River – now and then

Officials highlight noticeable difference in the state of constitution river

21-03-14 Constitution River, a pre-historic estuary  - Photo 1

“Most of us who would have grown up, or went to school in this area . . . , we would all be familiar with the Constitution River being just one unsightly smelly mess. Today we see a completely different vista from the one with which we grew up.”

That was the reflection of Margaret Allman Goddard, as she summed up the contrast this river now presents at the opening ceremony of the second phase of its redevelopment last Saturday.

A 1910 hand-coloured postcard of an 18870 photo of the Constitution River.               (Picture courtesy of Dr Karl Watson.)
A 1910 hand-coloured postcard of an 18870 photo of the Constitution River. (Picture courtesy of Dr Karl Watson.)

That difference is noticeable to those who walked Barbados in the past few decades, but a greater gap in the image of this waterway becomes evident when historian Dr Karl Watson puts the take of truly olden times on what was officially opened a week ago as a work in progress.

“The geological age of the river is difficult to tell, but Barbados is no more than 1.3 million years old, risen from the sea. So this riverbed would have been one million years old,” Watson said.

Dr Karl Watson at the Constitution River second phase opening ceremony.
Dr Karl Watson at the Constitution River second phase opening ceremony.

Invited to give a brief history of the Bridgetown landmark at the opening ceremony, historian said: “There is living tangible evidence of the [ancient] river . . . . If we go through the park we will see an enormous baobab tree, which is an African tree; and quite possibly, the seed of that, a thousand years ago floated across the Atlantic. The tidal reach would have brought the seed up the river into what was part of a much larger estuary.

“The tree that grows in Queen’s Park now, we calculate its age about a 1,000 years. So that’s a good indication of the reach  of the river in prehistoric times,” Watson explained.

The baobab tree in Queen’s Park –– over 1,000 years old and bearing evidence of the ancient reach of the Constitution River.
The baobab tree in Queen’s Park –– over 1,000 years old and bearing evidence of the ancient reach of the Constitution River.

The now opened second of three phases of the Constitution River Redevelopment stopped at the Queen’s Park Bridge, and the third stage will go to the Globe Cinema, where the original sea inlet that became known as the river ended.

Watson described the river as a tidal in-reach.

“But it is also a watershed area for St Michael, and the inner parishes, St George, parts of St Thomas. And even a little bit of the drainage from Christ Church reaches down into this area.”

“There was in prehistoric times a large Amerindian population, of successive Amerindian ceramic cultures. Which is why it acquired the name Indian River. When the first English settlers came to Barbados, they apparently saw the remnants of what was the first bridge to the opening part of the Constitution River, called the Indian Bridge. And Bridgetown was known variously as the Bridge, and the Indian Bridge, specific to the geographic nature of the river.

“It was a perfectly navigable river . . . . There were many [photographs] showing vessels careened, not just in the basin careenage but actually small sailing vessels . . . that came right up the river.

“So it was a very important and key aspect to the siting of Bridgetown and where Bridgetown is located.

“When Barbados was settled, there were four competitors for towns, Speightstown, Oistins, Holetown, or what became the capital city of Barbados, Bridgetown

“And the capital city of Barbados is due to Carlisle Bay and the Constitution River that flows into the Careenage, on into Carlisle Bay.”

The Constitution River today
The Constitution River today –– the QEH in the background with a newly elevated car park for better drainage.

16 Responses to River – now and then

  1. Angel OfThunder
    Angel OfThunder March 22, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Great job its beautiful looking forward for more from the government of BARBADOS to keep the beauty of this country up to date…

    Reply
    • Greitcha Smith
      Greitcha Smith March 22, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Indeed, and the people of Barbados can do their part by taking pride in their country and keep their own areas clean and tidy! Do not always depend on ‘the government’. I pass the river daily and saw the amount of junk being cleared from it – shameful. It wasn’t the government who littered the river and caused it to be in the state it became!

      Reply
    • Lise Hansen
      Lise Hansen March 22, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      I couldn’t agree more Greitcha …..

      Reply
  2. Lise Hansen
    Lise Hansen March 22, 2014 at 4:48 am

    it’s sooooo beautifully done …. just hope it will be maintained so it will look good forever…..

    Reply
  3. Charly Bamboo
    Charly Bamboo March 22, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Dem finally clean that smelly river up?

    Reply
  4. Sylvia Castilho
    Sylvia Castilho March 22, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I do hope it is kept that way, be proud Bajans,stop littering.

    Reply
  5. Corey Dottcom Mascoll
    Corey Dottcom Mascoll March 22, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    This look so great i just hope that we bajans and people living here would try to keep this clean this looks too beautiful to be spoilt

    Reply
  6. Angel OfThunder
    Angel OfThunder March 22, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    The world is watching….

    Reply
  7. Jenifa Phillips
    Jenifa Phillips March 22, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Oh it’s finish theY were working on it last year nice

    Reply
  8. Jenifa Phillips
    Jenifa Phillips March 22, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I really thought it was going pass queens park it would of add something to the park just saying

    Reply
  9. David Windoze
    David Windoze March 22, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    That’ll be stink in no time.

    NE-E-EXT!

    Reply
  10. Diana Small
    Diana Small March 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Very nice hats off a job well

    Reply
  11. Katharine Clarke-Weekes
    Katharine Clarke-Weekes March 23, 2014 at 12:44 am

    Government really need to fine people for littering and for too long now people especially men urinate all over the place. C”mon now this have got to stop. Makes no sense trying to beautify the place without making some rules for the upkeep. This is beautiful for the city. Well done

    Reply
  12. Philippa Steventon
    Philippa Steventon March 23, 2014 at 5:27 am

    Lucky enough to visit 2wks ago and compared to our last trip 2yrs ago it looks amazing!

    Reply

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