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The historic St Ann’s Church of Scotland, on the borders of Belmont and uptown Port-of-Spain, is to unveil the results of its four year, $6 million restoration project this Sunday with a special re-dedication service attended by the head of the church, Right Reverend Lorna Hood who is flying in from Scotland.
A commemorative plaque will be unveiled at the building, originally constructed in 1854 on Charlotte Street and replaced in 1894 by the current building.
It is a heritage site (including an original timber-framed manse lodging and a church hall) which is on the National Trust list of sites awaiting protected status.
With a courtyard flanking one of the city’s major artery roads and close to the General Hospital and an HDC housing estate, the surrounding neighbourhood of the church is unrecognisable from the period of its construction, but the restoration project has sensitively handled the original features and inserted new ones that retain its character while making the building functional for its congregation of around 200 people.
As the PoS traffic trundled past outside, the T&T Guardian got a sneak preview of the work that has been done and chatted to Reverend Garwell Bacchas who arrived from Westmoreland, Jamaica eight years ago to lead the Presbyterian congregation.
One of the new architectural features is a grand ceiling made from cedar wood and supported by ornate trusses made from greenheart wood imported from Guyana. Immensely strong and durable, greenheart also grows in Suriname and Venezuela.
Lawrence’s company, Construction Restoration Services Ltd (CRMS), has been restoring notable buildings for the past 18 years, including the current project at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in PoS, Queen’s Royal College, St Michael’s Church in Maracas-St Joseph and St Patrick’s Church in Newtown.
The original ceiling, as well as the floor, was made of pine but in 2006, Rev Bacchas explained, it became apparent that there were “major roof problems. Things would fall down. Trusses fell down during an earthquake.”
CRMS investigated the cause and found that the cement covering the stone walls had not allowed the building to breath. Condensation and moisture travelled upwards into the wooden ceiling causing dry rot.
The slate roof has been entirely replaced with slate imported from England and the stone walls have been re-pointed with natural lime, not cement. The new lighting fixtures were locally made and a new air conditioning system has been installed. The organ, however, still requires an upgrade.
The project, begun in 2008, was originally estimated at $1 million but once the scale of the problems were uncovered it rose to $6 million. Having failed to secure funding from the government, former church members took out a loan from Republic Bank.
The church has a steelband which performs on Sundays. As part of the outreach programme there is a Home Work Supervision Programme which is run by the Lindsay Grant Action for Community Enhancement (LGACE). Alcoholics Anonymous meetings also take place here and Rev Bacchas explains that the church effectively runs a community outreach programme for the neighbouring Charford Court.
The church features a superb stained-glass window, depicting the biblical scene The Sower, installed in 1919 in memory of Rev Ernest Wilfred Havelock, an English minister of the church from 1911 until his death in France in 1916.
The Church of Scotland (or Scottish Presbyterian Church) arrived in Trinidad in 1846 with a ship carrying 197 Portuguese protestants who had fled the island of Madeira, escaping persecution from the Catholic majority.
Presbyterianism had arrived in Madeira in the mid 19th-century when a Scottish Minister began holding services for adherents of the Church of England.
There are four churches in Trinidad, all still owned by Scotland. Greyfriars on Frederick Street, established in 1838. Barrow Memorial in Arouca, 1842. St Ann's (originally established at rented lodgings on Duke Street in 1846), and Sangre Grande in 1904.
The Church of Scotland is not to be confused with the Presbyterian Church of T&T which was founded when Canadian missionary, John Morton, visited the country focusing his energies on the poor East Indian communities on the sugar estates and converting them from Hinduism. He established the church in 1868.