The town is the county town, and the third in size in the island Its public buildings are two places of worship, a court-house, gaol, fort, marine hospital, and barracks for two companies of infantry. The site of the town is bad, being on the leeward side of a range of hills, and originally it was very marshy; but these hills afford fine lime-stone, and an earth of the nature of puzzolana, which no water acts upon. The streets formed of these materials, are hard, durable, and free from dust.
The portion of a morass at the back of the town, which belonged to the public, has recently, though an Herculean task, been filled up. The bushes and aquatic vegetables growing upon it were cut down and laid on the morass, and small stones and earth from the town quarry laid upon them to the thickness of three inches. When these had sufficiently incorporated, a similar layer, and then again a third were put on, and it is now passable for the heaviest carts. It has already had a sensible effect on the leeward part of the town, where the autumnal fever, so frequent in the fall, is now scarcely known. The land belonging to individuals is forming in like manner, and will in a few years be capable of bearing buildings. The town has been twice in great part burnt down, in 1795 and 1818. While we deplore the loss to individuals, the arrangements for its reconstruction have greatly improved it. The building lots are generally about one-fifth of an acre, and, according to their situation, value from £280 to £1500 a lot, or from 1400 to 7500 currency per acre. The most valuable lots are those nearest the sea.
On the hills to the east and north are a variety of very elegant and substantial residences, which command a charming prospect of the town and shipping, and an extensive line of country.
The Church of this town is the handsomest in the island. There is likewise a Wesleyan Chapel, and in the parish there are no less than fourteen religious establishments for the instruction of the black population, conducted by the Established Church, the Moravians, Baptists, and Wesleyan Methodists. In the town itself are eight Schools: four for the white, including a free school, and four for the brown population.
The Magistracy are divided into four bodies, one being appointed for each quarter, and two meet every day at the Court-house for the decision of inferior cases. The Quarter Sessions are held four times a year, and the Assize Courts three times.
The Court-House is a handsome and commodious building. In it are whole-length portraits of George III. and Queen Charlotte, by the former President of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds. The Bail-Room and Court-House are elegantly furnished; the chandeliers are of the most costly description, and the entertainments given there are seldom graced with fewer than 120 ladies.
The water, with which the town is abundantly supplied, rises in a valley at the foot of the hills, and is of remarkable purity. These, with other local advantages, render Montego Bay and its neighbourhood a very desirable place of residence.