Approximately 16 km from the mouth of the mighty Essequibo River is Fort Island. On this island are two structures: Fort Zeelandia and the Court of Policy or Dutch Church.
During the period of Dutch occupation the Fort and the Court of Policy were part of a large urban settlement that extended along the northeastern section of the island. This was the seat of the Dutch administration in the colony of Essequibo.
Fort Zeelandia was constructed in 1744. It was constructed to protect the interests of the Dutch West India Company from European rivals such as the English and French who frequented the eastern coast of South America in search of the spoils of war.
In addition it was meant to serve as a stronghold against internal forces such as rebellious slaves.
This brick fort, which replaced a wooden structure was constructed in accordance to a design by the then secretary of the colony of Essequibo, Laurens Storm Vans Gravesande (the colony’s longest serving Dutch Commandeur 1738 – 1776), to conserve funds. It is said that the design ‘followed a pattern lozenge-shaped forts which were common in West Africa during that period’.
Within the compound of the Fort are the Armory used for the storage of ammunition and several canons reminiscent of the belligerent history of the site.
The Court of Policy
The Court of Policy served multiple functions. It was a store and at the same time a church, court, seat of government and a sales office. Inside the Court of Policy are the tombs of three Dutch Officials.
It is the oldest non – military structure in Guyana. To this day church services are held there.