrs).  No daylight saving time in summer.

 

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History & Derivation of Name

St Thomas Parish

History & Derivation of Name

In 1655 when the English seized Jamaica from the Spanish, the area around Suffolk Park was still virgin soil.  It was only after 1661 when the military occupation of the island gave way to a civil administration that planters were encouraged to come to Jamaica.  In 1664 a new governor, Sir Thomas Modyford, came from Barbados where sugar cane plantations had already been established, and he soon introduced the concept of plantation cultivation based on slave labour brought from Africa.  By 1700 sugar estates had been established throughout the island and its products dominated the economy.

The first patent (grant of land) on the property that would become Suffolk Park was in October 1673 to a Robert Jacob.  The property passed through other hands until it was acquired by two brothers, John and Robert Halls, in the mid-18th century.  The two brothers came from Stowmarket in Suffolk, England, and they gave the name “Suffolk Park” to their residence and the woodland behind it.  The land they held was between Bachelor’s Hall plantation to the west and Wheeler’s Field plantation to the east.  It was a small estate in comparison to the other plantations in this part of St Thomas-in-the-East, comprising 872 acres of which only 300 acres was considered good cane land, and over 500 acres was woodland.  This was the type of land that was considered better as a “grazing pen”, where livestock was kept to provide food and mules for the plantations.

John Halls died in 1756 and his brother Robert in 1774.  They had no children and their surviving brother and sisters all lived in Suffolk, England (Mendlesham, Gipping and Wherstead).  The executors of the estate were their neighbouring planters, Thomas Wheeler and Nathaniel Phillips, who were instructed to sell and dispose of the property “to the highest and best purchaser that they could get”, and then distribute the proceeds between the surviving family.  Since Thomas Wheeler had pre-deceased Robert Halls, it may come as no surprise that the “most suitable purchaser” turned out to be Nathaniel Phillips, who was in need of a good grazing pen.  This decision was contested in the courts but ended in favour of Phillips in 1781.  Thereafter, Suffolk Park was associated with the nearby larger plantations of Phillipsfield and Pleasant Hill already held by Nathaniel Phillips.  An indication of the comparative size of the plantations in 1816 is that the Pleasant Hill plantation had 258 slaves and 141 livestock, whereas Suffolk Park only had 46 slaves and 216 livestock, reflective of its greater importance as a “grazing pen”.  Like many a successful planter before him, Nathaniel Phillips made his fortune and left Jamaica permanently in 1789 to become an absentee planter in Britain.  He never returned to Jamaica but left his plantations there in the hands of managers.  Phillips bought a landed estate in Wales and his two daughters married into nobility.  

After 1805 the sugar industry in Jamaica went into decline.  Absentee owners became disinterested and failed to improve cultivation and processing methods.  With the abolition of slavery in 1834 the value of the property was eroded, but the former slaves, with no other source of income, remained attached to the land and continued to work the plantation.  The existing slave village remained as the settlement of Suffolk Park.  The Jamaican sugar cane industry was unable to compete with the developing sugar beet industry in Europe, and when the protective sugar tariff was removed in 1846, the industry collapsed.  The former slaves maintained their families through subsistence farming until a revival began in the 1880s with the plantations being turned over to banana cultivation.  New cooling techniques helped to keep perishable tropical goods like bananas fresh for the nearby American market, and American companies began to buy up the plantations.  In 1892 the heirs of Nathaniel Phillips sold Suffolk Park to the Boston Fruit Company.  It continued as a banana plantation until 1920 when there was a revival of the sugar industry, brought about by colonial preference measures by Britain and more efficient production methods.  The Jamaica Sugar Estate, based in Glasgow, Scotland, bought up a number of plantations, including Suffolk Park, and in 1926 built a modern sugar refining factory at nearby Duckenfield Hall.  Since then Suffolk Park has been attached to the Duckenfield factory as one of its sugar plantations.  The tiny settlement still exists to provide labour to the plantation just across the road from the settlement, but today, with modern equipment, there is no longer the requirement to have as many as 46 operatives, and Suffolk Park remains no more than a hamlet on the road between Wheelerfield and Bachelors Hall.   

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St Thomas Parish

Suffolk Park is in St Thomas; the easternmost parish in Jamaica. It is bordered to the north by Portland & to the west by St Andrew. The population in 2008 was around 100,000. The parish covers an area of around 287 square miles & the capital city is Morant Bay.

In 1664 the island was divided into seven administrative units known as parishes.  Most of the parishes were named after governors of Jamaica, their wives, or British kings, with the addition of “Saint” beforehand if they were a first name.  The parish of St Thomas was named after Thomas Hickman (Lord Windsor), Governor of Jamaica in 1661-1663.  It was then named “St Thomas in the East” to distinguish it from the former “St Thomas in the Vale”.  After 1866, when it absorbed the parish of St David, and St Thomas in the Vale also disappeared, it became plain St Thomas.

In October 1865 the area was the scene of the Morant Bay Rebellion. Baptist deacon Paul Bogle led a group of more than 200 ex-slaves into Morant Bay, after they had been denied the right to air their grievances regarding land tenure with the Governor in Spanish Town. When the volunteer militia opened fire on the group a riot ensued, which ended with the protesters gaining control of the town. The Governor sent in troops & Bogle & more than 350 others were arrested & later executed. Paul Bogle is now considered a Jamaican national hero.

The 22 mile long Plantain Garden River, which flows through the parish close to Suffolk Park, is the only river in Jamaica that doesn't flow in a northerly or southerly direction. St Thomas is a mountainous region, with the Port Royal Mountains, the Queensbury Ridge & Yallahs Hill all within the parish, whilst the Blue Mountains form the northern border with Portland Parish. Bauxite mining, tourism & agriculture are the parish’s major industries, with bananas & sugar being the main exports.

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