Colbeck Castle is a huge mansion located near to Old Harbour in St. Catherine, Jamaica. Details about the mansion are sparse, but it is believed to have been built in about 1680 by Colonel Jon Colbeck. Colbeck came to Jamaica at 25 years old in 1655 with the invading British army that took control of Jamaica from the Spaniards. The Crown granted Colbeck 1340 acres of land as reward, which he used to build his castle. At one point, Colbeck Castle even had a moat and was the largest building in Jamaica. The estate once produced sugar and tobacco. Colbeck went on to have a distinguished career as a member of the Jamaica Assembly, but is believed to have lived a solitary life. He died at age 52 years, leaving his fortune to his executors and the church. Over time, the building fell into ruin and became property of the Jamaican government. The castle became a national heritage site in 1990, and can be visited by tourists today for free.
Before we get into the article, please subscribe for new adventures.
How to Find Colbeck Castle
The castle is located two miles north of Old Harbour, and is about 10 miles inland from Jamaica’s south coast. It’s rather easy to find. I stopped here on my way back to Kingston from my Bull Head Mountain hike. We exited the toll at Old Harbour and used GPS to guide us to the castle. The Google Map marker is accurate. There are also several bright yellow Jamaica National Heritage Trust signs to reassure that you’re on the correct path. You’ll pass through the Colbeck Castle housing schemes then enter into remote open country and farmlands. The road surface was good for the most part; only a little rough in the final few metres of the drive. You’ll know you’ve reached when you encounter the majestic imposing castle and its brick walls.
Exploring Colbeck Castle
Colbeck Castle was built at three stories high in Italian Palladio style with red brick quoins and arches to compliment the fortified limestone walls. The limestone was obtained locally, but other building materials such as lead for the roof and slate or stone paving slabs would have been imported. The walls still stand at their original height but the floors, roof, paneling and several beams have disappeared. The outbuildings were built in a similar fashion and are believed to have served as a kitchen, stable, guardroom, storage room, dungeon and perhaps even a fort.
Even while in ruin, the Colbeck Castle sits among the best remaining great houses in Jamaica, ranking up there alongside the Rose Hall Great House. The castle bears some similarity to Stokes Hall, a smaller Jamaican great house in St. Thomas, built about 1710. It also resembles the Malmsey Valley House located less than ten miles from Colbeck near Rock River in Clarendon, but that house has undergone considerable decay. When ground was broken for the Colbeck Castle phase 1 and 2 communities in 2017, our Prime Minister declared that the National Housing Trust would lead a rehabilitation project of the famed Colbeck Castle. This has not yet materialized. Now, the signs at Colbeck aren’t even readable. This was the best remaining one on the estate.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed my visit to Colbeck Castle despite the blatant disregard of historical sites in Jamaica. I love visiting historical gems and picturing myself in the Jamaica of yesteryear although my African ancestors were on the oppressed side of history. However, I didn’t tarry here for too long because the parish of St. Catherine isn’t the safest and we were in a very remote area. St. Catherine, in particular Spanish Town, has a high crime and murder rate.
I hope you learnt something new from this article. Have you been to Colbeck Castle before? Would you like to visit? Let me know in the comments. Here are other ruins and great houses you may like to visit:
- The Folly Mansion Ruins in Portland
- Devon House in St. Andrew
- Rose Hall Great House in St. James
- Seville Great House in St. Ann
Please share, pin and bookmark this list for later. Remember to subscribe for new posts.
‘Til next time.