Josef Bican – The Greatest Goalscorer

f the question “who has scored the most goals in the history of football” was asked even someone with only a passing interest in the sport could probably reply Pele. Someone with more knowledge would possibly argue that is was the prolific German, Gerd Muller. And it is true that if all goals scored in friendly or benefit matches were included these two occupy the top two places with 1461 goals for Muller and 1389 goals for Pele. But if only goals scored in “official” matches are included then the top goal-scorer of all-time, according to the RSSSF (Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation) is the now almost unknown Josef Bican with approximately 805 goals, from 530 matches.

Bican was born in Vienna, at that time the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on the 25th September 1913. Both of his parents were of Czech origin and Josef grew up in the Favoriten district of Vienna which was home to many immigrants from the historical Czech regions of Bohemia and Moravia. Football was one way in which the inhabitants of the district could escape from working in the local brickworks. Josef’s father, František, played for Hertha Vienna but in 1921, at the age of 30, died from a kidney injury sustained in a game against SK Rapid after refusing surgery.

František’s death left Ludmilla Bican and her three children without a regular income and the family struggled financially for a number of years. Josef often had to play bare-footed in kick-abouts with the local children but this only helped him to develop the technique which would prove to be so useful later in life. Between the ages of 12 and 14 Josef played for the junior sides of SK Slovan Vienna and Hertha Vienna where he received a schilling for every goal he scored. Between 15 and 18 he worked for local companies Schustek and Farbenlutz and also played for their company football teams. His 71 goals in 43 games for these teams brought him to the attention of Roman Schramseis, star defender for the Austrian national team and Rapid Vienna, probably the best Austrian side at the time.

Schramseis recommended Bican to Rapid’s trainer, Dionysius Schönecker, who decided to draft him into their youth team. His scoring exploits meant he passed quickly through Rapid’s youth, amateur and reserve sides and in September, 1931 – just before his 18th birthday Josef made his Austrian League debut against FK Austria Vienna. He scored a first-half hat-trick and added a fourth just before the final whistle in a game Rapid won 5-3. He finished the 1931-32 season with 10 goals in 8 games as Rapid finished 3rd. He added two more goals in the Austrian Cup in Rapid’s run to the semi-final.

The following season he managed 11 goals in 16 league matches and Rapid finished 2nd behind First Vienna FC 1894. Six more goals come in two Austrian Cup matches. Initially Josef received 150 schillings a week, around six times the average wage for a good worker at that time. In 1933, when he had turned 20, he had become so important to Rapid that they increased his wages to 600 schillings per week to try and prevent him from leaving.

In 1933-34 Rapid again finished as runners-up but Josef was the league top-scorer with 29 goals in only 22 games. His prolific scoring brought him to the attention of the legendary coach of the Austrian national team, Hugo Meisl and Bican made his international debut in November, 1933, against Scotland at Hampden Park. He failed to score but set-up both Austrian goals in the 2-2 draw. His first international goal came in his second game, the 1-0 win away to the Netherlands the following month then he scored twice in successive matches versus Switzerland and Hungary in the spring of 1934.

Austria qualified for the 1934 World Cup in Italy thanks to a 6-1 win over Bulgaria although Bican was surprisingly not on the score-sheet. The Austria Wunderteam was one of the best in the world at that time thanks to stars like Matthias Sindelar, Josef Smistik and Walter Nausch and they were amongst the tournament favourites.

The format for the 1934 World Cup was a straight knockout and Austria were drawn against France in the First Round. Bican’s extra-time goal helped Austria to a 3-2 win. After a 2-1 triumph over Hungary they came up against the hosts Italy in the Semi-finals but lost 1-0. For the 3rd/4th place playoff against Germany Austria were much changed but Bican kept his place although he failed to score and Austria were beaten 3-2. In his four World Cup matches Bican had found the net only once and would never play in another World Cup finals match during his career.

In 1934-35 Rapid Vienna went unbeaten for the whole season and easily won the Austrian championship. But Bican barely participated in their title win playing only 3 games, in which he scored twice. He had fallen out with the club as he felt their playing style just didn’t suit his own. Slavia Prague approached Bican with an offer but he turned them down as they played in a similar style to Rapid Vienna. Rapid tried to entice Bican with an improved contract but it was too late and in 1935 signed for Rapid’s rivals SK Admira Vienna. In total he scored 68 goals in 61 official games during his time at Rapid.

Because of his problems with Rapid Bican missed Austria’s next four internationals after the 1934 World Cup but he returned to the national team’s line-up for the 0-0 home draw with Czechoslovakia in April 1935. He then played in six of Austria’s eight matches in 1935-36. He scored his only international hat-trick in the 4-4 draw with Hungary in the Dr. Gero Cup scored once in each of the following three internationals versus Spain, Portugal and Czechoslavakia and his last two goals for Austria came in the 3-5 defeat to Hungary in April 1936. The following month Austria won their first ever game against England with a 2-1 victory with Bican putting in an excellent performance but failing to find the net. His final Austrian cap came in the 3-1 win over neighbours Switzerland in November 1936. In 19 international matches Bican scored 14 times.

Bican was banned for much of the 1935-36 Austrian league season due to breaching his contract with Rapid Vienna and only played 15 games for Admira. Despite Bican scoring only 8 goals in those games Admira easily won the Austrian title thanks to 23 goals from his strike partners Wilhelm Hahnemann and 15 from Adolf Vogl. Admira retained their title in 1936-37 with Bican scoring 11 times in 10 games.

In the Spring of 1937 Slavia Prague made another approach for him and this time he felt the time was right to leave Austria and move to his ancestral home of Czechoslovakia. Admira were most unhappy at this turn of events and initially threatened to not release his playing registration for four years, later reducing this to two years. After Slavia threatened legal action, and made a lucrative financial offer to the Austrians Admira finally relented.

Whilst his scoring exploits in Austria had been impressive when he moved to Czechoslovakia they quickly became phenomenal. On his home debut for Slavia in the Czech Cup against Bohemians in September 1937 he scored four times in a 7-1 win and repeated the feat in Slavia’s in the 4-1 home win over SK Nachod in the league. He finished as the league top scorer with 22 goals but Slavia could only manage the runners-up spot behind their city rivals Sparta. In 1938 the Czech league separated into one division for clubs from Bohemia and Moravia and another for Slovak clubs. The following year saw the outbreak of World War Two but the league continued throughout the conflict. Over the next six seasons Bican scored an incredible 258 goals in 126 league games and added 30 more from 15 Czech Cup matches.

50 goals came in 20 goals in the 1939-40 season, including seven in the 10-1 win versus Baťa Zlín. He repeated this feat the next season in Slavia’s 12-1 win over the same opponents. His most prolific season was in 1943-44 when his record was 57 goals in 23 games. He was the top scorer not only in the Bohemian and Moravia League but also in the whole world five seasons in a row between 1940 and 1944. Bican’s goals helped Slavia to four consecutive league titles and also the Czech Cup in 1941 and 1942.

Following Austria’s annexation into Germany in 1938 he was approached to play for the German national team. Instead he applied for Czech nationality in the hope he could appear for Czechoslovakia in the 1938 World Cup. Unfortunately there was insufficient time for Bican to become a Czech citizen, a requirement for obtaining a Czech passport, and so he was forced to miss the World Cup. His Czech citizenship was then awarded two days after the tournament had ended and made his debut in Stockholm against Sweden a short time later. He scored a hat-trick and in his third game for Czechoslovakia, at home to Romania, he went one better giving him 8 goals in his first three games for them.

The Second World War and the break up of Czechoslavakia in 1939 prevented him playing another international for them until 1946. However, he played one game for Bohemia in the 5-5 draw against Ostmark (the name given to the former country of Austria after the Anschluss with Nazi Germany) in which he scored a hat-trick. Shortly after the resumption of his international career with Czechoslovakia, at the age of 33, he played against his home country of Austria in Prague. He narrowly failed to score in the 4-3 win. He went on to win another eleven caps but only managed four goals with a brace in successive matches against Yugoslavia and Poland in 1947. His final international game was the 3-1 home defeat by Bulgaria in September 1949.

When the united Czech League returned in 1945 Bican played another four seasons for Slavia, winning another title in 1947 and prolonging his run sequence of league top scorer to eight seasons. He scored seven goals in a game for the third time during Slavia’s 15-1 win over České Budějovice in 1947. Juventus approached him about a move to Turin but Bican refused due to worries about the rise of Communism in Italy.

In 1948 the Communists took power in Prague and as Bican refused to join their party he was forced to leave the city. He moved to Second Division club Vítkovické Zelezarny, a club with working class roots from the steel-making city of Ostrava. He helped them to promotion in his first season and then scored 22 goals in 1950 as they finished fourth in the First Division. These enabled him to finish as the league’s top scorer for the 10th and final time in his career.

In 1953 he spent one season with Hradec Králové before he was once more forced to relocate due to pressure from the local Communist Party. He returned to Prague to become player-coach of Slavia, now remained Dynamo by the Communists. He played on for another two seasons before retiring at the age of 42. In total he scored over 550 goals for Slavia/Dynamo in about 300 official games.

He then coached numerous Czech clubs before a three year spell in Belgium with KSK Tongeren between 1969 and 1972 where he brought about two successive promotions. After one season coaching the Czech Second Division club Benešov in 1977 Bican retired. He died at the age of 88 in a Prague hospital from heart disease in December 2001, 12 years after receiving the freedom of the city.


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Historical Buildings of central Lima

Part One – Introduction and Lima Cathedral

The City of the Kings was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535. It would soon become better known as Lima. The oldest part of the city is known as the Historical Centre of Lima and is now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is in this area that Lima’s most prestigious, architecturally significant and historical important buildings are found. This article examines a number of these buildings.

Relatively few of the remaining buildings in the centre of Lima are actually colonial in origin. The earthquakes of 1746 and 1940 devastated large areas of the capital and left many buildings in ruins. Further damage was caused due to the large urban developments schemes implemented in the 1930s and 40s when many buildings of architectural and historical interest were pulled down in order for the widening of some of Lima’s major roads.

The Plaza Mayor is the historical heart of Lima. For many years the square was known as the Plaza de Armas after it was given this name to commemorate the soldiers who used the square as a parade ground during the Peruvian War of Independence in the early 19th century. In fact it was here that Jose de San Martin proclaimed the birth of the new nation of Peru in 1821. The name was changed to its original name, the Plaza Mayor, in 1990.

The site of a former indigenous settlement on the banks of the river Rimac, it was here that Francisco Pizarro began to create his new capital city and it is here were most of the most important, although not necessarily the oldest, buildings, are to be found. Pizarro’s original plan for the new city was a rectangle made up of 9 by 13 blocks laid out in grid like pattern, often referred to as Pizarro’s draught board. Over the next century the city expanded north and southwards with much of the construction work carried out by slaves imported from Africa.

Lima Cathedral, on the eastern side of the Plaza Mayor, is one of the oldest buildings in Lima and is built upon the site of a palace owned by the Inca prince Sinchi Puma. Francisco Pizarro himself laid the foundation stone of the original, church in 1535 and construction was completed three years later. The original building was very basic being constructed from abode and wood. Despite this church was upgraded to a cathedral when Pope Paul III designated Lima as a diocese of the Catholic Church.

Over the next century or so the church was gradually expanded and rebuilt to a design created by the architect Alonso Beltran which was based on the cathedral in Seville. This design proved to be far too extravagant and the project soon ran out of money. Another architect, Francisco Becerra, was brought in in 1585 to redesign the cathedral. Becerra’s design included 3 naves and two side chapels but when he died in 1605 only half of his cathedral had been completed. It wasn’t until 1649 that the final part of Becerra’s plan for the cathedral, the two bell-towers, was implemented.

Various earthquakes since then caused much damage to the original building, especially the devastating earthquakes of 1687, 1746 and 1940. Due to the various rebuilding efforts due to these earthquakes the current cathedral incorporates various different architectural styles including baroque, gothic and neoclassical. During the latter part of the 19th century the cathedral fell into disrepair and was closed for a number of years whilst improvements were carried out.

Francisco Pizarro’s corpse, separated into head and body, were buried beneath the cathedral floor after his death in 1541. In 1892 a body was discovered during excavations in the cathedral and was put on display as the body of Pizarro. In 1977 a head was found sealed inside a lead box in a niche hidden within the cathedral’s walls. The inscription upon the box identified the head as belonging to Pizarro. Following forensic examination it was subsequently discovered that whilst the head did indeed belong to Lima’s founder the body was that of someone unknown.

The current cathedral contains one main central nave plus two additional side naves, or aisles. There are also 14 small side-chapels running along the walls of the cathedral. Francisco Pizarro’s tomb is the first side chapel on the right as you enter from the Plaza Mayor. A small chest within the tomb contains earth from Pizarro’s home city of Trujillo in Spain. Probably the most beautiful chapel is the Chapel of Immaculate Conception, located about halfway along the southern wall of the cathedral. This chapel contains the only remaining Baroque alter within the cathedral following the restoration which took place in the 1890s which resulted in all the other alters being replace by ones in a Neoclassical style.


The main façade contains statues of the 12 Apostles surrounding the cathedral’s main entrance, the Door of Forgiveness. In total there are eight entrances to the cathedral.

The cathedral also houses the very impressive Museum of Religious Art, containing many examples of religious paintings and artifacts, which is well worth a visit in its own right.



Part Two – Rest of the Plaza Mayor


Most of the other buildings around the Plaza Mayor are fairly modern although the sites upon which they have been built have much longer histories. Next door to the cathedral is the Archbishop’s Palace. The current palace, built in baroque style, was completed in 1924 and its impressive Neo-colonial façade, designed by the Polish-Peruvian architect Ricardo Malachowkski and based upon the nearby Torre Tagle Palace, houses two magnificent cedar wood balconies, ornate doors and grilled windows that replicate the typical architecture found in Lima during the 18th century.

