St. James is said to have been named by Sir Thomas Modyford in about 1655, for the Duke of York.
Montego Bay, the capital of St. James, could have been named for Montego de Salmanca, an early colonizer, or from the Spanish word “Manteca”, meaning lard or butter since lard was exported from here. An early map of Jamaica has the Montego Bay area listed as “Bahia de Manteca” or “Lard Bay”.
Montego Bay is the site of one of the largest slave uprisings in Jamaica’s history – the Christmas Rebellion of 1831-32, led by Sam Sharpe. Sharpe’s plan of passive resistance did not work and the slaves became violent and burned buildings and canefields in several parishes. He turned himself in and was charged and hanged in Montego Bay marketplace. He was later was named one of Jamaica’s National Heroes.
According to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, there are 19 official heritage sites in St. James: Salter’s Hill Baptist Church, St. James Parish Church, St. Mary’s Anglican, Historic Court House (Mobay), Fort Montego, Goodwill, Greenwood Great House, Rose Hall Great House, 1 King Street, Barnett Street Police Station, Grove Hill House, Old Slave Ring, The Dome, Town House, North Coast Highway, Anchovy Railway Station, Cambridge Railway Station, Catadupa Railway Station, Montego Bay Railway Station
Montego Bay is home to one of Jamaica’s most famous great houses – TheRose Hall Great House. Annie Mary Patterson, a Haitian, married the owner, John Rose Palmer. It is said that Annie Palmer practised voodoo and murdered all three of her husbands. That is the legend known as the White Witch Of Rose Hall. The restored Rose Hall Great House was opened to the public on February 26, 1971.
St. James is the home of Doctor’s Cave Bathing Beach. In 1906, Dr. Alexander James McCatty donated his beach property to be used as a bathing club. The name Doctor’s Cave is derived from the fact that it was frequented heavily by Dr. Catty and his friends in the medical profession who entered through a cave (later destroyed by a hurricane in 1932) The beach became famous when Sir Herbert Barker, a famous British Osteopath, published an article claiming the waters had curative powers, could cure ailments and restore good health.
On May 1, 1981 (a publicly decreed holiday in St. James), Montego Bay was accorded city status.
In 2011, Sir Richard Branson opened the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Montego Bay to help aspiring entrepreneurs develop the skills they need to succeed.
Montego Bay continues to be one of Jamaica’s most famous tourist destinations with a cruise ship pier, hotels, villas, events and duty free shopping.
St. James is the home of Round Hill, one of Jamaica’s premier villa communities. According to Round Hill’s ‘Notable Guests who have relaxed at Round Hill”, famous guests include: Al Roker, Alfre Woodard, Alan Rickman, Angela Bassett, Anita Baker, Anna Wintour, Boris Kodgoe, Chris Wallace, David Gregor, Dawn Lewis, Dule Hill, Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, Eve, Ewan McGregor, Fred Astaire, Gabrielle Union, Heath Ledger, Hill Harper, Janet Rolle, John F. Kennedy, Keisha Knight-Pulliam, Kenny Rogers, Kim Porter, Lance Armstrong, Lisa Raye, Malinda Williams, Mena Suvari, Meredith Viera, Michael Kors, Michael Smith, Michelle Williams, Mike Wallace, Nicole Ari Parker, Nicole Miller, Pat O’Brien, Patrick Dempsey, Paul McCartney, Ralph & Ricky Lauren, Russell Simmons, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, Sigourney Weaver, Star Jones, Taye Diggs, Tommy Hilfiger.