Rosa Fanning, then Ash, then Witter, then Palmer (née Kelly)

1718 - 1790


  1. Daughter of Rev. Dr. John Kelly and his wife Mary. John Kelly became Rector of St Elizabeth 10/06/1718 and was buried there 13/02/1749/50. Rosa's sister Eleanor was baptised in St Elizabeth in 1720.

  2. Rosa Kelly married Henry Fanning, 16/07/1746, who died soon after. In his will, written in January 1747, he left everything to Rosa including the 290 acres of land in St James which he had purchased from Richard Lawrence in 1746 (with a bequest of £150 to Priscilla Metcalf in England). This was the core of the estate later to be called Rose Hall.

  3. Rosa remarried, to George Ash, in 1750. He began the building of Rose Hall Great House and died in 1752.

  4. Rosa Ash was listed in the Jamaican Quit Rent books for 1754 as the owner of 825 acres of land in St James. Note that Henry Fanning appears in the Quit Rents too, as owner of 410 acres of land in St James.

  5. Rosa married for a third time, to Hon. Norwood Witter, who died 20/05/1765 and was buried in Westmoreland. Apparently this was an unhappy marriage and Witter drained her financial resources. In his will, proved in February 1766, he left £50 to his sons William and John (from his first marriage) and the remainder to Rosa, "in compensation of several large sums of money that he received sundry times from her."

  6. Rosa's fourth marriage, to Hon. John Palmer in May 1767, lasted until her death 01/05/1790. He was the residuary legatee of her will. John Palmer commissioned a monument in her memory in the St James parish church: "This tribute of affection and respect is erected by her husband, the Honorable John Palmer, as a monument of her worth, and of his gratitude."

  7. By her will dated 31/03/1777 and proved 8/6/1790 she left (among other legacies) £500 to her cousin Edward Kelly of St.James, planter, £100 to each of her cousins Mary Campbell and Rosa Todd, daughters of her deceased uncle Edward Kelly, and £500 to her son-in-law (stepson) John Palmer junior.


  1., Jamaica parish records (unindexed), St Elizabeth, Baptisms, marriages, burials 1705-1820 pp. 3, 4, 329.

  2. There are many accounts of the establishment of Rose Hall which differ in some small details including Geoffrey S. Yates, 'Rose Hall - death of a legend',; Frederick J. DuQuesnay, 'Rose Hall Great House',; Anne M. Powers, 'The White Witch and a cautionary tale', [accessed 27/11/2018].

  3. Ibid.

  4. 'A List of landholders in the Island of Jamaica together with the number of acres each person possessed taken from the quit rent books in the year 1754', TNA CO 142/31 transcribed at

  5. Geoffrey S. Yates, 'Rose Hall - death of a legend'.

  6. Geoffrey S. Yates, 'Rose Hall - death of a legend';, Jamaica parish registers (unindexed), Hanover, Baptisms, marriage, burials 1725-1839 p. 35; photographs of the monument are widely available online.

  7. Summary of will of Rosa Palmer (extracted from Wills Book 55, fol.99) printed in The Daily Gleaner of 23/7/1895 at p7 (letter from Leslie Alexander of Malvern captioned “Mrs Palmer of Rose Hall”).

We are grateful to Paul Hitchings for his assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

Maiden Name
[1] Henry Fanning [2] George Ash [3] Norwood Witter [4] John Palmer

Relationships (4)

Wife → Husband
Wife → Third Husband
Wife → Fourth Husband
Daughter → Father