Prior to this another Archbishop’s Palace, dating from 1535, occupied the site. In the 1820s the building was described by the explorer Robert Proctor as being extremely modest and unworthy of being next to the rather more impressive cathedral. The façade of the old palace was destroyed in the late 19th century to allow restoration and rebuilding of the cathedral next door and the rest of the building followed shortly afterwards.


On the northern side of the Plaza Mayor is the Government Palace, home of the President of Peru. Its current façade dates from 1938 but the original building, a two-story adobe construction used as an office by Francisco Pizarro, dates from 1535. The site of the Government Palace was once occupied by the home of an Inca curaca (official) by the name of Taulichusco. In June 1541 Pizarro, aged around 70 at the time, was holding a dinner party for a few of his friends.

In the middle of the meal twenty armed men under the command of the son of Pizarro’s old adversary Diego de Almagro, who he had condemned to death a few years previously, burst into the palace and assassinated him. Shortly after Pizarro’s death Peru became a Viceroyalty and the building became a Viceregal Palace with Blasco Nunez Vega being the first Viceroy resident there. 

Visitors to Lima in the early 19th century were often surprised at the appearance of the Government Palace, describing it as a insignificant looking building totally unbefitting its status and with dilapidated wooden shacks hiding most of its façade from view. Many officials complained that the Palace was one of the worst buildings in Lima and one which gave a very poor image of Peru. As a result a number of improvements were made to the building in the mid 19th century.

During the War of the Pacific the city of Lima was occupied by the Chilean Army between 1881 and 1883 and they took up residence in the Government Palace during this time. When they left following the signing of the Treaty of Ancon, which ended the war, the Chilean troops took many of the Palace’s valuable paintings and furniture with them.

In 1884 a small fire broke out in the Palace but only caused a small amount of damage to building. In 1921 a much larger fire reduced much of the building to ashes and an extensive rebuilding plan was set up by President Augusto Leguia. The first stage of the work, between 1926 and 1932, was designed by the French architect Claude Salut. The second phase, between 1937 and 1938 was overseen by Ricardo Maluchowski, who was also responsible for designing the new Archbishop’s Palace. Following completion of the new building the first President who lived in the Palace was Oscar Benavides during his 2nd term of office.

The Municipal Palace, or City Hall, on the west of the square, serves as the headquarters of the Regional Government of Lima Province. The site of the Municipal Palace was originally a sacred site, the Huaca del Cabildo, and the land later belonged to Hernando Pizarro, brother of Francisco. The construction of the original structure was began in 1549 and completed in time for the arrival of the 4th Viceroy of Peru, Antonio de Mendoza, in September 1551.

Due to the hasty building schedule, which led to many shortcuts being taken with regard to the quality of the work, the building collapsed and had to be rebuilt from scratch. This new edifice suffered damage following the flooding of the river Rimac in 1696 and was then almost completely destroyed in the major earthquake of 1746. Additional earthquakes, as well as alterations made to the Plaza de Armas, brought about further reconstruction of the building over the next century.

In November 1923 a large fire broke out in the neighboring street of Portal de Escribanos and whilst the Municipal Palace suffered a great deal of damage the building’s archives, containing the original Declaration of Independence and the Charter of Foundation signed by Francisco Pizarro, were spared.

In 1939 the Mayor of Lima, Eduardo Dibos Dammert, ordered a new city hall to be built and held a competition in order to find a design for the new building. The winning design was one submitted by the architects Jose Alvarez Calderon and Emilio Harth Terre but it would later be supplemented by additional work carried out by Ricardo Maluchowski. The new Municipal Palace was inaugurated by the current Mayor Luis Gallo Porras in July 1944.

The neocolonial façade houses two large, two-storied wooden balconies that are purely aesthetic and perform no real function as well as numerous arches at ground level. The interior design is French Renaissance in style with a magnificent white marble staircase leading up to the second floor. The Palace also contains the Ignacio Merino Art Museum which contains painting from many 19th and 20th century Peruvian painters, most notably Ignacio Merino himself.

Part Three – Colonial Mansions

There used to be many colonial mansions dotted throughout central Lima but over the past few centuries earthquakes, urban development projects and poor maintenance has resulted in only a fractions of these mansions still standing today. As many of them now house offices or centers of education this means only a few of them are still open to the public. Of those that remain only two originate from the 16th century – the Casa de Aliaga and the Casa de Pilatos. As well as those two this article will examine two other notable examples of these remaining Colonial houses which date from the late 17th century to the early 19th century.

In order to try and re-create their home environment many Spanish settlers in Peru modeled their houses on Andalusian designs, particularly those found in the city of Seville. They would have also have preferred to use stone and brick to construct their houses but due to difficulties and costs in supplying these they had to use more local materials such as abode (bricks made from mud and straw) and quincha, , a traditional earthquake resistant material comprising a wooden frame covered in mud and plaster instead. The facades of the mansions were typically painted in light, warm colors such as blue, yellow and orange.

The Casa de Aliaga, close to the Plaza Mayor and dating from 1535, is possibly the oldest colonial mansion in the whole of South America. It was originally built by Jeronimo de Aliaga, one of Francisco Pizarro’s conquistadors responsible for the capture of the Inca emperor Atahualpa in Cajamarca, on the location of a Pre-Colombian sacred site and has since been occupied by 17 generations of his descendents. Whilst it is not particularly impressive from the outside with its façade worn down by time, weather and pollution it still possesses a very fine wooden balcony.

It is the interior of the 66-room building where the true beauty lies, impressive enough to make the Casa de Aliaga one of the finest examples of colonial houses in the whole of Peru. Among the most impressive aspects of the house are its astonishing inner patio, its marble staircases, and its stylish salons full of Louis XIV fixture and fittings and excellent paintings, many from the Cusco School style. 

The Casa de Pilatos is said to have been constructed in 1590, to a design by the Jesuit priest Ruiz Portillo, which would make it the 2nd oldest colonial mansion in Lima. An alternative name for the house is the Casa de Esquivel y Jarava after its original owner was the Spanish merchant Diego de Esquivel Y Jarava. It is more commonly known as the Casa de Pilatos due to its similarity of a house of that name in Seville.

Although not as impressive looking as some of the other mansions of Lima it is still a fine example of 16th century colonial architecture with an imposing red façade. Its original wooden balconies were lost in the earthquake of 1746 and those that in evidence today, enclosed in design with one covering a corner of the building, are replicas. The interior includes a double hallway and a beautiful patio containing fine carved wooden balustrades and with a magnificent stone staircase rising up from its centre. Nowadays the building houses offices belonging to the Supreme Court

The most famous mansion within Lima is the spectacular Torre Tagle Palace, a couple of blocks east of the Plaza Mayor. There is much debate about the exact date of its construction but most sources seem to agree it was probably around 1730. It was commissioned by the extravagantly named Spanish aristocrat José Bernardo de Tagle-Bracho y Pérez de la Riva, the 1st Marquis of Torre Tagle and treasurer of the Spanish Armada.


The façade, in Andalusian Baroque style but also incorporating Creole and Asian influences, is probably the most beautiful in Lima with an ornate portico, a fine carved stone doorway and two outstanding Moorish style enclosed balconies, carved from cedar and mahogany. Above the doorway is the shield and motto of the Torre Tagle family.


The entrance hallway leads to an inner courtyard surrounding by Moorish-style balustrades, arches and columns and with an opulent stone staircase leading up to the 2nd floor which is decorated with superb wooden balconies and galleries. The main hall contains portraits of the Torre Tagle family and its elegant lounges are covered with tiles in a mixture of Spanish and Moorish styles. Today the house belongs to the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is no longer open to the general public although special permission may be given to certain tour groups.

The Casa de Oquendo, also known as the Casa de Osembala, stands on the site of a building in which novices belonging to the Dominican Order were trained. When this building was destroyed in the 1746 earthquake the land was sold to the Spanish merchant and Marquis, Martin Osembala. Osembala constructed a mansion which was completed around 1807 and is one of the largest, and at the time of its construction the tallest,

dwellings in the centre of Lima. Most houses tended to be only two stories high to make them less susceptible to earthquakes but the Casa de Oquendo is three stories with a small cupola upon its flat roof.

In order to keep an eye on arrival of ships in the port of Callao Osembala would often climb up to the mirador contained within the fourth storey cupola with a telescope. When Osembala died his wife was forced to sell the house to Jose de la Asuncion Oquendo, a well-known figure in Limean society at that time, in order to pay off debts.

The large façade of the mansion is neoclassical with influences of the Rococo movement. The house was initially indigo when it was first built and following restoration work in the 1980s the façade was repainted in this original color. There are five Louis XVI style main enclosed balconies with three smaller open balconies. Inside is a spectacular patio and 40 bedrooms. The Casa de Oquendo currently belongs to the Ministry of Education but it is possible for tours to be arranged by contacting the building’s caretaker.

Part Four – Churches – Part One


Lima is a city famous for its churches. In its historical centre you can find a church on almost every block and many of them are at least 300 years old. The most famous of them is Lima cathedral which has already been covered in an earlier part of this article but there are many of fine examples of religious structure in the city.

Excluding the cathedral the most important and impressive place of worship in Lima is the Church and Convent of San Francisco belonging to the Franciscan Order of the Twelve Apostles. Work on the first building on the site, a small abode church, began in 1546 and was completed eleven years later. However, this structure was destroyed by an earthquake in 1655. Construction of a new church, designed by the Portuguese architect Constantino de Vasconcellos, began shortly afterwards. Consecrated of this new church was carried out in 1672 but building work was not fully completed until 1729.

It survived the great earthquake of 1746 intact but suffered a large amount of damage in an earthquake which took place in 1970. The current complex, with a Spanish Baroque façade built from eye-catching yellow and white quincha, comprises a church, convent, two smaller churches (El Milagro and La Soledad), a library, a museum of religious art and catacombs. The site used to be even larger but part of the property was razed in 1940 to allow widening of the Avenida Abancay.

Inside the central nave and the two side aisles are decorated in Mudejar, a mixture of Moorish and Spanish, style. The corridors within the cloisters are lined with stunning blue azulejos tiles emanating from Seville. The cloister itself contains 39 paintings show scenes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Above the staircase leading up to the library is a fantastic Moorish style cupola dating from 1625 and carved from Costa Rican cedar. Part of the cupola collapsed after an earthquake in 1940 and was finally restored by 1962.

The library itself is world renowned and contains over 25000 books and texts covering subjects such as art, architecture, literature, theology, philosophy, ecclesiastical law, history and music and written in numerous different languages. Many of these date from before the Spanish Conquest of Peru. Two of the most important books held within the library are the first Spanish dictionary produced by the Royal Spanish Academy and an edition of the Bible printed in Antwerp in the early 1570s.

The catacombs, which date from the original 1546 church, held an estimated 25000 bodies at one point before the main Lima cemetery opened in 1810. The location of the catacombs was then lost for over a century before being rediscovered in 1943. The catacombs are lined with tens of thousands of bones in such a way so that the separated skulls, femurs, ribs, etc create the most aesthetically pleasing patterns. According to some rumors there are corridors hidden within the catacombs which connect to some of the other major churches and other important buildings in the centre of Lima which only add to the sinister atmosphere down there.

The Museum of Religious Art within the former refectory contains numerous paintings that are well worth seeing. There are the “Passion of Christ” series of paintings from the 17th century Flemish painter Peter-Paul Rubens and Belgian born Diego de la Puente’s version of The Last Supper uses local delicacies such as roast cuy (guinea pig), potatoes and papaya washed down by goblets of chicha (corn beer). The Zurbaran room holds 13 paintings of Jacob and his twelve sons, founders of the twelve tribes of Israel, by Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbaran.

Just south of Lima Cathedral is the Basilica and Convert of San Pedro. The original church, built by the Jesuits in 1568, was named San Pablo and was rebuilt twice with the third version, designed by Martin de Aspirate, being consecrated in 1638. It has escaped damage from the numerous earthquakes that have hit Lima over the past five centuries and has thus changed very since 1638 although the building no longer belongs to the Jesuits after their expulsion from Peru by King Charles III of Spain in 1772. It is now considered one of the finest examples of Baroque colonial religious architecture in the city.

San Pedro was modeled on the Church of Gesu in Rome and thus contains three naves. Unusually for a church it also has three entrances although the two smaller side doors are only opened for important religious festivals. Compared to some of the other religious buildings in Lima the yellow and white Baroque façade of San Pedro is quite simple and relatively unadorned but there are still a number of rather attractive neoclassical wooden balconies to be seen upon each of the two bell towers.

The interior of the church is far more impressive. One of the highlights is the main altar, designed by the Spanish priest and architect Matias Maestro. The altar is gold plated and built in the Churrigueresque (Spanish baroque) style and includes sculptures of St. Paul and St. Peter as well as the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There are also some stunning examples of 17th and 18th century retablos (altarpieces) made from carved wood and gold leaf. The side chapels of San Ignacio de Loyola and Santa Lucia are extensively decorated with beautiful glazed tiles and also contain some magnificent altars and fine paintings from the Lima, Quito and Cusco Schools.


The central dome is one of the finest in Lima with Moorish-style carvings and with openings which let in an abundance of natural light that perfectly illuminate the decorations of the aisles below.  San Pedro also contains a small museum of colonial art which is well worth seeing, particularly the painting of the Coronation of the Virgin Mary by the Italian painter Bernardo Bitti.


Part Five – Churches – Part Two

The Basilica Senora de La Merced, 2 blocks SW of the Plaza Mayor, is built upon the site of the first Latin mass to be held in Lima in 1534, one year before the city was even founded. The land occupied by La Merced once belonged to the Mercedaria order but was donated to the church by the Spanish conquistador Captain Francisco de Becerra. The various religious edifices that have occupied the site since then have endured a rather turbulent history.

