Location and history
Guyana Chronicle
May 19, 2002

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ABOUT 16 km from the mouth of the mighty Essequibo River is Fort Island. On this island are two structures - the 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 settlement was established after the one at Kyk-Over-Al was abandoned as a result of the overcrowding of that island. This was the seat of the Dutch administration in the Colony of Essequibo for more than 40 years prior to the development of Demerara in the final decades of the 18th century.

The Fort
This brick fort, which replaced a wooden fort, 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) to conserve funds.

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 runaway slaves. 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 Armoury used for the storage of ammunition and several canons, a testimony of the rich history of the site.

The Court of Policy
The Court of Policy served multiple functions - as 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.

The buildings of the Dutch West India Company on Fort Island were amongst the first non-indigenous structures built in Guyana. Fort Zeelandia and the building of the Court of Policy represent the industrial skill and creativity of our people, a testimony of the cultural patrimony of the nation.

In 1999, the Fort and the Court of Policy Hall were declared National Monuments. They are maintained by the National Trust of Guyana.