Heading East : Arima’s Heritage
By Catherine Serrant, Research Assistant, National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago
Being a Research Assistant for the National Trust definitely has its perks, and a primary one would be the monitoring exercises carried out by the Heritage Preservation and Research Department. A super memorable day was the site visit to Arima, where we checked-in on our listed monument, the Arima Dial . We also toured the Arima Town Hall a building on the Heritage Asset Inventory.
Where does one even start? Folks I was literally buzzing with excitement being in the Arima Town Hall- a building whose history was established 132 years ago! It took everything in me, not to run around flailing my arms in glee. But anyway: I want to begin with the open door policy of the Mayor! Who doesn’t like a personal tour, conducted by the one and only Mayor Cagney Casimire? I was led round and got to see for myself the official copy of the Charter for the Borough of Arima and an authentic David Moore print housed in the office. Inside, on the ground floor the Old Library Room and the Vault are located. He highlighted the recommissioning plaque affixed in the interior in 1992, along with the foundation stone laid in 1949, to the right of the main entrance. Who was feeling like a bite-up shilling? This Trust research assistant felt that way!
Why are the Arima Dial and Town Hall special?
Photo by Catherine Serrant. David’s Moore’s Print of the Arima Dial and surroundings
The Dial stands proudly as a central point, featuring intricate cast iron work and a functioning clock at the top of its slender tower. It was a purchase made by Mayor J.F. Wallen from Nice, France, and obtained in 1898. For many, its significance is deeper than that of a landmark- this is a testament to the lasting, unique traditions that the people of Arima hold dear.
Constructed on Sorzano Street the Town Hall is a two storey building which was done in commemoration of the 1887 Golden Jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria. Arima was declared a “Royal Borough” established by “Royal Charter” on 1st August 1888. The Actual Charter of Incorporation was signed by the then Governor of Trinidad, Sir William Robinson and was issued by Queen Victoria. The Royal Borough of Arima was the only one of its kind in the colonial Caribbean. Let’s hear it for Arima! This building constitutes the headquarters/ chambers for the Borough Council to operate from. Originally the Mayor, 7 Councilors, and auditor town clerk were based here. Currently the Crest of the Arima Borough Council hangs on the first floor and the official photos of all previous Mayors wearing their chains of office are displayed.
Here comes the Bonus round! The contrast and variety of sites present in this one town are simply astounding. We visited Lord Kitchener’s grave at the Arima Roman Catholic Cemetery and then we were off to see the Water Trough at the Old Arima Horse Paddock. The former featured rows of aligned tombstones, (did you know Kitchener’s has a steelpan and a musical score on it? What better way to remember a son of the soil) whilst for the other location we were dodging bees, while trekking through (mild) undergrowth.
Team work makes the dream work! From L-R: C. Serrant (In hiking boots, to be ready for any terrain!), HPRO A. Morris and Mayor of Arima Cagney Casimir at the Santa Rosa RC Cemetery.
It’s always a pleasure to be surrounded by historical buildings and artefacts; to have physical representations of history and its related events in front of your very eyes. I thoroughly enjoyed getting out of the office and moving around the Borough. I am unaccustomed to excursions and have only ever been on one (1) tour with the National Trust so far. (I am a new member of both the Trust and Staff, so don’t come for me!) Fingers crossed I can get out and see our Listed sites and historical gems more- I would really like to join a Friends and Family Tour – hopefully soon!
Photo of Lord Kitchener’s Tombstone, including steelpan, with his signature hat. Musical score at the base of tombstone. National Trust Photo.
What else can you find in Arima?
Arima’s diverse built heritage is made up of several sites that you simply must visit, such as Lord Kitchener’s Statue, Santa Rosa RC Church and Park, and the Statue of Hyarima. Two other Arima-centric sites of note are the Cannon and the Torecilla Ice Factory.
Cannon No. 203 at Calvary Hill, Arima
Any military history fanatic will tell you that you must see the Cannon on Calvary Hill. A light hike of many steps will take you to the hill-top, which provides an unbelievable view of the Borough. See the inscription below that details this gun’s history and yes-the British insignia is still visible. Talk about proper maintenance, something we at the Trust always love to see, and you can see for yourself when you head east. #PreservingHistoryForAll. Here’s a little preview of what you’ll see on the Hill!
Torecilla Ice Factory, Arima.
Pictured directly above are the ruins of the original Torecilla Ice factory wall. This was a central aspect of Arima’s community life in the early 1900s. This factory not only created numerous jobs, but would have provided ice- an essential form of refrigeration and food preservation. We definitely want to preserve this structure for future generations, as it has contributed in a special way to the formation of the community.
Photo by Catherine Serrant. Viewing of the Water Trough at the site of the Old Horse Paddock. From Left to right: Heritage Preservation and Research Officer Ashleigh Morris, Arima Mayor Cagney Casimire, Senior Heritage Preservation and Research Officer Kara Roopsingh, Research Assistant Catherine Serrant
The Mayor’s open minded attitude was beyond refreshing. #BigUpABC He and his team are committed to partnering with the Trust to preserve our listed monuments, and to do the work necessary to educate and raise awareness on the importance of safeguarding our heritage for the current and future generations. Their innovative ideas give us hope that going forward with heritage preservation is an achievable goal.
Arima’s highlights are endless. At the Trust we are eager to continue to work with the ABC to add more sites to the Heritage Asset Inventory and to have some of them listed as well. Given that #Arima has so much to offer, I can’t wait to see the development of eco-tourism and eco-heritage ventures to be streamlined in this Borough! (Looking at you Ministry of Tourism, to please make this initiative a reality.)
Author: Catherine Serrant, Research Assistant
About the Author: Catherine Serrant is a Research Assistant at the National Trust, with a passion for Trinbago history.