Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Town Council

From Illustrious Cabildo to Town Council

The “Illustrious Cabildo”, a Spanish colonial institution, was vested with extensive powers and its members enjoyed great privileges. In Spanish times, this group administered the affairs of Trinidad - first from St. Joseph, then from 1783 onwards from Port-of-Spain. The Cabildo had a President (usually the Governor of the colony held this office) and twelve members, two of whom were elected ‘Alcaldes’. One of the main privileges of the ‘Illustrious Cabildo’ was the levy of duties and the imposition of taxes within the boundaries of the town.

When Governor Don José Maria Chacon capitulated and the island became a British possession in 1797, the Cabildo continued to operate. Minutes were kept in Spanish until June 1813, when the new Governor Sir Ralph Woodford ordered that records were to be kept in both Spanish and English. In December of that same year, Spanish was dropped altogether and from then on, English was the single official language of the Cabildo.

Members of the Illustrious Cabildo in 1813

Sir Ralph Woodford

Gobernador y Presidente

Mr. James Cadett

Alcalde Ordinario, 1. Voto

Mr. Valentin de Basanta

Alcalde Ordinario, 2. Voto

Mr. Miguel de Gourville

Alferez Real

Mr. Philip Langton

Alcalde Provincial

Mr. Bartholomew Portel

Alcalde Provincial

Mr. Martin Sorzano

Fiel Ejecutor

Mr. James Lowe

Regidor Electo

Mr. Louis Lapeyrouze

Regidor Electo

Mr. Juan Maria Dancla

Regidor Electo

Mr. Diego Almandoz

Regidor Electo

Mr. William Boyle

Regidor Electo

Mr. John Dascum Gumbes

Regidor Electo

Mr. Charles Desson

Sindico Produrador General

Mr. Antonio Ardila


In 1840, the Cabildo’s name was changed to the ‘Town Council of Port-of-Spain’. Along with the name change an ordinance was passed for regulating the powers and constitution, and settling the mode of election of the members. The Governor Sir Henry MacLeod was still president of the organisation, and the members consisted of two ‘Alcaldes’, nine ‘Regidores’ and one person functioning as Town Clerk, Treasurer and Standing Counsel.

Thirteen years later, in 1853, the Town Concillors asked the Governor to introduce the same system of Municipal Corporations as in England. This was granted, and the Town Council changed its name to ‘Borough Council of Port-of-Spain’. Under the new constitution, the city got its first mayor, Dr. Louis Antoine Aimé de Verteuil.

Mayors of the Town Council

Louis Antoine Aimé de Verteuil, M.D.


James Kavanagh


Joseph Flament


Henry Stone


Henry Alexander Fitt


Louis Antoine Aimé de Verteuil, M.D.


Leon Denis O’Connor


Gilbert Taylor


Michel Maxwell Philip


Jno. Bell Smythe


William Herbert


Leon Agostini


Martin James Kavanagh


Joseph Emmanuel Cipriani


Charles Leotaud


Martin James Kavanagh


Eugene Lange


Francis Damian


Henry Browne Philipps


Vincent Brown


Emilius Julius Wainwright


Henry Albert Alcazar


Henry Browne Philipps


John Cox Newbold


Henry Albert Alcazar


John Alfred Rapsey


46 years and 26 mayors later, the Borough Council of Port-of-Spain in turn was abolished and substituted by ‘Town Commissioners’. The Governor named personally all four commissioners of the new corporation, thus able to exert a greater power. The first four commissioners were:

Hon. S. W. Knaggs, Chief Commissioner

Hon Vincent Brown, Q.C.

Hon. George Goodville

Mr. Leon Agostini

From 1904 on, Port-of-Spain was administered by three authorities: the Town Commissioners, the Water Authority and the Sewerage Board. These three were merged in 1907 into one body, called the ‘Port-of-Spain Town Board’. Adam Smith was the first chairman of the Town Board. In 1914, the City Council came into existence, which was partly nominated by the Governor, partly elected.


theladebug said...

How interesting! Emelius Julius Wainwright is my 3rd Great Grandfather and I had no idea that he served as mayor of the Port of Spain. It's great that some of the records from his time in the caribbean are becoming more readily available online for those of us who havent been able to make a trip to do research!

Laurelle said...

Glad to know that Joseph Flament my great great grandfather was a mayor of Port of Spain and Flament Street was where my grand mother and her relatives lived. Elaine Flament my grandmother, my great grandfather Micheal Flament. From your great grand daughter Laurelle

Leon Merrique said...

Hi Laurelle, Joseph Flament was also my great great grandfather. I however do not know anything about my Flament family in Port of Spain. It would be nice to meet them someday.

Leon Merrique said...

Hi Laurelle, Joseph Flament was also my great great grandfather. I however do not know anything about my Flament family in Port of Spain. It would be nice to meet them someday.