The Garrsion Church of The Ascension


Tit Bits

Church at Up Park Camp used to be held in a building that doubled as a school house before it was destroyed on January 14, 1907 in an earthquake.  The present building is constructed at a new site and was dedicated on the Feast of the Ascension in 1912.

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At the Evening Service preceding the consecration, old Colours of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalion, the West India Regiment were handed over to be laid up in the Church.  These had formerly been kept at the Kingston Parish Church.

The building was constructed by S. R. Eustace Fielding Esq. with assistance from the West India Regiment Engineers. The style of the building is said to be Jacobean from the Gothic Revival era.  The structure is reinforced concrete walls bound together on a steel frame and resting on a deep and strong foundation.  It is built to accommodate 500 persons.The ceiling is described as being a barrel vault ceiling with a series of arches.  There are also seven columns on either side and each is crowned with Ionic Capitols.  The columns are for decorative purposes only. Note must be made of the Obelisk which stands to the west of the Church.  According to the tablet at its base, it was built to commemorate the Officers, NCOs, men, women and children of the 2nd Battalion, the West India regiment who lost their lives in the earthquake of 1907. It was erected by the past and present Officers, WOs, NCOs and men of the 2nd Battalion, the West India Regiment.Garrison Church of the Ascension stands as a place to provide roots, ‘groundedness’ and respite from the challenges of military life.  It is our place from which to draw strength and spiritual renewal both in times of active duty and times of relative calm.

Children’s Chapel – The south transept houses a Children’s Chapel.  The plaque laid in the chapel indicates that it was dedicated to the memory of Officers, Soldiers and their families lost at sea in 1953.The band is accommodated in that area on the occasions when they play for Worship.


Bells  – There are two bells located near the west entrance to the church.  The inscription on them is as follows:

Right Bell:  John Taylor and Co. founders of Loughborough, England, 1957.

Left Bell:   J.A. F FANAPATNAM J763

The bell on the right is still rung on Sunday mornings five minutes before the start of each service.


The Pipe Organ

The Pipe Organ was renovated February 2014 and is fully functional.  It was commissioned by HM the King and built by J W Walker and Sons in 1949.



Stained Glass Windows –The original stained glass in the old church building was given by ‘the Colonel and Officers in memory of men of the 2nd West India Regiment killed and who died from wounds received in the Ashante War of 1873-4.  The stained glass windows in the present building are ‘presented by Colonel Barchard and Officers of the 2nd Battalion West India Regiment to replace the one destroyed in the January 14, 1907 earthquake.

Candle StandsThe inscription on the pair of candle stands on the altar reads ‘presented to Garrison Church by Marie Louise, Princess of Schleswig Holstein, 1915. Princess Marie Louise (Franziska Josepha Louise Augusta Marie Christina Helena; formerly Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein; 12 August 1872 – 8 December 1956) was a member of the British Royal Family, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Altar RailsThe altar rails were erected by the congregation in memory of two stalwart Churchwardens. The right side was given in memory of Major A.T. DE M Martin of the West India Regiment killed in Palestine 1917 while the left side was given in memory of Lt. Col RR Lawrenson, DSO of the West India Regiment killed in France 1918.



Altar Cross – The Altar Cross which is on a shelf on the ‘reredos’ behind the altar was given as a gift to the former Church in 1905 by the Garrison Church in Portsmouth and is the only thing salvaged from the building destroyed in the earthquake.

Reredos – The reredos which forms the backdrop to the altar was given by the West India Regiment in memory of their brethren who died in the war 1914 to 1918.   It features carvings of a bundle of wheat and a twig of grapes (bread and wine of the Eucharist).


Baptismal Font and Bowl – The font and bowl were given to Garrison Church by Mary Emily Swettenham in 1913.  The font is ornately carved and features a Dove on the front.  Mary Emily Swettenham, nee Copeland, was the widow of Sir (James) Alexander Swettenham (1846-1933) who served as Governor of Jamaica 1904 to 1907.

Communion Vessels

Among the communion vessels is a paten inscribed ‘in memory of two mothers 1907-1912.


