Historical photos kindly provided by © Adrian Camps-Campins
In 1817 Governor Sir Ralph Woodford, while looking around for a suitable site for an official residence, opened negotiations with the heirs of Henri Peschier for an estate in St. Ann’s. The Board of the Cabildo strongly supported the purchase of this former sugar estate, known as Paradise Estate, and eventually agreed to pay £6,000 over a period of years. The deed of conveyance was executed on August 18.
In 1819, a parcel of land known as Hollandais was also purchased, and these two parcels of land totaling 232 acres were transferred to the Colonial Government in 1820. Of these, 199 acres were laid out as the Queen’s Park for “the pasturage of cows and for the recreation of the townsfolk.”
A small lot of land where the Peschier ancestors were interred was not included in the sale. This small walled cemetery can still be found in the center of the Savannah. Apparently, a provision in the deed also prohibited the erection of permanent buildings on the Savannah.
Woodford’s keen interest in beautifying Port of Spain was shown in his laying out of a Botanic Garden in front of the new residence in 1820, and his appointment of Mr. David Lockhart as first curator. Lockhart was sent several times to St. Vincent, where the first Botanic Garden in the West Indies had been established, and to South America to procure plants and trees for the new gardens. Woodford himself was always on the lookout for new flowering trees and shrubs, and for other plants which might be used in starting new industries in the island. He was especially interested in the introduction of nutmeg trees and spices.
In the Trinidad Guardian in 2001, Horace Harragin wrote, “What was once a beautiful setting with its green and glorious sights in the distance has been drawn cold and harsh today because of construction of public utilities by the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and Ministry of Works. Not only has the aesthetics of the savannah been tarnished, but the environmental character also has experienced a serious change. The character of the Savannah has been transformed from a land of innocence to a pasture for exploitation.”
Harragin would have probably been much harsher in his criticism of the more recent construction projects all over the Savannah - making it a ply board village of sorts.
Could this ugly reality ever have been visualized 190 years ago when the Savannah was purchased? We think not.
OTHER HISTORICAL FACTS:
Water Works Ordinance Meeting at the Grand Stand (March 1903).
Two ladies stroll past a tramcar as it makes its way around the Savannah (1917).