Railway Train at May Pen Station
May Pen was established as a plantation settlement by the British between 1660 and 1683 on a crossing point of the Rio Minho river. May Pen is well located from an administrative point of view in the centre of a largely agricultural parish, and as a midpoint on the Kingston to Manchester road. Boasting a large open air market and transportation centre along Main Street and Sevens Road, the town's centre is often chaotic with activities of shoppers, vendors daily and motorized traffic. May Pen also has many banks, hardware stores, pharmacies and eateries, including "Juicy Beef Patties". The town also has a large post office and court house.
May Pen is also an important citrus packing centre, including oranges and a hybrid citrus fruit called an ugli. The Denbigh Agricultural Showground is located approximately three miles west of the centre of the town. May Pen's geographical position is situated at near the centre of the entire island. May Pen has long been viewed as one of Jamaica's most important agriculture towns. During its heyday of Jamaica Bauxite Mining, Citrus and Sugar productions, Clarendon was among Jamaica leading parishes in economic activity. With the now defunct (Jamaica Railway Corporation) May Pen which had served as the crossroads of Jamaica natural resources, connecting FrankField and its Citrus in the north of the parish, with Lionel Town and its sugar production in the South. The Alcoa mining and refinery in partnership with the Jamaican government (Jamalco), located south of the town, is the single largest employer of the town, and along with Trout Hall Citrus. The Denbigh Agricultural Show Ground is the largest in the English-speaking Caribbean, and has served to promote regional farmers agriculture, textile and livestock production. Held annually during Jamaica's Independence Celebration weekend, Denbigh often attracted large crowds from all parts of the island to see Jamaica's best in show and enjoy festive activities.
It is the birthplace of reggae and ska singer Frederick "Toots" Hibbert, frontman for Toots & the Maytals.
While May Pen has no universities, it does have several public and private schools, including Central High School, Denbigh High School, Glenmuir High School (Anglican), Glenmuir Preparatory School (Anglican primary), May Pen High School (Adventist private), May Pen Primary School, and St. Thomas Moore Preparatory School (Catholic primary).