Old Hebrew Mosaic Pavement found near Jericho

During the Turkish War in Palestine a Turkish shell fired at British trenches at Ain Duk, near Jericho, laid bare this Mosaic which was photographed by Major A M Furber.  He sent the photograph to the Academies des Inscriptions in Paris, and it was handed to the eminent French Orientalist, M. Ch. Clermont-Ganneau.  He ascribes it to the 4th or 5th century AD and it translates thus:

‘Honoured be the memory of Binyamin, the Pharnas, son of Yoseh. Honoured be the memory of all those who render assistance, and of everyone who has given or shall give to this Holy Place, whether gold or silver or any valuable.  Be not backward in giving to this Holy Place! Amen!’

The language is Judaeo-Aramaic.  There are traces of a design perhaps a lion and part of a human arm. M. Ch. Clermont-Ganneau says that the excavation beneath the pavement might reveal some underground chamber of a synagogue, with vases full of Hebrew and Greek MSS, like those found in AD217 in the reign of Cancalla and used by Origen. (Inscription copied from plaque on the wall near the lectern)



By Lieutenant Colonel R.H. Green (now ret’d Major General)

Little is known of the old school chapel which existed before the great earthquake of 1907 except that this building, together with a number of others was destroyed.   After the restoration of the barracks, hut number 14 was used for worshipping until Ascension day 1912.  On this day the Garrison Church as we know it today was dedicated to Divine service by the late Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Reverend Enos Nutall, in the presence of the then Governor, Sir Sydney Oliver, KCMG, the General Office Commanding, Brigadier-General J.R.M.

Dalrymple-Hay CB., DSO., and other dignitaries and officers.  The form of the service used for the dedication was one specially approved by the War Office and was followed by shortened Evensong.

The service of dedication was conducted by the Anglican Chaplain, the Reverend A.C.E. Jarvis, the Reverend W. Pratt M.A., of the Baptist Church read the first lesson, the Reverend J.F. Garishove M.A., of the Presbyterian Church read the second lesson and the Reverend J.W Wright of the Methodist church said prayers.  At this service the Colours of the First, Second and Third Battalions of the West India Regiment, formerly kept at the Kingston Parish Church, were handed over by a Guard of one hundred officers and men for safe keeping in the new church.  In addition, the Colours of the Jamaica Battalion presented in 1943 are laid up in the church.  These Colours were used by the West India Regiment 1959 – 1962 and the Jamaica Regiment from 1962 until the presentation of their own Colours in 1963.  The first standard of the Jamaica Legion (BESL) has also been laid up in the chapel since 1967.

The church is built just outside the entrance to the main guardroom of Lathbury Barracks and immediately opposite to the obelisk erected in memory of those officers, men and families who perished in the great calamity of 1907.  It was built by S.R. Eustace Fielding Esq., and the work was supervised by Lieutenant Colonel R. Carey Commander Royal Engineers and Major B.F., Caws, foreman of works.  Incidentally, the late Miss Phyllis Caws, daughter of Major Caws, maintained her death on 4 January, 1968.  She was for many years Sunday School teacher.  Miss Caws’ funeral service was held in the church with which she was connected for over fifty years.

The cost of the present building was between five and six thousand pounds and it was erected to accommodate about five hundred people.  The style is said to be Jacobean and the plan cruciform.  It is approximately 120 feet in length and 62 feet across the transcept.    The fittings are of local cedar and the altar cross in use today was a gift from the Garrison Church in Portsmouth in 1965.  This was about the only furnishing rescued from the old school chapel after the earthquake.   The floor of the Chancel and the Sanctuary is of simple mosaic design.  The remainder of the floor was of pine and teak block laid in herring bone fashion on a concrete base.  This has now been replaced with a simple concrete floor.  

The massive re-enforced concrete walls are bound together on a steel frame resting upon deep and strong foundations.  While the exterior gives the impression of solidity and strength the beauty of the interior is most striking.  The lines are good and the symmetry of the whole is perfect.  The ceiling consists of a series of arches culminating in a main arch resting on concrete columns with ionic capitols at the transept and chancel.

In 1953 part of the southern transcept was converted into a children’s chapel.  It was dedicated to the memory of those soldiers and families, most of whom were children, who were lost at  sea in an air trooper on their way from the United Kingdom to Jamaica.

“The church, although primarily used by Anglicans, has been used by all other denominations including Roman Catholics both for normal worship as well as other religious ceremonies.”  At its dedication the Archbishop said “a place for worship separated from command usage gives expression to recognition of the reverence due to the Almighty – and also fits in with the needs and requirements of human nature.”   This church in its beautiful surroundings bears this out.