Auchindown Rediscovered - An American Retiree in JamaicaPublished Sep 26, 2011
Auchindown Castle has been rediscovered on the south coast of Jamaica in the town of Whitehouse. I have toured the site quite extensively and have done research on the property dating back to a time before Columbus landed in Jamaica in 1494. Most of my information is from a final report entitled Auchindown Excavation 1983-4 by G.A. Aarons et al for the Center for Archaeological and Conservation Research in Port Royal, Jamaica which is also a part of the Jamaica National Trust Commission. The balance of the information came from Mr. John Hunter, Grounds Manager for Sandals Whitehouse European Village and Spa, who was kind enough to escort me through the ruins and answer several inquiries since then. (Mr. Hunter’s picture can be found elsewhere in this article.)
Before Columbus discovered Jamaica for Spain, the island was inhabited by the Arawaks. They presumably had a fishing village on the oceanfront across from where the castle was built. There hasn’t been any evidence of any Spanish occupancy of this part of the island at this time in history. Sometime after Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables captured the island from Spain in 1655, there was an influx of Scottish refugees who established several plantations in the Whitehouse area. The construction of the castle is estimated to be in the early 1700’s. The original buildings and structures consisted of the castle, a house, a dam, cottages, and storehouses. Most of these buildings were used and occupied for over 250 years.
The castle is best described by Mr. G.A. Aarons. “It consists of two imposing castellated towers constructed in coarsed masonry. Between the two towers and facing south is a connecting wall of the same construction which was originally raised to a height of some 50’ along its length and within which only four windows remain in position. Immediately north of this wall is an underground passage which is about 2’ wide and is between 5’ to 5’6” high and was originally covered over along its length. This passage connects to the basement on the lowest of the three floors of each tower. The towers are almost identical in plan internally being some 30’ square externally and some 160’ apart. In the western tower, the underground passage connects to a basement room which leads into a tunnel variously said to lead to the sea. In the eastern tower this passage connects to three dungeon like rooms, probably storerooms and anterooms, in the southwest wall of which was found the leaden casket containing the remains associated with the famous Archibald Campbell.” (1781-1783)
There is a plaque on the wall of the castle that says, in part, that Archibald Campbell, who died in 1833 at the age of 52, built the castle. However, it seems his widow Lady Campbell was trying to make it appear that her husband built the castle because he was an enormously wealthy man. The fact does remain that the castle was most assuredly built in the early 1700’s as I stated above.
The house, which is lower and south of the castle, is where the Aguilar’s lived since the castle was severely damaged in a 1933 hurricane. Since the Aguilar’s departure, hurricanes have made ruin of all the structures. The accompanying pictures tell it better than I ever could.
At the time of the excavations, 1983-4, the house was owned and occupied from 1878 by the Aguilar family until sometime around 1962 when the whole estate went into receivership. It has changed hands several times since until a few years ago when it was bought by Gorstew Ltd, a company owned by Sandals Resorts mogul, Gordon “Butch” Stewart. The future plans for this National Heritage Site are unclear at this time but published reports have indicated it could include tours of the castle and surrounding sites, restaurant/bar, and numerous trails for horseback riding, ATV’s, and nature lovers. These attractions, should they materialize, would be a big boost for the local economy and the underdeveloped south coast in general.
Jamaican history has fascinated me since I first set foot on the island 17 years ago. Other tourists would opt for booze cruises or soaring high in a parasail while I found the historical sites far more interesting and rewarding. Jamaica’s history is very rich and is passed over by tourists who are only interested in sun and fun. Jamaica is more than just a “land of wood and water” to me. Later….
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During our July vacation in Jamaica, we saw several begonias on the roadside growing out of the hillside. Would you kniow any begonia lovers in Jamaica? I'd love to focus our next Jamaica trip on searching for begonias. I understand that in the old plantation ruins above 3000 feet there are many begonias. Thnak you! Suyrea Reynolds