Sunday, 17 March 2019

The Chinese of Trinidad

Written by: Bridget Brereton
From: Book of Trinidad by Gérard A. Besson and Bridget Brereton,378f



Immigrants from India were not the only people to enter the society in the decades after Emancipation, though they were by far the most numerous. From Asia also came a small but important stream of Chinese immigrants. As early as 1806, a small  number of men from China had been settled in the island, but significant Chinese immigration really, began after Emancipation. Between 1853 and 1866, about 2,500 Chinese, mostly men, arrived to work on the estates as indentured labourers under the same terms as the Indians. 1866 marks the end of indentured Chinese immigration because in that year the Chinese government insisted on a free return passage, which would have been prohibitively costly; but it does not, of course, mark the end of Chinese immigration to Trinidad. After 1866, they arrived in small numbers as voluntary, ‘free’ immigrants; some came via British Guiana where a larger Chinese community had been established.
The Lee Lum dynasty, for example, was established here when John Lee Lum arrived in 1912 at the age of 20. After the Chinese revolution in 1911, immigration picked up and was quite high between the 1920’s and the late 1940’s, a turbulent era of China’s modern history. Thus Trinidad’s Chinese population had increased from 1,334 in 1921 to 8,361 in 1960. Many of the post-1911 immigrants came via Hong Kong or even the United States and arrived knowing some English and familiar to some extent with Western ways.

S. Hochoy 
V.I.T. Hochoy 
S. Atteck

S. Lee Lum

Few of the early Chinese immigrants remained on the estates for long. Most of them became shopkeepers, market gardeners or butchers. Many married Creole women and adopted Christianity. The post-1911 immigrants, coming in larger numbers, were probably better able to hold on to some of their cultural and family traits as a sizable Chinese community was gradually established. Above all, the Chinese established themselves as rural and village shopkeepers, along with their Portuguese rivals. By the 1940’s, important trading terms had been established by Chinese families, such as the Lee Lums and the Scotts.

Chinese Oyster Vendor of the 1880s.
Photo: U.W.I. Library



Culturally, the Chinese language (in its two major forms, Hakka from North China and Cantonese from the South) survived among the Trinidad Chinese community, and in fact, the 1940’s saw an effort to revive the language and the culture. The Communist takeover in 1949, however, severed virtually all links between China and the Caribbean Chinese so that the language dwindled until, today, few of the young Chinese in Trinidad can speak it. The demise of Chinese religions in Trinidad was even swifter:—by 1960 virtually no Chinese-Trinidadian practised Buddhism or Confucianism. The vast majority were fully integrated into the Christian Churches, especially the Roman Catholic church. Traditional Chinese culture is rapidly disappearing among the community, and it is perhaps only in the field of food preparation that it has made a profound impact on the wider society.
Yet Trinidad’s Chinese community has produced outstanding figures such as Eugene Chen who served as Foreign Minister in Sun-Yat-Sen’s Government in China, Solomon Hochoy, first local Governor and first Governor-General of the nation, the artist Carlisle Chang, and Carnival bandleaders Stephen and Elsie Lee Heung. Prominent especially as businessmen and professionals, the Chinese community seems to exercise an influence out of all proportion to its numerical strength.

Sources: D. Wood, Trinidad in Transition.
T. Millette, The Chinese in Trinidad.





Above: OFFICIALS AND MEMBERS OF THE CHINESE ASSOCIATION’s EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, 1929.

Standing from left to right: J.E. Lai Fook, F. Yip Young, C. Lee Ghin, Miss C. Hosang, G.L. Francis-Lau, Lee Chee, L.R. Lum Yan.
Sitting from left to right: C. Tan Yuk, H. Chinasing, Dr. T.P. Achong, J.R. Hingking, E. Lee Lum, J. Leung, Marfoe. 
Missing: Dr. S.E. Ammon, Dr. M. Chu-Cheong, and J. Ling.
Photograph—Moyin Chinasing


The date of the introduction of Chinese immigrants into the island is given by Joseph as 12 October, 1806, that being the day on which the ship Fortitude anchored in our harbour. He gives the information that the men were Tartars and not accustomed to working in the fields, and that only one woman was among the number; the total being 193. He accounts for the absence of women from the fact that they would be unsuitable as field workers from the restricted size of their feet. He further stated that, with the exception of about 23, the whole number returned by the same ship Fortitude.

