As part of the research for the ‘Caribbean through a lens’ project at The National Archives, I was fortunate to discover a series of images in the file CO 1069/392 concerning a dark chapter in British imperial history. This was the photographic documentation of a protest against the imposition of an increased water rate upon the residents of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad in 1903 and its avoidable and ultimately tragic aftermath.
A characteristic of Trinidad life in the late 19th century was an enormous waste of water. In 1874 with a population of 25,000 people, the delivery of water in Port-of-Spain was 1 ¾ million gallons – averaging 65 to 71 gallons per head, more than twice the allowance of London. A report of 1880 stated: ‘In nearly every yard, and at almost every house, passers in the street will hear the sound of water running, and, as the gutters show, to waste, in addition baths of unnecessary and unknown dimensions have been constructed, fountains erected, and gardens irrigated to an extent which could not have been contemplated.’ 1
It was recommended that meters should be used to prevent waste but this was ignored. Continue reading »
- 1. Quoted in Williams, Eric, History of the people of Trinidad, PNM Publishing, 1962 p180. ^