Trench Town (also Trenchtown) is a neighborhood located in the parish of St. Andrew which shares municipality with Kingston, the capital and largest city of Jamaica. In the 1960s Trench Town was known as the Hollywood of Jamaica. Today Trench Town is the location of the Trench Town Culture Yard Museum, a National Heritage Site presenting the unique history and contribution of Trench Town to Jamaica.

Trench Town
Residential neighbourhood
Trench Town
Coordinates: 17°59′06″N 76°47′48″W
ParishSt Andrew
Postal code
Kingston 12

Trench Town is the birthplace of rocksteady and reggae music, as well as the home of reggae and Rastafari ambassador Bob Marley. The neighborhood gets its name from its previous designation as Trench Pen, 400 acres (162 hectares) of land once used for livestock by Daniel Power Trench, an Irish immigrant of the 18th century (descendants of the Earls of Clancarty). The Trench family abandoned the land in the late 19th century. Trench Town is home to the communities of Wilton Gardens [Rema], Federal Gardens, Arnett Gardens [Jungle], Havana, Buckers and others. Trench Town today is also the home of two of Jamaica's top Premier League football club teams, Arnett Gardens and Boys' Town.


During the 1930s, Trench Pen, in southern St. Andrew (neighboring western Kingston), was a growing squatter settlement for the rural to urban migrants. Trench Pen was developed into Trench Town when the colonial government's Central Housing Authority (CHA) initiated a model township project which included owner occupied housing, rental social housing, schools, a theatre (The Ambassador), a park (Vin Lawrence Park), YMCA & YWCA, health clinic and fire station. Approximately 200 acres (81 hectares) of Trench Pen was used to create Trench Town while the remaining land became known as Rose Town, a residential community. Many who came from rural Jamaica to find work settled in the western side of Kingston as there were available "idle" lands and also the area was a desirable location being close to downtown and the market district.

The new residences consisted of one- and two-storey 'knog' buildings, built in clusters or around a central courtyard with communal cooking and bathroom facilities. These residences became the famous Government Yards of Trench Town. Knog construction refers to a labor-intensive traditional method of construction where a timber frame structure is in-filled with brick or rubble then covered with a wire mesh and plastered. The architecture used was that of a rural Caribbean vernacular with hip roofs and wide verandas. Trench Town was a planned community with a hierarchical grid of streets and central sewage and garbage disposal systems.

Trench Town became famous for the talent which emerged from the project. In the 1950s and 60s bread and milk were delivered door to door, each month the CHA would inspect the residences to ensure compliance and tenants paid their twelve shillings per month on time. Trench Town is mainly known for the vast number of musicians it produced. The community has also produced some of Jamaica's top professional, business and political leaders as well as famous sports and religious personalities. This small area contributed widely to global awareness of the impoverished and politically corrupt conditions in Jamaica.

Like the rest of Jamaica, Trench Town became unstable and dangerous in the early 1970s when politics became violent. The two major Jamaican political parties — the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party – had emerged in Kingston and violently enforced code that ensured only their party's supporters had access to jobs and services. The lower part of Trench Town below Seventh Street was sympathetic to the JLP, which in the 70s put it at war with its northern neighbor Arnette Gardens, a PNP stronghold. The road connecting the two, Seventh Street, became the front-line in an all-out war which saw the entire two blocks of Government Yards between Fifth Street and Seventh Streets being destroyed. The community's and Jamaica's greatest challenge today is poverty.

Traditional community organizations such as Boys Town [YMCA] and Joy Town [YWCA] continue to contribute to the welfare of the residents. New organizations such as AIR (Agency for Inner-city Renewal), the Trenchtown Reading Centre [FACE Jamaica], and the Trench Town Development Association, were formed to increase positive social attitudes, increase literacy and encourage government spending and development in the area. Crime in the neighbourhood has declined; the murder rate in western Kingston has dropped since the mid-1990s.[1] The Prince of Wales has funded a regeneration project in Rose Town through his Foundation for Building Community.[2]

Birthplace of reggae

Trench Town is known in popular culture due to numerous ska, rocksteady, and reggae musicians who grew up there, most notably Bob Marley, who spent much of his youth in a "government yard" on First Street.[1] His songs "Trenchtown", "Natty Dread", "Trenchtown Rock" and "No Woman, No Cry" make reference to it. It was also home to Rastafari elder Mortimo "Kumi" Planno, and the following artists and groups:

Main sights

  • Trench Town Culture Yard Museum
  • Trenchtown Reading Centre
  • Vin Lawrence Park (locally called simply 'the park')
  • Trench Town Peace and Justice Centre


  • Trench Town Primary School
  • Trench Town Polytechnic College, Formerly Trench Town High School
  • Iris Gelly Primary
  • Charlie Smith High School
  • Jones Town Primary

Notable people


  1. Pressly, Linda (2 December 1999). "One Love in Trench Town?". BBC.
  2. Infos at

Further reading

  • Helene Lee. 2004. Voir Trenchtown et mourir. Flammarion, France. ISBN 2-08-068405-1.
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