Sunday, 19 August 2018


There is a Plaque in the Catholic Cathedral  of the Immaculate Conception in Port of Spain Trinidad dedicated to Ralph James Woodford 2nd Baronet of Carleby, Lincolnshire - former Governor of Trinidad, The plaque is in English an reads: 

“ To the Memory of Sir Ralph James Woodford Baronet.  For fifteen years governor and founder of this church. Who was born on the 21st July 1794 and died on the 16th May 1828. The inhabitants of Trinidad deeply sensible of the substantial benefits which his long administration of the government conferred upon the colony and of the irreparable loss which they sustained by his death have caused this monument to be erected as a lasting memorial of his many public and private virtues and of their respect and gratitude.”

The Title of Baronet of Carleby was created for the Governors father, also called Ralph Woodford, and ended with the death of the Governor, since he was not married and had no children. 

Before he was Governor of Trinidad, Woodford lived in Madiera for a while. On the death of both parents he returned to England, but wanted a government appointment like his father before him.  He eventually secured the position of Governor of Trinidad under the patronage of Lord Henry Bathurst.

In 1812 Chacon was appointed as Governor to Trinidad.

According to Wikipedia,  he transformed the Colony:

Much of the capital had been destroyed in a major fire in 1808, and under Woodford's direction much of what is now the old centre of Port of Spain was redeveloped. In view of the recent fire, only stone buildings were permitted. Land was reclaimed to provide the first proper wharfage giving access to trading ships. He arranged the purchase of an abandoned sugar estate and laid it out as The Savannah for the people's recreation and as a cattle pasture. Purchasing also the nearby Hollandais Estate as his residence, he also established there botanical gardens and had ornamental trees planted in the town's main squares (including Brunswick Square, renamed Woodford Square in his honour). He had the streets paved, Both of the current cathedrals in Port of Spain have their origins in the churches he had built for the Anglican and Roman Catholic communities.

In 1814 The Vicar Apostolic Don Joaquim de Aristimuno discussed with the Governor Sir Ralph Woodford the need for a new Catholic Church in the Capital. The Governor drew plans for the new church and sent a report to the Secretary of the Colonies. He decreed that all debts to the Catholic church be paid no later than three months from the decreed date.

On March 21 1816 The Foundation stone was laid for New Church by Englishman and Anglican Governor Sir Ralph Woodford. The Colonial Government gave 16,000 pounds sterling at the time for its construction. The site given for construction was the most eastern part of the “plaza de Armes” (where the troops were drilled), now called the Brian Lara promenade.

In 1823,  After a stoppage of work for 18 months due to lack of funds, the then Pope Leo XII sent money to continue construction of the Building – Yes Trinidad was important to Rome too.

On September 20th 1825  The original tower (there was but one)  was damaged by an Earthquake while under construction.  In the rebuilding, two towers were erected.

In 1826  Colonial Government gives another 2,500 pounds sterling to install the roof of the building.

It should be noted that the Roman Catholic Relief act of 1791, passed by the British Parliament allowed Catholics to practice their faith openly. This allowed the Colonial Government to give Catholics money to build their new church in the Capital of Trinidad. While the Catholics were building their church, The Anglicans were building theirs too.

In 1828 Governor Woodford was on a trip to the UK because of ill health when he died on ship.  He never got to see the church completed in 1830.

The Church was made a Cathedral on 30th April 1950, when Port of Spain was made an Archdiocese, and in 1951 Pope Pius IX declares the Cathedral to rank the status of Minor Basilica and to enjoy the privileges of the Major Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome.