Fort Zeelandia is located approximately 16 kilometres (10 miles) from the mouth of the Essequibo River on Fort Island. The history of the fort can be traced back to circa 1679, when Abraham Beekman, a Dutch Commandeur, saw the need for one on the island known then as Flag Island. The first fortified structure was built using timber and was near completion by September 1687. During this period, Fort Kyk-Over-Al, which was located further inland, was the capital of Essequibo.
A petition to construct a brick fort was laid in 1710 but due to conflicts between then Commandeur, Peter Van der Heyden and private planters on the island, the petition was abandoned. A proposal for a brick fort was not revisited until Laurens Storm van Gravesande arrived in the colony and was appointed secretary to Commandeur Hermanus Gelkerke in August, 1738. In his first petition for a new fort, Gravesande stated that the existing wooden structure could not be used.
In 1742, Gravesande was appointed Commandeur of the Island and during this period he made another petition for a new fort, for which he received approval. Gravesande indicated that the fort could be completed in two years and as promised, the fort was completed in 1744 and was named Fort Zeelandia.
Dutch Heritage Museum (Court of Policy)
The Dutch Heritage Museum formerly known as the Court of Policy is located on Fort Island, approximately 16 kilometres (10 miles) from the mouth of the Essequibo River. The museum, which provides a meaningful contribution to the country’s cultural heritage sector, was opened on February 19, 2007, by the National Trust of Guyana. In its collections are a number of artefacts unearthed from the colonies of Essequibo, Berbice & Demerara along with a number of maps and informational pull-up charts; all of which aids in highlighting the relationships the Dutch had with the indigenous Indians and the slaves they owned.
The Court of Policy, commonly referred to as the Court of Policy Hall was completed in 1752. This single-storey brick structure was built with three compartments. The centre room held church services. The northern chamber held the proceedings of the Court of Policy while the southern room, the Consistory, acted as the prison. The Consistory was later adapted as a vendue (auction) office, primarily for sale of slaves. The building is now the oldest non-military structure in Guyana.