I traveled back in time over the weekend.
I definitely see the question marks over your heads, readers; but, yes, I, Kerry-Ann Morris, went back in time over the weekend. Specifically, I traveled back in time to Kingston between the 18th and 20th centuries, and went strolling around the historic Parade area, sauntered down King Street (Kingston’s main street), and meandered along the Kingston Waterfront.
My time travel vehicle of choice was a Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) no. 46 bus to Down Town Kingston via Half-Way-Tree and Cross Roads, disembarking at the final stop at South Parade. While I did not have a time travel partner with me, I was armed with historical photos of Kingston back in the day, and my IMAGINATION.
One of the things I try to do with Jamaican Echoes is to show how much our past permeates the present. After all: “History is the past that exists in the present” (Sager 2013). We’re literally walking on our past everyday. It’s the foundation for our present, people! The spaces we now inhabit on a daily basis have been utilised by past Jamaican societies for a myriad of purposes, and have left traces of their former uses. One such historic location is the Kingston Waterfront. For today’s post, let’s visit the junction of King Street and Ocean Boulevard, which was used for one particular purpose from the days of slavery until 1970: as a market.
Former Site of the Sunday/Negro Market, Victoria Market and Victoria Craft Market
The bottom of King Street, where the former meets the sea, was once the location of three separate markets at different periods in Kingston’s history.
- The Kingston Sunday/Negro market: This market once existed during the country’s plantation period. Here slaves, who were free from labouring on the plantations on Sundays, sold produce grown from their kitchen gardens, bought essential goods, and mingled with free persons of colour and white sellers and buyers. Hence the term Sunday market. The historian, Edward Long, in vol. II of his three-volume work, The History of Jamaica (1774), enthusiastically described the Kingston Sunday/Negro market as follows:
At the bottom of the town, near the water-side, is the market place, which is plentifully supplied with butchers meat, poultry, fish, fruits, and vegetables of all sorts. Here are found not only a great variety of American, but also of European, vegetables; such as pease, beans, cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, French beans, artichokes, potatoes, carrots, turnips, radishes, celery, onions, &c. These are brought from the Liguanea mountains, and are all excellent in their kind. Here are likewise strawberries, not inferior to the production of our English gardens; grapes and melons in the utmost perfection; mulberries, figs, and apples, exceedingly good, but in general gathered before they are thoroughly ripe. In short, the most luxurious epicure cannot fail of meeting here with sufficient in quantity, variety, and excellence, for the gratification of his appetite the whole year round. The prices are but little different from those of Spanish Town; but, where they disagree, they are more reasonable at Kingston, the supplies being more regular, and the market better superintended by the magistracy. (Long 1774, Vol. II, pg. 105).
Talk about enthusiastic!
- Victoria Market: On Friday, May 24, 1872, the old Sunday/Negro market came to an official end when the Victoria Market was opened to the public on the same site by the then Governor, Sir John Peter Grant. It was named the Victoria Market in honour of the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birthday. The Handbook of Jamaica for 1893 (pg. 452) described the Victoria Market building as “a handsome and commodious iron structure” while The Gleaner, reporting on its opening, described the market as “a magnificent structure” (The Gleaner and DeCordova’s Advertising Sheet, Monday, May 27, 1872, pg. 1). The Victoria Market eventually became the central meat and vegetable market for Kingston.
- Victoria Craft Market: In 1956, the Victoria Market, deemed no longer safe for selling food, was “refurbished for the display of Jamaican arts and crafts” (The Daily Gleaner, Thursday, December 6. 1956, pg. 1), and re-opened on Friday, December 7, 1956 as the Victoria Craft Market, the first of its kind in the Caribbean. The Victoria Craft Market eventually became very popular and was a must-visit place for both visitors to the island and locals alike. The Craft Market also had a cocktail lounge that provided meals, drinks and Jamaican music. According to The Daily Gleaner for Tuesday, March 31, 1970, pg. 1:
As it grew in fame, the Victoria Craft Market became a mecca for visitors, especially those on one-day cruise-ship calls at Kingston, eager to get souvenirs of their visit to Jamaica. Jamaicans, too, patronized the market, purchasing presents for relatives and friends overseas and relaxing on a holiday afternoon in the cocktail lounge, which became a popular rendezvous over the years.
On Tuesday, March 31, 1970, the Victoria Craft Market was relocated to Port Royal Street, and renamed the Jamaica Craft Market. The old building was demolished to make “way for a new construction as part of the Kingston Waterfront Re-Development Programme” (The Daily Gleaner, Tuesday, March 31, 1970, pg. 5): the development of Ocean Boulevard and the construction of the Kingston Mall.
My travel back in time took me to other sections of the Waterfront, of course, but those details will be shared in another post. I was so thirsty by the time I got back to Kingston 2015, the only thing I could think of was buying a cold jelly coconut from the coconut man parked at the junction. I sipped on my coconut water while seated on one of the many seats along the boardwalk, and enjoyed the cool breeze off the Caribbean sea. Aah…
Question: Do you have any memories of the Victoria Market and/or the Victoria Craft Market you’d like to share?
Until next time…
Greetings from Jamaica. Victoria Market, foot of King Street. Retrieved from http://www.will-robson.com/keyword/market;victoria/i-MgSX66K/A
Long, Edward (1774). The History of Jamaica, Vol. II. London: Printed for T. Lowndes in Fleet-Street.
Musson, S.P. and Roxburh, T. Laurence (1893). The Handbook of Jamaica for 1893. Jamaica: Government Printing Office.
Sager, Eric W. (2013). Comment: History is more than just getting the facts rights. Times Colonist, March 15, 2013
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. Jamaica, Victoria Market, Kingston. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5e66b3e9-125a-d471-e040-e00a180654d7
Senior, Olive (2003). Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage. St. Andrew: Twin Guinep Publishers, Ltd.
The Gleaner and DeCordova’s Advertising Sheet, Monday, May 27, 1872, pg. 1
The Daily Gleaner, Thursday, December 6. 1956
The Daily Gleaner, Tuesday, March 31, 1970, pg. 5