When Stabroek Market started?

By Dr Rovin Deodat
Guyana Chronicle
November 7, 1999

IT IS now in urgent need of repair. This enormous 19th century structure of zinc, iron, concrete and wood called the Stabroek Market in Georgetown stretches from Water Street in the East to the waters of the Demerara River in the West, covering a total area, inclusive of the portion on the wharf, of nearly 100 000 square feet.

The present structure was completed in 1881 and was officially opened on November 1 of that year. The cornerstone was laid on July 17, 1880 by Mrs Cortright, wife of the Governor, Cornelius Cortright.

The curious may be interested to know that the cornerstone was placed at the north-east section of the market in a cavity within which was placed a zinc cannister containing documents of its construction as well as current coins and issues of the Royal Gazette and Colonial newspapers.

Stabroek Market takes its name from the early settlement at the mouth of the Demerara River which, in 1783, was named Stabroek after Nicholas Geelvinck, Lord of Capsicum, Bakum and Stabroek, the then President of the Dutch West India Company. Stabroek was renamed George Town on 29th April, 1812, after the reigning British Monarch, George 111.

George Town became the city of Georgetown by `Royal Warrant' in 1842. But Stabroek Market, as a market, was in existence since 1792. It was then an open-air market where slaves were allowed to sell plantains on Sundays only. At the time, it was situated more or less where Demico House now stands. In 1842, a roofed wooden structure was built by the Town Council, and of course, the `new' market with its towering four-faced clock replaced that on 1881.

That famous clock, standing almost 100 feet from ground level, for whom time now stands still, was manufactured in the United States of America and installed on its tower in 1881. When it was functional, it was wound every eight days and on July 31, 1975, James Oudkerk, who was then responsible for the clock, walked up the winding iron steps to the tower to advance the 45 minutes and so create a new Guyana Standard Time. By the time Guyana returned to `Caribbean Standard Time', the clock had stopped recording time.

Wish someone would climb those steps again to set the old centurion's heart ticking once more!

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples