Windsor Great House was built by John Tharp in 1795 (see map from IoJ) and is listed by the Jamaica National Trust. John Tharp owned nearly all the land bordering the Martha Brae river, including Windsor Pen, where the river rises. Since cattle were the source of motive power at that time, it must have seemed logical to keep the (self-propelled) cattle at the furthest location from the port at Falmouth, and the Great House was built by John Tharp as the cattle overseer's house. After Tharp's death in 1804 a succession of managers looked after the estates until Tharp's nephew William came out in 1828. He stayed about 10 years, but after his departure and, of course, Emancipation, the estates were neglected and finally sold and broken up in 1867.
William James Donald-Hill purchased Windsor in 1892 or 93 and his family lived there until about 1947 when the estate was sold to Ms (now Dame) Miriam Rothschild who carried out considerable refurbishing. It was subsequently sold to Kaiser Bauxite in the late 1950's and was subdivided for resettlement of farmers displaced by mining activities in the parish of St Anns. Kaiser gave the Great House to The Boy Scouts Association of Jamaica, from whom the present owner (Michael Schwartz) purchased it in 1986.
Michael Schwartz and Susan Koenig operate Windsor Great House as a home and as a Research Centre for scientists interested in the unique attributes of the Cockpit Country. One of the best ways of getting a real feel for the Cockpit Country is to come to Windsor in the evening for a "Meet the Biologists" dinner at the Great House: you'll be treated to drinks and dinner (normally four courses) served on the Verandah together with a short talk by whichever researcher(s) happen to be in residence at the time. These talks are normally preceded by a field trip so that you work up an appetite! Come early (around 1630, as the day cools) and bring long pants and adequate shoes for walking.
Because of its location in the heart of the Cockpit Country,
the Windsor Great House has been used by researchers since at least
1920. , Harold E. Anthony' (mammologist at American Museum of Natural History, NY says in
his 1919-20 field notes, "Windsor is at the end of the road, the
best jumping off place for the CockPit Country and the best sort of
a collecting station. The hills are of the Cock Pit variety and
close right in on the Windsor Pen" (see aerial photo) "The one
drawback is the miscell. pests. The ticks are terrible and the
mosquitos only a little less bad. The latter however are day biters
and the nights are serene" We echo his words: come for evening
dinner, if you want a pleasant experience of the Cockpit
Country:- there is a reason why the hills are not inhabited...!
During the 1950's the property was owned by (Dame) Miriam Rothschild, who conducted seminal research on mammalian ectoparasites in Windsor Cave and published her "Fleas, Flukes and Cuckoos" in 1952 while living here.
When not occupied by researchers, the Great House has a couple of rooms which can be rented: this is especially practical for Birders who need to be in the field at dawn, or who are looking for our special nightbirds: the Potoo and the Jamaican Owl. We value your feedback and comments: