The village of Plaisance spans about 505 acres and is situated approximately six miles from Georgetown on the East Coast of Demerara.
Bound to the West by Goedverwagting, to the East by Better Hope, to the South by the Water Conservancy Canal and to the north by the Atlantic Ocean , this village is very popular.
President of the Plaisance Dorcas club, Beryl Adams Haynes noted that in 1842, 65 freemen pooled their money and bought the 12-hectare estate for $39,000. An initial payment of $15,000 was made, and the rest paid off in three installments at six-month intervals.
At the time of the purchase, Plaisance had all of its buildings in fairly good condition; and a couple of mules are also said to have been thrown into the bargain. In earlier times, the village was actually owned by a Frerichman who had placed it under cotton cultivation.
In 1832, Plaisance became the property of A and J Waterschodt, who used it as a private cattle farm.
“The new proprietors of Plaisance soon ran into difficulty in maintaining the village's roads and canals. In 1849, after the front , dam broke and put Plaisance under water for a few days, the villagers petitioned Governor Henry Barkly for some form of municipal organisation for the village. As a result, Plaisance became the first communal village "to acquire a constitution that was enforceable by law and designed," as Barkly himself expressed it, "to serve as a model for extending to other communities similarly circumstanced the advantages of local self taxation." (Young, 1958)
Plaisance was also one of the first villages to be drawn into Sir Francis Fiincks's scheme for village administration, embodied in Ordinances No. 1 and No . 31 of 1868. Fiincks eventually expended the sum of $29,784, mainly for the purchase of a powerful drainage pump.
The village now falls under the Plaisance-Industry Neighbourhood Democratic Council in the Denerara Mahaica Region. In that year, the population consisted of 2,595 Creoles and 755 others (many of them Portuguese).
From the time of the purchase, the residents of Plaisance sought to sustain themselves by planting ground provision and other cash crops, and on a large scale cultivated sugar cane.
The backlands had an abundance of fruit trees. The villagers were offered $25,000 by the white planters to cut down the fruit trees and plant sugarcane, which when harvested was sold to the sugar estates.
Some families continued to cultivate their land and supplemented their income by working on nearby sugar estates. The villagers were engaged mainly in rice farming, pig rearing and planting of ground provisions. Shovel-men were employed by the estate to keep the canals and trenches clean. Ground provisions planted in the backlands and greens and vegetables grown in the kitchen gardens, were sold at the street market.
In the 1950s, P laisance had an abundance of tradesmen - carpenters, cabinet makers, gutter smiths and many teachers and headmasters. There were a few small cottage industries, three bakeries, three coconut factories producing oil and copra, one factory making mattress from coconut fiber, several shops selling groceries, cake shops and stores selling cloth and accessories.
This provided employment for some young women in the village. Winston Burnett, a resident who has been living in the village for more than 40 years, noted that the area was very different back then. “In my time there were no busses, cars were the main mode of transportation and they brought you up to the train-line. The cars could not go any further because there were large bricks along the road,” he said.
As a stallholder at the market for more than 22 years, Burnett reminisced about the selling in the past.
“The rent was about $60 during that time and there were no stalls in the middle only trays. It was not this big either but later they added on a piece in the front and now there is an addition part of the market on West Road .”
Another resident, Oscar Rose, noted that when he came to Plaisance to live, back in the late fifties, a lot of things were different.
“The roads back then were filled with burnt brick and at times they would even put pieces of tree trunks to fill it.” He added that there was no potable water but that villagers were able to get clean, clear drinking water from a trench in Prince William Street .
He remembers that there were two places that people would converge for market.
“Just in front of the present market there was a big tamarind tree where people would sell on trays and then there was an afternoon market on Prince William Street where Kissoon bakery is presently,” he said. The children in those days were described as simple and decent dressers. “Those children were not so taken up with fashion; they paid more attention to dressing neatly no matter how poor they were. Their uniforms were below the knee, the boys wore brown yachting that were called bush Clarks while the girls wore white,” he added.
Hardly any farming is done in the village these days, and where most of the sugar cane was cultivated has now become a squatting area. Freed African slaves set a high priority on education and soon established themselves as teachers, lawyers, nurses, priests and other professionals. Like religion, education was a means of social mobility, personal development and community enlistment. Over the years the academic standard of villagers improved, which was undoubtedly due to the teachings by the churches and the schools. Throughout the village, schools were held in church buildings.
The main churches had schools attached to them which were funded by their overseas bodies. The first school in Plaisance was St. Paul 's Anglican which started in 1859 (this school is still in existence).Zoar Congregational Church established a school in 1885 in the church building. This school went out of existence due to the reduction in attendance.
The St. John's Roman Catholic School catered mainly for children who attended the Catholic Church. This school was considered to be one of the better schools because it was run and maintained by the Convent. There was also the Wesleyan School (Plaisance Methodist/Plaisance Primary) . After independence all schools were taken over by the Government. The market is now located just off the new highway, and to the north of the Public Road , is a garment factory. Plaisance also has its own bakery, numerous small shops, and a thriving minibus service. The village is well known for its churches. Just a few meters from the public road is the St. Paul 's Parish Church of the Anglican Diocese, next to which lies the school formerly run by the parish. The history of the church dates back to 1830. A Coffee Logie (New St Paul's Anglican Church) was leased for 7 years. The building was refurbished in 1832: one half was taken to Beterverwagting and Bethel Congregational Church was constructed. The other half constructed Zoar Congregational Church in Plaisance. Off the highway, just behind the market, also lies the beautiful building that houses the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. Close to the church is the St. John Bosco Boys' Orphanage. This edifice stands in the adjoining grounds to the St. John's Bosco Orphanage and the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy. It is situated north of the old railway line and is adorned by shrines with towering statues. St. John Bosco Orphanage was established in 1879 by Father Luigi Casati, an Italian Jesuit Priest. The Orphanage is run by the Order of Sisters of Mercy which was founded in 1831 by Sister McAuley from Dublin , Ireland . In 1894, the Order of Sisters of Mercy came to Guyana . In 1902, the first Sisters came to Plaisance and over the past 100 years 34 Sisters have worked at the orphanage. The orphanage has the capacity to accommodate 40-55 boys between the ages of 3 to 16 years. Another very important church in the community is the Zoar Congregational Church, which is located close to the new highway. In the churchyard stands a monument, upon which is inscribed information on the history of both the church and the village, including the name of the Village's first Chairman, Vessingen Bumbury, who was appointed after the Plaisance District Ordinance was passed in 1892. After the dismantling of the Coffie Logie in 1847, half of the building was used to construct Zoar Congregational Church and this church was where the freed slaves worshiped. This historical building is located on Prince William Street, north of the old railway line and stands on the original site. In the churchyard a monument was erected to commemorate the 65 freed slaves who bought Plaisance. A plaque with their names inscribed is on the monument. This building still maintains some of its original features. To date Plaisance has three nursery, two primary, and one community high school.