British Empire > Spanish Town

Spanish Town

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration


Spanish Town was one of major cities on the island of British Jamaica and the capital following the catastrophic destruction of Port Royal during the 1692 Port Royal Earthquake. Spanish Town is located on the southeast side of the island and a little inland from the coast. The city was originally built by the Spanish and called Santiago de la Veda. It was founded by governor Francisco de Garay in 1534 and served as the capital of the Colony of Santiago, otherwise known as Spanish Jamaica.

Spanish Town - A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica - 1875)

A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica - James Hakewill (1875)

The Spanish did not treat Jamaica with the level of focus they did the other islands of the Greater Antilles and when the British conquered it in 1655 there were hardly any fortifications on the island and only about 1,500 settlers. Following the British seizure of the island the British renamed it Spanish Town. The city was badly damaged during the conflict and it was not on the coast so the capital was moved by the British to Port Royal at this time for convenience.

However, by the time of the 1692 earthquake the city of Spanish Town had been rebuilt by the British and was able to serve as the capital of Jamaica. Following the destruction of Port Royal the British would rebuild at the city of Kingston due to the problems that plagued the small strip of sand that overlooked Kingston Harbor. Spanish Town would remain the capital of Jamaica until 1872 when it was officially moved to Kingston.

During the Post Spanish Succession Period Spanish Town became known as the place where many pirates went to go to face the courts of the colonial British Empire. We wish to call them kangaroo courts but given the morality of the British at the time we really do not know who should have been trying who for piracy. The real irony of the Golden Age of Piracy is that the pirates were tried and executed on the same piece of land that the local Taino people had inhabited for thousands of years before the Spanish ever arrived. Steal some goods from a ship and you get hung, steal an island from natives and you get award a title.

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