Stokes Hall Greathouse, St Thomas

Built around 1680 by Luke Stokes, a former governor of the island of Nevis, it was destroyed by the 1907 earthquake and was never restored. This type of building predates Georgian architecture and  historians claim this building design was imported from England, with its stone structure.


Photo 1 Stokes Hall

At that time in Jamaica’s history, England had just defeated the Spanish for control over the island and guerrilla warfare was still on going with England having a shaky hold on the island. The brave souls that decided to tame the wilderness built homes that were virtual forts. Stokes Hall is a prime example, it had walls that were over 2 ft thick. It also had four tall towers that acted as watch towers as a part of the house (supposedly 30 ft tall) that commanded the view of the lands around it, including the sugar fields and the wharf (Bowden), where enemies could enter. To reach this house you had to traverse a narrow, heavily wooded steep road that took you up the hill (one entrance & exit). Houses built during this age had two functions in mind: security and aesthetics (to impress or subjugate), aesthetics of course being a distant second at that time.


Photo 2 interior of house, the floors have deteriorated  (roof is missing) but the wooden beams can still be seem.

P.S. the small windows, later greathouses are characterized by many & large glass windows (another security feature?)

These photos do not even begin to convey the massiveness of this structure of which so little remains and less is known. It was currently owned by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (J.N.H.T.) which has done nothing to restore it.  I got to view  this treasure while on a road trip in 2015. Even today I understand why the spot was chosen as the site for the greathouse, it is indeed picturesque and strategic.


Photo 3 View from greathouse, former sugar lands are now being utilized for housing schemes



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