"A View in Belize," Drawing, Belize Bridge in 1784, looking across the river to town
This was where Swing Bridge is now. Look how nice people dressed. That bridge was there from 1784- 1800. Swing bridge is more than 100 years after.
British Honduras during 1814-1822. Now known by its modern name of Belize, British Honduras was a small, remote frontier settlement populated by about thirty European families, a few companies of the West India Regiment, 1,000 free people of mixed race/Creole of African origin, and almost 3,000 African and native American slaves, mainly employed in woodcutting. The image was drawn in 1784 but remain the same for another 25 years or so.
This drawing was done by a somewhat famous artist that did drawings from around the world. This sketch is interesting because it doesn't only show the first bridge the crossed the creek, but it is the only painting/sketch that show what I believe to be the cupola of our first prison. We have no drawings or paintings of our first prison built (1827 to early 1850's) where Heritage Bank is located on Albert Street, but I think this sketch is the closest thing that shows something connected to that building. The copula (the tall structure in back shooting over the roof of buildings) in the middle of photo. At the time this sketch was done only two buildings would have had a copula and that is the Court House and the prison. The Court House's copula would have been more on the left of the photo so the copula showing in the middle of the photo would have to be the prison's.
The cupola in the sketch can't be Holy Redeemer Cathedral for two reasons: the first is because at the time this drawing was done Holy Redeemer was not built yet; and two, Holy Redeemer always had two steeples and this drawing shows only one. Holy Redeemer was built in or thereabouts 1858. They drew and painted what they saw prior to 1850 because photography didn't start until after 1850.
I tend to believe it is a view of South side looking from the North side. If the artist was on the South Side you have been able to see what would become Queen Street going away from the foot of the bridge, but there is no street there. Also the size of building on the top left of the drawing, we did not have those size of buildings in front of the Holy Redeemer area. The building on the far left looks like the first Court House.
There is another opinion....
Looking at the Old Town on the North Side from near South Front Street (Regent Street West). This is a view from the south side looking towards north side. Front Street is now Regent Street and Back Street now Albert Street. The North Side didn't go much beyond Hydes Lane (or Pickstock Street) and the Goal (completed 1827). Fort George was still a small island about 1000 feet offshore.
The cupola in the sketch belongs to Holy Redeemer Cathedral. Opened in 1840, Holy Redeemer Cathedral was the first Catholic Chapel, and the present Holy Redeemer Cathedral date back to 1858.
There is an extensive description of the SETTLEMENT OF BELIZE in “The Gospel in Central America” by Frederick Crowe, dating from 1850:
“At both ends of the bridge stand the market-houses. The one on the river’s bank at the southern extremity, in an irregular open space, is a light and handsome iron structure, lately erected at much cost, in which vegetables and fruits are vended. The other, on the north side, is a heavy wooden house, half overhanging the river, which serves for the shambles. On its floor the huge green turtle flounders heavily all night, being left there upon its back until it is killed in the morning.
The court-house and the gaol are large but awkward buildings, the latter having been enlarged since it was first erected. It is surmounted by a neat belvidere or look-out house, from which the approach of vessels is signalized, and the arrival of European packets, announced by a white signal flag, always hailed with joy. Both the court-house and the gaol are near the bridge. An inconsiderable open space or green lies between them. Here large sums of money have already been spent in fruitless, because misdirected, efforts to sink an artesian well, which, if it be ever effected, must prove an incalculable advantage to the community, Several executions have taken place on this spot. The Government House or Superintendent’s residence, is a fine mansion at the southern extremity of the town, surrounded by grounds tastefully laid out, and planted with cocoa-nut trees, bamboo, &c. Near to it is the Episcopal parish church, a brick building with a wooden spire, occupying the centre of a square, on one side of which is a long range of ordnance stores, and on another side a still larger building used for the free schools connected with the establishment. This extremity of the town contains some handsome dwellings, and is by accommodation sometimes designated the West End. The burial-ground, called ‘Yarborough,’ and the parade ground lie back, westward of this square, and beyond them, over a canal bridge, is the small sub-urban village called Queen Charlotte’s, which is peopled chiefly by discharged African soldiers.
The main business throroughfare, called the back street, extends from the parish church to the bridge, running parallel with the front street; it is about a mile long, crooked, narrow, irregular, and crowded. Besides the Wesleyan chapel, this street includes some large stores and a few handsome houses. Further back from the shore is Eboe Town, consisting of numerous yards, flanked with long rows of what are called negro houses, being simply separate rooms under one long roof, which used to be appropriated to slaves, and now accommodate the poorer labourers. Behind this is a neighbourhood of small streets upon lots, but partially filled up, and aptly enough designated over pond.
The northern, though the smaller division of the town, is increasing far more rapidly than the south side. Several hundred houses, chiefly those of the better class of poor, have been built there within the last few years, and more are being built. The streets are even less regular, but the yards are more spacious, and are shaded by a greater number of fruit trees. On this side there is a second Episcopalian place of worship – an iron house, but just put up. The Baptist Mission premises occupied, for a quarter of a century, one of the most salubrious positions, bordering on the sea. The buildings were commodious and neat, and the water side, furnished with a long wharf for baptizing, was planted with cocoa-nut trees, and kept in excellent order; a fine garden was also attached; but this property has lately been sold, and is now a lunatic asylum. The public hospital is but a little further along this shore, and the commissariat and the old free-masons’ lodge are a little beyond that.”
This 1850 description says the iron market was recently built so this drawing had to have been done before the market was built because it’s not in the image.
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