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Point Barima, Rio Orinoco
Point Barima, Great Mouth of the Rio Orinoco, 1841,
as shown in the report by the Chevalier R.H. Schomburgk
in Expedition to the Lower Parts of the Barima and Guiania Rivers, in British Guiana, 1841. (1)

Orinoco delta

Modern map (2000) showing Point Barima, Sarcopan (Sacupana) and Barrancas - note the nearby forts of Castillos de Guayana. (2).

Castillos de Guayana la Vieja
These are fortifications built by the Spanish near Barrrancas to protect the river route into the interior of Spanish Guiana (now Venezuela). There are two forts - the Castle of San Francisco de Asis and the Castle of San Diego of Alcala.

Castilios de Guayana
The Castle of San Francisco de Asis

The Castles of Guayana bear testimony to the days when the Orinoco was an important route into the heart of what was then a Spanish colony. They are located before the Delta of the Orinoco, on the south side of the river. They are in the forest reserve of Imataca Mountain range.

They are two solid and functional constructions of great architectural interest as they are prototypes of this type of fortification, designed by the Spanish for the protection and defence of strategic areas. Apart from their interest from a military point of view, they are also important reminders of Venuzuela's past as part of the Spanish Empire in South America. They serve as milestones in the formation of the Venezuelan nation. For that reason and because they have withstood the ravages of time and the destructive effects of the man, the climate and the selvática vegetation that surrounds them, they deserve to be known, to be protected and to be admired by all visitors - Venezuelans and foreigners alike.

They were constructed by the Spanish conquerors between the 17th and 18th centuries in order to control passage along the Orinoco river and to prevent the penetration of the interior of Guayana by pirates and buccaneers.

The Castle of San Francisco de Asis or Villapol, was the first be constructed, it was built between the years 1676 and 1682, during the mandate of governor Tiburcio de Aspe Zúñiga; on a mass of stone of good height and extension on the foot of the Padrastro hill, close by the river. There are five old cannons that were used in the defence of Guayana, one of which is the British Royal Navy cannon described on this page.

The Castle of San Diego of Alcala or Elías Field is more distant from the river. Construction began in 1734, under the mandate of Governor Juan de God Valdez and it was finished in 1747, during the time of Diego de Tabares. Its aim was to defend the fort of San Francisco and the access to Santo Tomé de Guayana (also known as Ciudad Guayana).

In 1961 both forts were declared "National Historical Patrimony" by president Rómulo Betancourt. From 1975 to 1987 they were restored and opened to tourism by the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana. (3)


cannon (clipart from Microsoft) The Royal Naval Cannon

Royal Naval CanonOn a tour of Venezuela in 2005, the Venezuelan guide pointed out a British cannon now doing service (of a touristic nature) in Castillos de Guayana la Vieja. This British artillery piece in the lower fort (San Francisco de Asis) is a Royal Naval cannon with the monogram of George III and was cast in 1798.

From about 1790 the draughts sent out to the gun founders from the Royal Arsenal were for guns of a new pattern devised by Captain Blomefield of the Royal Artillery (British Army), who had been appointed Inspector of Artillery in 1780. In 1790 copies of the new cypher were sent out with orders that it was not to project more than 1/5th of an inch.

The author of this page did not take any measurements and so it is difficult to judge the size of the piece, it could be either a 12 pounder or an 18 pounder, there is only 6" difference in length but the bore of the 12 pounder is 5.1" against 4.4". 'WG' is the manufacturer and other numbers found on the cannon are probably mould numbers. (4)

1. Expedition to the Lower Parts of the Barima and Guiania Rivers, in British Guiana. By the Chevalier R.H. Schomburgk. (Communicated by the Colonial Office.). River Manari (a tributary of the Barima), 22nd June 1841.
2. International Travel Maps (ITM), Vancouver, Canada, 3rd edition, 2000, ISBN 0921463596.
3. Based upon information extracted from Estado Delta-Amacuro (http://www.a-venezuela.com/estados/deltaamacuro/turismo.shtml), as at 19/10/2005).
4. My thanks for much of the information regarding the Royal Navy cannon to the Maritime History and Naval Heritage web site operated by Michael Phillips and Jane Buchmann Phillips. (Based upon information supplied October 2005. The link to the web site at www.cronab.demon.co.uk/marit.htm was not working when tested on 30 Nov 2014).

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