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Squire Charles Waterton the Naturalist
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Barbados
Painting in the National Portrait Gallery Demerara
(now part of Guyana)

Introduction
Waterton lived and worked in Demerara for about seven years from the beginning of 1805, this was before he started on his "Wanderings", that began in 1812.

After Malaga
"The pestilence at Malaga had shaken me considerably. Being but thinly clad, in coming up the Channel I caught a cold, which attacked the lungs, and reduced me to the brink of the grave. I must have sunk, had it not been for the skill of the late celebrated surgeon, Mr Hey of Leeds: he set me on my legs again : and I again hunted with Lord Darlington. But the bleak and wintry wind of England ill suited a frame naturally chilly, and injured by what had already happened. I longed to bask in a warmer sun." (1)

 

Off to Demerara
The Watertons had interests in Demerara and so it was to this distant British colony that Charles Waterton travelled. He set sail from Portsmouth for Demerara on 29th November 1804. Six weeks or so later he landed at Stabroek (now called Georgetown). Over the years, Demerara had been held by the Dutch, the French and the English. Waterton spent seven years in the colony.

Demerara and the other British colonies adjacent to it later became British Guiana and then Guyana.

British Guiana Coat of Arms

The Plantations
Charles Waterton's paternal uncle (Christopher Waterton) had estates - La Jalousie and Fellowship - in Demerara, and Thomas, the Squire's father, had bought an estate, named 'Walton Hall' (see side panel for locations), for the benefit of his younger children. Charles persuaded his father to let him go to Demerara to look after the estates. Had Europe not been in the grip of the Napoleonic Wars, Charles may well have done a grand tour of the continent instead.

"Our family found its way to the New World in the following manner: - My father's sister [Anne] was remarkably handsome. As she was one day walking in the streets of Wakefield, a gentleman, by name [Michael] Daly, from Demerara, met her accidentally, and fell desperately in love with her: they were married in due course of time, although the family was very much averse to the match. Soon after this, my father's younger brother [Christopher] , who had no hopes at home on account of the penal laws, followed his sister to Demerara, and settled there." (1)

Click to enlarge
Sugar cane cultivation late 19th or early 20th century. (2)

The plantations employed many slaves (more about slavery). The rich could afford luxuries and other necessities of civilised life imported from Europe. The slaves and the poor lived in basic conditions.

Waterton recalls that there was a mud road from the port to the town. There was a transitory population of the good, the bad and the ugly - perhaps reminiscent of the Wild West. Yellow fever killed many Europeans. Leprosy and malaria also took their toll.

Crops grown in Demerara included cotton, rubber, coffee, indigo and sugar cane. On Sundays they could also took the opportunity to fish in the canals, rivers or the sea. Each adult slave was given one pound of salted cod fish every Sunday by the plantation owner. Except for the earnings enjoyed by the artisan slaves, most of the slaves depended upon earning money by selling surplus produce from their allotments and the sale of livestock that they reared. On Sundays, the leisure day afforded to the slaves, village markets were held and the slaves bartered and sold their produce. The markets were also opportunities for the slaves to socialise and swap news and gossip.

Waterton had a low opinion of the frontier lifestyle of excess indulgence and loose morals. He spent the years 1805 to 1812 managing the three Waterton plantations.

Slavery - it can never be defended; he whose heart is not of iron can never wish to defend it - it is a traffic that should have been stifled at birth.
Charles Waterton - Wanderings
.

~~~~

Death of Thomas Waterton
Waterton returned briefly to England in 1805 on the death of his father, Thomas. As eldest son, he now became 27th Lord of Walton - or would have been, had it not been for the Reformation that deprived his family of its title. His father's estates in Demerara were left to his brothers, to his mother was left one guinea (21/- or £1.05) and a modest annual income.

Return to Demerara
Charles returned to Demerara in early 1806. During the next two years he visited the Windward Islands of Tortola, Grenada, St Christopher, St John and Barbadoes (now without the 'e', viz. Barbados). (see adjacent column: Out and About in the Lesser Antilles)

Sir John Bedingfield, his maternal uncle, had introduced Waterton to Sir Joseph Banks. Banks took an interest in Waterton's adventures and they kept in touch over the years. He advised Waterton to return home every three years in order to avoid fever, ague or disease that would most likely kill him if he stayed without a break in the colony.

Goodbye to All That ...
"In the month of April, 1812, my father (Thomas) and uncle (Christopher) being dead, I delivered over the estates to those concerned in them, and never more put foot upon them. In my subsequent visits to Guiana, having no other object in view than that of natural history, I merely stayed a day or two in the town of Stabroek (now called George Town), to procure what necessaries I wanted; and then I hastened up into the forest of the interior, as the Wanderings will show". Charles Waterton (1)

In addition to to the adventures that he recounts in the Wanderings, Waterton describes some of his earlier travels in his Essays on Natural History. One of these accounts covers the Orinoco Adventure.


