Sweet Living at Good Hope

IMG_3259Early morning, if you wake, it is noticeably quiet, the sky has settled, the moon is visible, through the breadfruit, in all its phases, from my bedroom window. But because of the quiet, if not a single bird is tweeting, I know it’s far too early to get out of bed. I turn over and listen peacefully to silence. By first light, a symphony of birdsong is my cue to put on the kettle, and find my shoes. To wake at Good Hope and walk out, with my dog, to the splendor of the morning, this I relish. IMG_2848

Are you a City Mouse or a Country Mouse? I’m a Country Mouse. I like people, I do, but I prefer nature, as cruel as it can be, and to live as I do in the country, on this beautiful island, behind the 18th century Good Hope Great House, that sits on a hill, with soul stirring views, in the middle of 2,000 acres, (700 in citrus, the rest forest), overlooking a valley, with a river running through it and a collection of architectural Georgian gems, buildings belonging to the 18th century Sugar Estate, Good Hope once was, well it’s amazing! Good Hope River

This is my third residency at Good Hope! So I have to wonder, what is it about Jamaica, and me, and why do I keep returning to Good Hope? The first prolonged visit was 1988, Patrick Tenison owned Good Hope, and the estate was in a lamentable condition. The hotel business, that the estate’s previous owner, J F Thompson, had begun, (in the 1920’s, when tourism was just beginning to be), a kind of socialite’s Dude Ranch, with excellent stables, dreamy trails, unlimited martinis, white tie dinners and dancing on the lawn, did not survive Jamaica’s politically devastating 1970’s. By the 80’s Patrick (who had acquired Good Hope in the 1950’s) and his wife Fran, were living in the Great House, his daughter Susan, and her young daughter Rebecca were in the Counting House, and there were no paying guests. The farm, mainly the coconut trees Thompson had planted, brought in a paltry sum. The Wolf was at the door.Good Hope Vintage

In 88, in a last attempt to use what resources there were, Susan convinced her father to try one more Good Hope Guest House season. Patrick’s brother, the renowned, Robin Hanbury Tenison, author, explorer, environmentalist, and his family were coming for Christmas. The plan was to set up the Great House properly to receive guests, including the Robin Hanbury Tenisons, as they could help promote a Good Hope holiday, if they saw Good Hope was ready. Patrick would contact all the people still alive, (there weren’t many); who had ever stayed at Good Hope, and announce Good Hope would once again be open for business.   As preparations were being made for Christmas and Robin, and ‘the season’ to come, Susan and Becky suddenly had to leave Jamaica. Who would cover for Sue until she could return? Sue and I had become friends; I was relatively new to Jamaica, and living with my parents. Sue’s offer included a Work Permit, obviously practical, and frankly, I was fascinated by all I was learning about the island. I moved into the Coach House, then still an authentic Coach House with horses, and an insanely romantic hayloft, where I put a bed. This assignment lasted through Robin’s Christmas visit, perhaps 3 or 4 months. Paying guests did not follow. In 1989, Tony Hart and investors purchased Good Hope, and Patrick died of cancer within a year.

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GHB4There is a compelling drama to life at Good Hope. The property goes through cycles and there are delicious stories about the families (there have only been 5) who’ve owned the property since it was settled in 1744. The ruins of the very first small cut-stone building, (with an inscription), sits behind the garden, beyond the pool and the kitchen. Thomas Williams from Westmoreland was deeded the land. Ten years later, he built the Great House for his son and a new bride, who died soon after arriving in the tropics, as many did, of malaria. She is buried under the Great House; her tombstone is wonderfully morose.

Not long after that Good Hope was sold to 23-year-old John Tharp. Under Tharp’s stewardship, Good Hope became one of Jamaica’s most prosperous sugar estates, at the moment when ‘Sugar was King’, and Jamaica was the diamond in England’s colonial crown. Good Hope remained in the Tharp family well into the late 1800’s and has stayed one consistent estate, to this day, contributing to it’s preservation. After Tharp’s tenure, Good Hope changed hands a couple of times locally, a Falmouth merchant, then a Falmouth Ship Captain, until, as the story goes, an American banker, J F Thompson, looking for antique furniture, found the estate, in ruins, and bought it in a bar, from the Sea Captain Oppenheim. Good fortune for Good Hope.Good Hope

When the Hart family purchased Good Hope in 1989, once again, Good Hope was going to seed. The Great House was heavy with the addition of two large covered verandahs on either side of the house, what Patrick called his Drinking Verandas. The Hart’s set about to restore, first the Great House, to its original dimensions, then gradually, one by one, all the remarkable Georgian stone structures have been given purpose. Citrus replaced coconuts, and tourism, paying guests, are once again welcome.   There was a period of experimentation, of marketing Good Hope in different ways – as a Villa, for Events, Weddings, Workshops, annually a popular Good Hope Kids Summer Camp. It was during this period I returned to Good Hope, this time working with Tammy and Blaise Hart, and living in a little stone house beside the ruin of the slave hospital, what today is the Appleton Rum Bar; the hospital ruin now hosting a magnificent bird aviary. Thanks to the Falmouth Cruise Ship Pier, open in 2011, and a fruitful partnership with the adventure tour operator Chukka Caribbean, Good Hope is recreating a new identity as a visitor destination.

Good Hope Coach House

And once again I am blessed to be back at Good Hope, this time as a friend, propping up a little wooden house that sits just beyond the Great House kitchen. Jamaica is a place you love or you don’t. I fell hard, and I’ve been fortunate, Jamaica continues to hand me one adventure after another. And I am in the enjoyable position of sharing, the Jamaica I appreciate immeasurably, with many people.  Blessed indeed.  Love, LL

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About the author

Lynda Lee Burks has lived in Jamaica most of her adult life. She supports her passion for living by the sea, by organizing tours of Jamaica, producing events – dub poets to destination weddings, and as artist and teacher.  

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