I’ve heard of the Tryall Golf Course and Beach Club in Hanover on the outskirts of Montego Bay before, but I didn’t know that the property had a gigantic waterwheel. I noticed the Jamaica Heritage Trail signs while driving through the area some weekends ago, and decided to stop. I was in for a pleasant surprise. This still functioning cast iron waterwheel was assembled in 1700 by Henry Fairchild, the first owner of the estate. It was damaged in the 1831 Sam Sharpe Christmas slave rebellion but was subsequently restored.
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The Tryall Club is approximately twelve miles west of Montego Bay on the main road between Hopewell and Sandy Bay, Hanover. As I mentioned earlier, there are a few signs on the way which detail the area as a heritage site so it’s not an easy spot to miss. If you’re only visiting the waterwheel like I did, and not the golf course and beach club, you can park next to some guys selling souvenirs and enter the property for free via a pedestrian gate. I’m not sure if one is allowed to see the wheel for free if they enter through the main gate. I hasten to add that entering through the pedestrian gate is permitted. The gate was open, and we passed a few golfers and caddies during our time there while taking pictures and admiring the infrastructure of yesteryear.
The History of Tryall Estate & Water Wheel
The 2,200 acre property was originally home to the Tainos, the indigenous people and inhabitants of Jamaica. The Tainos usually inhabited places near to a fresh water source such as a river so it made sense that they’d choose this spot. The Taino population was decimated in the 1500s by the Spanish who first came to the island in 1494. Next, Jamaica was captured by the British in 1655, after which a series of forts were constructed to protect the Jamaican coastline from reprisal. Fort Tryall was constructed during this period and still remains towards the east of the property (not seen during this visit). Next, the property was utilized as a sugar plantation and powered by African slave labour. The Tryall Water Wheel was built in 1700 and is powered by water from the Flint River. Water from the river is supplied to the waterwheel via an aqueduct which carries water down for two miles from the hills. During the wet season when the river is powerful enough, the waterwheel still turns. Unfortunately, the wheel was not turning on the day I visited. The waterwheel provided enough power to grind sugarcane and extract the juice. The boiler room in which the sugarcane juice was boiled to produce muscovado sugar and molasses was nearby, and the chimney still remains to this day. The stone-cut aqueduct also remains.
During the 1800s, the Tryall sugar estate was purchased by Eugene Browne who converted the estate’s chief crop to coconuts. The last sugarcane crop was harvested in 1918. At its peak in 1933, the property produced one million coconuts a year. In the mid-1930s, the Browne family converted the Tryall Greathouse into a guest house to augment the estate’s income with the fall in coconut prices, but by 1939 with World War II, Tryall was closed. The first Great House was built in 1747 when 176 slaves were recorded as being enslaved to Tryall. The current Great House, which was built in 1834, is the third such structure. The previous two were destroyed by hurricanes.
Today, the Tryall Estate is recognized by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust as a part of our history worth preserving.
This discovery was a pleasant surprise and great detour before my next stop in Hanover. I love finding unexpected gems on my road trips, especially historical treasures. My best memories are the adventures I didn’t plan on having. Spontaneous is good. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by! ‘Til next time.
Read next: Fort Charlotte, Hanover
Written by Rochelle Knight
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