Company paths and the attempt to rename Kitty streets

Dear Editor,

Please permit me to make two brief comments on aspects of your editorial captioned ‘Street renaming’ (Sunday Stabroek, Nov 29).

Your editorial referred to the area known as Company Path (where the Non-Aligned Monument is located). The following statement appears in Dr Fenton Ramsahoye’s book, The Development of Land Law in British Guiana (Oceana Publications, Inc, New York, 1966).

Lands granted (to persons who had petitioned the Court of Policy) were to be contiguous without any space being left between one plantation and another, but after ten plantations had been so issued to private individuals, two pieces of land or 200 roods façade had to be reserved for the Council (of the Court of Policy) for the Colonies (p123).

In a footnote on p196 he stated:

These were termed ‘Company Paths’ which provided access to ungranted lands situated at the back of the plantation.

Secondly, I do not wish to express any opinion of my own on the proposed Georgetown street renaming exercise.

I would however urge any enterprising journalist or other interested person to research the episode which occurred during the late 1960s or early 1970s when the then Chairman and Councillors of the then village of Kitty, took it on themselves to rename certain Kitty streets without any consultation or any proper consultation of the residents. This was met by vociferous and angry rejection by Kitty residents and the decision had to be hastily rescinded.

And further I say not.

Yours faithfully,

W Moore


Editor’s note

Sunday Stabroek is grateful to Justice Winston Moore for the reference in the work by Dr Fenton Ramsahoye. However, that regulation dates from 1792, long after the plantations whose front lands provided the space for Georgetown had been laid out. Grants were first made in Demerara in 1746, and by 1759 all the land in the lower river had been given out. The regulation cited by Justice Moore was to apply to any new concessions from 1792 onwards.

In addition, the word ‘Company’ in the term ‘Company Path’ is a reference to the Dutch West India Company, which did not exist in 1792. It was wound up in 1791, and it colonies were taken over by the state, which in the following year established an interim body to manage its assets called the Council over the Colonies in America and over the possessions of the State in Africa. This is usually referred to in the secondary sources in its contracted form as the Council for the Colonies (see, for example, P M Netscher History of the Colonies Essequebo, Demerary and Berbice… p 125-6). The Council was not an arm of the local Court of Policy.

One of the conditions for the Demerara land grants dating from 1746 was, in James Rodway’s words, “that a piece of land, ten roods wide, extending the whole depth of the plantation should be left between each concession as a Company’s path, so that if at any future time the whole of the front line should be occupied, there would be a highway to further concessions behind…” (History of British Guiana, Vol 1, p 120).

Since space had to be left between each plantation, there would have been a few Company Paths within the perimeter of what we now know as Georgetown, although the name of only one has survived. The rest would have been built on or utilized for some other purpose, since they had no relevance in an urban setting. Rodway does, however, have a reference to another Company Path, namely, that between Plantations La Bourgade and Eve Leary, which in the 1780s became the town’s first burial ground. Many decades later it was the site of the railway terminal. (The Story of Georgetown, p 10).

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