A newsletter from the Jamaica Tourist Board
to keep you up-to-speed on island happenings. November 2010
Linda Boyce

Touring Greenwood Great House
Mark RogersGreenwood Manor

Throughout a tour of Greenwood Great House, more than once you’ll probably hear owner Bob Betton’s gently-spoken catchphrase, “Jamaica’s a strange country.” By tour’s end, you’ll probably agree with Betton. For an hour or so, as you follow him through the many rooms of the great house, you’ll be able to breathe in what it must have been like to live as Victorian-era gentry on a Caribbean island.

Greenwood Great House is located 15 miles east of Montego Bay and seven miles from Falmouth, which makes it especially convenient for cruise ship passengers. The house once belonged to the incredibly wealthy Barrett’s of Wimpole Street, London. In 1865, Henry Barrett owned 84,000 acres of land on Jamaica, and owned 2,000 slaves, which is aptly summed up by Betton as a “…era of elegance and brutality.”

In fact, during the tour, in addition to prized antiques, you’ll notice several artifacts attesting to the darker side of the 19th century including leg irons for slaves and  a bullwhip that was used for livestock, and as Betton puts it, “…for other things.”

Henry Barrett was also the father of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the renowned Victorian poet, who was married Robert Browning, a towering figure in literature.

“It’s commonly accepted that this is the best great house on the island,” claims Betton. “When we are at our busiest we have eight or nine tour guides.”

Highlights of the tour are several antique musical instruments, including a polyphone that plays a lovely minuet and a barrel organ dating from 1874 that plays an achingly and oddly tuned version of “Bicycle Built for Two.” Before playing the barrel organ, Betton will prompt you to try and name the tune. Take a moment to glance at the challenged expressions of the rest of the people in your tour; I have to wonder how many people manage to guess correctly.



During the tour you’ll hear some “duppy” or ghost stories associated with the house. There are no facilities for overnight Greenwood Manorguests at Greenwood. In fact, when Betton points towards an open window of a bedroom and says the view of green hills hasn’t changed for hundreds of years, he follows up by pointing towards the bed, which has two sagging declivities in each side of the mattress, and says, “That’s my bed.”

A sculptured wooden head serving as a doorstop caught my eye, and when I admired it Betton revealed that it was one of his carvings.

You can end the tour with refreshments in the great house bar, named the Level Crossing. The bar is decorated with antiques, such as round-bottomed bottles, many of them having been unearthed on the property.

Take a little extra time to relax on the great house’s huge second-floor balcony, which overlooks a landscape that slopes down to the sea. It’s also worth a stroll around the grounds. Numerous fruit trees grow on the property, including avocado, fig, breadfruit, soursop and surprisingly, lychee. ”It’s a blessed country, everything grows here,” says Betton.

Greenwood Great House works with all the major tour operators selling Jamaica, and is open for tours seven days a week from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Greenwood Manor
Bob & Ann Betton
Greenwood Great House

Jamaica Connection
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