Beneath the shadow of rugged palm trees, tall green grass and shrubbery are the tombs of men and women who can be identified in one way or another with important events of Guyana’s history. This was a private cemetery owned by Joseph Bourda, one of the most notable personas in the colony during that period, having served as Governor on two occasions.
When Bourda died in 1798 in Paris, the cemetery was for a long time left unattended. In 1876 the Government of British Guiana entered into an agreement with the heirs of Joseph Bourda to take over Plantation Vlissingen, which comprised of New Town, Queenstown, Robbstown and Bourda. Ordinance No. 8 of 1876 vested Plantation Vlissingen, in three Commissionaires, the authority to sell, distribute and grant titles of land to purchasers and heirs of Bourda’s estate.
Section 72 of the 1876 Ordinance provided for the immediate enclosure of the Bourda Cemetery and ‘as much adjacent land as they considered necessary.’ Only members of the families whose remains were housed in the repositories of the cemetery were allowed to make this decision. Upon completion of this act the Mayor and Town Council were entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining the cemetery. A sturdy iron rail fence and gate manufactured by E. Morton & Co. of Liverpool was erected to secure the area.
Several distinguished persons such as Adrian Tinne, John Patoir, Lawrence Cruikshank, William Booker, Thomas McCalmont, John Reid, Thomas Alty, Jitte Bent and members of the Jeffrey, Hill, Vythuis and Turner families, the Honourable Sir Peter Rose, after whom Peter Rose Street is named, and the city’s first Mayor John Croal, are entombed in the Bourda Cemetery.
On Monday 18 November 2002, the National Trust of Guyana launched www.nationaltrust.gov.gy. This site encapsulates a wide range of issues, which showcase to the wider world Guyana’s rich history. The website, hosted by Sustainable Development Networking Programme, was designed by Research & Documentation Officer, Lloyd Kandasammy. The launch was attended by members of the media, sister agencies of the Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sport and special invitees.
Tour of Linden
On Thursday 21 November 2002, Research and Documentation Officer Lloyd Kandasammy and Mariella Seepaul, an architect of the Central Housing and Planning Authority were given a guided tour of heritage sites of the town. The visit was at the invitation of the Region 10 Tourism Association, headed by Mr. Simmons. Places visited included the Christianburg Waterwheel, St. Aidians Church, Watoka House, the old sawmill; Mackenzie Bridge, St. Matthews Presbyterian Church and John Dalghish Patterson’s house (now the Courthouse)
Watooka House in Linden
Research & Documentation Officer navigating the Trust’s site at the launchof www.nationaltrust.gov.gy
Tour of Region 2
On Tuesday 19 November 2002, the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Commerce organized a field trip to sensitize the nation of the various historic sites that region 2 has to offer. Invitees included media representatives of VCT 28, Guyana Chronicle, Stabroek News, Kaieteur News, MTV 65, NBTV 9, Channel 2 and GTV 11.
Members of the media atthe Damon Monument, anna Regina during the tour of Region 2.
Research and Documentation Officer briefed those present on the historical significance of the sites visited. These included the Damon Monument, Damon’s Cross, the Aurora Chimney and estate House, Anna Regina Bridge, Anna Regina Chimney, St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church and several Dutch tombs.
Two brochures on the Umana Yana & the African Liberation Monument and Fort Kyk-Over-Al were launched in December 2002 as part of the National Trust’s public awareness campaign to educate the populace of Guyana’s rich history. 1000 copies of each brochure were printed and are available free of cost at the Trust.
The Queenstown Moravian Church
The Queenstown Moravian Church celebrated their 100th anniversary under the theme “100 years of witnessing, glorifying and serving Lord & Saviour” on 7 December 2002. The imposing wooden structure, which towers above the landscape of Queenstown, still retains many of its Gothic features. Built of wallaba, crabwood and pitch pine, this church is regarded as a monumental tribute and a testimony to the craftsmanship of Guyanese artisans
St. Bartholemews Anglican Church
This church constructed in the design of a ship, which is said to have transported enslaved Africans to Essequibo, celebrated its 140th anniversary with several activities under the theme ‘Proclaiming God’s Word,’ with a week of dedication and anniversary services, 24- 30 October 2002.
The cultural diversity in Guyana is unique in the Caribbean and has made significant contributions to the country and the region. A unique, yet growing market in tourism is that of Culture and Heritage tourism.
Guyana’s history reveals that through the various migrations, Amerindians were the first inhabitants of our shores, followed by the Europeans: Dutch, French, Spanish and English. This history is so very visible, as one only has to look at the colonial architecture of Georgetown the rural landscapes and historical sites. Perhaps more than any other city in the English speaking Caribbean, Georgetown evolved a distinctive architectural style that combined elegance with practicality.