H. Lu Affat 
R. Austin 
C.D. Fung-Fatt 
C.M. Fung 
C.H. George

C.E. Huggins 
D.R. Huggins 
K.M. Lee 
P.A.S. Ling 
C.M.C. Ling 
U.L. Look Yan 
R.L. Low





Above: The Chinese Council, Queens Park West. Originally the home of Packer Hutchinson. It was acquired by several members of the Chinese community in Trinidad to serve as a cultural centre and Council after the collapse of the Chang Kai-Shek Government in China. It fell into disuse and was eventually demolished. It is now a vacant lot. Photograph—I.P. George.



Above: Members of the Madame Chang Kai-Shek Club, an American organisation composed of Chinese girls, march past in the chorus in ‘Strike Up the Band’ which formed part of the celebrations for American Independence Day. Left to right are Vida Wong, Ulrica Lee Kai, Adrie Archer and Madge Chin. (U.S. Army Signal Corps Photograph—courtesy of Trinidad News Tips)


Miss Thora Thomas, dancer and choreographer,
whose contribution to dance to the young
in Trinidad cannot be exaggerated.
Photograph—I.P. George.

CHINESE IN TRINIDAD 

Based on a lecture by: Dr. Robert K. Lee  
From: Book of Trinidad by Gérard A. Besson and Bridget Brereton, 383f

1944 "Chien Chiao" Cover
The first documentary evidence of the Chinese community in Trinidad is contained in the census of 1810 which mentions ‘a colony of 22 Chinese males who lived in misery in Cocorite, making their living selling charcoal, oysters, and crabs.’ Prior to Emancipation, the small number of Chinese immigrants can be accounted for by a general indifference to the outside world in China and the fact that the legal penalty for emigration was death (this law was not repealed until 1894); there was also a strong tradition that ancestral spirits should only be cared for by descendants. Towards the end of the 19th century, however, various factors in China prompted a move towards emigration:—the collapse of the feudal system, the doubling of the population from 120 million in the 1790’s to 300 million, and the burden of increased taxation imposed by the corrupt Empire. 
The Chinese immigrants came from two groups: the Punti and the Hakka. The Cantonese, speaking Punti, originally from the North of China, had intermarried with the ethnic Chinese Miao. The Hakka, who spoke their own language, had settled on land cleared of Punti, who were suspected of disloyalty to the Empire. Following the Civil War between Hakka and Punti 1854-68, the Hakka, who were already accustomed to the maritime life, began to look across the sea, especially after hearing the news of the discovery of gold in California in 1848. 
Chinese immigrants came to Trinidad in different ways; some came under contract as indentured labourers; many were ‘shanghaied’—abducted into virtual slavery by European traders either in the West Indies or South America. Hakka prisoners were also sought by Punti traders for the infamous ‘Pig Trade’ whereby Hakka, described as pigs on bills of lading, were shipped off to the New World. Older Trinidadian Chinese still refer to mainland Chinese or recently arrived immigrants as ‘mee chee chai’—young pigs or fresh pork. By 1874, the Governor of Canton had banned the ‘Pig Trade’ and the Chinese were replaced with the more tractable East Indians as indentured labourers. 
Advertisements for Lee Lum & Co.
and Sam Lee's Laundry, 1941
During the early years of immigration, Chinese merchant houses acted as facilitating agencies for new arrivals; they provided temporary accommodation, job placements and community centres; they also imported brides and shipped back bones for village interment. 
Although the Chinese community has apparently been assimilated in Trinidad to a greater extent than anywhere else in the world, it has left indelible marks on contemporary Trinidadian culture. It was the Chinese who originally introduced ‘whe-whe’ or ‘Pakka Piu’. Today’s game still bears a strong resemblance to the original Chinese game; the marks are largely derived from the Chinese zodiac and still retain much of their original symbolism. Trinidadian cuisine also owes a debt to the original Chinese immigrants who brought various plants and vegetables with them; the East Indians later supplemented these and consequently the fruits and vegetables in Trinidad are the best in the Caribbean in terms of freshness and variety (Chinese cooks insist on using only young, tender and nutritious produce). Cantonese cooks set up shops and over the years have educated the Trinidadian palate. Thus it was that ghingee, carailee, christophene, snow peas, narchoi, pakchoi, mustard bush, white radish and white melon entered local markets. 

