The Hawkesworth bridge was opened on Saturday August 20th 1949 and was named after the late Sir Edward Gerald Hawkesworth, former governor of Britsh Honduras. The type of bridge was decided based on the fact of very high flooding and that the River was used to float logs downstream. The Director of Public Works, Executive Engineer, Chief Engineer for the Crown Agents, who was entrusted the design, agreed to build a suspension bridge. Tenders for the construction of the bridge were called from July of 1946 and subsequently contracted were Messrs. Head Wrightson & Co Ltd for the steel work and Messrs Bruntons Ltd of Musselburgh Scotland for the cables. Construction started on 5th February 1948, supervised by Mr. Eric V. Williams, Executive Engineer and Mr. F. C. Hecker, General Foreman.
The total cost of the bridge was $198,384.33 and contained 2,260 tons of concrete, 264 tons of steel work and the cables, made of 7 individual strands and weighing 18 tons each. The foundation was carried to bedrock 12 feet below the surface. The columns were raised to a height of 46 feet and the center to a height of 52 feet, 7 feet above the heightest known flood level. The total length of the bridge is 480 feet and the main span is 280
feet, with an additional 100 feet on each side.
It was a great day for the people of British Honduras as the bridge was the final link that would connect San Ignacio and Belize City via a road that would later be named Western Highway, then renamed in 2013 as the George Price Highway. The days of the Cayo boats had certainly come to an end. The people of San Ignacio and Santa Elena had gathered at the bridge and it was the largest gathering that the western capital had ever seen to date. People came from near and far to witness the opening. The crowds enjoyed the music that was being played through the loud speakers of Rev. Gregory Sontag while they waited for his Excelency, the Governor of British Honduras, Ronald Herbert Garvey, who arrived just in time for the 5:00 p.m. opening.
Among those present were the Bishop of Honduras, the Chief Justice, members of the Executive and Legislative Councils, members of the Belize City Council, church leaders, heads of Govenment Deparments, the Commissioner of the western district and members of the San Ignacio (El Cayo) and Benque Viejo Town Boards. The opening of the ceremony was done by A. Hamilton Anderson and in his speech mentions, “perhaps as far back as eight years ago (1942), trucks began making very slow and very rough passages to and from the end of the slowly advancing Cayo Road during the dry season. Today people think nothing of going to Belize or coming to San Ignacio.” He then invited the Governor to speak. In his speech, Governor Ronald Herbert Garvey, mentioned how much of a pleasure it was to be in San Ignacio to open the new bridge, and mentioned that this was only the first link and that they had plans to make a road from Roaring Creek to Middlesex and from MiddleSex to the warf in Stann Creek (Dangriga), and that at that time, it was already being surveyed.
The vote of thanks was delivered by Member of the Western Division, Mr. W. Harrison Courtenay. He thanked the Governor for his presence, and the engineers for their dedication and hard work. He hoped that the bridge would contribute and restore relations between this country and the Republic of Guatemala, and bring prosperity not only to the district but to the whole colony. As the children sung “Sons of Hounduras” Governor Garvey proceeded to the ribbon cutting. Two girls, one from San Ignacio and one from Santa Elena, handed him a pair of scissors. As he cut the ribbon he said, ” I declare the Hawkesworth Bridge at El Cayo duty open” His Excellency and Mrs. Garvey were also given bouquets by the 2 girls.
The ceremony came to a close with a prayer by the Bishop of Honduras, Rt. Rev. D. J. Wilson. The. The bridge was crossed by Governor Garvey in his car, followed by church dignitaries, members of Council, Heads of Government and the general public. There was a party for the men who built the bridge and a cocktail for His Excellency Governor Garvey at the rest house. A dance was also held for the general pubic at the tennis court, which Governor Garvey also attended. The police orchestra and the Cayo Marimba players supplied the music for the dance.
Sources: thanks so much!
The Daily Clarion, Vol L-NO. 230 Philip Woods, Monday August 22, 1949
Belize Archives Department, Belmopan City, Belize C.A.
Sir Edward Gerald Hawkesworth, K.C.M.G., M.C.
Sir Edward Gerald Hawkesworth, K.C.M.G., M.C. (B:16th August 1897 – D:14th August 1949) Was appointed the governor and commander in chief of British Honduras and had succeeded Sir. John A. Hunter K.C.M.G from January 14th 1947 to June 1948. When he retired due to poor health, Sir Ronald H. Garvey succeeded him. Sir Hawkesworth dedicated 32 years of his life to the military and Colonial Service, entering at the middle of the First World War in 1916, when he was only 19 years old, as a 2nd Lieutenant Grenadier Guards in France.
“A very thick fog covered the ground which made it difficult for the tanks to find their way. Lieutenant Hawkesworth started off with No. 3 Company supported by one tank, but when he reached the neighborhood of Bank’s Trench, the tank broke down, and when the fog lifted, he found that he only had forty men quite unsupported. Unfortunately at this point he was badly wounded” – The Grenadier Guards, in the the Great War of 1914 – 1918, by Lieutenant Colonial Sir. Fredrick Ponsonby.
On the 23rd, 24th and 25th August 1918, the Brigade carried out a united offensive against the Germans and did so with great success. They gave their finest exhibition in the war. They had captured some 250 German prisoners and seized assorted weapons including machine guns and trench mortars. It was all earned in blood as they had lost 13 officers and 258 men of other ranks. E.G. Hawkesworth was injured in the battle of Cambrai, but he recovered and returned to finish the war 2 months later as a lieutenant of the 5th Battalion Grenadier Guards. For his actions of bravery, he received the Military Cross and was promoted.
