The small town of Ipswich, Saint Elizabeth parish in the county of Cornwall is situated at 18° 11' 60" N 77° 49' 60" W. It is approximately 21 miles south east from Montego Bay.
Population:- No current population figures available. The latest known figures date from the 1970’s & show 1,170 inhabitants. This is likely to have decreased significantly since then.
How to get there:-
By road: From Black River take A2 north, then B6 north. From Montego Bay take B8, then B6 south. Ipswich is on a barely navigable road to the east of the B6.
Rail services were discontinued in 1992.
Nearest airports are Sangster International, Montego Bay & Norman Manley International, Kingston.
Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5 hrs). No daylight saving time in summer.
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The commonly held belief (and the one that is given by both the Jamaica Information Service & the website About Jamaica) is that this Ipswich was named after his place of birth by the English Baptist Missionary the Rev. John Hutchins, when he was establishing a church here around 1836. Although there is no available evidence that Hutchins was from Ipswich, his wife Mary Ann was the daughter of the Rev. Thomas Middleditch who definitely did have connections with Ipswich, Suffolk. After her death in 1838, her father wrote a book “The Youthful Female Missionary. A Memoir of Mary Ann Hutchins, wife of the Rev.John Hutchins, Baptist Missionary, Savanna-la-mar, Jamaica, and daughter of the Rev. T Middleditch of Ipswich”. This was published in 1840. Even so, there is no written record of the Hutchins’ being in Ipswich, St. Elizabeth & there is no record of a Baptist church there. And although her father is known to have been a minister in Ipswich, Suffolk in 1841 (after Mary Ann’s death) there is no reason to think that she ever lived there or had any connection with the town.
However, the name Ipswich was definitely being used in 1776 & probably before that. In 1684, 8,000 acres of land in this area had been bought by John Yates & Richard Scott. This land was granted to Scott in compensation for plantations he had lost during the Anglo-Dutch Wars in Surinam. Although there is no record of Richard Scott’s background, it is known that he was married to Bathshua, the daughter John Oxenbridge, who was a minister from Boston, Massachusetts. The plantation was divided up into three estates, two of which were named after early Massachusetts towns (Ipswich & Springfield). The other, the largest, was the YS Estate, named after the initials of Yates & Scott. The YS falls, which are one of Jamaica’s main tourist attractions, are on the Black River, only eight miles from the Ipswich Caves. It would seem, therefore, that the name comes from this source rather than directly from the original Ipswich in Suffolk.
In December 1776, there is the first written record of Ipswich in an “Indenture registered between John Morse and Thomas Smith of London and others on a mortgage of YS, Ipswich and Springfield Plantations in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica”.
Ipswich was devastated during the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt of 1831 & was probably being inhabited by former slaves when the Baptists arrived in the area shortly afterwards.
Up until the 1990s, Ipswich was a thriving community, with a rail service running daily through Ipswich Station. The cessation of all passenger rail services in Jamaica in 1992*, however, had a devastating impact on the town.
As the Jamaican newspaper The Sunday Gleaner put it in an article entitled “Ipswich: Left for Dead” on 21st February 2010:
“There is, for all practical purposes, no road to the community of Ipswich in St Elizabeth. Mostly, there is a rutted pathway, with white marl only navigable at a very careful crawl. At other points, 'public' is a quasi-tragic misnomer for a road that would be much more appropriate on a large landowner's farm, grass in the middle standing out against narrow, white wheel tracks. 'Public' is inappropriate in another sense, as The Sunday Gleaner does not encounter a single car going down into Ipswich from the Maggotty end or continuing the descent towards the main road near the YS Estate.
And apart from the tiny, forlorn community itself there is only one other village, Merrywood, on that stretch of desolation. It is all downhill into Ipswich and it is all downhill in Ipswich where, residents say, the October 1992 final cessation of the public rail service has had a devastating effect.
It is literally a community that is taken in at a glance, except for houses extending along the line. Concrete structures are in the decided minority, as are young adults. This is a comatose community, clinging to life by dint of sheer stubbornness”.
* In 2011, some passenger services recommenced in Jamaica, with further expansion planned in & around Kingston.
The caves are located about one and a half miles north west of Ipswich. Also known as the Duanwarie Caves, the Ipswich Caves are in fact one limestone cave with three entrances, the largest being approximately 25 ft high by 40 feet wide. Once incorrectly described as the second largest cave system in Jamaica, the Ipswich Caves are noted for their stalactites & stalagmites. Guided tours of the caves can be arranged.
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Spirostemma ipswichensis is a species of land snail discovered near to Ipswich, St Elizabeth in 1898. It was first described by Henry A Pilsbry, Conservator of the Conchological Section of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (see Ipswich as a Scientific Name page for full details of this species).
Ipswich is located in Saint Elizabeth, the second largest parish in Jamaica which is situated in the south west of the island. St Elizabeth adjoins Westmoreland parish to the west, St James & Trelawny Parishes to the north & Manchester parish to the east. It is named after the wife of the first English Governor of Jamaica, Sir Thomas Modyford. Its capital is the sea port of Black River. There are three mountain ranges in the north of the parish; the Nassau, the Santa Cruz & the Lacovia. To the south is an extensive plain used for grazing cattle, goats & horses. The largest river is the Black River at 33 miles in length. Its tributaries include the Horse Savannah & the YS.
The main industries of Saint Elizabeth are Bauxite mining, fishing, tourism & agriculture. Although sugar cane predominates, other crops produced include tobacco, corn, ginger, rice & coffee.
Tourist attractions include the Appleton Rum Distillery, Treasure Beach, the YS Falls, Lover’s Leap, the Maroon village of Accompong & 44 caves, including the Ipswich caves.