National Trust of Guyana

Fort Nassau

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Fort Nassau is located approximately 88 kilometers (55 miles) from the mouth of the Berbice River. This site is believed to have been the first settlement of the Dutch in the colony of Berbice. Early records of Fort Nassau revealed that it was erected on the eastern 

bank of the Berbice River in 1627, shortly after the establishment of Berbice as a trading post by private merchant Abraham van Pere. The fort was described as one which was built of wood, surrounded by palisades, and armed with a small cannon. Very little is known of 

the activities at this settlement but an account by Adriaan van Berkel between 1671 and 1674 indicates that the colonists dwelt on their plantations rather than at the centralized settlement. The second fort, however, when it became necessary, was constructed by Commander Lucas Coudrie in 1684 and was considerably larger and much improved, 

suggesting that it was probably a precursor to the contemporary ruins of Fort Nassau. Netscher describes it as “an irregular rectangular redoubt…wherein was a large brick building.” It had small cannons for the protection of its soldiers. The barracks were built to house about 60 soldiers. The main building in the fort had two floors. The Governor, Captain of the Troops, the Secretary, and two Lieutenants lived on the upper floor. There were a Council Chamber and church hall on the first floor. The fort was surrounded by outhouses for servants and petty officials. These were built within the palisades for their protection. In 1712 it was demolished when corsairs under Baron de Mouans attacked it and held Berbice to ransom. A new fort was constructed but when Commander Steven de Waterman arrived in the colony in 1712, he pronounced that the Fort was ‘in bad repair and wanting renewal’ as a result of the grave pillaging of the area by the French pirates. 

During the government of Henrick de la Sabloniere (1768 – 1773), Fort Nassau was rebuilt. No further military use appears to have been made of the fort but the town was re-occupied and remained so until the end of the the 18th century by which time the present or ‘new New Amsterdam’ was established. Fort Nassau was finally abandoned circa 1790 when the seat of Government was removed to New Amsterdam, near the Canje creek. 

Today, no trace of the fort exists except for a few loose bricks lying here and there on the site where the buildings once stood. But there are ruins still visible including the western and eastern grave plots, the semicircular brick stairs of the Court of Assembly, the ruins of the bridge combined with the lush vegetation which has made it a paradise for wildlife. It is not uncommon to see macaws, parrots, hawks, and other birds along the trail. Numerous species of plants adorn the trail but the ‘Talking Tree’ is perhaps the most attractive feature that Mother Nature has to offer along this route of Guyana’s history. In 1999 Fort Nassau was designated a National Monument by the National Trust of Guyana and is managed by the agency.