The initial building was constructed in 1541 from wood but was considered too small and was replaced by a larger abode structure. In 1628 the abode church was demolished to make way for a third version of the church but this was badly damaged in the earthquake of 1687 and once more had to be rebuilt. This fourth attempt was again damaged in the great earthquake of 1746 and then gutted by a fire in 1773. The majority of the current La Merced church thus dates from the late 18th century.

The incredibly ornate central façade, carved by the sculptor Cristóbal Gómez from granite originated from Panama, remains from 1591 and is a stunning example of churrigueresque (Spanish Baroque) architecture. A beautiful carved statue of the Virgin of Mercy can be seen in a niche above the central doorway and this is surrounded by statues of other religious figures. The side columns of the façade are layered with pink and white stone giving the church a unique appearance within Lima.

Inside the central nave contains large columns to protect the building from earthquakes. The nave also contains more of two dozen beautiful carved mahogany alters in a mixture of Baroque and Renaissance styles. Following the reconstruction of the church in the late 18th century following the 1746 earthquake much of the interior architecture, especially the reredos (altarpieces) of the Virgin of Lourdes side chapel,  include French rococo styling reflecting the influence of the new Bourbon dynasty at that time.

The most notable item to be found within La Merced is the large silver cross dedicated to the 17th century Spanish priest Friar Pedro Urraca. During the voyage from Spain to Ecuador the ship in which Urraca was traveling was caught up in a great storm. Urraca then vowed to give his life to the Virgin Mary if the crew would be spared. The storm immediately dissipated and Urraca spent the rest of his life spreading the word of his savior. Today, many Peruvians make a pilgrimage to kiss or place their hands upon Urraca’s cross , to pray, to leave mementos showing their reverence and to ask for a miracle.

In the 17th century the location now occupied by the Iglesia de las Nazarenas was a slum neighborhood known as Pachacamilla which was occupied by former African and Indian slaves. One of these slaves, from Angola but whose identity was unknown, painted a picture of a crucified Christ on the side on a abode hut. In 1655 a huge earthquake destroyed large parts of Lima, including many building within the slave quarter. However, the painting of Christ survived intact and became known as “El Senor de los Milagros” (“Christ of the Miracles”).

Over the years the painting became blackened from the smoke emanating from the candle placed in front of it and this, alongside the dark skin of the Christ, gained it an alternative name of “El Cristo Moreno” (“The Black Christ”).The painting was also untouched by the earthquake of 1687 and soon the canvas became so venerated that local people came from miles around to see the painting. This adoration drew the attention, and displeasure, of the Viceroyalty of Peru and, according to the legend, their attempts to destroy the icon by painting over it were thwarted when those sent to carry over the order were unable to do so

By the early 1700s the crowds became so large that the Catholic Church built a small sanctuary around it. The building. ran by the religious order known as the Nazarenas Carmelitas Descalzas de San Joaquín, was rebuilt and enlarged over the next few years. Despite the myth of El Senor de los Milagros, suffered major damage in the earthquake of 1746. On the initiative of the Viceroy of Peru, Manuel de Amat y Junient, the church was rebuilt once more, in rococo style by 1771.

A replica of the painting is paraded through the streets of Lima upon a silver litter during the El Senor de los Milagros festival which takes place every year over a couple of days in October with a different route followed each day. The procession draws many thousands of worshippers dressed in purple tunics, purple being the traditional color of the robes worn by the Nazarene order, and the city itself is also decorated in purple throughout the festival.

The Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo is an important place of pilgrimage for many Peruvians as it contains the tombs of three of Peru’s most important saints: San Martin de Porres, Santa Rosa de Lima and San Juan Macias. The building itself is not particularly noteworthy. The pink façade is made up from a mixture of different styles, reflecting the many times the building has had to have been rebuilt since its original construction began in 1540. The site was given to the Dominican friar Vicente de Valverde by Francisco Pizarro. Valderde was part of Pizarro’s party that invaded Peru in 1532 and it was his failed attempt to convert Atahualpa to Christianity that lead to the capture, and eventual death, of the Inca leader.

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The Food of Peru and its Neighbours


Whilst traveling through Peru and neighboring countries such as Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia you will experience many different types of food, some of which will be familiar to you whilst others are found nowhere else in the world. Chile is renowned for its seafood whilst Peruvian fusion cuisine is becoming more and more well-known throughout the world thanks to chefs like Gaston Acurio. Ecuador and Colombia has a diverse cuisine due to the wide range of eco-regions within them whilst even Bolivia offers surprising, and tasty, local delicacies.

Peru, Ecuador and Colombia are split into three distinct geographical regions – to the west is the coastal region, in the middle is the sierra (the Andes mountains) and to the east is the Amazon jungle or grasslands. Fish and seafood are obviously the most important part of the coastal comida criolla cuisine. Encebollado is a fish and onion stew from Ecuador which is a traditional cure for hangovers. Sopa marinera and chupe de pescado (seafood soups) are found throughout the coastal region

In the highlands potatoes, grain and corn form the major part on the diet along with meat such as llama (who were also used for milk and cheese), alpaca and guinea pig (cuy). Soups and stews are an extremely important part of the highland diet and come in countless varieties, including caldos (brothy soups), sopas (thicker broth-based soups), sancochos and locros (a thick, hearty stew-like soups usually containing beef and vegetables) and secos (stews that are usually served over rice). In the central Peruvian Andes pachamanca is a style of cooking in which an earthen oven called a huatia is filled with hot stones and used to prepare a mixture of meat (either lamb, pork, chicken or cuy, which have been marinated in spices) and vegetables such as potato, lima beans, sweet potato or cassava.

In the eastern Amazon regions freshwater fish such as the paiche, the catfish or the piranha and exotic meat such as turtle, caiman, agouti and monkey are often found even though many of these animals are endangered and protected. Amazonian cuisine also uses local delicacies such as plantains, yuca, bananas, peanuts and coconuts.

Bolivian cuisine mixes indigenous Aymara cooking styles and ingredients with foreign influences, particularly Spanish. As it is a very mountainous country with high altitude its staples including typical highland foodstuffs such as beans, corn and potatoes. Soups and stews featuring grains such as quinoa, rice, wheat, potatoes and other vegetables are very common on Bolivian menus and many of the main courses are immersed in spicy sauces made from peppers such as the aji or the locoto. As it is landlocked and has no access to the ocean freshwater fish are used in place of the saltwater fish used in the coastal plains of the region.

Because Chile is such a long, thin country it is often broken down into three regions which cover the north, central and southern parts. The cuisine of the northern section, dominated by the arid Atacama Desert and the Andes mountains, is very similar to that found in the sierra of Peru and Ecuador with potatoes, corn and llama featuring strongly. In the central section – which has a temperature, Mediterranean type climate – there are more European influences in the local cuisine as well as from native people

In the mountainous, rainy south of Chile there are many influences from Mapuche and Chilote. The latter inhabit the Chiloé peninsula cuisines and traditionally have used earthen ovens to create dishes like the curanto, similar to the pachamanca of Peru, which contain shellfish and potatoes, both staples of the Chilote diet.

The cuisine of this region has been tinged by a number of influences. The Inca Empire, which stretched across Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and even parts of Colombia and Argentina at its height, made great use of tubers such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, root vegetables like ullucu and arracacha and grains such as maize were particularly important. For meat the Incas used domesticated animals like alpacas, llamas and cuy.

After the Spanish conquest of the Incas in the mid 16th century foodstuffs like rice, wheat, lamb beef, pork and chicken and the preparation of fish which would later become used in ceviche were introduced into the region. The Moorish dominance in the Spain at the time of the Conquest also meant that aspects of Middle Eastern cuisine such as adding almonds, raisins, cinnamon, cloves, and fruits -either dried or fresh – to meat dishes was brought to Latin America. Later immigrants brought their own tastes of home with them, particularly in the larger cities like Lima, Arequipa Quito, Guayaquil, Santiago, Cali and Bogota The Italians brought pasta, the Chinese merged their own style of cooking and spices with the local ingredients to create the fusion cooking style of chifa.

Particularly in the northern part of the region, in Ecuador and Colombia, but also in parts of Peru there are Caribbean and African influences in the local cuisine with the use of bananas, plantains, peanuts, avocados and coconuts. Esmeraldas province in Ecuador, which has a large Afro-Ecuadorian population, is home to some interesting African-influenced specialties like encocado, shrimp or fish cooked in a rich, spiced coconut sauce. Sopa de bolas de verde is a thick peanut-based soup with seasoned, mashed-plantain balls floating in it.

Today potatoes, rice, corn and beans, are still staples of the region and combinations of them are found in almost every dish. They are an important source of protein and carbohydrates for the poorer sectors of the population who are unable to obtain meat. Another common grain is quinoa which is indigenous to Peru and whose nutritional value and health benefits has led to it becoming a trendy “superfood” in the past few years.

Typical Foods – Part One

Potatoes are particularly prevalent Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador – this being the region in which they originated – and there are thousands of different varieties available in all sorts of sizes, shapes, flavors and colors. They have been used as food in Peru and Bolivia since 400BC and had religious significance to ancient tribes such as the Nazca and Chimu. Regional potato varieties include the superchola from Ecuador with red skin and golden flesh, the papalisa from Bolivia with white flesh and skin ranging from red, pink, orange, purple, yellow and brown, criollas – the tiny yellow potatoes common in Columbia and the Papa Amarilla and Purple Peruvian from Peru. Ocas are delicate, purple, potato-like tubers, which taste best roasted or boiled. They are particularly popular in Bolivia

Typical potato dishes from Ecuador include Llapingachos (Ecuadorian fried potato and cheese pancakes) which can be eaten either as a main course or as a side dish, locro de papa (a thick, warming soup made from potatoes, cheese and pasta) which is very popular in the sierra where it can get extremely cold.

Peruvian potato-based dishes include Papa a la Huancaína (an appetizer of boiled potatoes covered in a creamy, spicy sauce), causa – usually made with the yellow Papa Amarilla which is mashed and layered with other ingredients like egg, avocado, chicken or tuna and papa rellena, a potato stuffed with veggies and then fried. Chuños are freeze-dried potatoes from the Peruvian and Bolivian highlands which are very much an acquired taste. Chuños are used in the traditional Andean soup chairo along with carrots, onions, corn, beef and cilantro.

Corn was once revered by tribes such as the Incas and today is used in a variety of ways. Corn kernels are roasted to make cancha which is a typical ingredient of the Peruvian ceviche. The kernels can also be boiled in alkali-rich water to make mote, a popular side-dish. When corn is ground it forms masa (cornflour) which is used to make meat or cheese-filled pasties such as tortillas, empanadas, humitas or salteñas (particularly popular in Bolivia) or the Ecuadorian sweet snack quimbolitos. Pastel de choclo, a pie filled with beef or chicken and topped with pureed sweetcorn, is often referred to as Chile’s national dish. Boiled corn on the cob is often served with queso blanco (white cheese) to create choclo con queso.

Beans are often used in Chile and Bolivia as an alternative form of protein when meat is scarce. Porotos con riendas (beans and spaghetti) is common in Chile whilst plato paceño is a Bolivian dish which combines the all common carbohydrates, very useful for those who live at such high altitudes. Common varieties of bean include the Lima bean (named after the capital of its country of origin, Peru), garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) and black-eyed beans which are used in northern Colombia to make fritters called Buñuelos de Fríjol de Cabecita Negra.

Rice (arroz), typically white long-grain rice, accompanies almost every meal in Latin America. It is often used to bulk up soups or mixed with egg to create the simple snack arroz con huevo. Arroz fermentado is a drink from Ecuador made from fermented rice.

Other typical vegetables of the region include sweet potatoes, yams, cassava (or yuca), squash, peppers and tomatoes. The high altitude, and lower atmospheric pressure, found in the sierra (highlands) means that water boils at a much lower temperature than on the coast and so the cooking of vegetables can take longer Peruvian cooking makes much use of the spicy aji pepper whether to make a sauce or to serve whole. Rocoto rellena is a rocoto pepper stuffed with vegetables and meat;

The fish and seafood available in this region are amongst the best in the whole thanks to the Humboldt Current which brings nutrient and plankton-rich, and very cold, water up from the Antarctic to the coast of Western South America. The best country to experience the fabulous seafood available is probably Chile. Its abundant shellfish such as crabs, clams, mussels and giant barnacles are used alongside meat and potatoes in a traditional dish known as curanto which is prepared in a leaf-lined hole using hot rocks.

Ceviche is extremely popular throughout the whole of Latin America, and increasingly the rest of the world. It is considered the national dish of both Peru and Ecuador whilst it is also highly prized in Chile and Colombia.  The most traditional Peruvian recipe calls for the fish or seafood within the ceviche to be marinated for a short time in lemon or lime juice whist orange juice is preferred in Ecuador and Colombia and grapefruit juice (with the marinating often lasting for many hours) in Chile. Ecuadorian ceviche also typically includes tomato sauce and takes the form of a kind of soup, with sides of tostado (toasted corn) or chifles (plaintain chips), as opposed to the seafood platter form of the Peruvian cerviche served with onions, aji peppers, sweet potatoes and corn.

The main ingredient of the ceviche also depends on which country you are in. Peru and Ecuador tend to prefer halibut or corvino (sea bass) and ceviche de camarones (shrimp cooked in a tangy lemon juice and served with onions and cilantro) is found on the menu of nearly all seafood restaurants in Ecuador. In Chile Chilean sea bass, is the obvious choice as well as the Patagonian toothfish whilst landlocked Bolivia uses freshwater fish from Lake Titicaca such as trucha (trout) or pejerrey (kingfish) or lowland river fish like surubí and pucú. Colombia has both a Pacific and an Caribbean coastline which offers access to fish and seafood not found in the Andean countries to the south.

Typical Foods – Part Two

Away from the coast other animal proteins are used. Chicken (pollo) is very common, whether served with rice in the ubiquitous pollo con arroz, in a soup (seco de pollo- Peru & Ecuador) or cazeula de ave – (Chile), roasted (pollo a la braza – Peru) and as a stew (sajta de pollo – Bolivia). Escabeche, a stew in which vegetables are pickled in vinegar and then mixed with chicken is one example of a popular Bolivian meal that originated with the Spanish Conquistadors of the 16th century

Beef dishes are also popular with examples including lomo saltado (a salted-beef stir fry served with fries and rice – Peru and Ecuador), charquicán (a Chilean stew) and caldo de costilla (a Colombian soup made with beef ribs). A popular meal served throughout Bolivia is pique a lo macho, a massive plate of chopped beef and sausage fried together with potatoes, onions, tomatoes and chilies. Ch’arki (jerky) is dried, salted meat that is found through the Andes and is used as either a snack or as an accompaniment to other dishes. Beef is the usual ingredient nowadays but in Bolivia llama meat is still widely used.


In the highlands of Peru and Bolivia, and to a lesser extent in Ecuador and Colombia the domesticated guinea pig (cuy) is a traditional dish either fried (chactado), roasted (al horno) or in a soup (locro de cuy – Ecuador). Cuy meat is high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol and was originally eat for ceremonial purposes by local tribes such as the Incas but nowadays is a more-or-less everyday dish with an estimated 65 million guinea pigs being eaten in Peru every year. The meat from other domesticated animals such as the llama and alpaca have also been traditionally used in the Andes and alpaca especially as becoming more widely used in other regions.

Chugchucaras is a local specialty from the central Ecuadorian sierra town of Latacunga which combines fried pork, mote, potatoes, plantains, tostada, fried egg and accompanied by a spicy aji sauce. Chicharrón (died-fried pork) and lechón (roasted pork) is common throughout Latin American. Seco de chivo (goat stew) is a popular dish from Ecuador. Conejo Guisado con Leche de Coco is a Colombian stew made with rabbit and coconut milk.  In the jungle regions of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia more exotic meat sources include turtle, monkey, caiman, catfish and piranha.

Many of the region’s dishes also make use of offal, the cheaper parts of the animal which includes organs such as the heart, brain, stomach as well as extremities like feet and heads. Caldo de pata (a pig’s foot soup) is found in Ecuador whilst guatita and sopa de mondongo (stew-like soups made from tripe – cow’s stomach) are popular in both Ecuador and Chile. Anticuchos are a Peruvian snack in which ox hearts are sliced, marinated in vinegar and spices and then grilled on skewers. Ají de lengua (a stew of cow’s tongue in a spicy sauce) is a common dish that is served throughout Bolivia.

A number of different herbs and spices are used in the local cuisine to enhance the flavor of various dishes. Cilantro, or coriander, is a prominent ingredient through the region, especially for seafood dishes. More locally palillo is an indigenous Peruvian herb that is similar to turmeric that is mainly used to give dishes like Papa a la Huancaína an attractive golden color. In Colombia the herb guascas, with a taste quite similar to fennel, is used in one of the national dishes, ajiaco, a delicious chicken soup. Huacatay is used as a culinary herb in Peru, Ecuador, and parts of Chile and Bolivia where its pungent flavour is very much an acquired taste.

As well as fruits known world-wide such as apples, bananas, limes, pineapples, guavas, etc there are also some fruits that are almost unknown outside of the region and many of them are used in local desserts or even in savory dishes. Chirimoyas, known as custard apples in English, has a white creamy flesh which contains large black seeds and is said to taste like a combination of banana, peach, papaya, pineapple and strawberry.

Tuna, or cactus fruit, has a bright red flesh full of tiny seeds and tastes similar to watermelon. Lucuma has been very popular in Peru since the Moche era and nowadays it is used to make ice-cream as well as in various other desserts. Its taste can be very unfamiliar to non-natives but is often said to be a mixture of maple and sweet potato. Other fruits from the region are pepino dulce (a sweet pepper that tastes somewhat like melon) and membrillo (quince).


There are numerous delicious desserts which tourists to the region often fall in love with and leave full of regret that they are unable to taste them once their vacation is over. Alfajores are popular through the region but each country has their own way of making them. Their usual form is of two small, round cookies with a sweet filling in-between.  Peruvian amd Bolivian alfajores tend to be coated in icing sugar and filled with manjar blanco, a thick, caramel like sauce made by boiling sweetened condensed milk. Alfajores in Chile often contain other fillings such as mousse or jam and can be covered in dark or white chocolate. Arroz con leche is very similar to rice pudding which also contains nutmeg, raisins or regional variations such as coffee in Colombia or egg yolk and orange peel in Peru. Ecuador has its own take on the dish, morocho, which is made using the morocho grain instead of rice.

Germans settlers to the central valleys of Chile in the latter part of the 19th century brought with them many delicious cakes and pastries, for example kuchen which are still very popular today. A more traditional Chilean dessert is mote con huesillo, a dessert popular during the summer, which combines dried peaches soaked in syrup and served over barley grain.

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A walk along the River Tees from Winston to Piercebridge and back again.

Stage 1 – Winston to Gainford

This 12.5 mile (20km) circular walk initially follows the long distance footpath the Teesdale Way from Winston to Piercebridge and back to Winston. The walk started in the village of Winston, just off the A67 and about 5 miles from the main town of Teesdale, Barnard Castle. Winston is set high up on a ridge above the Tees and is home to St. Andrews Church. Parts of the church date from the 13th century but the majority of the building was rebuilt in the mid 1800s by John Dobson, the architect responsible for designing many of the neoclassical buildings which today make up the centre of Newcastle.

After parking on the main road in the village I have a quick chat with an old woman who lives in one of the cottages. She asks me where I am walking to and I reply Piercebridge. She mentions that there is a bus back to Winston every hour should I wish to take the easy way back but as I don’t have any money with me that option is not open to me.

I turn left down the B6274 road leading to Richmond which took me down to the fine stone bridge over the wide, rocky and dark River Tees. The bridge was completed in 1763 and managed to survive the great flood of 1771 which caused much damage, and some deaths, elsewhere along the river. The bridge was designed by Sir Thomas Robinson – the politician, architect and 1st Baronet of the nearby Rokeby Park estate – and was comprised of one single 111 feet arch which was the longest single span arch in England at one point. The bridge was initially part of an important route used to transport coal from the pits in South Durham to the towns of North Yorkshire but once the railway system started to grow in the region the road because less important.

The Teesdale Way actually passes alongside the northern side of the River Tees for this section and so I turn left just before the bridge and pass through an open field which is separated from the river by a narrow strip of woodland. After passing a water treatment plant the path then makes its way through a field with the huge leaves of the wild rhubarb plant on one side and tall, pink willow herb on the other.

The path then enters woodland and moves closer to the river. Boardwalks take you over the more boggy areas and a number of smaller paths lead down to the river which is flat and calm producing mirror like reflections of the trees on the other side. I am able to spot numerous waterfowl making use of the river. In the distance a pair of grey heron rise up from the river’s edge and fly off upstream. A small, dark coloured bird, possibly a dipper or a grey wagtail, flits across the large rocks that run across the river

The path then starts to climb up the bluff which runs along the northern side of the river until it reaches a lay-by off the A67. The path then descends back down to the river level again and continues through woodland for about half a mile. From the riverbank I can see a bridge further downstream and soon I reach some steps which lead upwards to the top of the bridge. Another path passes below the bridge and leads further along the river. I attempt to follow it and I am soon passing beneath large under-hangs from a high rocky cliff and through overgrown undergrowth but eventually the path peters out and I am forced to return to the steps.

This bridge is the West Tees railway bridge which was originally built to take the Darlington and Barnard Castle railway across the River Tees. This line, opened in 1856, branched off from the Stockton and Darlington Railway and was the brainchild of the S&DR’s owner Henry Pease, the MP for South Durham who would also be responsible for the building of Saltburn-on-Sea.

After leaving Barnard Castle the railway line ran along the northern side of the River Tees, with stations at Broomielaw and Winston, before reaching the Selaby Park estate just north of Gainford. The estate was owned by William Vane, the 2nd Duke of Cleveland, who viewed railways with distain and refused to let the line pass through his parkland. Therefore Thomas Bouch, the railway’s chief engineer, was forced to re-route the line southward so that it would have to pass over the River Tees via the West Tees railway bridge for a short section before turning east and crossing back over to the northern side of the river via the Gainford railway bridge further downstream.

West Tees bridge is now fenced off and closed to the public but the Teesdale way follows the former track-bed along the raised embankment northwards through an avenue of trees until it reaches the A67. I now turn right, heading towards Gainford through a disused lay-by and crossing Alwent Beck. After walking about a mile along the main road a sign-post indicates where the Teesdale Way heads back down towards the river once more. The sign-post also pointed towards the old Gainford Spa. Next to the sign-post is a display board giving information about Gainford. Around the edge of the board are a number of colourful drawings by the local school-children.

The path, heading west for a short distance, leads down a set of steps until it reaches the river level. Here the Gainford Spa can be seen. This is a large fountain-like structure which has water bubbling out of its top. The very cold mineral water, emanating from a natural well which passes through the sandstone beneath, has a strong sulphurous smell but doesn’t taste too bad. The current structure is a replica built in 2002 after the original font was vandalized. The original bowl stands nearby and used to display a number of metal plaques displaying information on those people involved in the restoration but these now appear to have been stolen.

The spa was first discovered by coal miners around 1840 and led to a large increase in visitors to the town, drawn there by the supposed health benefits of the mineral water. The railway line from Darlington helped greatly in bringing tourists. There were plans to try and pipe the water to a pavilion within Gainford itself but these never came to fruition. Gainford’s population grew as a result of those visitors who decided to stay in the village and it soon grew into a small town. However, the Spa’s popularity waned after the First World War.

After leaving the Spa the path now heads through Grant Bank Wood towards Gainford. After a short distance the path heads back up to the A67 and there is another short section along the road before reaching the town. Across a field to the right the Gainford railway bridge can be seen. As explained earlier this bridge, along with the West Tees Bridge upstream, carried the Darlington and Barnard Castle line across the river until its closure in November 1964. The bridge is now overgrown with weeds and closed to the public. I was hoping there would be some way of crossing the river here so that I wouldn’t have to travel all the way to Piercebridge and then back to Winston the long way.

I enter the attractive small town, or large village, of Gainford, once known as the “Queen of Durham villages”, and turn right down Low Lane heading towards what used to be the centre of the old village. In doing so I pass by the Jacobean Gainford Hall originally built in 1603 for the vicar of Gainford and later Archdeacon of Northumberland John Cradock. Following Cradock’s death in 1627 the house was abandoned while uncompleted and later fell into disrepair along with the landscaped gardens. The building was restored in the 19th century. The grounds of the Hall also contain a fine example of a 17th century dovecote.

I then pass Gainford C of E Primary School before turning right down School Lane which leads down to the river. Next to the school are some Nissen Huts dating from World War Two which were used to house displaced foreign nationals, mainly from Eastern Europe, who were unable to return home for political reasons. Further down the lane is a building known as the Edleston Spite House. Spite houses were buildings built purely to annoy neighbours or rival land owners. The Edleston family owned this plot of land, just next to St. Mary’s Church. When Joseph Edleston, who had worked for the church for over 40 years including a spell as reverend, died in 1895 his family expressed the wish to build a monument to Joseph in the churchyard.

The church denied their request, saying that the churchyard was already full but told the Edleston family that if they wished to donate their land to enable the churchyard to be extended they were welcome to build their monument. Aggrieved, the family instead decided to build a house on the land which was completed in 1904. In 1923 Robert Edleston also purchased a 40 foot high Tuscan-style column which had been constructed around 1750 at the nearby Stanwick Park estate by Sir Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland, to ccommemorate the Treaty of Aachen which ended the 7-year War of Austrian Succession. The column was re-built right next to the churchyard and formerly held a now destroyed statue that was said to resemble a “v-sign” although this may well be apocryphal.

Opposite Edleston House is a small road that leads to the Barforth Hall Bridge which I will come to later. School Lane passes by a playing field belonging to the school and then a small walled cemetery surrounded by tall conifers. After passing through a gate I now come to a pleasant riverside path with a number of memorial benches facing the river dotted around. In the 12th century the border between England and Scotland was set at the river Tees thanks to the peace treaty signed at Durham between the warring King Stephen of England and King David I of Scotland and so during this time Gainford would have been an important border town. This lasted until 1157 when the new English king, Henry II, reclaimed the land north of the Tees.

At the point where the River Tees turns from the south to the east there is a large expanse of large pebbles upon which two boys are fishing, their bicycles resting upon a tree on the bank. My OS map clearly shows a red dotted line, signifying a bridleway, crossing the river here but there is no crossing point across the river nowadays. But this is a site of the Barforth Wath (an Old English word meaning “ford”) and it is said that it was possible to see the remains of the road to Barforth when the river level was low. Near here, between places on the river known as High Boat Pool and Boat Scar, there was also a private ferry used by the Herbert family, owners of Barforth Hall at that time. There was also another wath, Gainford Wath, crossing the river at the end of School Lane.

The original settlement was built around what was an important crossing point of the River Tees and the name Gainford is said to have been derived from the Old English word “gegn”, meaning “ford on a direct route”. The ford was part of an important route used by the Brigantes, a Celtic tribe who inhabited much of northern England during pre-Romans times, taking them to the Iron Age hill fort at Stanwick, about 3 miles to the south. They were forced to cross here due to the presence of the Roman Fort at Piercebridge further downstream.

There was a ferry crossing here up until 1950 from a point at the end of Watergate, just east of the vicarage, known as Low Boat Pool to a boathouse, demolished in the 1970s, on the Yorkshire side of the river. A track, still known as Boat Lane, led up to the farms and villages on that side of the river. It is said that the last boat used for the ferry is buried beneath a sandy bank near to where the boathouse once stood. I follow the riverside path northwards alongside the school playing field until I reached the bridge which once led across to Barforth Hall. It was private built, with help from the army, just after the Second World War by John Graham, owner of Barforth Hall at the time, to help transport stone from his nearby quarry, now closed.

