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Houses of Parliament

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About Houses of Parliament

Jamaica’s first House of Assembly held its first meeting on January 20, 1664, at St. Jag de la Vega (now Spanish Town). The exact site where the Assembly met while Spanish Town was the seat of Government still remains a mystery.

In 1755 the Assembly sat in Kingston. Again there is no clear indication of the places it met, except that Cundall records – “In November 1755, when the Assembly was sitting in Kingston, it on the 12th adjourned to the dwelling house of Thomas Hibbert, Esquire a member of this House where he and Colonel Lawrence another member of this House are indisposed, there to proceed on business”. From whence they adjourned it is not certain but it seems that it could be from either the Court House, Wolmer’s School (at that time in South Parade) or a certain Dr. Clarke’s house.

Hibbert House was bought by the War Office in 1814 as headquarters for the Office commanding the area and thus came to be known as Headquarters House. In 1872 it was bought by the Government for £5,000 and became the seat of the Legislature. Hibbert House or Headquarters House, as it later became known, has had an interesting background. The story goes that this house was built as the result of a bet between four rich merchants as to whom could build the finest residence. Three of the merchants that participated in the bet are known – Jasper Hall, John Bull and Thomas Hibbert. The name of the fourth merchant is not recorded. The houses were Jasper Hall which was on Highholborn Street, Bull house on North Street and Hibbert House or Headquarters House at the corner of Duke and Beeston Street. The fourth house was on Hanover Street. It is thought that Jasper Hall may have won the bet, but only Hibbert House remains today as an outstanding example of an outstanding example of Jamaican eighteenth century architecture.

Headquarters House remained the seat of the Legislature until 1960 was a new building when provided. This building was called George William Gordon House to commemorate the Jamaican patriot, an Assembly-man who was accused of instigating the 1865 Rebellion and who was condemned to death and hanged at Morant Bay.

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