Craigton Estate Coffee Farm
Craighton Great House, located near Irish Town in St. Andrew, was formerly known as Creighton Hall and was constructed between 1790 and 1805 by George Creighton Esq., a Scottish coffee farmer who owned a 400 acre coffee plantation. Above 2,700 feet up in the chilly and dewy Jamaican Blue Mountains, Craighton has one of the best bird’s eye view in the Island. In 1810, George Creighton was listed as the owner of 39 slaves at Creighton Hall but died later that year. By 1811 Sir Edward Hyde East, owner of the neighbouring Maryland Coffee Plantation, bought the plantation having already been in possession of 2,700 acres and more than 260 slaves at Maryland. Creighton Hall was later renamed Craighton, and remained under the ownership of the East family until 1842 when the Honourable Hinton East, Custos of St. Andrew, sold the plantation to the 8th Earl of Anglin, a newly arrived arrived British Governor. Lord Englin had purchased Craighton Great House in a bid to escape the heat and humidity of the official capital city in the St. Catherine plains, Spanish Town. He turned it into a Summer Residence, which was later favoured by the British Governors of Jamaica. Lord Elgin’s wife, Elizabeth Englin, countess of Elgin, however, died tragically while at Craighton on June 7, 1843 at the age of 22.
It is still said that her ghost (duppy) haunts the house and has been seen going down the mahogany staircase at the Great House. Lord Elgin, after leaving Jamaica in 1846, sold the Great House to a British Coffee Planter, a Mr. Edwards, who was a presumed relation to Sir Byron Edwards, a Chief Justice of Jamaica between 1855 and 1869. His widow, Mrs. May Edwards, who was the owner of Craighton Great House (which she called Medici), when this watercolour painting was done in 1862. She died in 1866, leaving Craighton to her daughter Marjorie Grant Edwards, who sold it in 1867 through her trustee John James Henry Edwards, and to another newly arrived British Governor, Sir John Peter Grant. Sir John also brought two pet sheep to help keep the grass low on the lawn.
A renowned English Victorian Painter Marianne North, documented that Sir John had trained his two pigs to beg for carrot by coming up to the verandah and standing on their hind legs, which amused him. This happened while he was a guest in 1871 at Craighton. Craighton also became summer residence to subsequent British Governors of Jamaica, Sir Henry Norman 1883-1898 and Sir Henry Blake 1889-1898, who held many elegant Dinner parties and garden parties there.
The following occupant of the Jamaican Great House was a Judge Curran who resided there from 1891 to 19011, who was followed by Sir Charles Lumb, Senior Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Jamaica, who lived there between 1901 and 1905. The Jamaican Great House transferred to the Hon. Archibald Edmund Henderson Hoggart, Custos of Kinston of Ruthven Lodge, St. Andrew on September 25, 1905 for the total of 420 pounds sterlings. Craighton became Hoggart’s Summer Cottage. Upon going bankrupt in 1917, the firm Hoggart and Company relinquished ownership and Craighton then sold to Franz X Knecht, the Managing Dir. Of the West Indies Chemical Works Ltd. near Spanish Town.
In the early 1930’s Judge Seaton acquired Craighton, and leased it in 1938 for 5 years to Sir Robert Kirkwood for 100 pounds sterling per year. Sir Robert was the nephew of Lord Lyle of Tate and Lyle Ltd, a British company which possessed large Sugar Plantations in Jamaica. Sir Robert held the position of Managing Director of the West Indies Sugar Company (WISCO) and Chairman of the Jamaica Sugar Manufacturers Ltd. Sir Robert then bought Craighton for 5,000 pounds sterling when the lease ended after 5 years.
Sir Robert and Lady Kirkwood hosted many popular guests at Craighton during the 1940’s and 1950’s. These guests included members of the British family. He finally sold the Jamaican Great House for 25,000 pounds sterling in 1956, securing a major profit of 20,000. Subsequent occupants of Craighton Guest House included Lord Hailes, British Governor-General of the short-lived West Indies Federation, who acquired the property officially in 1958, making it his official residence.
In 1981 Craighton was again sold to the Ueshima Coffee Company of Japan, which still retains ownership of the plantation. Today, Blue Mountain Coffee is grown and exported for Japan. The coffee is known for its fine quality and value. Ueshima has restored the 18th century Jamaican Great House by furnishing it with a fine collection of antiques including 18th century and 19th century colonial prints and Mahogany Furniture.