History This Week
By Arlene Munro
In the city of Georgetown there are beautiful, scenic gardens that delight the eyes of citizens and tourists alike. Lovers of nature are enthralled by the splendour and profusion of flowers in these gardens. Today I will focus on the Botanic Gardens and Zoological Park, the Promenade Gardens, and the Company Path Gardens.
The idea of the Botanic Gardens was conceived by the Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society when in 1877 it passed a resolution for a letter to be sent to the Governor and Court of Policy for the organization of a Botanical and Horticultural Garden in the city of Georgetown. Consequently, the government bought the backlands of Vlissengen (276 acres for $72,000). A portion of this land was reserved for the gardens. Mr. John Frederick Waby, a botanist from Trinidad, came to British Guiana in 1878 to serve as head gardener. First of all the land was drained. Trenches were excavated and the land was raised to a higher level with soil taken from the area where the lakes now exist. Another botanist, Mr. G.S. Jenman, travelled to British Guiana in 1880 to assist Mr. Waby. The original gardens were a resort for animals and birds.
One of the interesting spots in the gardens is the kissing bridge. This was one of two curved iron bridges which were imported in 1884 to span both lakes in the gardens. By January 1885 the green and white bridges had been erected. Many brides and grooms have posed for photographers on this bridge after making their wedding vows.
A zoological park was established in the Botanic Gardens and was officially opened on 1 January 1952. In the Gardens a picturesque caretaker’s hut can be found at the entrance. It was constructed in 1880 and was used for meetings of the Directors of the Gardens. It has a black and gold clock on the outside which was built as a memorial to George Samuel Jenman, Government Botanist and Superintendent of the gardens from 1879. The bandstand in the gardens was established as a memorial to John Brumell, one of the directors of the gardens, who also served as a stipendiary magistrate and a sheriff in Demerara.
Guyana’s first Governor-General, First president and First Executive President are buried in the Botanic Gardens to the south of the main avenue. Sir David Rose, our First Governor-General who died in 1969 is buried near the Seven Ponds. The First President of Guyana, Sir Arthur Chung, is also interred there. Mr. L.F.S. Burnham and Hugh Desmond Hoyte also lie in the Botanic Gardens.
The Promenade Gardens are situated in Middle Street, Cummingsburg. These Gardens stand on the site of the Parade Ground which was the scene of the hangings of slaves who rebelled in 1823 on the East Coast of Demerara. In August 1851, the Town Council made a decision to create a public promenade on the Parade Ground once funding could be obtained. Subscriptions were made by several members of the public including the Governor who contributed $500.00. A Botanist from Trinidad was appointed to plan this garden. As early as 1844, the ‘Gazette’ had suggested that the Parade Ground be transformed into a public garden. Seats were placed in the Promenade Gardens in 1859. These gardens have been the setting of many important civic occasions. A statue of the advocate of pacific resistance, Mohandas K. Gandhi, stands in the Promenade Gardens. The bandstand in the Promenade Gardens was constructed in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
The Company Path Gardens can be found in the Company Path leading from plantation La Bourgade (now known as Cummingsburg) to the Demerara River. Company paths were the strips of common land between two plantations. The Company Path garden is not as splendid and colourful as the other gardens. It is surrounded by a fence and is situated to the west of St. George’s Cathedral and to the south of the National Library. The Non-Aligned Monument which consists of four busts can be found in this garden. Each bust is a likeness of one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement i.e. President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru of India and President Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia. This monument was established in 1972 when the Conference of Foreign Ministers of Non-Aligned countries was held in Guyana.
The gardens of Georgetown are renowned for their scenic beauty. The flora and fauna in the Botanic Gardens are refreshing for adults and children alike. The Promenade Gardens provide a quiet spot for peaceful reading or meditation. However, the Company Path Gardens are not open to the public. Pedestrians can fully appreciate the simple beauty of this garden.