The bridge was closed in 2009 due to it being in a poor condition with many of the railway sleepers used to line the bridge being broken or missing and only two of the three support piers remaining standing. As this was the only route available to cross the river at this point many inhabitants of Gainford or Barforth , a tiny hamlet across the river, or visiting walkers took their own lives in their hands by continuing to cross the bridge until a large brick wall, and a large warning notice, was erected on the Gainford side of the bridge and a large gate on the Barforth side.

That meant that Barforth was now cut off from Gainford and those few people that lived there now had to drive 6 miles down a farm track to reach the nearest major road. Initially they would have had to travel a total of 14 miles to collect their mail from Gainford Post Office as the local postal workers refused to deliver anymore but now their mail is collected by the Richmondshire sorting office instead. I decided not to risk attempting to cross the bridge, especially as I had my dog Molly with me, and looked to see if I could get across the river somewhere else.

I headed back east along the riverside path to where the river was split into various channels by some heavily vegetated islands. The river was also quite shallow here with numerous large rocks that could be used as stepping stones. I picked up Molly and attempted to make a river crossing. I got about halfway across the first channel before the gaps between the rocks became a bit too large but decided to just enter the water to complete the rest of the crossing. Luckily it was only about shin deep but it meant my shoes and lower part of my trousers were now soaked.

Once on the island I fought through the thick grass to the other side but saw the southern channel was too deep and treacherous to cross and decided to head further down the island to see if I could find somewhere easier. This failed and so Molly and I were forced to cross back over to the northern bank. By now the northern channel was virtually clear of rocks and so I had no choice but to wade back across.

I squelched further down the riverside path until I came to a concrete viewing platform and groyne which jutted out into the river. As part of the year 2000 millennium celebrations a sundial was built on the platform but it didn’t look in the best condition during my visit. To reach the centre of the village I had to pass through the churchyard of St Mary’s. This 12th century church was built upon the site of the Saxon Gegenforda monastery, built by Egred, Bishop of Lindisfarne and dating from around 800.

The current church incorporates fittings and artifacts such as various Saxon crosses and a Roman altar and is surrounded by a graveyard dating back to ancient times. The church also has a tower which contains six medieval bells and a fine clock. Down some steps at the back of the church is St Mary’s Well whose water was used to carry out baptisms. The day after my visit the church was burgled and several pieces of silver, including three chalices, were stolen from a safe.

The large village green, the heart of the community and dating from the 12th century, can be seen here. Next to the church is the large, ivy-clad former Vicarage which has now been converted into two private houses. A row of two-storey stone cottages dating from the 18th and 19th century line the southern side of the green along with a number of houses built in the 1960s which look rather out of place in these surroundings. The larger Georgian and Victorian terraced houses on the north of the green are rather more prestigious and were built by some of Gainford’s richer inhabitants, many of whom were attracted to the area by the spa.

At the north-eastern corner of the green, at the top of a grassy bank which separates the Low Green from the High Green, is the former Gainford Academy, a private school which was founded by Rev. William Bowman in 1818 and attracted pupils from a wide area, including Arthur Stanley Jefferson (better known as Stan Laurel) until its closure in 1899 after losing out to the larger County School in Barnard Castle. The coffee shop next door to the Academy is actually named The Laurels, most probably in recognition of Gainsford’s celebrity pupil.

Stage 2 – Gainford to Piercebridge

After leaving the village green area my route now takes me east along Tees View with a row of large,stone terraced cottages on the northern side and a fine view of fields and woodland leading down to the river on the southern side. Then I pass the Lord Nelson pub, one of two public houses in Gainford (the other being The Cross Keys) and rejoin the A67.

Just to the east of Gainford is a large, dilapidated but quite impressive looking red brick building which I assumed used to be some sort of factory but was actually the former St. Peter’s School. The school was opened in 1900, a year after the closure of the Gainford Academy, and was originally a orphanage for around 300 Catholic children. In 1937 120 orphaned Basque children were brought to the school after their families had been torn apart by the Spanish Civil War. The Home Office took over the building in 1939 and used it as an approval school (borstal) until 1984 when it was sold and converted into a care home for the elderly under the name Greenacres.

It continued in this function until its closure in 1999. It is currently in a dangerous condition and attracts vandals and those attracted to the site by tales of its past inhabitants still stalking its floors. Developers Kebbel Homes, who own part of the site, have announced plans to built flats here but as yet no work has been carried out and the developers have been criticised by local people for failing to secure the site properly.

Just after the old school a sign-post points out that the Teesdale Way leads off through the field to the right. A fenced off path takes you diagonally through a pasture housing a few horses. After climbing a stile I pass beneath a bridge which once supported the Forcett Railway. This private line, opened in 1866, branched off from the main Darlington to Barnard Castle line to quarries in East Layton and Forcett as well as the goods station in the latter. The line crossed the Tees just south of here via a fine, high viaduct which was demolished in the early 1970s.

The path then leads mostly through open fields separated from the river by a strip of woodland. There is a brief section through this woodland where I pass the site of the old Gainford Mill which was transferred here from its previous location close to where the Barforth Hall bridge is by Rev. John Cradocke in the early 1600s. It continued to function after just after the First World War and was then abandoned to ruin. After leaving the woods to pass through the open field again I pass Snow Hall high up on my left. The original Snow Hall, occupied by the Raine family, existed in the early 1600s but the current building dates from the mid 19th century when it was bought, and renovated, by the 4th Duke of Cleveland Harry Powlett, who leased out the properties to numerous people.

Just before reaching Piercebridge I spot a strange structure which looks like a large green tube arching across the river. At first I thought it was some kind of modern footbridge but when I get nearer I see that it is actually a pipe bridge. The bridge was built in 1936 by the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Board and is used to transport water, in two large steel pipes, from the north to the south side of the river. The bridge was repainted and reinsulated in 2007. There is an entrance to the bridge for maintenance workers on the south bank but is not accessible to the public.

After entering a gate I past by outbuildings attached to Mill House and then follow a path to a long driveway taking me into the centre of Piercebridge. Here I reach the B6275 which follows the much of the route used by the Roman road Dere Street which ran north from York, across Hadrian’s Wall to Newstead in the Scottish Borders. To cross the River Tees the Roman’s built a wooden bridge in around the 1st century AD that ran through what is now the grounds of the George Hotel, about 150m east of the current bridge. Wooden piers, which would have supported the bridge, were found in the river bed during a drought in the 1930s which lowered the water level. It is believed that this bridge was destroyed by a large flood at the end of the 2nd century.

A second, larger bridge was then built about 200m east of the first bridge. Collapsed masonry which were once at least five piers that held the wooden deck of the bridge can be seen in a field on the southern bank of the river. The partially complete abutment, the structure built at the end of a bridge to support its superstructure can also be seen at the southern end of the field. The hole used to hold the wooden timbers used for the deck of the bridge can still clearly be seen. The river has moved north since Roman times and therefore the northern abutment of the bridge have been washed away.

A large rectangular fort was also built by the Romans in the 3rd century AD. This fort, named Morbium, housed a number of legions used to fight the local Brigantes tribe and was in used up until the early 5th century when it was abandoned when the Romans withdrew from Britain. Part of the eastern section of the fort has been excavated and is now on display to the public. The site contains a bath-house, various defenses and drains and culverts used to transport water. The majority of the fort is still beneath the modern day village buildings and the village green.

Stage 3 – Piercebridge to Winston

The current 3-arched ashlar sandstone bridge was thought of have been originally built in the 13th century but much of it was rebuilt in the 16th century. The bridge was then widened in 1789. I cross over from Piercebridge in Durham to the Richmondshire village of Cliffe on the opposite bank, after a brief detour along a path leading through an arch at the side of a pink cottage to have a quick glance at the ruins of the Roman fort, and passed by the George Hotel on my left.

A local folktale tells of the Jenkins brothers, who ran the hotel about 160 years ago. The hotel had a fine grandfather clock which was renowned for its excellent time-keeping. However, when one of the brothers died the clock increasingly began to lose time and when the other brother passed away the clock stopped completely. In 1875 the American songwriter Henry Clay Work stayed in the hotel and heard the tale about the clock. This gave him an idea for what would become his most famous and best-selling composition “My Grandfather’s Clock”. The clock still stands in the corner of the lobby but its hands still refuse to move. Another of the hotel’s most famous residents was the highwayman Dick Turpin who has a room named after him.

Just after crossing the bridge I turn right through a gateway in the stone wall and enter Kathleen Wood. Where the path splits I take the southern branch and soon leave the wood to enter a open field. This field is the location for two tumuli (Bronze Age burial mounds). The first one is known as Betty Watson’s Hill, contained a tall oak tree, and was excavated in 1904 although nothing was found. It is suspected that grave robbers had get there first. Just to the south is the second tumulus, known as Howe Hill, which houses a clump of trees.

I then pass into another field which, to my surprise, contains a cricket pitch along with a small pavilion. This is the home of Cliffe Cricket Club who currently play in Division A of the Darlington & District League and who just managed to avoid relegation in the season just finished. After passing the cricket field I enter a long tarmac road which leads east towards the Cliffe Hall estate, established in the 13th century. Cliffe Hall was once a fine Georgian mansion by only the Victorian section of the house now remains and functioned as a bed and breakfast establishment until a large fire caused much damage in 2005.

The road continues past some cottages and then skirts around Low Field Farm to Chapel House farm after crossing the path of former Forcett Railway line. Here the path disappears and a couple of fields need to be navigated before joining the drive leading to Low Fields Farm. This soon joins Boat Lane which leads down to the former ferry crossing at Gainford. After a short distance I turn left onto a track which rises steadily up Crake Bank to give fine views of the river Tees to the north.

This path eventually brings you to the weed covered ruin of St Lawrence’s Chapel. Much of the walls still stand, including the eastern gable with its three windows, but the roof is long gone. The building is in two sections with the western part, the nave, originating from the 12th century. The chapel was enlarged in the 13th century and functioned as a religious building, possibly used as a training centre for monks, until the 16th century. The western part was then converted into a dwelling for the priest and then was used as a farmhouse up to the 18th century before falling into ruin.

There are also the remains of about four other buildings hidden nearby amongst the overgrown grass, as well as evidence of a pond, and it is probably part of a settlement called Brieforde or Bereforde (“Barley Ford”) which was deserted in the early 15th century, possibly due to many of its inhabitants dying from the Black Death plague. The area was also referred to as “Old Richmond” in some old texts. The remainder of the village is thought to been buried beneath the large field to the west.

This field is connected to the site of the chapel via the 14th century packhorse bridge Chapel Bridge over the small, dark Black Beck which tumbles down the hillside via the Hell Hole waterfall just to the north. The bridge was part of an important route in the area but is currently closed to traffic due to it being in a poor, unsafe condition. About 100m north of the ruined chapel is a 16th century dovecot, similar in style that the one in the grounds of Gainford Hall.  Doves were often kept as a source of food and a symbol of high social status. This particular dovecote could hold up to 400 nesting birds.

After leaving the ruin I headed up towards the tiny hamlet of Barforth which consists of only a few houses and farm buildings, including stables and a stud farm for horses, surrounding the former 16th century manor house Barforth Hall. Here I get a bit lost trying to find the correct route to take me back to the bridge at Winston. Initially I head past the Hall towards the condemned bridge to Gainford but quickly realise this is not the right way. As I head back I spot a couple of llamas in a field and go over to have a closer look. Then I spot a woman getting into her car and ask her how I can get to Winston, showing her the route marked in my guide-book, but she can only direct me to a bridleway which leads past the stables.

I follow her direction and come to a large field with another field, roped off and containing numerous horses, on the other side. I search for another exit from the field but there is only a locked gate on one side. Just then, an elderly gentleman enters the field and heads towards the horses so I make my way over to him to ask for further directions. He tells me I need to cross over the locked gate and follow the path down past a large oak tree to a dip where I can then take a path leading west across a field. I lift Molly over the gate and then climb over, pass a derelict caravan and come to a large corn-field with no discernible path anywhere to be seen.

I wander across the freshly-cut cornfield and head in what I assume is the corret direction and eventually I managed to spot a path leading across the edge of a field on the other side of a barbed wire fence. Luckily there is a section nearby where the wire has fallen down and so I’m able to climb over. After crossing the field I pass through a gate and join a farm-track leading down to, and then along the edge of the river.  I  pass Hedgeholme, a stud farm and the site of a ford across the river before the bridge at Winston was built before finally reaching the bridge and heading back up the hill to my waiting car. In total this walk took about 6 hours but I spent a lot of time exploring during the walk which would have added a bit of extra


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A History of the Peruvian Guano Industry


For almost 600 years, ever since the Spanish invaded in 1528, Peru has been associated with golden Incan treasures or jungle-clad ruins. It is also the home of the potato, one of the most popular and widely-used vegetables in the world and more than 3000 species of potato can be found there. After an uprising against the Spanish rulers in the early 19th century Peru, led by the liberators Jose de San Martin of Argentina and Simon Bolivar of Venezuela, finally achieved independence from Spain on 28th July, 1821.

In the two decades that followed conflicts, both internally and externally, meant that Peru found it very difficult to achieve stability and growth and it wasn’t until Ramon Castilla became President in 1845 that Peru was finally able to settle down and start prospering on its own. As a result of its struggle for independence from Spain the country had accumulated huge debts and was virtually bankrupt, being unable to reply her foreign creditors. From about this time to approximately 40 years later (a historical period often referred to as the Guano Age) the largest input of wealth in Peru, one that would revitalise the whole economy of the young republic, came from a rather surprising source. Guano, or bird droppings, had been accumulating on the coastal islands of Peru for hundreds of years when, due to scientific breakthroughs in Europe, it was suddenly discovered to have great value as a fertilizer.