These historic wooden structures are mainly from the nineteenth century, a period characterized by profusion of architectural styles in Great Britain and Europe. Many reasons were given for choosing one or the other, and various architects and authors claiming each style to be the correct one. Religious buildings for example portray the schism in Christianity as Catholics aligned themselves with the construction of churches and cathedrals in the Italianate Style of the Renaissance era. The Sacred Heart Cathedral, on Main Street, designed by Father Schembri and Caesar Castellani is an excellent example of such an edifice. Gothic architecture was the choice for the Orthodox churches. The St. George’s Cathedral, St. Philips Anglican and Christ Church reflect the thought and philosophies that occurred in Europe during that period. Civic buildings were also designed in similar fashion. In many cases there was a combination of styles as elements of different periods of architecture were fused. The finished element would be nothing short of spectacular. The Supreme Court and Stabroek Market are examples of such edifices, a highly eclectic mix of Gothic and Tudor architecture.
There is a pressing need for these chapters of our history to be preserved before they are erased, in quest of development. Today Guyana is well on the way to ensuring that as many of these areas are preserved and conserved.
‘Architectural conservation also means an aid of some degree, to economic survival, since the buildings themselves represent an asset which if well maintained can be used and could bring cash benefits through tourism for example.
In an effort for all to enjoy a tourism experience, it is necessary to leave something about the history and current affairs of a country to help one to understand the attitude and idiosyncrasies of its people and help to prevent misunderstandings and frustrations.
So at every opportunity we should encourage high quality tourism experiences, which bring satisfaction and enrichment to visitors and a greater appreciation for our natural and cultural heritage. Our unique fusion of architecture has not gone unnoticed, at present plans are under way for sections of our city to be nominated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The Church of the Sacred Heart
This church, which has graced the landscape of the city of Georgetown for the past 141 years, was built to cater to the needs of the Portuguese immigrants. At a Midnight Mass in December 1861 Father Schembri blessed the church of the Sacred Heart.
In 1858, one year after the Jesuits commenced their ministry in British Guiana. It was observed by Bishop J. Eldridge that the existing church at Brickdam could not accommodate all the Portuguese immigrants in Guiana.
He pointed out the fact that ‘Portuguese who are the main body of our Catholics must and can only be kept to church and their daily duty by ceremonies and practices something like what they have been accustomed to in Maderia.’
Under the direction of Father Schembri, a plot of land was purchased at Main Street for $1000. 00 and construction of the new church commenced at a cost of $1,200.00. Upon completion the total cost amounted to $18,000.00. The original edifice measured 100ft by 30 ft but over the next sixteen years the church was altered with the addition of choir and gallery porch, two wooden towers, a large sacristy, aisles and the extension of the sanctuary.
The Church of the Sacred Heart was the core of Portuguese celebrations in British Guiana. Father Schembri introduced ceremonies such as the Christmas Novena, processions, the establishment of guilds and other cultural activities. The most noteworthy of these activities was the intimate relationship between the Church of the Sacred Heart and the Christmas Novena.
The centenary edition of the Catholic Standard provides an interesting insight to the activities of the Church of the Sacred Heart during this period, ‘ for nine days before Christmas the church opened its doors at 3.am.and mass was ushered in with the singing of Bemdita Sejaes’. These feasts of Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Our lady of Mount and St. Anthony were celebrated in an over spirituous’ manner. After the departure of Father Schembri, Father Baldini, established a grammar school in 1867, in the bottom area of the two-winged presbytery. Under his guidance the church was again expanded. Italian Renaissance architecture is evident in the main façade and interior of the building.
Ceasar Castellani, a Maltese architect, is credited with the design of this façade, which was erected in 1872.
The celebration, to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII, in July 1893 was regarded as the ‘grand illumination of three thousand lights, the finest ever seen in Georgetown.’ Other celebrations in 1898 to commemorate the fourth centenary of the discovery of the route by Vaso de Gama, the Portuguese navigator saw the transformation of the buildings with furnishings of garlands, flags, buntings and lights on the interior and exterior of the church. This décor was one noteworthy feature of the splendor and ceremony, which accompanied the celebrations of the church. After the destruction of the cathedral at Brickdam, the Church of the Sacred Heart became the pro-cathedral. Throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s the church continued its rich and colourful festivities.
Today this church serves as an eloquent reminder of Guyana’s cultural, social and architectural heritage. Its value has been observed by Dr. Ron Van Oers who identified this church to be included as one of the thirteen monuments selected in Georgetown’s nomination as a World Heritage Site.