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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Sweet Sorrow: The Timeline of Sugar in Trinidad and Tobago

16th–18th Century

1540s
Sugar cane comes to Trinidad
Sugar cane is introduced in Trinidad circa 1542 by Spanish residents, but only for their own sugar and rum production. For the next 230 years, sugar plays no major economic role.

Tobago’s sugar plantations are developed to a high degree much earlier than Trinidad’s.
In the 1780s, French migration to Trinidad begins after Roume de St. Laurent, a French Creole from Grenada, visits Trinidad. As a result, the Spanish government issues the Cedula of Population of 1783,  which gives crown land concessions to Catholic settlers. French planters from the other islands with their African slaves develop sugar and cotton plantations in Trinidad. In 1797, the British capture Trinidad from the Spanish crown, and the island remains in British hands until Independence in 1962.

1780s
Sugar flourishes in Trinidad and Tobago
St. Hilaire Begorrat, a French planter,
introduces the Otaheite cane to Trinidad.
In 1782, a Frenchman by the name of St. Hilaire Begorrat introduces the Otaheite variety of cane, which flourishes in Trinidad. The sugar industry starts in the Port of Spain area.

The first sugar mill is erected in 1787 by a Frenchman, Picot de la Peyrouse, where Lapeyrouse Cemetery is today. Sugar becomes the leading export good and continues to be so, until 1897 when cocoa takes over.










Slave in the sugar
(Richard Bridgens, 1820s)

Slaves planting and harvesting sugar cane
(Richard Bridgens, 1820s)

Hogsheads, very large barrels,
were used to ship rum, sugar
and molasses abroad.
In 1799, Trinidad produces 2,700 tons of sugar. By 1808, there are 272 sugar mills operating, of which 257 are animal-driven and round in shape, producing 9,500 tons of sugar. Through a process of rationalisation, the number of mills dwindles to 101 by 1882, producing 53,000 tons of sugar.











Left: Transporting cane to the mill (Richard Bridgens, 1820s)
Right: Technical drawing of a mill (Bryan Edwards, 1780s)

The technology of sugar manufacturing changes over time. In the industrial revolution of the 19th century, technological advancements like the vaccum pan and centrifuges lead to more centralisation in sugar manufacturing. Smaller factories become uneconomical.
In 1872, the first central sugar factory, Ste. Madeleine, is completed.

In Tobago, the sugar economy ends in the 1890s due to the collapse of the British firm Gillespie & Co. of London.

Top left: Windmill at Lowlands estate, Tobago.
Top right: Muscovado factory with hand-fed conveyor belt.
Below: 1960s modern sugar factory.

Left: Interior of a boiling house, Trinidad, 1820s.
Right: Interior of a boiling house, Tobago, circa 1880s.

Population and crop statistics of the late 18th century.
(From: History of Trinidad by Lionel Mordaunt Fraser)


19th Century

1807
Abolition of the Slave Trade
The abolition of slavery changes the sugar industry permanently. Most of the former slaves abandon the plantations and either migrate to the towns seeking employment or settle on crown lands to grow food crops. A few skilled Africans remain on the plantations, mainly in the sugar factories which require the services of carpenters, masons, boiler-men, carters and factory operators. The African presence on the estates continues, although in diminished numbers.

1838
Emancipation of the Slaves
In 1834, slavery is abolished throughout the British Empire. For another four years, the former slaves are being kept as paid "apprentices" on the plantations, and in 1838 they are given full freedom.

