St. Geroge’s Cathedral
The construction of one of Guyana’s most famous and precious architectural heirlooms was brought about by extraneous circumstances.
The idea of building an Anglican cathedral in Georgetown was unique as it was the first occasion, as it is known, that such a proposal was discussed in the British West Indies. At that time, Anglican dioceses were being created in the region and the general pattern was to elevate the status of Parish churches to Cathedrals.
Between 1810- 1811 the first St. Georges was built on Company Path, the site presently occupied by the St. Georges High School. It was described by James Rodway as a ‘neat wooden building.’ Some years later, this structure was extended and plans for the construction of a new church commenced.
This new church, built of brick, was blessed in June 1842 by the first bishop of British Guiana, William Piercy Austin. However, in 1877, this structure was dismantled as it was considered unsafe, due to structural defects as a result of a faulty foundation.A third church, the Pro Cathedral, was erected on Carmichael Street on the grounds of the present Deanery.
However, during this time the Cathedral’s vestry entered into negotiations to design a new cathedral to accommodate 1,500- 1,800 worshipers. The design of Sir Arthur Blomfield, an English Architect of Montague Square, London, was selected. His first plan of stone stuccoed was rejected on account of the ill fated fortune of the second St. Georges. In June 1886 Blomfield was required to re-submit a plan. Constructed from local hardwoods and English oak, the St. Georges Cathedral was completed and blessed by Bishop W. P. Austin on 24 August 1892.
Pointed arches, flying buttresses, vaulted ceilings, traceried windows are few of the noteworthy architectural details of this Gothic edifice. The interior of the Cathedral is designed in the shape of a Latin cross, fused with elements of Elizabethan architecture, as evidenced in the dramatic black and white stripe like effect on the walls of this magnificent structure.
Today this church serves as an eloquent reminder of Guyana’s social, cultural and architectural heritage. Its value has been recognized by Dr. Ron Van Oers who identified this cathedral as one of thirteen monuments selected in Georgetown’s nomination as a World Heritage Site.
Four brochures about Georgetown’s Parks and Gardens, Parliament Building, Christianburg Waterwheel and Monuments of Georgetown were launched as part of the public awareness campaign to sensitize Guyanese to the nation’s patrimony.
In addition Brochures of Fort Island and Damon’s Monument were reprinted. One thousand (1,000) copies of each brochure were printed and are available free of cost at the Trust
A contract for the construction of a brick walkway around the Court of Policy Hall was awarded to Mr. Winston Ramroop, a contractor. This is one of several projects undertaken by the National Trust of Guyana to conserve the nation’s patrimony.
The official website of the National Trust of Guyana, www.nationaltrust.gov.gy, was updated with the addition of several new pages showcasing historic photographs of Berbice, historic sites and buildings in Linden and New Amsterdam and new volumes of Trust News.
The cutlass of Damon’s Monument which was dislodged during a routine cleaning exercise by the staff of the Anna Regina Town Council was re-attached by the Brass Aluminum and Cast Iron Factory on 25 August 2003.
Ten heritage markers were manufactured by the Brass Aluminum Cast Iron Foundry to be placed on historic buildings throughout the city. It was one of the many projects undertaken by the Trust to promote and safeguard the nation’s heritage.
The National Trust of Guyana staged a series of activities to celebrate Heritage Week: 22 – 29 September 2003.
Discussing Guyana’s heritage, Ms. Gail Teixeira, Minister of Culture Youth & Sport, Dr. James Rose, Chairman of the National Trust and Mr. Ney Do Prado Dieguez, the Brazilian Ambassador, at the launch of Heritage Week 2003.
Wood: Decor Extraordinaire, Celebrating the Built Heritage of Guyana, an exhibition showcasing the artistry of wood in the construction of Guyana’s buildings was launched by Ms. Gail Teixeira, Honourable Minister of Culture, Youth & Sport on 22 September 2003 at the office of the Trust.
