This map plots the settings and references in Wide Sargasso Sea

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Coulibri, Jamaica
Devon House, a Jamaican Georgian style Great House

Coulibri is based on Rhys's old family estate, Geneva, at Grand Bay, Dominica.

A Great House on a sugar cane plantation in Jamaica would have been built in Jamaican Georgian style (1760-1830), based on the English Georgian architecture that was popular from 1720 to 1760. As ever, Jamaica lagged behind Europe in terms of fashion.

The houses were usually two storeys high – Coulibri's house 'was on different levels. There were three steps down from my bedroom and Pierre's to the dining room and then three steps down from the dining-room to the rest of the house'. The houses would often have a base of brick, stone and mortar, and the top floor would be made of wood. Less grand houses might be made almost entirely of wood.

Jamaican Georgian architecture adapted English Georgian to the Caribbean climate, with wide wrap-around verandas (glacis) and sash windows, both of which feature at Coulibri. French colonial houses (Coulibri is based on Rhys's Dominican family estate – she never actually went to Jamaica) were built on a similar model, with wrap-around verandas. Great Houses often had no indoor hallways – the glacis would be used to navigate between rooms, which might explain why it is referred to so frequently in Wide Sargasso Sea. Click here for more information.

Jamaica National Heritage Trust has restored some of its great houses. To go on a virtual tour around Devon House, with Jamaican Georgian interior, click here. Devon House is one of Jamaica's grandest Great Houses – Coulibri would be much smaller in scale.

Before Abolition, Coulibri's sugar plantation would have looked something like this picture. However, at the time of Wide Sargasso Sea, the estate has run to wild.

A 1774 engraving of Spanish Town's colonial offices
Public DomainA 1774 engraving of Spanish Town's colonial offices

Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean island. It was first claimed by Spain in 1595, and the first Spanish settlers arrived in 1509. Britain took Jamaica in 1655. Spanish Town (so named after the British arrived) was the capital until 1872.