From the 1840s onwards, Trinidad sugar comes under increasing competitive pressure in the UK markets. Reasons for this are a) the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, but not in other territories such as Cuba or Brazil, b) the abolition of import duties from non-British sugar and c) the displacement of cane sugar by beet sugar from the European continent.


Two of Trinidad’s early sugar barons 
Left: James Eccles, father of William Eccles and Rosina Burnley.
Right: William Burnley, 1780–1850, an American, settles in Trinidad in 1798
and becomes the largest planation owner in Trinidad.



1845
Beginning of Indian Immigration
In 1845, the first ship with indentured workers from India reaches Trinidad. The new arrivals are quarantined on Nelson Island and thence allotted the sugar estate on which to work for a period of five years (women for three years). Until the end of indentureship in 1917, approximately 144,000 people come from India. Many choose to stay after their indentureship contracts are over and found families in their new home country.


Population growth between 1782 and 1810
(from The History of Trinidad by Lionel Mordaunt Fraser)

1840s-60s
Portuguese and Chinese immigration
In 1846, sugar planters privately charter a ship to bring 219 Madeiran immigrant labourers to Trinidad. They are put to work on the more rigorous but better-paying sugar estates, but the harsh conditions of tropical sugar plantations prove to be too much for them. Some leave for the cocoa estates while others abandon plantation labour altogether and turn to petty shopkeeping. Other ships arrive later in 1846 and in 1847. The Portuguese are not compelled by law to indenture themselves and Madeira does not prove to be a viable source of labour. After 1847, Portuguese immigration is no longer considered a solution to the planters’ predicament and the Madeirans are followed by two groups of Asian indentured labourers—the Chinese and the Indians.

Between 1851 and 1969, 2,645 people from China arrive. The majority of the Chinese immigrants are male, and tend towards commerce rather than agricultural labour. This, combined with the high cost of transport, leads the Colonial Government to discontinue Chinese immigration. At right is the partial passenger list of the “Fortitude”, the first ship to bring Chinese immigrants to Trinidad in 1806.







1870-1895
Investment in Sugar Factories
Between 1870 and 1895, £339,000 is invested by the Colonial Company (later Usine St. Madeleine) in its machinery and transport facilities in Trinidad and British Guiana. To this figure is to be added the original cost of the Trinidad factory, Usine Ste. Madeleine,  £213,000.
One small estate, Palmiste, between 1883 and 1894 spends £52,600 in modernising its factory and transport facilities. These investments reduce the production cost of sugar from £8 to £3.
However, not enough investment in the scientific knowledge about cane cultivation is made into the cane farming community, which by the 1920s supplies 40% of canes to the factories. Houses and buildings fall into disrepair: a huge omission on the supply side of the sugar making process.


The cane cutter by Michel Jean Cazabon. Cazabon, one of the earliest recorders of Trinidad’s visual history, captured what may well be the earliest image of an cane cutter in this water colour rendered in the 1850s or 60s.

1882
Beginning of cane farming
Sir Neville Lubbock, Chairman of the West India Committee and a Director of the New Colonial Company Ltd. (later Usine Ste Madeleine), hits upon the idea of having workers on the sugar estates grow canes on idle lands of the sugar company. In 1882, eight men accept parcels of abandoned lands and become Trinidad’s first cane farmers.

Preparing land for cultivation.



20th Century

1937
Brechin Castle starts
In 1937 the English Company of Tate & Lyle purchases a number of small estates in Central Trinidad and sets up their headquarters at Brechin Castle in Couva. As a large international conglomerate Tate & Lyle soon becomes dominant on the landscape, absorbing most of the smaller sugar factories.

Between 1920 and 1927, over 9,000 Indians are repatriated. The total agricultural population is about 96,000. The development of the oil industry and road building begins to increase pressure on the supply of labour.

Aerial shot of Brechin Castle sugar factory in the 1950s.