The launch of the Trust’s week of activities was attended by Mr. Roland Bullen, the Ambassador of the United States of America to Guyana, Mr. George Marcoux, the Canadian High Commissioner of Guyana and Mr. Ney Do Prado Dieguez, the Brazilian Ambassador to Guyana. His Worship, Mayor Hamilton Green, Mrs. Carmen Jarvis, Secretary General of the Guyana National Commission of UNESCO, members of the board and the staff of the Ministry of Culture Youth & Sport.
On display were a number of historic photographs of historic Georgetown and Berbice and architecturalexamples of the different types of fretwork, moulds, spandrels and other features of Guyana’s vernacular architecture..
A number of students and members of the public visited the exhibition which ended on17 October 2003.
Georgetown’s Heritage Trail
On 26 September 2003, Captain Jerry Gouveia, President of the Guyana Tourism Association, at the invitation of the National Trust of Guyana launched Georgetown’s Heritage Trail.
The publication which consists of a booklet, showcasing some eighty historical sites of the Garden City , was noted to be work of an exceptional quality by Captain Gouveia.
Present at the launch were the Honourable Prime Minister, Mr. Samuel Hinds, Chairman of the Board, Dr. James Rose, President of the Guyana Heritage Society, Mr. Riswan Khan, Board members of the National Trust and the staff.
Copies were presented to the Honourable Prime Minister by Mrs. Indira Anandjit, Board Member of the National Trust and Executive Director of the Tourism & Hospitality Association of Guyana, the Guyana Heritage Society, the National Library, the National Archives of Guyana and the University of Guyana Library.
Historically the National Trust Act No7. of 1972 represents a landmark in the movement to make law the protection of the built heritage in post-colonial Guyana. While the goal of this Ordinance is the safeguarding of the heritage in general, it is now a foregone conclusion that the absence of subsequent corollary regulations tailored specifically to the needs of the urban and other manifestations of the heritage has constrained the development of sound conservation practices within the parameters of the law.
However, rather than dwell on the obvious shortcomings, such as the paltry penalties for defacing a national monument etc., we note that the Act itself may not have been intended to serve as the final word on historic preservation in Guyana.
The learned proponents have afforded the preservation experts greater definition of the work by way of regulations and policy documents, for which the Act makes ample provision. This challenge must now be met and opportunities created to further the intent of the Act and to direct attention to the needs of wooden heritage.
Conservation of the much-publicized form – the urban wooden heritage – must consider the existing Guyana context and provide a framework for energizing the stakeholders and engendering workable solutions.
In addition, the proliferation of timber-working skills that gave rise to the richly ornamented wooden urban heritage, has been lost to a great extent but fortunately has not died altogether. Plastic fretwork is now appearing, and we need to consider that which is being valued – is it the skill or the look and can a consensus be reached on this problematic? Given the solution and realizing that the players are many, what inputs can generate practical solutions?
The Mexican architect and restoration specialist, Chico Ponce de Leon, has clearly shown that the solution to this type of urban problem rest with the intervention of various stakeholders – the government, the legislature, the scientific community and technical personnel and the various civic groupings – citizenry, NGOs, partisan and municipal groups etc. Clearly, it is the vigorous interaction between these groups that would produce the methods and measures needed to initiate and sustain the work of preserving the wooden heritage.
Immediately, for Guyana, the solution will be partly derived from accomplishing the following:
- Scientific Inventory of the Wooden Urban Forms
- Studies of Properties of Materials and Construction Techniques
- Studies of the Nature and Causes of Deterioration/Abandonment/Neglect
- Establishing Nature and Limits of Intervention
- Debunking the notion of the non-profitability of building in Wood
- Promoting retraining in traditional timber-working skills
- Promoting the economic benefits of preservation and conservation.
Our society needs to recognize that there is an urgent need in maintaining and restoring what remains of the wooden ensembles of our city.
We do not have to “reinvent the wheel” in order to preserve our wooden urban treasures as much work has already been accomplished in other urban settings such as in Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Suriname. The National Trust of Guyana takes this opportunity to serve notice that we intend to call upon you for assistance in crafting a rational response to the challenges of preservation.
The National Trust of Guyana
Ministry of Culture Youth & Sport
94 Carmichael street
Tel (592) 225 5071
Fax (592)223 7146
Designed & edited by Lloyd Kandasammy & Nirvana Persaud