  The Guano Islands


Figure 1 – The most important guano-producing islands of Peru


The northernmost guano islands were the Lobos group comprising of Lobos de Tierra and Lobos de Afuera (made up of Isla Independencia, Isla Cachimbo plus numerous small islets). Both of them lie of the coast of the department of Lambayeque with the former at a distance of 19km and the latter 93km.

The Macabi island group, comprised North (“Norte”) and South (“Sur”) islands, are around 10km from the town of Puerto Chicama on the coast of the department of La Libertad. At one point they may have formed one larger island but, due to erosion or earthquakes, they have now become separated by a 35m wide channel. North Macabi Island is around 30m high with a diameter of about 1.5km.

The North and South Guanape islands are about 10km from the Morro Guanape peninsula in La Libertad, just south of the city of Trujillo. The two islands are separated by a 2km channel and are surrounded by various small islets and rocks. South Guanape Island is the higher of the two reaching 165m. Pre-Columbian artefacts dating from the Guanape and Salinar tribes, who lived in the nearby Viru valley around 1000BC and between 200BC and 200AD respectively, were found on the islands when the above layers were removed during guano mining. As well as the artefacts decapitated bodies of sacrificed young women whose ribs and breasts were covered in thin gold foil were also found showing that these islands were known about well before the arrival of the Spanish.

The greatest sources of guano were the three (North, Central and South) Chincha Islands, located in the Bay of Pisco 21 kilometres from the city of Pisco in the Ica department of central Peru. These rocky, barren islands are comprised of volcanic rock, are all less than one mile across and, apart from a couple of narrow beaches, are surrounded by high cliffs up to 300 feet high. There is archaeological evidence of human’s visits to the island going back over thousand years. Some of the artefacts, found deep under the layers of guano and soil, pre-date the Moche tribe from northern Peru who left evidence of their visits to the island, possibly for the purpose of mining guano, during the first millennium AD. Later came the Chincha tribe who ruled this part of Peru from the time of the Moche to just prior to their absorption into the rapidly expanding Inca Empire in the 15th century.

Of the seabirds that live on these islands the most important is the Guanay Cormorant (Phalacrocorax bougainvillii) which supplies the richest and most plentiful guano. As a result the native Peruvians give it the name “Guanay” meaning “the guano bird”. These, along with other guano-producing birds that live on the islands are the White-Breasted Cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus), the Gray Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis), the Peruvian Pelican ((Pelecanus thagus) and the Peruvian Booby (Sula variegata), were at that time estimated to number up to a million and which each bird excreting around 20 grams of dung a day they were capable of producing up to 11000 tons of guano a year.


Figure 2 – from left to right: Peruvian Pelican, Guanay Cormorant, White-Breasted Cormorant, Peruvian Booby


Running up the western coast of South America is the Humboldt Current which brings cold water up from Antarctica. This current results in valuable organic and mineral nutrients being added to the coastal water off Peru which supplies food for large masses of plankton. In turn, this plankton is fed upon by small fish such as anchovies or larger fish such as sardines or mackerel. At the top end of the food chain these fish are eaten by those birds mentioned above.

The Humboldt Current also creates a unique weather pattern in which the cold water and the warm air lead to very little rainfall being produced. This meant that instead of the guano being washed away the islands ended up being covered in a layer of extremely hard guano that was over 50 metres thick in places. The hot sun and very dry climate baked the guano and preserved the nitrates and phosphates that made the Peruvian guano the richest in the world.

As well as the bird-life some of the islands were also inhabited by large mammals such as sea-lions (Otaria flavescens) and the southern fur-seal (Arctocephalus australis). All the islands are comprised of the volcanic rock andesite and, apart from some of the larger islands which have beaches, are surrounded by high cliffs making access to them difficult. The waters surrounding the island are very deep, up to several hundred metres, and the seas can get very rough which also limits access. On the higher islands a form of “loma”-type vegetation grows but the majority of the islands are totally devoid of any plant-life due to the thick layers of guano covered them. A lone Chilean Mesquite (Prosopis chilenis) tree once grew on Lobos de Tierra Island but was cut down in 1978


The Rise of the Guano Industry in Peru

The use of guano as fertilizer is said to have originated with the Moche tribe who lived along the northern coast of Peru from around 100AD to about 800AD. From around the 14th century the Incas made extensive use of the guano. The word “guano” actually comes from the old Quechua word “huanu”, meaning “dung”. Guano was considered so important to the Incas that they limited access to the islands and anyone found to have killed one of the guano-producing birds was sentenced to death. They allocated each of the islands to a particular province and only farmers from that province had access to the guano produced by a certain island.

Ever since the Spanish had arrived in the country in 1527 it had mainly been forgotten about. As well as the many losses suffered during the Spanish invasion the population of the Incas was also decimated by civil war, disease and famine and many of those that remained were forced into slavery. Because of this the necessities for guano in native farming declined rapidly although there were a few visits to the guano islands by foreign vessels over the next two centuries.

In the early 19th century, when there became a need for new sources of fertilizer, for the European market in particular, the guano industry woke up from its long slumber. It was the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt (who gave his name to the Humboldt Current), along with the French botanist Aimé Bonpland, who re-discovered the properties of the material in 1802 during their South American expedition. They sent samples of the guano to various European chemists, for example Sir Humphrey Davy, for analysis and it was found to be extremely rich in phosphorus and nitrogen, important ingredients for photosynthesis and growth respectively, but its potential was not fully appreciated at the time and it remaining hidden to the outside world for another 30 years or so. Therefore European farmers continued using recycled waste and bone-meal as their sources of fertilizer. By the mid 19th century, the ever-growing European population meant that the farmers could not keep up with the required amount of crops and their soils were quickly becoming exhausted of any nutritive value.


Figure 3 – Left: Alexander von Humboldt, Right: Sir Humphry Davy



In 1838 two Lima businessmen, Carlos Barroilhet and the French-Peruvian Aquiles Alliers, became convinced of the almost magical properties of the guano and asked an English merchant living in Valparaiso, Chile to send a sample to a merchant in Liverpool by the name of William Myers. Myers had many contacts within the local farming community and decided to hand out samples of the guano to these farmers to try out on their fields. The result was their best harvest for a very long time and in 1841 Professor James Johnston, of Durham University’s chemistry department published a paper (‘On Guano’) in the Journal of the Royal Society of Agriculture which showed that when used alongside more traditional fertilizers the guano performed extremely well. It was soluble, fast-acting and had an immediate effect on the growth of plants. These results captured Myer’s attention in such an amount that he put up a large amount of his own money to start importation of the guano. By 1841 the first cargo ship left the Peruvian port of Callao laden with around 2000 tons of guano for its final destination, Liverpool.


Chinese Slavery within the Guano Industry

All that was required to turn the guano into an almost inexhaustible supply of wealth was an army of workers, equipped with the necessary tools, to chip it away from the rock beneath. Initially these workers were comprised mostly of native slaves, army deserters and prisoners but soon the industry had expanded so much that the local workforce was insufficient and therefore another source of labour was needed. This source took the form of thousands of Chinese workers who travelled across the wide Pacific Ocean, in over-crowded, disease ridden ships, from cities such as Amoy and Macau. John Meares, a Royal Navy lieutenant and explorer, had used Chinese slaves in his fur trading industry on Vancouver Island at the end of the 18th century and they were also used in the sugar plantations on Hawaii in the early 19th century. The rapid increase in the population in China during the first half of the 19th century led to food shortages and poverty within the country and the these factors, along with the first Opium War between 1839 and 1842 forced many Chinese out of the country to seek their livelihoods elsewhere.

They had signed on, for periods of up to five years, after having been promised riches for both themselves and their families by the English agents at work in China looking for cheap labour. They were also under the false impression that they would actually be going to work in the gold mines of California rather than the guano islands, railways or sugar plantations of Peru. Many died during the five-month ocean voyage, through illness, flogging or from jumping overboard to escape the terrible conditions onboard, although it was estimated that around 30,000 workers still made it to the Chincha Islands between the mid 1840s and the mid 1870s. 


Figure 4 – A Chinese “coolie” being flogged onboard a slave ship


Figure 5 – The hold of the slave ship full of newly loaded “coolies”

A number of small villages, home to around 3000 workers and officials in total, eventually grew up on the islands. These buildings comprised mainly tiny, frail bamboo huts but those used for administration or for the housing of the officials were generally somewhat superior. On other islands the worker usually just slept in temporary accommodation such as tents during the periods of guano extraction. Their bedding consisted of old sacks that housed large populations of fleas and flies due to the poor sanitation standards. Water was provided by concrete cisterns which were filled by passing tankers as and when required although some of the larger islands had their own supply of running water. North Chincha Island housed the major facilities including a hotel, a small hospital and a number of extremely over-worked doctors. Very little evidence of these buildings remains today.


Figure 6 – The hotel near the main harbour of the Chincha Islands


Figure 7 – Chinese accommodation on the Chincha Islands


The Chinese workers soon became known by the nickname “coolie” (from the Hindu work kuli meaning “hired labourer”) and had to endure extremely arduous conditions, working up to 120 hours per week (an average of over 17 hours per day with no day off) under very hot, dry conditions. They were also unprotected by the labour laws that applied to other workers and so their masters could do pretty much as they pleased without fear of any legal punishment resulting from their ill-treatment. Black British slaves were employed to whip or flog any worker who did not pull his weight. Severe misdeeds were punished by tying the miscreant to a buoy in the sea. Instead of the promised riches they received payment of only 1 Peruvian Real per day and a small rice allowance. In order to try and pacify the workers the Peruvian authorities liaised with the British to import opium.

Once the guano had been removed, using picks and shovels, from the huge hills which covered almost the whole area of the islands it had to be transported in wheel-barrows, through distances ranging from only a hundred yards to up to a quarter of a mile, to depots perched high on the edge of the surrounding cliffs. These depots took the form of bamboo enclosures, supported against the cliff-face by chains. The guano was then emptied through canvas pipes called mangueras, located in the bottom of the enclosures, into waiting barges far below. The barges then transported the guano to the waiting merchant ships waiting off-shore. It took around three months to fill a ship with guano, especially as much of it was lost into the sea due to careless loading.


Figure 8 – A guano chute or “manguera” on the Chincha Islands


The dust from the guano caused many problems to the miners causing their lips and noses to bleed, producing conjunctivitis in the eyes and resulting in many of them dying from respiratory diseases such as bronchitis. Other diseases such as influenza and malaria were also very common as was infestation with ticks from the guano birds. The workers had to survive on a meagre diet of dried meat, hard bread and maggot-infested rice which was nowhere near enough to provide them with enough sustenance for their hard work, often having to manually mine up to 5 tonnes (between 80 and 100 barrows full) of guano per day. This diet led to many of the workers suffering from scurvy due to the lack of vitamin C.

The majority of the workers were of slender form and not at all used to such a severe workload and a great number of them eventually succumbed to over-working or to one of the various diseases that frequented the islands. Even amongst those who somehow managed to stay disease-free a large number chose suicide, over-dosing on opium, hanging themselves by their braces or throwing themselves off the high cliffs into the ocean far below. Very few of the 30,000 workers managed to complete the full five year term of their contract. The mortality rate during the first 15 years of the guano industry was between 35 and 40 percent.


The Lobos Islands Incident

By 1850 the guano industry had grown to such an extent that the US president, Millard Fillmore, declared during his State of the Union address that “Peruvian guano has become so desirable an article to the agricultural interest of the United States that it is the duty of the Government to employ all the means properly in its power for the purpose of causing that article to be imported into the country at a reasonable price.”

In June 1852 a conflict arose between Peru and the United States when the latter declared that they had the right to remove guano from the Lobos Islands. They claimed that the islands had been first discovered by the American ship Wasp in 1823 and that the distance of the islands from the Peruvian coast and their unpopulated status meant that Peru should have no jurisdiction over them. The British also had their eye on the islands and so the U.S Secretary of State Daniel Webster stated that a deal should be made with Peru to obtain the islands at an advantageous price. Meanwhile he threatened to send the US Navy to the islands to protect American ships in the area.

The Peruvian diplomat Juan Ignacio de Osma replied that the islands had actually been discovered by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro during his journey to Peru in the 16th century and that Peru claimed them as sovereign territory. Webster and Osma met on 2nd July but were unable to come to a satisfactory agreement. A short time later Osma wrote to Webster stated that whilst Peru was obviously very weak compared to the United States they were willing to defend themselves in the matter with whatever means necessary.

On 21st August Webster wrote the J. Randolph Clay, the American ambassador in Lima, that conflict with Peru should be avoided at all costs and that any acts against Peru by private US citizens would be considered an act of war. He also asked Clay to try to obtain acceptable rights for the US to take guano from the islands. In reply Peru put together documentation that proved their rights to the islands so convincingly that the US President Millard Fillmore was moved to apologise for the behaviour of the US towards Peru and gave recognition of Peru’s ownership of the islands.


The further rise of the Guano Industry

The price of Peruvian guano was now very high and controlled mostly by British companies (by the mid 1850s Britain was importing up to 300,000 tons of guano, mostly for use in turnip farming) so the Americans had to look elsewhere and therefore in 1856 the Guano Islands Act was passed, allowing the United States to acquire any un-occupied guano islands in the Pacific and Caribbean regions in order to build up their supplies, of great use in helping the American farmer’s crops grow. Around 60 islands were obtained due to this act but many were released from U.S control once the guano craze had diminished during the 20th century due to the development of artificial fertilizers.

Another regular visitor to the Chincha Islands at that time was the Irish-born William Russell Grace. Grace originally worked for the English import company Bryce Brothers as a chandler, supplying their ships with tools and other equipment. Grace took ownership of a old wreck situated just offshore from the Chincha Islands and converted it into a ship’s store which prevented the trading ships that visited the island from having to make the long trip to Callao for supplies. He later set up his own company Grace Brothers and Co. with his brother Michael which became so successful that he was able to buy out his former employers Bryce Brothers.