1920s
From ox-cart to tractor
The 60 hp Caterpillar tractor, imported by Charles Massy since 1924, starts to be deployed in the cane fields for ploughing and grading.
Manure is vital for the fertilisation of cane fields, and sugar companies continue to have large herds of cattle and goats. Additional income from meat and dairy adds to the companies’ bottom line. Mules, horses and donkeys continue to be used for carting and manure. In all, tens of thousands of animals are kept by the sugar companies (in 1955: more than 130,000 animals).


In the 1910s, the Indian water buffalo and the zebu were received from India.


1930s
Trade Unionism
The 1930s are years of considerable turbulence in the colony. Workers in sugar and in oil revolt against low wages and poor working conditions in both these industries. The sugar workers are led by Adrian Cola Rienzi (Krishna Deonarine), a young lawyer from San Fernando. In November 1937, the All Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Trade Union is formed, led by Rienzi. Union representation sees considerable improvement in the lives of the sugar and oil workers. Union leaders succeeding Rienzi include Anthony Geoffroy, Bhadase Maraj, Basdeo Panday and Rudranath Indarsingh.




1939-45
World War II
During the Second World War a major section of the work-force is siphoned away from sugar to the better-paying US bases at Chaguaramas and Waller Field. This exodus from the plantations creates shortfalls in sugar production and is a serious blow to sugar manufacture. Production picks up once again after the War and Tate & Lyle becomes a major player in the international sugar market.



This map shows the migration of the sugar industry southward. Up to the time of Emancipation in 1838, sugar cultivation is concentrated mainly in Northern Trinidad, from Diego Martin in the North West to the valleys of the Northern Range going East as far as Toco. The second half of the 19th century sees the decline of the sugar industry in Trinidad. The Sugar Duties Acts from 1846 equalizes the tariff on all sugars imported into Britain, which means that cheaper slave-grown sugar from Cuba, Haiti or Brazil can now compete with that produced by Trinidad, Tobago or Jamaica where labour costs are much higher. In other colonies like India labour costs are also much lower than the Caribbean. In addition European nations are producing beet sugar which now becomes a fierce competitor of Caribbean cane sugar. Plantations in Tobago are reduced into closure as are sugar estates in Northern and North Eastern Trinidad, and in Mayaro. Cultivation shifts to the fertile plains of Caroni and Naparima, well serviced by train lines, where it remains until the final closure of the industry in 2003. (Map from C.Y. Shepard, 1929)


1950s-1975
Tate & Lyle
During the 1950s Tate & Lyle are able to purchase as big an establishment as Usine Ste. Madeleine, making Tate & Lyle the colony’s and later nation’s largest producer of sugar, molasses, rum and bagasse. In 1966, Tate & Lyle owned the following holdings in Trinidad:
• Caroni Limited (70.59% - Sugar production)
• Caribbean Molasses Company (Trinidad ) Ltd. (Molasses purchase, transport, storage and distribution)
• Unital (Trinidad) Limited (Import and export agents for Caroni Limited, 70.59%)

Graph at left:
Crop season lasts from January to June, Trinidad’s dry season. For the sugar factory, it is important that a steady stream of harvested canes is fed into its machinery. However, Easter always means a big dip in production, and May coincides with the traditional marriage season of Indians! That also impacts on the man hours being devoted to the harvest. (Graph from C.Y. Shepard, 1929)






1962-75
Rising Nationalism
Indian sugar workers participate
in demonstrations staged
by the trade unions in the 1970s.
The post-war era is a period of heightened nationalism when Trinidadians and Tobagonians seek independence as well as ownership of their resources. Independence comes in 1962 but both sugar and oil remain under foreign control with little sign of changing. This state of affairs is largely responsible for the Black Power uprising of February 1970. At the end of this uprising the government is forced to make changes in the direction of a greater share in the national economy. One result of this change is the government’s purchase of Tate & Lyle’s Caroni Limited holdings headquartered at Brechin Castle in 1975 under the name Caroni (1975) Limited.












1918-2003
Caroni Distillery
The Caroni Distillery is established in 1918. In 1975, it becomes part of the Government Holdings of Caroni (1975) Limited’s rum division called Rum Distillers Limited. In 2001, Government sells its 49% holding to Angostura. A year later, with the impending closure of the sugar industry in Trinidad and Tobago, Caroni Distillery loses its ready source of local molasses and is closed. Today, Angostura remains the only distillery in the country and has to import its molasses for rum production. Like our sugar, it comes mainly from Guyana.

