Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Old Alberga Bridge, Gordon Town Road - Preserving Jamaica’s Georgian history

Published:Sunday | February 23, 2020 | 12:38 AM
The Old Alberga Bridge in Gordon Town is still in good condition, was abandoned and is now covered by debris and vegetation.
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The Old Alberga Bridge in Gordon Town stands as a testament to Jamaica’s history. The old stone bridge, still in good condition, was abandoned and is now covered by debris and vegetation.

Coffee production commenced in the St Andrew foothills of the Blue Mountains in 1728. Exports began by 1737. Export and production reached their peak between 1800 and 1830. The coffee estates, Cold Spring and Wallenford, both owned by Matthew Wallen, were established from the 1740s. Dublin Castle, Hopewell, and New Castle Estates existed from about 1821. This was an important economic area based on slave labour. It was heavily traversed.

The Gordon Town Road was the primary access route into the area. There is no indication of when this road was first constructed. It crosses the intersection of the Mammee and Hope Rivers below the Cooperage leading up to Gordon Town. Over this river junction, a stone bridge was constructed. This is the old Alberga Bridge. The date of its construction is still to be determined.

However, an article by Wilbert Hemming in The Gleaner of March 15. 1997 on the Making of a Parish – Trelawny, states that the Alberga Bridge and Grove Church on Gordon Town Road were the only structures remaining in Jamaica of the same type of construction as the bridge over the river on the border of Trelawny and St Ann [the Bengal Bridge]. White lime, sand, and molasses were used in the construction of this border bridge, which was built by a Colin Campbell in 1789 and cost £960. [From History of Trelawny by Daniel L. Ogilvie]. St Joseph, the Grove Anglican Church, was originally constructed in 1827.

Maryland Coffee Estate

The old Alberga Bridge is opposite the Blue Mountain Inn, which was the Mount Mansfield Guest House up to 1956. This House could have been in existence before 1829 when it was occupied by José Aniceto Yznaga, a Cuban independence patriot and refugee. It was part of the then Maryland Coffee Estate established by Sir Edward Hyde East in 1809.

Gordon Town (Gordon’s Town) developed on the lands of Hinton East’s botanical garden at Spring Garden established in 1770. It was a public garden, but in 1811, it was sold to Dr John Gordon, whose name the town bears.

The British government bought the New Castle Coffee Estate for a high-elevation military base in 1841. The soldiers would have used the Gordon Town Road to access this base.

This “Alberga” bridge could have been named for the Alberga brothers, who owned property in the area. Hopewell Estate was owned by David Judah Alberga (1812-1881) and his brother, Benjamin. Benjamin Alberga apparently owned the Mount Mansfield Guest House in 1844. D. J. Alberga is listed as a justice of the peace and member of the Kingston Municipal Board and Road Board in 1877.

Governor Sir John Peter Grant brought General James Robert Mann to Jamaica in 1867 to be director of roads and superintendent of public works, mandated to improve roads and bridges. He lived at Mount Mansfield until he left Jamaica in 1886. Extensive roadwork was done in the area at this time. In fact, Governor Grant’s summer home was Creighton House in the vicinity.

This bridge, which was sturdy but quite narrow, was in daily use up to 2000. Only one vehicle at a time could pass over it. Passengers would disembark from buses near Blue Mountain Inn and walk over the bridge, reboarding on the other side. Should two vehicles, from opposite directions, meet on the bridge, a traffic jam could be created stretching back to Papine Square.

In November 1997, in another road and bridge rehabilitation project, with funds from the Canadian International Development Agency, construction began on a new bridge to replace the old one. The new bridge, which retains the name Alberga, was opened in March 2000.

Given the history of the bridge and the area, the Georgian Society of Jamaica’s Kingston Chapter has recommended that this bridge be identified as a historical monument by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

Courtesy the Georgian Society of Jamaica, Kingston Chapter