The Good Hope Great House sits nestled in the northern foothills of the Cockpit Country. It began as a sugar estate in 1744 by Colonel Thomas Williams after he was granted 1,000 acres of land.
Sitting on the top of a slight elevation, it commands a sweeping view of the Queen of Spain Valley all the way to the rising mountain ranges that comprise the Cockpit Country.
The house was sold in 1767 to 23 year old John Tharp, who subsequently increased the size of the property and his holdings, through the aquision of several neighboring estates, to 9,000 acres and approximately 3,000 slaves. John Tharp became a major landowner and sugar trader known for his benevolence in the way he treated his slaves.
Over the years, Good Hope grew into a village with its own church, a 300-bed hospital used to treat slaves, and a Free School that taught the slaves how to read and write. It is likely it is these acts of kindness that spared the estate and its Great House from the ravishes of the slave uprising when a great many great houses were destroyed.
The plantation prospered well after the abolition of slavery. The ownership of the property changed several times over the years, but the sugar factory continued in operation until 1902.
Today, it is operated by Chukka Caribbean as an adventure center with zip lines, river tubing, horse and buggy rides and dune buggy rides and tours of the Great House.
Contact: Chukka Caribbean at 1-877-424-8552.
The Great House is very well preserved with many of the architectural features of the time, such as verandahs, windows trimmed with jalousies, high raftered ceilings, pitch pine and wild orange wood flooring. The wild orange tree is higly resistant to termiites but is now extinct in Jamaica.
The house is an eclectic mix of influences, predominantly Georgian with elements of Spanish influences, likely an affect of the relatively short span of time between the end of the spanish occupation and the time it was built under British rule. The walls appear to be of Spanish construction with foundations of faced stone. One wing is built of brick.
The rooms are spacious, airy and bright from the natural sunlight. They are finished with period furniture that lends authenticity to the tours that are offered daily. The tall 14-foot palladian windows trimmed with jalousies and shutters allow the cool breeze to circulate throughout the house, as well as provide added protection during hurricanes.
The town of Falmouth, a thriving center of commerce, had many advancements such as running water well before other cities such as New York City. The bathroom of the Good Hope Great House, is a good example of the early adoption of these advancements. The bathroom was constructed so that hot water could be piped into the bathtub that was used by John Tharp, who suffered from arthritis, to soothe the aches and pains of his ailment.
Built as an extension to the back of the house, the bathroom has 3 exterior walls with the fourth connecting it to the main building. The two opposing walls were connected via a tunnel. On one end of the tunnel was a fireplace and the other, a chimney stack.
Inside the bathroom, a bathtub was constructed of copper and lead (we now know the latter was an unwise choice and there is conjecture that lead poisoning contributed to his death). A separate water catchment basin was built above, but to the side, of the bathtub. The basin was built on top of the tunnel that connected the external fireplace with the chimney. A fire was built in the fireplace, with the chimney providing a draw for smoke and heat from the flames through the tunnel under the basin, thereby heating its content. A faucet was installed to allow the heated water in the basin to flow into the bathtub.
As was typical of the day, the kitchen is housed in a separate building to reduce fire risks. The kitchen is quite large, a possible reflection of the size parties that were hosted, considering the prominece of the owner.
An entire episode of The Two Fat Ladies, a UK television series that features two long time friends, Clarissa and Jennifer, who enjoys riding their motorcycles and cooking ethnic foods, was filmed in this kitchen; S03E07 A Caribbean Christmas. Martha Stewart also used this kitchen to film a video for Martha Stewar Living Magazine, in which he demonstrates how to prepare ackee and salt fish, the Jamaican national dish.
The grounds and surrounding properties are extensive and beautiful. Tharp bought several neighboring estates; Covey, Lansquinet, Merrywood, Pantrepant, Potosi, Top Hill, Wales, Windsor, Bunkers Hill, Unity and Dean’s Valley, for a total of 9,000 acres.
It is much smaller today, approximately 2,000 acres, and the small village located away from the Great house, has several well preserved buildings of the Georgian architecture of the time. The churchyard is a walk through history, with old tombstones dating hundreds of years. The location of the Good Hope property, at the foot hills of the Cockpit country, is a nature lover's paradise. At dusk, the tranquility permeates and envelopes, and at dawn it comes alive with the songs of wild birds.
