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Saturday, February 18, 2006
Architects of historic buildings

By Lennox Hernandez, Senior Lecturer, Department of Architecture, University of Guyana, for the National Trust of Guyana

THIS, our final article on the early architects/designers, looks at: Baron Harco Theodor Hora Siccama, who is credited with the design of the High Court (opened 1887) and John Bradshaw Sharples, designer/builder of some unique/iron work residences in Georgetown.

Baron Harco Theodor Hora Siccama (1842-1921)

Born in the Hague, Netherlands, on August 9, 1842, Baron Harco Theodor Siccama came to British Guiana in February 1879 as the Colonial Engineer. He remained until 1887 when he returned to the Netherlands and died in the Hague on October 1, 1921. It appears that the Baron was brought to British Guiana to better the seawall of which 207 feet of the Kitty part had slid into the sea in 1874. The Baron proposed a strong mud wall faced with stone to be constructed, and this was completed in April 1882.

A military man, Baron Siccama was a Knight 4th class. He traveled in Asia, included Hong Kong and Singapore. After his return to the Netherlands from British Guiana, he wrote (1912) an account on the Demerara Bar, which appeared in the Timehri Journal.

In 1878, the want of room in the Public Buildings had demanded a new building, and after his arrival, the Baron, as head of the Public Works Department, was tasked with the design. The Victoria Law Courts, now renamed the High Court, was the result. The building was opened on Queen Victoria’s birthday, May 24, 1887. There is a likelihood that the former Catholic Brother, Cesar Castellani, an Italian trained architect, many have had much to do with the architectural design, as he was then working as a draughtsman/architect in Siccama’s office. Dutch influence is evident in the roof features of the building, however. In 1886, Siccama was appointed State Secretary charged with the responsibility of State Affairs – Inventory and Railways. He returned to the Netherlands in 1887.

John Bradshaw Sharples (1845 – 1913)

A distinctive `style’ of domestic architecture emerged in British Guiana during the late 19th century through the creative skill of a slave woman’s son. John Bradshaw Sharples, fathered by British architect, James Bradshaw Sharples (1799-1859) was born in 1845 in the colony.

John followed in his father’s footsteps and became a builder/contractor. In 1880, he started his own business: British Guiana Sawmill and Kingston Steam Woodworking Factory, located in Water Street. His woodworking factory was extensively equipped with machinery allowing for the finest craftsmanship in his work. Venturing into building contracting, John Sharples carried out possibly the largest contract of that time, building all the railway stations, bridges, stores and other railway projects from Georgetown to Rosignol and from Vreed-en-hoop to Greenwich Park. Sharples also designed and built a number of houses in Georgetown, recognised by the iron stairs and balconies, steep gable roofs and carved doors. Two outstanding extant examples can be seen in Queenstown: one in Forshaw Street and the other in Anira and Oronoque Streets. Another fine example, still existing, is in Duke Street, Kingston.

The National Trust of Guyana remains committed to the preservation of Guyana’s heritage. To this end, we invite embers of the community to take an active role in ensuring the survival of the nation’s patrimony for the benefit of future generations.

Guyana Chronicle