Over 400 years of Jamaican history
Tryall’s past is deeply rooted in Jamaica’s history, and stretches back much further than the club’s foundation in 1957. The land was originally an Arawak settlement and Barnes Hill was the site of an ancient Arawak burial ground. Spanish colonists who arrived in the 15th and 16th centuries wiped out the Arawak population through disease until they in turn were fought off the island by the English in 1655.
Many built landmarks at the Club that date from the 17th century such as the Great House, Waterwheel and Tryall Fort are listed as and recognized as part of Jamaica's National Heritage. Historic accounts of the 19th century also refer to Tryall having its own pier which remains to this day with the gazebo perched on the end and a second pier to the east. The property has always been named Tryall and documents from the 1680's show the number of livestock kept on the estate together with workers.
Throughout the 17th century Tryall was a mixed use pen before sugar cultivation began alongside grazing in the 18th century. In the south hills (accessible via our hiking trail) former cattle ponds, now dried-up can clearly be seen and there are also 18th and 19th century stone drinking troughs amidst the dense forest. The estate was owned along with Recovery Pen to the south and Flint River to the east by Robert Allen from the early 1800's until he was shot dead during the Baptist Slave Rebellion in 1831. Records from 1824 show that Allen kept 329 slaves at Tryall and 48 stock. His son - also a QC - inherited Tryall and we know that in 1900 it was sold to a JH Parker. Sugar remained in production until the end of the 19th century when Tryall was purchased by Eugene Browne. He decided to change from cane cultivation to growing coconuts and pimento and in 1933, Tryall was producing over one million coconuts a year. Today there are many pimento trees dotting the landscape and in the early morning and late afternoon, the air is overlaid with the subtle scent of spice.
Afternoon tea replaces coconuts
When the coconut market declined after the Second World War, the then owners, William and Ida DeLisser, decided to capitalize on the Great House’s popularity as a tourist attraction and opened a guesthouse. It stayed this way until 1957 when the estate (which had been in the same family since the mid 19th century) was sold to a group of entreprenuers led by Pollard Simons, Winthrop Rockerfeller, Theodore Law, Henry Strazburger and Buddy Fogelson. One of them had visited Tryall for afternoon tea, and recognized that the house and estate had enormous potential. This was the beginning of The Tryall Club.
The proposal was to build luxurious villas on the estate, and provide the convenience of a private members club. The first villa, Little Hill, was completed in 1959 with Retreat following a few months later. The renowned golf course opened in 1961. Today there are 89 villas ranging from one to ten bedrooms and yet the landscape remains instantly recognizable as it was in 1957.
Modern luxury and historical context
Tryall’s long past is crucial to today’s club. The Great House is at the center of the estate, providing the focal point for Tryall’s members. The huge cast iron waterwheel, once a source of power for the sugar plantation, still turns and forms part of the golf course. The remains of the 17th century Tryall Fort still stand and 18th and 19th century iron canon still stand pointed at the ocean ready to defend against marauding ships.