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Lord Harris, an innovator

Thursday, April 18, 2013
Lord Harris’ statue stands proudly in the square named after him in Port-of-Spain. Photo: Courtesy Adrian Camps-Campins

International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) T&T, in collaboration with Citizens for Conservation, is celebrating International Day for Monuments and Sites with a series of articles featuring heritage buildings in the T&T Guardian.


Today is the second instalment in the series and features Harris Square, Port-of-Spain.


The theme for the International Day for Monuments and Sites is the Heritage of Education.


Throughout history and in different geo-cultural contexts, education was practised in a wide range of places or buildings.


Open spaces, or the protective shadow of a tree, could be useful for the transmission of knowledge, but so too were specific institutional buildings, such as schools, universities, churches, academies, libraries, monasteries, etc.


Many of those buildings, groups of buildings or sites are recognised as bearing, not only social or institutional values, but also historic or artistic ones and have therefore become a significant part of our cultural heritage.


ICOMOS T&T seeks to raise public awareness of the full diversity of cultural heritage places and landscapes of national or local significance.


For further information on the day, previous themes, support material and the calendar of activities around the world, go to the International Day for Monuments and Sites page of the ICOMOS International Web site.


Harris Square, between Pembroke and Abercromby streets, Port-of-Spain, established in the early 1900s, is named as a tribute to Lord Harris, governor of Trinidad between 1846 and 1854.


Lord Harris was one of Trinidad’s most progressive governors. After the abolition of slavery and the introduction of indentured labour from India, Lord Harris was caught between the pressures of the planters and importation of labour.


In 1849 and 1851 he halted immigration from India. In 1852 immigration was reopened with safeguards, including the presence of a protector of immigrants and free passages for the wives of immigrants and their children.


Lord Harris was also responsible for establishing an education system based on “general instruction on secular lines,” out of which Queen’s Royal College was established.


He also established the Model Training School for Teachers. He also, with Justice Knox in 1851, established the public library on Knox Street in Port-of-Spain and established the first pipe-borne water system from cisterns in Maraval to Port-of-Spain.


In 1849 Lord Harris passed an ordinance as the old Spanish quarters barrios and parishes no longer functioned properly, reorganising Trinidad into northern and southern districts, each further divided into four counties each, as it is today. 


He promoted the exploitation of asphalt from the Pitch Lake and was responsible for developing communications through road systems, including, in 1853, a road through the Oropouche Lagoon and Trinidad’s first railway connecting San Fernando to the Cipero Creek used primarily for transporting sugar.


Lord Harris married Trinidadian Sarah Cummins. His son, George Robert Canning, the fourth Lord Harris and known as the “cricketing Lord Harris,” was responsible for promoting cricket throughout the British colonies.


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