Caroni Distillery

1975-2003
The death of the Sugar Industry
Figures showing how pay rises in the 1970s
contribute to a steady loss in the sugar industry,
eventually contributing to its demise.
As a national company, Caroni (1975) Ltd continues to produce its traditional brands of sugar, rum, molasses and bagasse. In an effort to diversify, new programmes are introduced such as shrimp farming at Orange Grove, livestock rearing at Morne Jaloux and Rio Claro and citrus cultivation at El Reposo and Tableland. But these initiatives do not succeed, mainly because the management structure remains unchanged and decline is the inevitable result. Higher wages in oil continue to attract the best-trained technicians away from the sugar industry, and the newly established Point Lisas Industrial Estate, adjacent to Brechin Castle, contributes to this talent drain.

The sugar industry dies a slow but sure death. In 2003 Caroni (1975) Ltd is closed, thus ending the long history of sugar in Trinidad and Tobago. There are sad consequences of this closure. Some 20,000 workers suddenly are unemployed, leading to social displacement in the plains of Caroni and Naparima. The established way of life of the cane farmers comes to an end and considerable re-adjustment has to be made. Roads and traces in the sugar areas are handed over to the County Councils which are ill-equipped to take on these responsibilities. The many recreation centres which had been maintained by the sugar company fall into disrepair and are, like the factory itself and indeed Sevilla House, vandalised. At the same time some 75,000 acres of sugar lands are made available to the State for its own purposes. A good deal of these lands is later devoted to housing estates.
Thus ends the era of sugar cultivation in the history of Trinidad and Tobago.


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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

President’s House, or The Ups and Downs of Trinidad & Tobago’s Official Mansions

With the restoration of some historical buildings in Port-of-Spain underway, it might be useful to give an account of their origins and something of the history behind them. The one that comes immediately to mind is President’s House, or, as it was once called, Government House.

Plan of Port-of-Spain, indicating the Port, or Puntilla, in the area of Besson Street 
and the first three Government Houses in the town as well as some 
other government buildings of Puerto d’Espagna.

Eight Government Houses
It may come as a surprise to some to learn that we have had, beginning from 1592, perhaps eight of these official buildings. 
The first Government House was built in Trinidad by Don Antonio de Berrio y Oruña when he set up San José de Oruña (St. Joseph) as the capital. Like all Spanish towns, it was laid out with a central square, around which were placed the church, the Cabildo Hall or Town Hall, the residence of the Governor, and the prison. 
The church at St. Joseph, today, stands on the spot that was originally selected for it 426 years ago, which may makes it the oldest identifiable plot of land selected by government for the erection of a public building. (The church that stands there today is a newer building on the same location). To the west and in front of the church was the open square, on the north side of which stood Government House.
One hundred and sixty two years later, in 1757, another Spanish Governor, Don Pedro de la Moneda, for want of suitable accommodation at St. Joseph, decided to make the little port town of Port-of-Spain his home and in so doing put into place the moving of the capital from St. Joseph. 
In those days the town, which was really a fishing hamlet, not even yet a village, consisted of only two streets, which are now know as Duncan and Nelson. Nelson Street was called Calle Principe, Main Street, and Duncan Street was called Calle del Infante, Prince Street. At the eastern extremity of this very small place, across the river, was to be found the Governor’s house near to a spring of water called “The Spring of Madame Moncreau”. It was somewhere along the Eastern Main Road, probably in the vicinity of the present-day fly-over.
Ajoupas in the Piarco area in the 1930s. 
This is what the streets of Puerto d’Espagna 
could have looked like in the 1780s.

