The origin of the names of the wards of Georgetown By Arlene Munro

Stabroek News

May 10, 2001

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The city of Georgetown began as a small town in the 18th century. Originally, the capital of the Demerara-Essequibo colony was located on Borselen Island in the Demerara River under the administration of the Dutch. However, when the colony was captured by the British in 1781, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Kingston chose the mouth of the Demerara River for the establishment of a town which was situated between Plns. Werk-en-rust and Vlissengen. It was the French who developed this town and made it their capital city when they captured the colony in 1782. The French called the capital La Nouvelle Ville. When the town was restored to the Dutch in 1784, it was renamed Stabroek after Nicolaas Geelvinck, Lord of Stabroek, and President of the Dutch West India Company. Eventually the town expanded and covered the estates of Vlissengen, La Bourgade and Eve Leary to the North, and Werk-en-rust and La Repentir to the South. It was renamed Georgetown on 29th April 1812 after King George III of England. Georgetown was elevated to the rank of city in 1843.

Georgetown has wards and streets with a variety of names which reflect the influence of the Dutch, French and English who administered the town at different periods of history. The Dutch were the political rulers of the area up to 1781 when they were succeeded by the English, who were in turn ousted by the French in 1782. In 1784, the Dutch regained their political control of the town, but surrendered to the English in 1796. The colony of Demerara-Essequibo was officially ceded to the English in 1814 and remained in their possession up to 1966.

Cummingsburg was originally named Pln. La Bourgade by its first owner, Jacques Salignac. It was laid out in streets and building lots by its second proprietor, Thomas Cuming, a Scotsman, after whom it is named. He made a presentation of the Militia Parade Ground and Promenade Gardens to the town as a gift. It is noteworthy that Carmichael Street was named after General Hugh Lyle Carmichael who served as Governor from 1812 to 1813. He died in March 1813 and was buried in the Officers' Cemetery, Eve Leary.

Water Street was so called because it ran along the riverside and formed the original river dam. High Street formed the leading road from the East Bank to the East Coast of Demerara. The part of High Street that ran through Cummingsburg was called Main Street. Camp Street received its name because it was the road which led to the camp or garrison at the northern end of the city. Kingston got its name from King George of England. It was part of Pln. Eve Leary which was named after the wife or daughter of its owner, Cornelis Leary. Some of the streets of Kingston have military names because the garrison used to be located there, e.g. Parade Street, Barrack Street and Fort Street.

Lacytown was another leasehold portion of Pln. Vlissengen. L.M. Hill claims that it was named after General Sir De Lacy Evans, a Crimean war hero. However, James Rodway claims that it was named after George Lacy who bought part of the plantation from R.B. Daly, representative of Vlissengen. The owner of Vlissengen was Joseph Bourda, Member of the Court of Policy. After his son and heir disappeared at sea, the government claimed the property under the authority of the Vlissengen Ordinance of 1876. A new district of Bourda was laid out and Lacytown was improved by the Board of Vlissengen Commissioners.

Bourda Street and the ward of Bourda were named after Joseph Bourda, Member of the Court of Policy and former owner of Pln. Vlissengen. It was laid out by the Commissioner of Vlissengen in 1879. The Bourda Cemetery holds the remains of many old citizens of Georgetown. Only those persons who owned family vaults or burial rights in the enclosed ground used it.

Alberttown is part of what was formerly called Pln. Thomas and was laid out in 1847. It was named after Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria of England. Albert Street was named after him as well. Light Street is named after Sir Henry Light who served as Governor from 1840 to 1848.

Queenstown was laid out in 1887. It was originally part of Pln. Thomas with an area of 108 acres. The land was bought from Mr Quintin Hogg in 1887 by the Town Council. The ward was named in honour of Queen Victoria who celebrated her Jubilee that year. Forshaw Street was named after George Anderson Forshaw, solicitor and Mayor of Georgetown. Peter Rose Street was named after Peter Rose, an influential Member of the Court of Policy in the 1840s. Irving Street was named after Sir Henry Irving who served as Governor from 1882 to 1887.

Werk-en-rust developed on the old Dutch estate of Werk-en-rust which means 'Work and Rest'. The first public burial ground was laid out in this area where the St Phillips churchyard lies. This used to be known as the Chinese quarter of Georgetown. A tramway used to run through Water Street, Werk-en-rust. Bishop Street is named after Bishop Austin, the first Anglican Bishop of Guiana, 1842 to 1892. Smyth Street is named after Major-General Sir James Carmichael Smyth who served as Governor from 1833 to 1838. The Mayor and Town Council of Georgetown was incorporated in 1837 under his administration. Wortmanville was incorporated into the city in 1902. It was named after a planter called Henry Wortman.

Charlestown was built on the front lands of Pln. Le Repentir and was named after Charles, Duke of Brunswick, who died in 1806. The proprietor of Pln. Le Repentir and Pln. La Penitence was Pierre Louis de Saffon, who came to Guiana to seek asylum after killing his brother by accident. He died in 1784 and left a legacy for the De Saffon Trust which would maintain and educate ten orphan children until the age of sixteen. These orphans inherited his estate. He was buried on his estate next to the Church of St Saviour. Saffon Street was named after him.

At the time when Georgetown received its name in 1812, it extended from the sideline of La Penitence to the bridges in Kingston leading to the camp. An order of the 5th May 1812 stated that the districts would retain the names that they already had. A Board of Police was to be established by the Governor and Court of Policy to be responsible for the administration of the town.

By the late twentieth century the city of Georgetown had expanded to include the village of Lodge, Alexander Village, East, West, North and South Ruimveldt, Roxanne Burnham Gardens, Kitty, Campbellville, Subryanville, Bel Air, Prashad Nagar, and Lamaha Gardens. The city extended from Cummings Lodge on the East Coast of Demerara to Agricola on the East Bank of Demerara. Some names of streets were changed after Guyana gained its independence. For example, Murray Street was changed to Quamina Street in honour of the respected slave deacon whose son, Jack Gladstone, led the 1823 slave rebellion. Kelly's Dam was extended and renamed Carifesta Avenue to commemorate the Caribbean Festival of Arts which was held in Guyana in 1972. The part of Vlissengen Road extending from the Seawall to Lamaha Street was renamed J.B. Singh Drive. Part of High Street was renamed Avenue of the Republic when Guyana became a Republic. Recently another section was renamed the Cheddi B. Jagan Drive in honour of the late president. Part of D'Urban Street was renamed Joseph Pollydore Street after the popular trade unionist. New roads were created such as Mandela Avenue, Homestretch Avenue, and Aubrey Barker Road. Mandela Avenue was named after the indomitable freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa. Homestretch Avenue was so named because it was built on the former horse-racing ground at D'Urban Park in front of the pavilion which now houses the Ministry of Housing. These new names tend to reflect the pride of the Guyanese people in their nationhood and in their multi-cultural history. Some even reflect their solidarity with those who struggled for freedom in other parts of the world.