Queens Park Savannah sits in the middle of the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain. It is a vast open field, famous for being the focus of Carnival, the cultural explosion of freedom that marks the start of Lent in the run up to Easter. Outside of Carnival, the Savannah is the popular evening destination for families and couples out enjoying themselves, queuing at the food stalls for the street food such as Indian inspired ‘doubles’, made of fried dough and channa with pepper sauce, gyros introduced to the island by Syrian-Lebanese Christian immigrants, jerk chicken and fresh coconuts. The Savannah has had various uses in the past two hundred years, as a cricket ground, horse racetrack, pleasure park, and even an aircraft landing strip.
But originally, the land on which the Savannah sits was a slave plantation, owned by the Peschier family, who were of French origin but had emigrated to Switzerland (possibly as part of the Huguenot exodus fleeing religious persecution). The original settler Henry Peschier was granted acreage by the Spanish colonial authorities in 1782. Using slave labour, Peschier cleared the land and began to grow cane sugar.
In 1817, the heirs to the estate sold two portions of the estate (one named Paradise, the other Malgretout (French for ‘despite everything’ or ‘unbelievable but true’) to the equivalent of the Port of Spain town council for £6,000, on condition that the walled off family cemetery remained in their hands. This was agreed.