– Port Royal was once called “the richest and wickedest city in the world”. With only a sand spit, it was first used by the Tainos as a fishing camp. When the Spaniards arrived in Jamaica, they used the spit for cleaning, refitting and caulking of their sailing vessels. When the British invaded Jamaica in 1655, immediately realizing its strategic importance, they started to put fortifications in place.
– During the 17th century, it was the virtual capital of Jamaica, and also a headquarters for buccaneers and pirates who brought in much of the treasure they looted on the Spanish Main. Chief among the buccaneers was Henry Morgan who sacked Camaguey, Port Bello, Maracaibo and Panama. Morgan was later knighted and made Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. He died at Port Royal in 1688.
– By 1692, Port Royal had become an important economic centre, but on June 7, of that year, it was destroyed by an earthquake. A large portion of the town sank into the sea, while about two fifth of the population-died either in the earthquake or in the plagues and pestilences that followed.
– Today with the warships and the soldiers gone, Port Royal has become a quiet fishing village, but it is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in Jamaica-let it never be forgotten that for over 200 years, Port Royal was England’s biggest naval base in the Caribbean, so strong and powerful, that no enemy dared attack it.
SIGNIFICANT PLACES IN PORT ROYAL
This lopsided building is called “the Giddy House”. It was built in 1888 and was the old Royal Artillery Store for the Victoria Battery. The Earthquake of 1907 shifted it to its present 45 degree angle. On entering the building, people often feel a strange sensation of being giddy or off balance, caused by the building’s tilt-hence its name-the Giddy House.
St. Peter’s Church
The original Church was destroyed by the great earthquake of 1692 in Port Royal. A second Church which was constructed shortly after was destroyed by fire in 1703. A plaque outside the vestry of St. Peter’s Church, records that it was rebuilt between 1725 and 1726.
Since 1726, the building has undergone much restoration. Its walls are now faced with cement marked to simulate stone blocks, thus hiding the original brick walls of the Church. The original black and white tiles can still be seen in the aisles of the Church.
Fort Charles, built in 1656, is the oldest fort in Jamaica. Originally named Fort Cromwell, it was renamed in 1662 to honour Charles II, restored King of England. The original armament of 10 guns was increased to 36 in 1667 and to 104 in 1765. When built, the fort was almost completely surrounded by water, but the area around it eventually silted up.
This fort, one of six located in Port Royal, served to guard the entrance to the Kingston Harbour. It was the only one of Port Royal’s forts to survive the 1692 earthquake. Damaged, it was reconstructed in 1699 by Colonel Christian Lilly, chief engineer of Jamaica.