St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church, located in Queenstown, Essequibo, is a unique architectural remnant of Guyana's history. Queenstown's story itself has a pretty interesting past - it was officially established in 1841, combined three Plantations and was named after Queen Victoria. It was also one of the first "Proprietary Villages", under which each villager was given title to his individual plot of land.
The Church's history is a stark callback to the dark days of slavery and serves as a remarkable reminder of faith & progressiveness, and its existence is ingrained into the fabric and history of the Village.
Here are 6 quick facts about the Church:
1. The building was built by slaves sometime in the 19th century (although a few reports indicate that it is even older than that). It was established as a Church in 1842 but consecrated in 1859.
2. The inside architecture of the building resembles the hull of ships that brought slaves to Guyana. In fact, the design of the building's ceiling & rafters have been described as an “upside down ship”. Additional comparisons have been drawn to other features of slave ships, such as the shape of windows and seats in parts of the building.
3. The Building was previously used as a Coffee Logie / store-house for the 3 Plantations that were eventually merged to become Queenstown (Mocha, Dageraad & West Field).
4. There is also a separate building used as the Church Hall, which can be seen from the public road. The Church Hall at one point functioned as a Primary School until it was taken over by the Church and converted for use as the Hall.
5. While there is little easily accessible recorded history about the church, reports of deaths / funerals and marriages occurring at the church were often found in British newspapers during colonial days.
6. The Church is still very active today (Services, Baptisms, Day Camps) and can be found on Facebook.
At the Benab, it feels like we are always using the hashtag “#lookup”. We strongly feel that there is beauty and history all around us, which includes above us. This Church is one of the finest examples of this. So if you do happen to visit Queenstown, get directions to the church from a friendly resident (that’s how we found our way there!) and take a step back into history (and of course, look up).
To all those observing Ash Wesnesday & Lent, have a blessed one and stay safe on our roads.
Guyana: from Slavery to the Present: Vol. 1 Health System, by Ramesh Gampat
Western Daily Press, Bristol July 13, 1883
Windsor and Eton Journal, May 6, 1865