Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
ST PETER'S Anglican Church, called The Alley, is located within the Clarendon sugar belt between Amity Hall and Monymusk. It is in the heart of the sugar industry and has been there for nearly three centuries. And from the look of things, it might just be around for another 300 years, barring any catastrophic natural disaster.
Originally built at Withywood in 1671, it was rebuilt in 1715 after the 1692 earthquake. In 1722, it was partially destroyed by a hurricane, and the current structure was completed in 1735. It is the third-oldest Anglican Church in Jamaica, behind The Cathedral in Spanish Town, St Catherine, and the St Andrew Parish Church. The Alley was magnificently built with red bricks and stone quoins, now painted white, and has a bell tower at its main entrance.
The stairs leading to the three-quarter ton cast-iron bell brought from London in 1875 are on the right as one enters this awesome historic space. The massive pipe organ, restored in 1910 and in need of minor repairs, is said to be one of the oldest in the Caribbean. It commands much attention, and so do the many exquisite monuments, wall, and floor tablets mounted or laid in dedication to the dearly departed.
Amazingly well preserved
Some of them are amazingly well preserved and the inscriptions are still legible. The lovely thing about these inscriptions is that apart from giving the names, dates of birth and death of the deceased, they actually tell a story, giving a little extra.
For instance, the one in memory of Kean Osborn, late Speaker of the Jamaica House of Assembly, said he died in 1820 in France on his way to Italy "for the health of the wretched survivor Elizabeth Osborn".
Quite interesting it is. Who is Elizabeth, and why was she called "the wretched survivor"?
Other interesting features are the stained-glass windows on the eastern side, depicting the story of Jesus Christ, and those above the gallery at the western end that show the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments.
The rare slate roof, damaged by the elements over time, has been replaced by a shingle roof. But while the church is still solid despite some maintenance challenges, there are two other structures on the property that could perhaps be restored for their utility and historical value.
The Mike Robinson Hall, which was built around and above the very old rectory, is now in a state of ruin, having partially been destroyed by fire. The metal step rails were removed in broad daylight by thieves. The rectory, which seems to be occupied by a squatter, is also in a state of disrepair.
The cemetery and other sections of the property are used for grazing by trespassers, and when Rural Xpress visited recently, several animals were seen enjoying the vegetation thereon. While the long-departed lie still in their graves, the living are eking out a living on the historic grounds of St Peter's Anglican Church.
As Rural Xpress was about to leave, there appeared a young man, looking all over the place for his goats. He wasn't concerned about the history of The Alley and the ancient graves that surround her. It was a juxtaposition of the very old still standing firm, still saving souls perhaps, and the young going around in circles searching for his goats.