During his time in the Chincha Islands Grace also met his future wife, Lillius Gilchrist, the daughter of one of the ship’s captains who was supplied by Grace. They would go on to have eleven children, the first three of which were born on the Chincha Islands. In 1880 Grace would become the first Irish-American Catholic mayor of New York City. He held this post until 1882 then, after returning to the business world for a couple of years, became mayor of the city once more in 1884 until the end of his term in 1886. During this second term in office Grace accepted the French gift of the Statue of Liberty to the city.

In the early 1850s a British officer who was visiting the Chincha Islands reported seeing the simultaneous loading of guano into 100 ships, representing 11 different countries (44 from the United States, 40 from Great Britain, five from France, two from the Netherlands and one each from Norway, Sweden, Russia and Armenia as well as three delivering to local farmers in Peru). In addition hundreds of other large ships would be waiting their turn, for up to eight months, off-shore.


Figure 9 – Ships offshore from the Chincha Islands waiting to load up with guano


In 1860 433 ships took away a total of almost 350,000 tonnes of guano just from the Chincha Islands alone and the total annual income for the whole country came to just under 15 million dollars. Sir Clements Markham, the notable British explorer, made a visit to the Chincha Islands during that year and estimated that at the current rate of extraction the guano would last for another 20 years.

Despite this the worldwide demand for guano could not be met and other sources of guano from other islands throughout the world had to be used. This guano was usually far inferior to that found in the islands of Peru but despite this was often labelled as “Peruvian Guano” so that those buying it might think it was the real thing are therefore as a higher standard than it actually was.

The windfall brought about by this exporting boom created an artificial prosperity, which meant that the government could get by without having to implement proper financial control over the country. It also led to a huge increase in the number of capitalists who lived off the state and lived in exuberance from the massive amounts of money their guano export companies produced.

Initially each year’s guano output was sold to one or two private merchant banking firms in either Great Britain or continental Europe. One of these firms was the London firm Antony Gibbs and Sons who would play a major role in the guano industry for almost 20 years. The company had first opened an office in Lima in 1822 and initially dealt with items such as cocoa, cotton, tin, silver and wool. In 1842 they first signed a contract giving them rights to trade guano, an industry which was growing rapidly by then.

In 1847 they became the only company with rights to supply Peruvian guano to the North American and European markets and quickly became the most important company in the guano industry. They bought guano at a price of $15 per ton and sold it at $50 per ton. Britain was the major customer and generally imported around 100,000 tonnes per year but growing demand from the British farmers meant that more than 300,000 tonnes of guano was sent to Britain in 1858. The American market was somewhat less reaching a peak of 176,000 tonnes in 1855.


Figure 10- Peruvian guano exports 1845-1879


Later the guano market was opened up to syndicates of Peruvian businessmen, who paid for the product via loans obtained from the government at very high interest rates. From these re-payments the government was able to pay back most of the debts it had accrued from the various wars Peru had been involved in over the past few decades. However, it meant that they became increasingly indebted to the guano trade from a financially which, for the many people who relied on this income, spelt danger for the future should anything happen to this industry. For example, in 1859 the total state revenue was just under 22 million dollars of which 16 million came from the export of guano.

These problems came home to roost in the following decade when the supplies of guano, which had been extracted in increasingly higher numbers in the preceding years, suddenly began to diminish. This also led to a large decrease in the national revenue, which depended extremely heavily on the industry, and subsequently a large increase in the country’s debts, both internal and external.


The Chincha Islands War

After losing its control over South America during the early part of the 19th century Spain had suffered a number of crises, both internally and externally, and had been struggling economically and politically for a few decades. When Isabel the Second took the Spanish throne in 1843 the country’s fortunes began to rise once again. Following a number of successful military campaigns in places such as Morocco, Indochina and the Dominican Republic Spain was the fourth largest navy in the world by the early 1860s

In 1862 Queen Isabel sent a fleet of Spanish vessels, including three warships, to South America under the guise of a scientific expedition. In reality the trip was also to try and provide support to Spanish citizens living in the Americas. After brief stop-overs in the Chilean port of Valparaiso and the Peruvian port of Callao the fleet, under the command of Admiral Luis Hernandez Pinzon, continued on its way to San Francisco. Despite not having diplomatic relations with Peru since their independence from Spain in 1821, a decision which Spain still did not recognise, relations between the Spanish and the Peruvian authorities were said to have been friendly during their visit to Callao. They even paid a visit to the office of the Peruvian president, Pedro Diaz Canseco,

In August 1863, shortly after the Spanish had left for the United States, a fight broke out on a large farm in the village of Talambo in Lambayeque between immigrants from the Basque region of Spain and Peruvian natives. In 1859 the owner of the farm, Manuel Salcedo Peramas, had invited over seventy families from Spain to help with the cultivation of cotton. Upon hearing this the Spanish Government prevented the families from travelling as they felt it was derogatory to Spain that her subjects should be hired as farm labourers. As a result the emigrants had to travel to Callao via a French port using French passports. Senor Salcedo paid for their passage as well as supplying funds for them to purchase any necessary provisions.

When they reached Peru a number of the emigrants and their families decided to find employment elsewhere whilst keeping the money provided to them by their benefactor. However, the majority continued onwards to Talambo to take up their posts on Senor Salcedo’s farm. For four years things went very well with the Basque workers creating a very good impression and helping Senor Salcedo’s cotton production to flourish. But in August 1863 one of the Basque settlers, Marcial Miner, had a disagreement with Salcedo. This led to a small battle between the Basques and locals resulting in one member of each group being killed and a number being injured on both sides

Once Admiral Pinzon, whose fleet was still on route to San Francisco, heard about the incident he turned his ships around and returned to Callao. Once back in Peru Pinzon demanded an apology from the Peruvian government over the death of the Basque as well as compensation to the other affected immigrants. In response the Peruvians claimed that the incident was simply an internal matter, could be sorted by their own justice system and that no apology was necessary.


Figure 11 – Left: Admiral Luiz Hernandez Pinzon, Right: Manuel Salcedo Peramas


This response proved to be less than satisfactory to the Spanish government in Madrid who then decided to claim back the expenses owed to them by Peru following the Peruvian War of Independence in the early part of the 19th century. To negotiate on this matter Spain sent Eusebio Salazar y Mazaredo to Peru in the role of a Royal Commissioner. Peru found Mazaredo’s title to be insulting in that a commissioner is generally no more than a colonial functionary and that his correct title should have been ambassador, that is someone who acts as a diplomatic envoy for negotiations with an independent state. This matter meant that the talks between the two countries got off to a rocky start and things didn’t improve with Mazaredo and the Peruvian Foreign Minister Juan Ribeyro failing to come to an agreement.

In April 1864, angered by the lack of progress, Spain decided to take matters into their own hands by taking control of the Chincha Islands, Peru’s primary source of guano. The islands were only lightly defended and therefore the 400 Spanish marines were able to capture them without any trouble. Upon doing so they raised the Spanish flag over the islands and put the local Governor Ramon Valle Riestra under arrest upon the frigate Resolución. The Spanish planned to use the islands, which provided almost 60% of all of Peru’s revenue, as a bargaining tool and there were even proposals to pass them onto the British in exchange for Gibraltar.


Figure 12 – the Spanish Squadron, commanded by Admiral Pinzon, taking possession of the Chincha Islands


Figure 13 – Spanish troops on the Chincha Islands


The Spanish also blocked the major port of Callao causing much resentment throughout both Peru and the whole of Latin America. The newly elected Spanish Prime Minister, Ramon Maria Narvaez, decided to replace Admiral Pinzon with the more military capable Rear Admiral Juan Manual Pareja. Pareja had actually been born in Lima prior to Peruvian independence and his father had been killed whilst fighting in the Chilean War of Independence. Prime Minister Narvaez also sent another four warships to strengthen the Spanish fleet in the Pacific.

Rear Admiral Pareja arrived in Peru in December 1864 and immediately began discussions with the retired General Manuel Ignacio de Vivanco, the special representative of the Peruvian president Juan Antonio Pezet. After negotiations lasting about one month the Vivanco-Pareja Treaty was signed onboard the frigate Villa de Madrid on January 27th, 1865. As a result of this treaty Spain would give up the Chincha Islands in return for Peru paying their debts from the War of Independence as well as all costs relating to the Spanish occupation of the islands.

The contents of the treaty were seen as a great insult by many Peruvians, including the former president Ramon Castilla who was now the head of the Peruvian senate. When President Pezet attended the senate to discuss the treaty he and Castilla got into a heated debate which resulted in Castilla punching Pezet and being forced into exile in Gibraltar. In February 1865 an uprising against President Pezet broke out in the southern city of Arequipa. The revolt was led by Colonel Mariano Ignacio Prado who marched to Lima with 10,000 troops to try and wrest control from Pezet. Prado’s men encountered no resistance until they reached the main square in Lima, the Plaza de Armas on 5th November. Here they finally met troops loyal to Pezet and over the next five days fighting took place. By this time Pezet’s men had been reduced by three quarters and they were forced to surrender enabling Prado to enter the Government Palace.

Initially Pezet thought about launching a counter-attack but due to his forces having been drastically reduced by fighting and desertion instead choose to embark on a boat taking him to exile in England. Once there he lived with his family in the town of Richmond, close to London, before returning to Peru in 1871.


Figure 14 – Left: Juan Antonio Pezet, Right: Mariano Ignacio Prado



By 1868 the president of Peru was the former soldier Colonel Jose Balta who lacked any of the skills in finance or business which were heavily required at that time. His Finance Minister, Jose Nicholas Baltasar de Pierola, did have these necessary skills but his overly optimistic outlook led to him being over-confident in the remaining amounts of guano and mineral salts. His estimation that the resources would last for the foreseeable future led him to continue with the country’s plans of expansion and development, plunging the country even further into the red.

In 1869 he arranged for 2 million tons of guano to be supplied to the Parisian firm Dreyfus, in return for exclusive exportation rights of Peruvian guano to Europe and other parts of the world. Dreyfus would also pay 2 million sols to the Peruvian government as well as further payments of 750,000 sols every month up until March 1871. In addition to this Dreyfus also agree to subsidise Peru’s foreign debt to the sum of 5 million sols per year which helped somewhat towards reducing the country’s financial arrears and improved it’s standing with possible investors abroad. However, it was a great blow to Peru’s national pride that they had to resort to handing over this great source of wealth to a foreign company.

Despite this input by 1872 the country’s finances had worsened to such an extent that it was on the brink of bankruptcy and it was against this background that the general election of that year took place. President Balta’s popularity was extremely low, as might be expected, especially with the guano exporters who still had a lot of influence in the country. And with no real political backing behind him he had no choice but to sit-out of the election and instead put forward the former president General Jose Rufino Echenique, by now well past his prime, as his supported candidate.

Standing against Echenique was Manuel Pardo of the Civilista Party, who for many years had predicted possible financial ruin for Peru if it continued to put all of its financial eggs into the guano basket. He had also served as the Minister for Finance under the dictatorship of his near namesake Colonel Mariano Prado during the 1860s when he had attempted, and failed, to introduce proper financial controls which would have reduced the country’s reliance on the guano industry. He had the support of the business community but, due to his radical views, was not very popular with the church and the army. Despite this he easily won the election. However, the military were not willing to give up without a fight and Balta declared that the election was null and void because of the disorderly way it had been conducted. Therefore a second election took place, this time with the civilian Antonio Arenas replacing General Echenique as the army’s candidate. The result of this election was just the same and once again the Civilista Party won leading to the army taking direct action this time, although without Balta’s support.

The War Minister Colonel Tomas Gutierrez, along with his three brothers who were also colonels in the army, seized the presidential palace in Lima, imprisoned Colonel Balta and named himself as the country’s dictator. By now the embittered Peruvian public had had quite enough and a number of them also stormed the palace, killing one of the Gutierrez brothers in the process. Tomas Gutierrez claimed that Colonel Balta had been responsible for his brother’s murder and had him shot.  But the angry mob continued their actions and broke into the barracks where Gutierrez and his remaining brother were hiding, killing the pair of them. Their mutilated bodies were then hung from the cathedral for all to see.


Figure 15 – Left: José Balta, Right: Tomas Gutierrez


As a result of all this Manuel Pardo was finally installed as the first ever civilian president of Peru. But his inauguration could not have come at a worse time financially. The income from the guano industry was by then barely sufficient to cover all the government’s debts. The contract with the Parisian company Dreyfus was therefore re-negotiated to allow for a partial return to the exportation of the guano on a royalty basis.

It wasn’t just guano that was supplying the Europeans with their highly prized fertilizers. Another source was found in the deserts of southern Peru, which were rich in mineral salts such as sodium borate and sodium nitrate. The resources of sodium nitrate were estimated to be enough to last for 1000 years if the current export rate through the local port at Iquique, almost 70000 tonnes per year, was continued. Industries connected with the extraction and exportation of these salts, were brought into a government monopoly in order to try and create a new source of income alongside that of the guano.

In 1879 things took a massive turn for the worse when the War of the Pacific broke out with Chile over the rights to these nitrate rich deserts. Peru’s defeat resulted in the loss of the Tarapaca province, a provider of great wealth to the country, to Peru’s southern neighbour. Thus, the warnings of the likes of Manuel Pardo and Sir Clements Markham who had predicted great financial disaster due to the over reliance of the fertilizer industry came starkly true.

With the loss of the nitrate-rich regions and with the guano supplies almost empty Peru had no way of achieving the necessary income to pay off the foreign debts and had to resort to transferring the state railways to the British.



At the height of Peru’s guano age, between 1840 and 1880, it was estimated that over 20 million tons of guano were exported, producing profits of around $2 billion. However, by 1890 the guano supplies had almost been exhausted. In order to try and protect the remaining supplies the Peruvian government set up the Guano Administration Company (GAC) whose job it was to manage the guano by preservation of the seabirds and their island environments. One method used was to ban any guano companies from having access to the islands for 6 months per year in order to allow the birds to build up the guano reserves and raise their young in peace. To preserve the bird’s main diet, fish, the administration also controlled the fishing industry, setting quotas so as to maintain the necessary amount of fish for the birds to feed on and therefore keep their population at a satisfactory level. After 1909 the guano was only removed during winter, outside the breeding season, even though the seas are usually a lot rougher during this period.

