The Manning’s School in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, is aiming to raise $100 million to restore the historic Thomas Manning Building, one of Jamaica’s national treasures, which was declared a heritage site in 1999 by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.
The Thomas Manning Building, erected in 1915, is located on the compound of The Manning’s School and houses the school’s library. According to Archibald Campbell, chairman of the fund-raising committee, “We aim to raise approximately $100 million to restore the entire structure, including the interior and exterior walls, and to modernise what used to be a resource centre and library to become a state-of-the-art facility and a mini museum which will be used to showcase a number of artefacts found in the parish, which has a rich history dating back to the sugar cane plantation era.”
He added: “The restoration of the Thomas Manning Building is intended to benefit not just Manning’s School, but the people of Westmoreland and Jamaicans in general, as we preserve a significant portion of Jamaica’s rich heritage.” He said the fund-raising efforts are intended to engage past students, the business community, public sector, and civil society.
Named after a Westmoreland planter, Thomas Manning, who, in 1710 bequeathed a plot of land for the setting up of a free school in the parish, The Thomas Manning Building represents one of the oldest buildings of its kind in the western hemisphere. Though the Will was left idle for some time, in 1738, an Act, Eleventh George 11 Chapter 9 was passed by the Jamaica Assembly constituting the Manning’s Trust and allowing for the erection of the building. Of Georgian architecture, the building represents the oldest existing part of the school and is primarily made of timber with the rest on a masonry plinth. The building had fallen into disrepair and deemed unsafe due to termite infestation and has been closed for the last two years.
In a special appeal to donors, Moses Chybar, chairman of the board of management of the school, stated: “We believe it is important to preserve our legacy so future generations can appreciate the history that is so intricately wrapped within the building. With its restoration, we will continue to educate and enlighten our students, the residents of Westmoreland and Jamaicans at large so they can unearth that deep, untold portion of their history and experience this important symbol of history that is intertwined in its architecture; an art that we don’t see very often anymore. More and more we replace these structures with modern buildings, but buildings such as the Thomas Manning Building help us to contextualise our collective and individual identities which is key to demystifying our future.”