Early Port-of-Spain
The Spaniards did not have stone buildings, so the Governor’s house would have been built of daub and wattle, that is rods or sticks laced with vines and covered with mud, white-washed, and thatched with a palm leaf called tirite. 
In those days, the port of Port-of-Spain was actually the mouth of the Dry River, and this was where ship’s boats landed passengers and goods. The entire sea front was covered in mangrove, looking like the Caroni bird sanctuary today. 
In 1781, the first church in Port-of-Spain was erected on the site now known as Tamarind Square, right next to the sea, and on the northern side, between Charlotte, George, Nelson and Duncan Streets, were the Artillery Quarters, the Secretariat, the Receiver General and the Treasury. This was the heart of town. In 1783 the population of the entire island stood at 126 Europeans, 295 mixed race ‘free’ people, 300 enslaved Africans, and 2,032 tribal people, making a total population of 2,753. The actual population of Port-of-Spain might have been a few hundred people. 
During this time, almost all the buildings in the hamlet, hardly more than forty or fifty, were ajoupas built of daub and wattle with thatch roofs, with perhaps one or two partially constructed from untrimmed lumber. 
The streets were dirt tracks that ended in either the mangrove or the forest. The area, forested, was characterised by the abundance of large silk cotton trees. It was called by the tribal people “Place of the Silk Cotton Trees”, Conquarabia or Cu-Mucurapo. 
Everyone went to bed—or rather to hammock—early, because with nightfall the place would teem with tens of thousands of crabs and with caimans that came out of the mangrove and ambled freely about, not to mention the very large boa constrictors making sudden and uncomfortable appearances. 
The course of the Saint Ann river swung westward around where Park and Charlotte Streets are, went along Park Street and down Frederick Street, across Woodford Square, then down Chacon Street, thence to the sea. 
The Dry River, mostly dry except for the duration of the rainy season, occupied its present course from Park into Piccadilly Street (which was once known as Arnold Street) to the sea at the first port of Port-of-Spain. The Saint Ann river would be diverted to run into the Dry River with the advent of Don José María Chacón, who arrived as Governor in 1784. 
Because of a Spanish imperative called the Cedula for Population of 1783, there had been an increase in the population, which required new public buildings. One of these was a new Government House, which was complected in 1788. It was situated on the northern side of the Plaza del Marina or King Street near the Artillery Quarters on the south-west corner of Charlotte Street. King Street later became Marine Square, now Independence Square.
With the conquest of Trinidad by the British in 1797, a new government was established. The first British Governor, Colonel Thomas Picton, lived in the old Spanish Government House near the south-west corner of Charlotte Street and King Street, until for a variety of reasons in 1803 a Government House was created at 29 Brunswick Square, now Woodford Square. This would be on the north-eastern corner of Knox Street and Pembroke Street, where the old public library building now stands. 
In 1808 a fire, which started at 12 Frederick Street, swept through the town, destroying almost all of it.

This building was erected after 1808 
on the site of a Government House that was 
used by both Governors Chacon and Picton. 
It was demolished in the 1960s.

“Neither wind- nor rainproof and much decayed”
A new Government House had been selected in 1803 at Belmont Hill, where the Hilton Hotel now stands. It was an estate house belonging to an Irishman named Edward Barry (whose grave is in a little park at the top of Norfolk Street in Belmont), which was a plantation that belonged to him and a gentleman named John Black. 
The ‘new’ Government House was described by Governor Hislop, Picton’s successor as “a hut, neither- nor rainproof, and much decayed.” 
By this time the population of Trinidad stood at 2,361 Europeans, 5,275 mixed race ‘free’ people, 20,464 enslaved Africans and 1,154 tribal people. Making a total population of 29,254.
Sir Ralph Woodford became Governor of the colony in 1813. With great reluctance he continued to live at Belmont Hill, where he found that “there being scarcely a dry spot during heavy rain.” 
In 1818, negotiations were opened with Henri Peschier for a property of over 200 acres at Saint Ann, which was eventually purchased for £9,160 Sterling. The new Government House was completed in August of 1820. The building was situated a little in front of what is now President’s House. It continued in use as the official residence for ten Governors until in 1867 it was destroyed by fire.
Government House on Belmont Hill, middle building. 
Painting by Peter Shim from a contemporary watercolour.



 Government House on the corner of Pembroke & Knox Streets.