The Martha Brae Village, was the Capital of Trelawny when Good Hope was first built. It was the Parish's first Capital, chosen shortly after 1770 for its history and location. Spanish settlers founded Martha Brae Village as a way station to and from the northwest coast. It was one of the few Spanish settlements that survived the British conquest in 1655. Its proximity to the Martha Brae River made transportation relatively cheap and easy. One of the first official tasks of the Town Council of Trelawny in 1772 was to clear the river to provide clear and safe passage to boats and barges.
The village however, had a number of weaknesses. It only had 50 acres of land on high ground. More high-and-dry land would be needed if it was to become a major port town in the northwest. The Martha Brae River was also the only route to the coastline, but only two and a half miles of it was navigable. Land transportation would need to be built at a great expense.
The Trelawny Town Council established a Commission chaired by Edward Moulton Barrett (see a Greenwood Great House) to look into alternative locations. Falmouth, built on Barrett's lands, was selected as the new capital in 1790.
At the peak of the slave trade, Jamaica had over 200,000 slaves and approximately 600 sugar plantations, with 100 of these plantations located in the Parish of Trelawny. This made the parish and the town of Falmouth, with its sugar plantations, rum-making and shipping, a major center of commerce and industry in the late 17-, to early, 1800s.
Falmouth was founded in 1790 from land owned by Edward Barrett. But it was sugar and rum, the island's biggest exports, that raised its prominence in the world. The economic boom in Falmouth, during the 18th and 19th centuries was the catalyst behind the town's ascendance to being one of the most industrial towns in the Western Hemisphere. The town received running water before New York City, and it's meticulous planning illustrated one of the earliest example of urban planning developments.
John Tharp’s operation was one of the largest on the island. Elaborate aqueducts were built to power the water wheels in sugar factories. He owned much of the prime waterfront property in Falmouth. A critical part of his sugar business was export. Recognizing the importance of the nearby deep water port of Falmouth, he built one of the principal wharfs, and on it constructed his town house and offices to oversee trade. His townhouse, Tharp House, in Falmouth, is now the Government tax office. The single-story, five-bay building was built in 1790 and is still one of the most elegant structures in the town.
Pictured, is John Tharp's "Counting House". Counting money in your home, was considered to bring bad luck, so a separate building was built at the back of the great house for that purpose and to conduct business.
John Tharp was born at Bachelor’s Hall, Hanover, Jamaica in 1744. He was raised by his uncles after his parents died before he was 2 years old. He was educated in England at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge, then returned to Jamaica where he married Elizabeth Partridge, an heiress to the Potosi estate where he had been employed, in western St James. He died in 1804 at the Good Hope Great House and was buried on the estate. At that time, he owned virtually all the land along the Martha Brae River from the mountains to the sea.
In 1767, he sold Bachelor’s Hall, and with the assistance of his wife's inherited land holdings, bought Good Hope, Lansquinet, and Wale. By the end of the eighteenth century, he owned most of the estates in the area. His purchase of Good Hope's 1,000 acres allowed him to harness the power of the Martha Brae River to run the sugar mills. He was an early investor in Falmouth, where he owned one of its principal wharves, offices and a town house.
John and Elizabeth had five children who survived into adulthood, but she died in 1780 after 15 years of marriage. Two years later, one of his slaves, Hannah Phillips, bore him a daughter out of wedlock; a daughter who became his favorite child.
By the late 1780s, Tharp was spending much of his time in England. In London, he first rented "Home House" at 20 Portman Square, from the Jamaican-born Elizabeth Countess of Home. He eventually bought 41 Portland Place, and in 1791, bought a substantial country estate, Chippenham Park in Cambridgeshire.
Tharp remarried at the age of 50 to a widow, Ann Gallimore, who was much younger, and who was also the heiress to valuable sugar estates. They lived in the fashionable town house at 41 Portland Place in London but marital problems emerged after the purchase of the Chippenham estate. His daughter, Elizabeth, from his first marriage, had married a wealthy clergyman, Richard Phillipson. They lived close Chippenham Park. Tharp discovered that his wife, Ann, had been engaging in an affair with the reverend and was now pregnant. He obtained a legal separation, which gave her an annual settlement of £1,200, describing her in his will as "utterly unworthy of my affection".
Disparaged by the turn of events he returned to Jamaica in 1802, dying two years later at Good Hope.
There are are four family gravestones at St Margaret's Church in Chippenham and two plaques inside the Anglican chapel. A painting of John Tharp, "A hugely successful sugar baron", in the Chippenham Park estate house, continues to be a reminder of the legacy in Britain of Jamaica's slavery and sugar.