Kingston, Jamaica

Mapping Urbanization and Social Change

Kingston Settlement Town Plan

After the devastation of Port Royal, the British had to create a new capital of commerce. It was initially moved to Spanish Town. During this time Kingston was founded. Spanish Town as further inland, which was initially a positive attraction to the Port Royal survivors and England since this guaranteed there wouldn’t be another repeat of the Port Royal disaster. Spanish town became the political capital of Jamaica for some time.

Figure 1: A Plan of Kingston from Kingston Jamaica

Kingston was founded on the Liguanea Plain land, which was not too far from Port Royal, but it was key that the city was still accessible to the harbor for trade. It was purchased from Colonel Beeston for 2,000 pounds. Within six weeks of the sinking of Port Royal, the settlement of Kingston was undertaken. It became a refugee camp for Port Royal survivors. Urgency was put on property owners to build homes within 3 years. In 1703, the town began to grow and after all hope for the rebuilding of Port Royal was lost in a fire, was soon on its way to become the official capital of Jamaica. In 1802, as the first settlement in Jamaica to receive such a right, Kingston was granted the privilege of a Mayor and corporation.

Who planned the town is usually attributed to either John Goffe or Christian Lily. According to Kingston, Jamaica by Colin Clarke (2006), “Responsibilities for the layout has usually been attributed to Christian Lilly, though evidence in the Minutes of the Council of Jamaica indicates that John Goffe devised the scheme. But Lilly’s plan of Kingston, dated 1702, provides the earliest cartographic evidence for the town.” (See Figure 1).

The town was planned as a parallelogram. Straight streets at right angles divided the parallelogram into a grid. Lanes ran north to south. Streets and lanes intersected at right angles. This 18th century grid covered 240 acres and was a half a mile from North to South. In addition, the entire town was one mile from the harbor. At the center of the grid is a Great Parade. It is located at the intersection of King and Queen Streets. It was planned to be a central space open for meeting places. King and Queen Streets divided the town into four quadrants. (The Great Exhibition of 1891, n.d.).

Modifications were made. According to Clarke (2006), “…the lots on the north side of Harbor Street had direct access to the three finger wharves, and warehousing and trading, were generally confined to this area. The town plan was modified to provide for these special requirements.” Other modification can be seen on East Queen Street and West Queen Street on the south side of North Street, among others. The major intersection at Parade, King Street, and East and West Queen Streets were widened by 66 feet or broadened by 16 feet more than the standard to accommodate traffic between the port and its hinterland. (Clarke, 2006, p. 16)

Map credits:

Clarke, C. G. (2006). Kingston, Jamaica: Urban Development and Social Change, 1692- 2002. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle.



Clarke, C. G. (2006). Kingston, Jamaica: Urban Development and Social Change, 1692- 2002. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle.


The Great Exhibition of 1891. (n.d.). Jamaica Gleaner’s Pieces of the Past. Retrieved from


This entry was posted on August 18, 2012 by and tagged , , , .
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