The facts about Rose Hall

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The plaque dedicated to Annie Palmer, St. James Parish Church, Montego Bay  

Rose Hall - St. James (20 minutes drive east of Montego Bay)
Tel: ( 1 876 ) 953-2323

The true story of Rose Hall begins long before Annie Palmer was even born. Rose Hall's first mistress was Rosa Palmer (nee Kelly), a daughter of Irish immigrants living in Jamaica. In 1746 Henry Fanning, an Englishman, was anticipating marriage to Rosa so he purchased a 290 acre plot of land in St. James Parish on which to build their married home. The two were married in 1747 but Fanning died within months of the marriage.

Rosa married again in 1750 to George Ash, a landowner in St. James. Ash spent £30,000 building a marvelous home on the land with ornately carved mahogany doors, floors and staircases. The estate was named Rose Hall in Rosa's honour. Sadly for the couple Ash did not survive long after the property was completed and died in 1752.

The following year Rosa entered a brief and unhappy marriage with the Hon. Norwood Witter, a widower from Westmoreland. Witter died in 1767, leaving Rosa a widow for the third time.

Rosa finally found happiness and a lasting marriage the following year when she married the Custos of St. James, John Palmer who owned the neighbouring Palmyra estate. Palmer was a widower with two sons living in England. The two were happily married until Rosa died in 1790, leaving Rose Hall to John Palmer in her will. As a tribute to his wife, Palmer commissioned renowned artist John Bacon to carve a memorial to her in the St. James parish church. John Palmer later died in 1797, leaving Rose Hall and Palmyra in trust for his sons in England. They never visited Jamaica or had children by the time they died (the last one died in 1818) so the estates passed on to Palmer's grand nephew John (or possibly James) Palmer.

John Palmer moved to Jamaica to take charge of Rose Hall and soon married Annie Patterson (the lady who became the subject of the White Witch of Rose Hall legend). Little is known about the lives of Annie and John but all evidence points to then being a happily married couple and model citizens. John Palmer died in 1827, his death was widely reported in Jamaica but there has been no recorded suggestion of foul play. There is evidence to suggest that Annie Palmer vacated Rose Hall by 1830 and died in Bonavista near Anchovy in 1846.

The basis for most of the White Witch legend seems to come from H.G. de Lisser's 1928 novel "The White Witch of Rose Hall". This was a popular novel telling the gripping story of an Annie Palmer that lived a very different life to that indicated by the records available from the time.

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Facts about Rose Hall