After the war, Hawkesworth went to Queens College Oxford for 2 years and then immediately joined the Colonial Service, a service that the British government had to manage British-occupied territories. He later went to the southern provinces in Nigeria in May 1921 as an Administrative Cadet, and for the next 19 years, he served within this territory. Over the years, he was promoted as he changed from one Province to the other. Some places where he served were Enugu, Ogojo, Ijebu, Benin and Lagos, among other areas. After 19 years, he took a short break and later returned as the Chief Commissioner of the Gold Coast, Ashanti, West Africa. He remained there for 5 years. On 2nd June 1943 he is promoted to Companions, of the said Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George. Thus, he then used the CMG sufix.
In February 1946, he was appointed Governor of British Honduras, but did not take office until one year later. On 14th January 1947, he arrived to the country on the HMS Kenya. He was also promoted to Knight Commander of the most distinguished order of St. Michael and St. George, on 1st January 1948, after which he formally carried “Sir” as his prefix and the K.C.M.G on the sufix of his name. With Guatemala standing on their claim over Belize and after the escalating threat of invasion of British Honduras, the British ordered the HMS Sheffield that was stationed in Cartegena, Colombia and the HMS Devonshire stationed in Jamaica. Both armed and with Royal Marines sailed to British Honduras. Upon arrival, Adm. Sir William Tennant conferred with Sir Gerald Hawkesworth. These actions were taken by Guatemala’s foregin minsitry as “armed provocation” but later an announcement was made by the British Naval authorities that they were doing nothing more than protecting British lives and property, although Marines were dispatched to the airport and to various points of the West.
Unfortunately, he did not spend much time in Belize, just over a year, since by June of 1948, he retired from his post because of poor health. Sir Hawkesworth left Belize on July 28th 1948 at 11:35 a.m. There was a long motorcade that left from the Governor’s House Belize City towards the airport. The Guards of Honor, 2nd Gloster Regiment, the local army, Drum Corps and a detachment of the police force were present and waiting for the departing of the Chief Commander. He bade ferwell to everyone by shaking their hands. He departed to Jamaica where we was for a few days before he returned to London, England where he was a guest and stayed at the King’s House. One year later, on 14th August 1949, Sir E. G. Hawkesworth was found dead on the pavement outside a house in Holland Park Avenue, London. He had apparently fallen from a third floor window. News of the sudden death of the 52 year old war veteran was heard all over the British colonies. Six days after his passing, on 20th August 1949, Ronald Herbert Garvey, C.M.G M.B.E., Governor of British Honduras, inaugurated a suspension bridge in San Ignacio, Western Belize, and as a tribute to the former governor, he named it Hawkesworth Bridge.
Thank You so very much for your help, most of the information was very difficult to find because its very scattered it all came down to hours of reading and sorting.
Belize Archives Department Belmopan City, Belize C.A.
The Daily Clarion Vol L-NO. 224 August 15th 1949 editor Philip Woods
The Grenadier Guards, in the the Great War of 1914 – 1918, by Lieutenant Colonial Sir. Fredrick Ponsonby.
The Glasgow Herald, George Outram & Co.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 2nd June 1943
Supplement to the London Gazette, 1st January 1948
British Colonial Governors since 1900
Kingston Gleaner, Kingston Jamaica Thursday July 29th 1948
Thomas Dailly, compilation of the chronological affairs of Sir E. G. Hawkesworth
Lucy McCann, Archivist
Bodleian Library of Commonwealth & African Studies at Rhodes House
Myths laid to rest
The reason I had decided to write about Hawkesworth bridge and E. G. Hawkesworth was because you can’t speak of one and not the other, but mostly because there is nothing that is truly written about both, allowing certain myths to settle in. In fact, for many years I had heard that the bridge was in South Africa before coming to Belize and reassembled. I myself, and I’m sure many other tour guides, are guilty of delivering this wrong information that was then spon out of control. We know now that it was not the bridge itself that was in Africa, but rather it was Sir Gerald Hawkesworth who was in Nigeria for many years before giving service to British Honduras; so therein lies the confusion. With this research I have answered many questions. I keep thinking about how many phone calls I have to make and how many emails I have to write to my past guests to correct myself that I had delivered wrong information all these years.
We have also heard that Sir Gerald Hawkesworth was the Governor that devalued the dollar in 1949, but we now know that he was already dead when it was devalued. This honor is given to his Excellency Ronald Herbert Garvey. Assad Shoman mentions in his book, 13 Chapters of A History of Belize, that the working class worsened in 1949, that a prolonged drought ruined crops, and that the trade of mahogany and chicle had declined, producing an even greater unemployment. “The Governor, using his reserve power in the Legislative Council, overrode the unofficial members and decreed a devaluation of the dollar.” This is where the road to Independence begins, although it did not happen for another 32 years.
For many, E.G. Hawkesworth passed away of ill health, from the same reasons he had resigned from his post as Governor. Most newspapers only mention his passing, but do not go into details. The Glasgow Herald is the only newspaper that gives further information on his passing. It mentions that he was found on the pavement and that he had apparently fallen from the 3rd floor window. Seriously? Who falls from a window? Was he pushed? Or did he leap? For me, this is where my trail ends. I will honor the person that was a war veteran and gave his entire life to the service. It’s September, time to express our patriotism, so while the parade is going across the Hawkesworth Bridge, we have one other reason to celebrate: it’s now 65 years that the bridge spans over the Macal River and certainly she has the scars and wrinkles to prove it. The bridge is certainly the icon of the west; nowhere else in the country of Belize will you find such a beautiful ballet of cast iron, steel and concreate.