John Bacon’s commission to produce a statue of Admiral Lord Rodney to be located in the main square of Spanish Town Jamaica led to a further 11 requests from senior government officials and wealthy planters over the next decade. I include 5 examples here; three from Spanish Town Cathedral and one each from Kingston Parish Church and St James's Church Montego Bay. The comments on these works come from the pen of the eminent historian of Jamaica, Frank Cundall.

After the Rodney memorial, the monument in the cathedral, Spanish Town, erected to the memory of the Earl of Effingham, governor of Jamaica, and his countess, is the most important and the most beautiful work by Bacon in Jamaica. It is of marble, and bears the legend "J. Bacon, sculptor, London, 1796." On a base stands an urn, decorated with festoons of flowers, and bearing, under an earl's coronet, the arms of Effingham. Above the urn, hanging on an obelisk which rises from the base of the monument, are represented the Chancellor's seal, the mace and sword in saltire, and the usual emblematic scales. On one side of the monument, clasping the urn, is an elegant female figure personifying Jamaica, bearing the crest of the colony, an alligator passant proper, on her zone. On the other side is a lovely boy, his left hand holding an olive branch, resting on a cornucopia full of tropical fruits, and his right hand upon a shield bearing the arms of Jamaica as granted by Charles II. The epitaph [is] written by Bryan Edwards, the historian of the West Indies, and then member of Assembly for Trelawny.

The monument in Kingston Parish Church to Dr. Fortunatus Dwarris, member of the House of Assembly for St. George and his stepdaughter (1792) survived the destruction of the church in 1907 and, represents a recumbent female figure resting on an urn, gazing at an angel conducting the soul of the departed upwards. In it the poetry on the urn descriptive of the scene represented is hardly equal to Bacon's art:

Ascend to Bliss ye gentle Spirits

Where yon Angel soars above:
Their Virtue her Reward Inherits
Crowne'd with Heav'n's eternal love.

Of the monuments in St James Church, Montego Bay, the best is that of Mrs. Rosa Palmer, by John Bacon, R.A., of the year 1794. It is, after the Rodney and Effingham monuments at Spanish Town, the best work by Bacon in Jamaica. She to whose memory it was erected, the wife of John Palmer, custos of the parish, died in 1790, aged 72 years. This monument has been for years connected with the legend of Rose Hall, about ten miles to the east of Montego Bay. Into this legend, of cruelty to slaves and murder of her several husbands by a certain Mrs. Palmer, it is not necessary to enter. Controversies have raged having for their object the identity of the figure on the monument; some maintaining that it was the good, others the bad Mrs. Palmer. As a matter of fact it represents neither, but is merely an emblematic figure, such as Bacon was very fond of putting into his memorials, and in all probability the head on the vase represents the features of Rosa Palmer.

List of John Bacon’s Jamaican works (from Roscoe)

Roscoe Number Subject Type Date Location
47 John Wolmer (†1729) Funerary Monument 1789 St. Thomas, Kingston, Jamaica
49 George McFarquhar (†1786) Funerary Monument 1791 St. James, Montego Bay, Jamaica
56 Dr Fortunatus Dwarris (†1790) and his niece, Anne Neufville (†1782) Funerary Monument 1792 Kingston, Jamaica
72 Malcolm (†1781) and Eleanor Laing (†1747) Funerary Monument 1794 St. Thomas, Kingston, Jamaica
74 Rosa Palmer (†1790) Funerary Monument 1794 St. James, Montego Bay, Jamaica
82 E Prince Funerary Monument 1795 Port Antonio, Jamaica, WI
96 Thomas, 4th Earl and Catherine, Countess of Effingham (both †1791) Funerary Monument 1796 Spanish Town Cathedral, Jamaica
105 Anne Williamson (†1794) Funerary Monument 1798 Spanish Town Cathedral, Jamaica
108 Richard Batty (†1796) Funerary Monument 1798 Spanish Town Cathedral, Jamaica
110 Francis Rigby Brodbelt (†1795) Funerary Monument 1799 Spanish Town Cathedral, Jamaica
112 Mary Carr (†1798) Funerary Monument ?1799 Kingston Cathedral, Jamaica
150 Admiral Lord Rodney Statue 1786-1790 Spanish Town, Jamaica

Further reading

Cecil, Rev Richard. Memoirs of John Bacon RA. London: Seeley, 1822.

Cundall, Frank. Historic Jamaica. London: Institute of Jamaica, 1915.

Roscoe, Ingrid; Hardy, Emma and Sullivan, Dr M.G. A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660-1851 New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.


Last modified 13 December 2015