Walpole and Jamaica | Chronicling the History of Strawberry Hill


Nestled on 26 acres in the picturesque Blue Mountains of Jamaica at 3,100 feet above sea level, Strawberry Hill is a forty-five minute drive from Kingston Airport and 30 minutes from the Centre of Kingston. The property has a 360° view, with Kingston to the West, Newcastle to the North, the Yallahs Mountains to the East and Bull Bay to the South.

Strawberry Hill was reputed to have been deeded by the British Royal Family to Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford and 4th son of Sir Robert in 1780. Named after Walpole’s English estate, the property was famous as a meeting place for Walpole musicians and aristocracy. Walpole grew coffee and other crops, including strawberries here. The first structure to occupy the property was the estate manager’s cottage, later to be known as the Great House. The original Great House was a single story timber framed house built in the Georgian style. The main house had a separate kitchen and outhouse.

Early Days

Life was very simple with no electricity and the only mode of transportation was horse and carriage, which were kept on the main road where the water tank now stands; water was brought up from the Hope River at Red Light by donkey. Communication took place by messages, which were sent by runner from Strawberry Hill to Gordon Town and then with another runner from Gordon Town to Kingston.

In the latter part of the 18th century Strawberry Hill was used as a Naval Hospital and was visited by a number of foreign dignitaries, including Admiral Lord Nelson, a family friend of Walpole. In 1890 the property was bought by Dr. George Grace, at which time, it underwent considerable renovation and expansion.


In the 20th century the property changed hands numerous times and was owned by some of the Island’s most well known families. Mr. Bill Cargill bought the property in the 1930’s, at which time he cultivated strawberries and coffee. In the early 1940’s Cargill sold the property to the DaCosta family who continued to operate Strawberry Hill as a working estate growing peaches, asparagus, English plums, raspberries, and sweet pea flowers.

The DaCosta’s also started the tradition of Sunday Tea at Strawberry Hill. The property was then sold to the Moffatt family in the 60’s, who like the DaCosta family carried on the tradition of tea, for which Strawberry Hill became famous. In 1972 Mr. Moffatt sold the property to Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, who had frequently visited Strawberry Hill as a child with his parents for tea.

A Place To Relax

During the 70’s and 80’s many famous entertainers and musicians visited the property, including the Rolling Stones and Bob Marley, who convalesced at Strawberry Hill after being shot in 1976. You can find out more about Strawberry Hills rich Music History here.

In 1986 Strawberry Hill opened to the public as a restaurant and received the National Heritage in Architecture Award. However, in 1988 the Great House was completely destroyed by Hurricane Gilbert. In 1991, Blackwell commissioned Ann Hodges, a Jamaican Architect specializing in restoration architecture, to build him a cottage on the property.

In 1997, the Hotel received the Award of Merit as the best Resort/Villa/Hotel and received the overall Governor General’s Award as the most beautifully designed hotel created in the last 4 years.

Blackwell and Hodges continued to build cottages for friends and family maintaining a traditional 19th century Jamaican aesthetic. Before long the concept for an intimate mountainside hotel was born.