Forth Nassau: The Cradle of Revolution
Fort Nassau which was the chief port of Berbice, Guyana, carries a rich yet turbulent past. The remnants of this historic building, still hold some of the untold stories of the Dutch, French and British which had ruled over Guyana during its colonial days.
The Fort which was declared a national monument in 1999, is located approximately 88 kilometres upstream the Berbice River from New Amsterdam. It was formed on the Eastern bank of the Berbice River in 1627 by Abraham Van Pere, a Dutch merchant, and his colonists.
The historic landmark was constructed of wood and enclosed with palisades. The fort had an uneven rectangular fortress which also contained a larger stone building.
The barracks were built to facilitate about 60 soldiers while the main building in the fort had two floors. The Governor, Captain of the Troops, the Secretary and two Lieutenants lived on the upper floor. There were a Council Chamber and Church Hall on the first floor. The Fort was surrounded by outhouses for servants and petty officials.
Fort Nassau after its construction was declared as the seat of Government in Berbice which was governed as a separate colony before the unification of Guyana’s three counties: Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice in 1831. It should be noted that in those times, the three counties were governed separately as colonies.
The original fort was, however, burnt by the French when they attacked it in 1712. But this saw the construction of a new but similar fort. But this too was razed in 1763 by Berbice governor Van Hoogenheim and his soldiers to prevent the revolting slaves from acquiring it.
Just a few years later, a village had developed around Fort Nassau. It was called New Amsterdam (Dutch: Nieuw Amsterdam) only to be rejected in 1785 in favour of Fort Sint Andries, which was situated more downstream, at the confluence of the Canje River. This new area was named again as New Amsterdam and is still known as such today.
Though the historic landmark is currently decorated by tall, green vegetation, efforts are still being made to preserve it. In fact, Discussions over the years continue to increase regarding the promotion of the fort as a tourist destination site. Preservation of the remains of the fort falls under the National Trust of Guyana.
The remnants of Fort Nassau include the western and eastern grave plots, the semi-circular brick stairs of the Court of Policy Hall, the stairs of the Armoury, the ruins of the bridge, the Lutheran Church.
The historical beauty of Fort Nassau is that it is a physical representation of Guyana being one of the few countries in the world where different countries occupied including the Dutch, French and British.
Fort Nassau was occupied first by the Dutch and the French, then the British, but of significant importance to its history, is that it is often referred to as the “cradle of the revolution” because of the revolt by enslaved Africans, led by Cuffy in 1763, which originated east of Plantation Magdelenenburg.
The landmark is known to attract the attention of not only locals and the Diaspora but even Dutch visitors.
With flora and fauna constantly surrounding it, Forth Nassau provides much potential for spotting animals such as jaguars, agoutis, labba and monkeys. In addition, its rich birdlife makes it a utopia for bird watchers and persons can also engage in sports fishing.
Another intriguing feature of the landmark is the “Talking Tree”. It is said that it was often used to send messages during the slave rebellion led by Cuffy. It still remains a wondrous attraction.