LUCEA (pronounced Lucy) was a flourishing port town during the plantation era, its wharves thronged with ships exporting locally produced sugar. Even Henry Morgan, during his respectable period as governor of Jamaica, moored ships here at Bull Bay Beach, a stunning cove just west of town. In slightly more recent times, Lucea yams, a tasty tuber with excellent storing properties, were exported in vast quantities to the Jamaicans who migrated in the nineteenth century to work on sugar plantations and the Panama Canal in Central America, and yams are still the mainstay of local agriculture – though these days, only the occasional shipment of molasses leaves the docks.
Despite being the capital of Hanover, Lucea is no showpiece; peeling paint pervades and even the best buildings display broken windows or sagging walls – a sharp contrast to the whitewashed faux-palace exterior of the sprawling Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort just east of town. Nonetheless, it’s a beguiling jumble of austere stone architecture and salt-and-sun-bleached clapboard houses, gaudy store-fronts and snack and rum bars, all clustered around a seething central bus park. Nearby, the Cleveland Stanhope Market spills out onto the streets on Saturdays (8am–2pm), selling local produce and household goods. Lucea’s western portion contains many older buildings; noticeable is the cut-stone steeple of Hanover Parish Church, dating back to 1725 with some fine monuments, while the cemetery’s walled area is a Jewish burial ground, presented in 1833 to the Jewish community who settled here during Lucea’s commercial heyday.