~~~~~

And now a little ditty from the days of Music Hall.

DOWN IN DEMERARA

There was a man who had a horselum
Had a horselum, had a horselum
Was a man who had a horselum
Down in Demerara.

Chorus:

And here we sits like birds in the wilderness
Birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness
Here we sits like birds in the wilderness
Down in Demerara.

Subsequent verses follow the same pattern:

Now that poor horse he fell a sickelum...

Now that poor horse he broke his legalum...

Now that poor man he sent for a doctorum...

Now that poor horse he went and diedalum...

And here we sits and flaps our wingsalum...

And still we sits and flaps our wingsalum...

(Traditional)

Sung by Raymond Newell
and the BBC Male Voice Choir.

Conducted by Leslie Woodgate.
Ernest Lush at the piano.

Magic Notes™, Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd., London, 78rpm.

Raymond Newell was an actor, known for Music Hall (1934), Variety Hour (1937) and Song of the People (1945).

In the 1930s, Newell made a large number of short films, dressed as various characters: sailors, solders etc., all in the tradition of the British music hall form of entertainment, popular at the time. One such film was the The Pavement Artist, issued: 02 Aug 1934, British Pathé.

Sources:
IMDb.
All My Own Work! A History of Pavement Art.
British Pathé.

~~~~~

1."Some Account of the Writer of the Following Essays", by himself. Charles Waterton writing at Walton Hall on 30/12/1837 and published in the First Series of his Essays on Natural History, Chiefly Ornithology, 1857 (new edition).

2. Stark's Guide and History of British Guiana, James Rodway and James H. Stark, Boston and Sampson Low, Marston & Co., London., circa 1900 - 1910.

Guyana Flag
The flag of Guyana
(Guyana tourism information)

Guyana Administrative Regions
Click to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Formation of British Guiana - The colony was formed in 1831 as a result of the union of the United Colony (Essequibo & Demerara) and Berbice. Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice were designated counties of the new united colony. On 26th May 1966, the colony gained independence from British rule and became Guyana.

Location of the plantations
Walton Hall plantation is located on the coast road in Region 2 Pomeroon/Supenaam near Anna Regina to the west of the River Essequibo.
La Jalousie and Fellowship are situated between the Rivers Essequibo and Demerara, near Den Amstel and Windsor Forest in Region 3 Essequibo Islands - West Demerara. Read more...

Towards the end of 1805, Waterton returned to England. As the eldest son he was now the Lord of Walton, and the hall and estates that went with it. His annual income was around £700 - a not inconsiderable sum in the early 19th century. His brothers had inherited his father's property in South America. His mother inherited one guinea (which is 21/- [twenty-one shillings] or £1.05 nowadays). She died in 1819 at Park Place in Liverpool.

 

Demerara Sugar - 21st Century packet
Demerara Sugar

Find out more about Guyana.


Out and About in the Lesser Antilles
Early in 1806, Waterton was back in Demerara. During the next two years he visited the Windward Islands of Tortola, Grenada, St Christopher, St John and Barbadoes (now without the 'e', viz. Barbados).

Barbados - watersports, golf, cricket, caves, beaches, hiking - a popular holiday destination and home to 'celebrities'. More...

Grenada - known as the Spice island, the air is laced with nutmeg. it has beaches, volcanic peaks and rainforests, home of elusive monkeys. The capital is St. Georges.

St Christopher (St Kitts)
St. Kitts & Nevis are located in the northern part of the Windward Islands in the eastern Caribbean, 19 degrees north of the equator, separated by a channel two miles (about 3km) wide.

Brown Pelican

The national bird of St. Kitts and Nevis is the brown pelican (Pelecanus Occidentalis). The immature bird is brown on the head, neck, and upper parts of the body, and mostly white below. As it matures into an adult, most of the body becomes dark brown whilst the upper part of the head turns white. During the post-nuptial moult the adult's neck becomes white. They feed on schools of fish on the surface of the sea. They range throughout the West Indies and the sub-tropical regions of the Americas. They nest in colonies along the coast, in low trees and bushes.

Admiral Lord Nelson

It was on Nevis that the young Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) met, courted, and wedded Francis Nisbet. He went on to become one of England's greatest admirals and an English national hero. He died in action at the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon













Stark's Guide & History of British Guiana
Stark's Guide & History of British Guiana
Demerara, Main Page - Introduction
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