A Moment In History – Sligoville Established As Jamaica’s First Free Village

A section of the ruined Highgate Park House at Sligoville, St Catherine

The free village of Highgate, renamed Sligoville, was formally dedicated on June 12, 1840. It was named in honour of Howe Peter Browne, Second Marquess of Sligo, governor of Jamaica from 1834 to 1836. Sligo had been sent here to oversee the transition from the apprenticeship system to full freedom in 1840.

The village had actually been established five years earlier when, in anticipation of the needs of the slaves when they would be free, Rev James Murcell Phillipo, with Sligo’s support, constructed a school and church at Highgate, a district established on a steep and high escarpment from which the sea could be seen from either side. Baptist missionary work had been going on in the area since 1829 under the leadership of George Lisle and George Knibb. Phillipo’s involvement started in 1834, the same year The Gleaner was established, and in 1835 he bought 25 acres of land for £100 for the setting up of a village.

Several decades earlier, in 1777, the Jamaican House of Assembly had made provision for the building of a summer residence for the governor in Highgate, then known as Government Mountain. The residence was said to be built on the same spot where the 16th-century summer palace for Spanish governors was built.

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