Saint Mary Cayon parish is in the main island of St. Kitts. Its capital is Cayon which takes the name of the river that flows through the parish.
Saint Mary Cayon’s early economy was centred on the sugar industry. When markets and demands for sugar worldwide declined, the parish successfully switched to cotton production via the famous Spooner’s Estate, where the famous St Kitts Cotton Ginnery can be found. At present, the parish’s economy is primarily agricultural, producing fruits and vegetables.
The parish has a diverse coastline. The north which faces the Atlantic Ocean has steep cliffs and black sand beaches especially along Hermitage Bay. The south has a tamer landscape—long stretches of sandy beaches, with sands lightening in hue as one descends further southward. Most beaches of Saint Mary Cayon are important nesting sites for Leatherback turtles.
Saint Mary Cayon is also varied inland, with forest covered mountains in the north, ghauts and ravines in the interior and the shrub-covered Canada Hills in the south. Lodge Ghaut, the largest ravine in St Kitts, is found here. The highest bridge in the country, Lodge Rail Bridge, looms 100 feet above the bottom of Lodge Ghaut.
Joining Spooner’s Estate as the parish’s famous landmarks is Ottley’s Plantation Inn, a former sugar estate transformed into one of the island’s luxury hotels. Saint Mary Cayon also takes pride in the lively Green Valley Festival held here from May to June.
Close to the northeast coast along the Cayon River is Saint Mary Cayon’s capital, Cayon. Though quite small, the coastal village holds wonderful attractions—beautiful sandy beaches, picturesque hills and mountains, a few historic sites, and lively cultural celebrations.
Cayon has one of the best festivals in St Kitts, the Green Valley Festival. From May to June the best of local and regional musicians get together and perform Caribbean rhythms and other music genres—from reggae and calypso to soul, rock and gospel. Local women represent their respective communities by donning colourful, island inspired costumes and dancing to the music of bands playing. Local gourmands display their specialties and artists hawk their handicrafts.
The last remaining cotton ginnery in St Kitts is in Spooner’s Estate in Cayon.
Spooner’s Estate has a special place in the country’s history, marking St Kitts’ progressive transition from striving under colonial rule to establishing its own modern economy.
The estate was one of the most productive sugar mills on the island from the mid-18th century to the beginning of the 20th century. Originally owned by Benjamin Buck Green in the 1870s, it was sold to Sendall and Wade around 1900 when the sugar market was already declining. The new owners successfully changed the production from sugar to cotton. In 1901, they installed the first ginnery on St Kitts. The ginnery operated until the 1970s and was eventually acquired by the government for tourism purposes.
Today, Spooner’s Estate consists of the structure, walls and ruins from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, which represent the critical periods in the agro-industrial history of the twin island federation. Much of the machinery is remarkably intact. For further preservation, the site is now being developed into a Cotton Museum.