THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 175.
Captain Ricketts to visit and report on Trinidad, 1788.
Source :-Public Record Office. State Papers Admiralty.
Published by the courtesy of the Master of the Rolls and the
Deputy Keeper of the Public Records.
ENGLISH HARBOUR, ANTIGUA,
20th January, 1788.
Admiral William Parker reports the Disposition of Ships.
The Bonetta, 16 guns, Captain W. H. Ricketts. At
anchor in Carlisle Bay, Barbados. She is to go to the Island
of Trinidad as soon as a proper pretence can be found (with
the assistance of the Governor of Barbados) to make such
observations as is contained in General Orders as also to
gain information respecting the conduct of the Spaniards
in increasing the number of inhabitants of that Island with
its trade and connections with other Islands as well foreign
as british and to be particular in making observations on
the road, anchorage and fortifications.
ENGLISH HARBOUR, ANTIOUA,
3rd August, 1788.
Admiral William Parker to Philip Stevens, Esq,, Secretary to the
I also mentioned my intention of the Bonetta Sloop
visiting the Island of Trinidad. This was managed by a
requisition Governor Parry had to make on behalf of a
gentleman of Barbados to the Governor of that Island.
Captain Ricketts was well received by the Governor
who is a Captain in the Spanish Navy. He was in no
way interrupted in anything he wished to see and informs
me that the Island is in a very flourishing state. Many
people of property have gone thither from our Islands
and carried a number of Negroes with them. Every
encouragement is given by the Spanish Government to new
settlers ; they have people of all countries amongst them.
I beg leave to enclose Captain Ricketts report as delivered
to me. He also produced a sketch of the Island which he
collected while there but as it is on too large a sheet to be
forwarded by letter, it will be transmitted by some other
Report on the Island of Trinidad, 1788.
There are a few cotton settlements on the Bocas Islands.
No grants of land are made there because these Islands are
reserved by the Spaniards for fortifications. There is much
export of woods such as Greenheart, Mastick, Fustick, Locust
and Cedar. The export of Mahogany is forbidden by the
King of Spain as it is reserved for the use of the Royal Navy.
INHABITANTS.-A very few years ago this Island contained
about 2,500 consisting of Spaniards, French, People of
Colour and Negroes. They have now increased to 1o,ooo
or upwards which are composed of Spaniards, French, English
and Americans, mostly adventurers who have brought with
them a considerable number of negroes for the cultivation
of the land which is going on very rapidly in different parts
of the Island but chiefly on the side that forms the Gulf.
Several considerable settlements of the English are
commenced and in great forwardness about 12 miles up the
country to the eastward of Port-of-Spain called Tacarigua
besides many others near the Town and between it and the
There are many free people of colour settled here who
receive encouragement and protection and it is not easy
for a stranger to distinguish between these people and the
INDIANS OR CHARAIBS.-The aborigines of the Island
are an inoffensive and indolent race of people, in number
about 2000, tractable and obedient to the Spanish Government
except a few settled about Point Galera. They are divided
into ten missions with a priest in each. They are settled
in hamlets consisting of a Church, house for the priest and
a number of huts built of clay and thatch.
PORT-OF-SPAIN.--The present capital of the Island which
three years ago, contained only a few miserable mud houses-
the habitations of fishermen, now contains about 6oo houses
mostly built of wood and shingled. They are laid out in
eleven streets at right angles and of a proper width but for
want of paving they are very dirty after rain. The number
of inhabitants is about 3,000 of which i,ooo are supposed
to be white. The Town is daily increasing both in size
and number of inhabitants. The situation is upon a plain
at the bottom of the mountains, healthy and convenient
ST. JosEPH.-The former capital is situated about 7 miles
up the country to the eastward upon the site of a hill between
two rivers, dry and healthy, consisting of about 60 houses
built after the manner of the country with mud and thatch
and mostly inhabited by people of colour. Above the Town
is a house that contains the Archives of the Island from
whence you have a most extensive and delightful view of
the country as far as the eye can reach.
TRADE.-The trade of this Island is mostly with Grenada
which from its vicinity will always command a preference
to all other Islands. This commerce at present is considerable
and will increase with the population and settlement of the
Island. Negro provisions, dry goods and hardware of all
kinds are imported from thence on payment of a small duty
and in return the greater part of the crop, consisting mostly
of cotton, is remitted in payment which in value was expected
to amount to about 300,000 pieces of eight.
The French keep up an intercourse with Martinico but
the trade between the two Islands when compared with
Grenada, is very inconsiderable.
The Americans also bring lumber, &c., but this is a
trade upon sufferance at the will of the Governor which
he permits at present for the purpose of building the Town.
FORTIFICATIONS.-The guns at the landing place of
Port-of-Spain are all that are mounted (the whole number
they have in the Island), they are in miserable condition
and easily commanded from the neighboring hills.
LAKE OF PITCH.-This lake bears due east of Point
La Brea and must be considered one of the first natural
productions of the universe. The lake is a mile and a half
through a wood, the circumference is about two miles.
Too much cannot be said in praise of it being equal if not
superior to our coal pitch. The Bonetta bends have been
payed with it and the appearance is beautiful beyond
description. The small craft that trade to the Islands
constantly make use of it mixed with tallow and tar.