Situated in the heart of the city, Woodford Square is bordered by Frederick Street on the East, Abercromby Street on the West, Hart Street on the South and Knox Street on the North. It is surrounded by some very important buildings – Trinity Cathedral on its southern side; the Town Hall, Public Library and the Hall of Justice are on the northern side; the Greyfriars Presbyterian Church is on the eastern side; while the Red House is on the western side of the Square.
In the days when Port of Spain was just a little fishing village called Conquerabia, Woodford Square was first known as the Place of Souls by the native Indians who fought a bloody battle on this open space. The St Ann’s River ran through this open space and down to the sea. The course of the river was later changed to what is today called The Dry River. The riverbed in the Place of Souls was filled up. With the coming of the French settlers to the island, they called the Place of souls – Place Des Ames. Place Des Ames means Place of souls. Place Des Ames later became known as Brunswick Square. Brunswick Square was used as a parade ground for soldiers. Many of these soldiers were Germans. Brunswick is a German name, and so it is believed that this open space was named after the German soldiers who used it.
- 1808 – Port of Spain is on fire. The fire burns all night.
Many buildings in Port of Spain are burnt to the ground. Many persons are homeless. Tents are put up in Brunswick Square. Rebuilding of the Anglican Church begins immediately but this time in the centre of the Square. People are angry. They complain to the Governor. Work on the church in the Square is stopped. The church is removed to the corner of Hart and Abercromby Streets where it stands today. That church is Trinity Cathedral.
- 1813 – Governor Sir Ralph Woodford arrives in Trinidad. He immediately begins rebuilding the town and lays out the square.
- 1866 – A fountain was put I the centre of the Square. The fountain was a gift from George Gregor Turnbull of Glasgow, Scotland.
- 1892 – New heavy railings were put up around the square. These are the ones we see today.
- 1917 – A bandstand was built and opened by Dr E. Prada, the then Mayor of Port of Spain. At the opening of the bandstand the name of the square was changed from Brunswick Square to Woodford Square in honour of the Governor Sir Ralph Woodford.
- 1948 – Paul Robeson the famous black American singer entertained crowds in Woodford Square.
- 1960 – Marion Anderson world famous black American singer performed in Woodford Square.
- 1969 – Winnifred Atwell a world famous Trinidadian pianist performed in Woodford Square.
Over the year, people have called Woodford Square by different names: ‘The University of Woodford Square’, ‘The People’s Parliament’.
- 1962 – The year of our country’s Independence another fountain in the northeastern corner of the square was built. The spot is known as the meditation corner.
Woodford Square is not only an open space, where people gather to enjoy good entertainment. Woodford Square is an open space where people go to protest their conditions of living.
- 1903 – The then government plans to increase water rates. People are against it. While the council meets in the Red House, people gather in Woodford Square to protest.
- 1956 – A new political party – The Peoples’ National Movement (PNM) under their political leader Dr. Eric Williams draws crowds to Woodford Square to hear him tell of his party’s plan to make Trinidad and Tobago an independent nation. He gives Woodford Square the name The University of Woodford Square.
- 1970 – Many are without work. They are dissatisfied. They protest. Marches and demonstrations either start or end at Woodford Square.
The National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) holds meetings in Woodford Square. Their cry is power to the people, so NJAC calls Woodford Square The People’s Parliament.
Woodford Square today is an open space with beautiful tall shady trees, some over 100 years old. It now has well kept lanes criss-crossing the grass. There are benches on which you can sit. Woodford Square is an open space, which we continue to use for many different activities and purposes:
- Political – from big political meetings to small lunch time arguments.
- Religious – from big crusades to small prayer meetings.
- Business – from big craft markets to a single vendor.
- Entertainment – from big band concerts, calypso shows and carnival activities to one-man and his flute, his guitar, or his steelpan.
Abstract Architecture of the day:
3.5″ x 5″ Strathmore Sketchbook, ink pens and Sharpies
This work byVernelle Noel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.