In 1753 when Demerara became a colony, separate from Essequibo, its administrative headquarters were set up on Borsselen Island, the middle of three little islands some twenty miles up the Demerara River near Timehri. A brandwaght or signal station had earlier been erected at the mouth of the Demerara River in 1748 and plantations were established. The Dutch also reserved land extending in an easterly direction from the brandwaght for public purposes. In 1759, owing to the large number of plantations it was agreed that Borsselen Island was unsuitable as the capital as the area was overcrowded. The new site for the capital was not agreed upon and whatever plans the Dutch had in thought were halted when the British gained control of Demerara.
In 1781, the Dutch surrendered Demerara to the English and lieutenant Colonel Robert Kingston, the British Lieutenant Governor, erected Fort St. George near the mouth of the river on the Company Path where the National Museum now stands. Kingston decided that the Brandwaght strip should provide the seat of the government and that same year an office was established there. On 31 January 1782, a squadron of French men – of – war, allies of the Dutch, appeared in the river, demolished Fort St. George and in a few days imposed terms of surrender on the English occupiers.
The French Commander issued a proclamation on 22 February, 1782 stating that it was ‘ considered to be necessary to establish a Capital, which would become a business centre: where religion would have a temple, justice a place, war its arsenals, commerce its counting houses and industries its factories: where also the inhabitants might enjoy the advantages of social intercourse.’
Enslaved Africans requisitioned from the planters dug two canals running eastwards from the site of the brandwaght: one called North Canal corresponding to the present Croal Street, and the other the South Canal, corresponding to Hadfield Street. These formed two lines of lots looking on to a middle dam almost three quarters of a mile. On 21 March 1782 the French Governor gave notice that he would receive visitors twice a week: on Sunday and on Thursday: from 9 a.m. till noon.
The colonies of Demerara and Essequibo were restored to the Dutch in 1784 and the Dutch West India Company, by a resolution dated 14 September 1784, named the town Stabroek after the President of the Company: Nicholas Van Gleevink; Lord of Castricum, Buckum and Stabroek. The fort, which the French had constructed at Plantation Eve Leary was, renamed Frederick William after the Stadtholder. On 5 May 1812, when Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice passed finally to the English, Stabroek was renamed Georgetown in honour of King George IV.