The Original Cottage
This was the estate manager’s office and residence from before the sale of the property. It was utilised as the Governor’s residence for nine years, from 1867 to 1876, by four Governors. The well-known travel writer Charles Kingsley wrote his famous book, “At Last—A Christmas in the West Indies” there. It was eventually demolished in 1886. The old stables, now garages with a clock dated 1821, are the last remnants of the original buildings.

The oldest surviving part of the estate, dating from the time of the Peschier house,
its the clock dated 1821

Woodford’s Government House was erected just a 
little in front of where President’s House now stands. 
Drawing by Richard Bridgens.


The original Cottage. Lady Chancellor Road is 
the hillside behind. Painting by Michel-Jean Cazabon.

The Present House
In July of 1876, the foundation stone was laid for a new Government House, which was built on the present site. It was designed by a Mr. Ferguson on what was called the Indian model and built of limestone at a cost £44,630 Sterling. 
Sixteen Governors lived there until it was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1938. Rebuilt and modernised, it served as the residence for the last five British governors until it became the home of the Governor-General of the Federated West Indies on 30th of April 1958, when Lord and Lady Hailes took up residence there. The Federation came to an end on the 31st May 1962. Trinidad and Tobago attained Independence on the 31st August 1962 and the building was declared open as a museum and art gallery by H.R.H Alice, The Princess Royal.
In 1965, Sir Solomon Hochoy was appointed the first Governor-General of Trinidad and Tobago and took up residence in the renovated Governor-General’s House. The renovations cost the government some $650,000. On the 24th September 1976, when Trinidad and Tobago became a Republic, the Governor-General’s House became the residence of the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency President Ellis Clarke, our first President, and it is now know as President’s House.

Today's President's House


During the period of the Federation, this small building
on the grounds of Government House,
called the Cottage, was renovated and occupied by
Sir Edward Beetham, the last English Governor in Trinidad. 


Tobago Government House
Tobago, from a western European perspective, possesses a longer and far more dramatic history than its sister island Trinidad. This may easily be recognised in its architecture and the remnants of its plantation economy, as seen by the windmills and water-wheels, which was driven up until the 1830 by African slave labour.
British colonial administration in Tobago began in 1763. The island was divided into seven parishes, and land was sold to prospective sugar planters. African enslaved people were introduced, and thus began the cultivation of sugar, cotton and indigo. In 1764, the first Lieutenant Governor, Alexander Brown, arrived and settled at Fort Granby, near Studley Park. Georgetown, situated in Barbados Bay on the southern coast, became the capital from 1764 to 1789, when it was moved to Scarborough which was considered to be a more healthy place. In the early days, the Governor and his staff lived for two years on board two hulks anchored in Barbados Bay. From 1769, during the British occupation, it is recorded that the home of the Governor was situated at Orange Hill.
In 1802, during the French occupation, the Governor having died of fever, it was suggested that Government House should be moved to a more healthy part of the island, and it was decided to build the new residence at Mount William. The house and lands at Orange Hill were sold at auction, and construction of the new building commenced and was not completed until 1807, at a cost of more than 25,000 pounds.
From 1803 onwards, Tobago was to remain  British. In 1807 Sir William Young arrived and was the first Governor to occupy the new buildings. The original plans were for a two-storied building, but when the post of Governor was reduced to that of Lieutenant-Governor, the House of Assembly built a house of one story instead. The present Government House stands on the same site today having been built and completed in 1828.
In 1958, at the time of the Federation of the West Indies, when Government House in Trinidad became the seat of the Governor-General of the West Indies, Sir Edward Beetham-Beetham, the last English Governor of Trinidad & Tobago, moved over to Government House in Tobago, where extensive repairs had been carried out at a cost of $45,187.

Government House in Tobago has been the residence of Governors and Governors-General for many years, and will now be for the use of the President of the Republic of  Trinidad & Tobago. Many distinguished visitors have occupied or visited it, including Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and H.R.H. Prince Philip, as well as many celebrities too numerous to mention.

1828 Tobago Government House

Tobago Government House today