The sentries that were posted to the islands were training by Peruvian scientists, and as well as their guard-duties they would make regular observations of the birds on their island. They would sketch the distribution and breeding status of the birds and from these maps a rough estimate as to the amount of guano that would be produced and how much effort would be needed to remove it could be made. Walls were built along the edges of cliffs in order to retain guano and stop nests and eggs from falling into the sea below. Slopes were cleared of stones and smoothed to help the building of nests and so increase the number of breeding birds. Maintenance of the docks, buildings and equipment needed for the removal and transportation of the guano was also carried out.  

GAC also tried to eradicate any predators from the coastal islands. Large gulls, skuas, turkey vultures and even Andean condors all fed on either the eggs or chicks of the guano-birds whilst the peregrine falcon caught adult birds in flight. On Asia Island, a small guano island around 100km south of Lima, eighteen Andean condors were responsible for wiping out the entire breeding colony in the space of only a few days. In 1915 GAC started systematic extermination of these predators by providing guns to the sentries and lighthouse keepers posted on the islands. It was reported that, on some of the southern guano islands, more than five thousand birds were killed during the months of February and March in 1917 alone.

Alternatively the large mammals such as sea lions that inhabited the islands were thought to be advantageous to the guano production in that they attacked shoals of fish from below thus forcing them up to the surface where they could easily be picked off by the seabirds. Therefore Peru banned the hunting of sea-lions 1896. In 1910 the marine zoologist Robert Coker published a report which concluded that there was in fact no real evidence that sea-lions were particularly beneficial for the guano-birds and so this hunting law was relaxed. The market for the sea-lions skins, oil, meat and whiskers lead to as many as 36500 of them being killed in a single hunting season. Later on fisherman came to view the animals as pests and there was little attempt to control the slaughter and by 1961 the sea-lion population had been reduced to only 8000.

One threat to the guano that was outside the administration’s control was that of the weather. The El Nino weather system has a major impact on the climate and environment in that part of the world, warming the ocean and killing off large amounts of fish. If the fish population falls too much it could lead to a reduction in the seabird numbers and subsequently would affect the amount of guano. The El Nino of 1911 forced many of the seabirds to leave the area ruining that season’s guano production and leading to the death and destruction of tens of thousands of hatchlings and eggs. However, the Peruvian Corporation of London still continued to export guano to the UK and Europe and worried Peruvian farmers also hoarded supplies to try to fend off possible shortages in the coming years. This led to the Peruvian government closing the Ballestra Islands, at the time their most productive territory, between 1914 and 1916 in order for the bird population and guano levels to recover. When it was re-opened the islands were only allowed to supply fertilizer for local agriculture.

In 1925 another devastating El Nino event caused a huge decline in guano production. The general manager of the GAC, Francisco Ballen, tried to blame the drop in guano on the local fisherman accusing them of over-fishing and therefore leading to the guano-birds being unable to find sufficient food. He had had a long-standing dispute with the fishing community and for many years had tried to prevent fishing around the guano islands. He convinced Augusto Leguia, who was serving his second term as president at that time, to implement a Fishery Police to patrol the coastal waters and apprehend any fisherman who fished too close to the islands.

Due to the worldwide Great Depression in the early 1930s prices for both sugar and cotton collapsed. This lead to Peruvian farmers stopping purchasing of fertilizer and the guano industry suffered as a result. To counter this the GAC implemented a policy in which farmers could use low-rate, long-term credit to buy fertilizer. Eventually this became the Banco Agricola (Agricultural Bank), an institution who greatly improved the financial situation of many small and medium sized Peruvian farms in the latter part of the 1930s. This made it possible for the farms to adopt more intensive agricultural practices.

In the mid-1930s the price of cotton suddenly increased rapidly and as a result Peruvian farmers quickly converted their crops to cotton. The demand for guano exploded but the GAC had no way or meeting requirements. Their response was to try to force the farmers to use guano more efficiently and implemented a rationing of guano. They also raised the price of guano for those farmers who grow crops for export and gave preferential treatment to smaller farms and those who grew food crops.

The GAC used the substantial profits created by the boom in guano to appoint an American orthithologist, William Vogt, to study finds in which to increase guano production. Vogt used aerial photography and ringing to carry out a census on the number of breeding birds. His studies also discovered that the birds preferred to nest in areas exposed to the prevailing wind. This led to the GAC using explosives to remove any obstacles that prevented prevailing winds on the islands.

In 1939 Vogt’s studies were interrupted by an El Nino event which lasted almost two years and devastated the breeding colonies resulting in guano production plummeting to its lowest level since the 1917 El Nino. Vogt determined that the birds were dying due to malnutrition caused by the lack of food as a result of the marine life on which the birds fed being forced into neighbouring waters by the warm waters brought by the El Nino system.

In 1946 the new general manager of the GAC, Carlos Llosa Belaunde, had the idea of creating artificial islands by walling off headlands along the coast which were already used by the guano-producing birds. Belaunde hoped that these “islands” would provide a safe refuge for the birds to breed during El Nino seasons and would also prevent the birds travelling to the islands off the coast of Chile. Between 1946 and 1961 fourteen “islands” were built along the Peruvian coast and as a result guano production rose dramatically. In 1956 the GAC produced over 330,000 metric tons of guano which contained 6,200 tons of potassium, 31,600 tons of phosphate and 47,000 tons of nitrogen and made a profit of over $17 million most of which was ploughed back into research.

For many years the GAC’s policies worked very well in maintaining guano levels, by the mid 1950s it was estimated that up to 40 million adult birds inhabited Peru’s coastal waters, but in recent years, due to financial and political unrest in Peru as well as over-fishing and the introduction of a fish-meal industry which used the anchovies upon which the seabirds fed, the population in the coastal islands has been decimated once more. In the period following the Second World War anchovies were caught in their billions and after the collapse of the sardine industry in California in the 1950s the amount caught rose into the trillions. GAC warned the Peruvian government that unless a limit was put on the anchovy fishing there was a real threat to the guano industry. In response the government implemented several experimental fishing regulations designed to try and protect the guano birds.


Figure 16 – Graph showing the population of guano birds and the amount of anchovies fished between 1950 and 2000


Between 1957 and 1958 an El Nino event along with diseases caused by parasites wiped out many of the guano birds. To try to control the spread of disease the GAC used chemicals to destroy the parasites. It would later be discovered that these chemicals caused egg-shells to thin leading to breeding failure and were even poisoned to the birds the GAC were actually trying to protect.

As early as 1843 scientists were looking for synthetic alternatives to guano, which although very rich in the nitrates and phosphates, was an all-purpose fertilizer that was difficult to adapt to different types of soil or crops. The use, and success, of the guano also led to increased interest in fertilizers and led to the introduction of similar products which could do the job almost as efficiently but at a much lower cost. When guano first appeared in Britain Professor James Johnston had commented that its introduction would “prove a great national service, if it shall teach us to imitate so valuable a natural production.” At the same time Johnston also warned that the supply of the guano was by no means unlimited which also hastened the introduction of alternative sources of fertilizer.

Due to an explosion in Peru’s population in the 1950s and 60s guano only was unable to provide enough fertilizer to the amount of food crops needed to feed the country. According to government experts to only way to cope was to supplement the guano with synthetic fertilizer. Foreign companies were brought in to construct plants which used the Haber-Bosch process to create fertilizer. As a result the Guano Administration Company was renamed the Corporacion Nacional de Fertilizantes (CONAFER).

Along with the extensive overfishing the El Nino of 1965 meant that starving birds were forced to look elsewhere for food and could often be seen scavenging markets and rubbish tips in many of Peru’s coastal cities. When Fernando Belaunde Terry took over as president in 1965 following a year-long military junta one of the first things he did, thanks to a great public demand, was to strengthen laws that would protect the guano industry. He nominated a government committee to come up with long-term solutions to the problem and to try to save what many Peruvians still considered to be “the most valuable birds in the world”.

At around the same time the American biologist Milner B. Schaefer, the world’s leading expert on fish population dynamics, created a model which predicted the future population of anchovies taking into account predation by guano birds. In his opinion Peru would be far better off without the guano birds because of the possible income from the fishing industry as opposed to the guano industry. This sealed the guano bird’s fate and in 1966 the government withdraw the regulations protecting the birds from the fishing industry. From then until the present day the population of the birds has remained at only a few million a drastic fall from the 35-40 million at the height of the guano industry. Today thousands of the birds are illegally killed and sold in markets as food to the poorer members of Peruvian society.

Ironically this comes at a time when organic fertilizers are once again becoming a valuable commodity. There is growing interest in North America and Europe in natural “chemical-free” gardening and it may well be that in the future these markets will lead to the Peruvian guano industry reaching levels similar to those in the 19th century.

Despite it having a large hand in the second collapse of the guano industry in Peru we should be extremely thankful for the invention of synthetic fertilizers as they have enabled the world’s crops to keep pace with its continuously growing population in a way that would not have been possible if farmers had to rely only on guano and has prevented any occurrence of a Malthusian catastrophe that may have otherwise taken place.



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England and Peru – A footballing history


In their 142 year history the England national football team have had a number of famous matches against South American opposition, most notably in World Cup finals games. In 1966 they drew 0-0 against Uruguay in their opening match before going on to win the tournament. 1970 saw Bobby Moore’s England lose 1-0 to Pele’s Brazil. In the 1986 quarter-final versus Argentina they succumed to the hand, and genius, of Diego Maradona and then 12 years later Beckham’s sending off and a penalty shootout loss against the same opposition in the last 16.

But against Peru their playing record is not so extensive. They’ve only played the La Blanquirroja (‘The White and Red’) only twice so far. But now a third game against Peru has now been confirmed. This will bring the team currently ranked 39 in the world to Wembley for a warm-up match for England prior to leaving for the United States where they will prepare for the finals tournament in Brazil with further friendlies against Ecuador and Honduras. The English FA were keen to test themselves against South and Central American opposition due to the fact that they are due to play Luis Suarez’s Uruguay in Sao Paulo on 19th June following by Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte 5 days later. Although Uruguay are obviously a far superior team, holding 6th place in the current FIFA rankings, it is thought that the meeting with Peru will bring useful experience against a team with a similar playing style and tempo.

The Peruvian national team are currently without a manager following the sacking of Sergio Markarian after finishing 7th in the last South American World Cup qualifying tournament. This is despite an unexpected 3rd place finish in the 2011 Copa American competition which was held in Argentina. A number of names have since been linked with the post, among them Diego Maradona and his fellow Argentinians Marcelo Bielsa, Sergio Batista and Julio Falconi. Home-grown candidates include the current coach of Peruvian Primera Division club Universidad Cesar Vallejo, Victor Rivera, and former Newcastle United winger Nolberto Solano.


Previous Meetings

The game on the 30th May will be the first time in 52 years that the two countries have met and the first time on English soil. The two previous meetings took place took place in 1959 and 1962 and were both friendlies played in the Peruvian capital city of Lima. England had had a disappointing performance in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden having been knocked out in the group stage. However, they did manage to share the in 1959 Home International title with Ireland before leaving for a tour of the Americas at the end of the 1958-59 season.

The touring party was relatively inexperienced. The team was captained by 35 year-old Billy Wright of Wolves, who had won his 100th England cap shortly before the tour. Only four other players had caps numbering in double-figures and three would make their international debuts during the tour. In their first game of the tour they lost 2-0 to Brazil in Rio de Janiero in front of a crowd of 160,000.

Peru had a decent side at the time and were ranked just outside the top 20. Earlier in 1959 they had managed 4th place in the Copa America tournament and their team, with a mixture of youth and experience, had attracted much praise for its attractive play. They warmed up for the England game with friendlies against Lima club sides Union America, newly promoted to the Primera Division, and Ciclista Lima winning the former 1-0 thanks to a goal by Miguel Loayza and losing the second by the same score. The latter result brought much criticism by the Peruvian press who questioned whether the team’s players were really good enough to play against such an esteemed side as England and if the national side’s coach, the Hungarian Gyorgy Orth, was the right man for the job.

The game created much interest in the Peruvian media. Very few Peruvian households had television in those days and so the majority of the country got their information via newspapers. The England coach Walter Winterbottom spent two hours giving an exclusive interview to one newspaper in the Hotel Crillon, the England base during their stay in Lima. The 21 year-old Manchester United forward Bobby Charlton drew the most attention and commented that he expected a difficult game as it would be played outside of England and expressed concern that he would be up against a good defender in “Mr Benitez”. The game was played on 17th May, a Sunday, and over 50,000 spectators turned up at the National Stadium to watch.

England made one change from their game versus Brazil with 19 year-old inside forward Jimmy Greaves of Chelsea replacing Peter Broadbent of Wolves to make his international debut. The England team thus lined up as: Eddie Hopkinson (Bolton Wanderers) – GK, Don Howe (West Bromwich Albion), Jimmy Armfield (Blackpool), Ronnie Clayton (Blackburn Rovers), Billy Wright  (Wolverhampton Wanderers) – Captain, Ron Flowers (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Norman Deeley (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jimmy Greaves (Chelsea), Johnny Haynes (Fulham), Albert Holden (Bolton Wanderers), Bobby Charlton (Manchester United). Both Armfield and Deeley were winning only their 2nd caps, Holden his 4th and Flowers his 6th. The team lined up in Winterbottom’s favourite 3-2-5, or WM, formation with Armfield and Howe at fullback, Wright at centre-half and Flowers and Clayton and midfield. Charlton was the centre forward with Greaves and Haynes as inside forwards and Deeley and Holden as outside rights.

The Peru team was Rafael Asca (Sporting Cristal) – GK & Captain, Willy Flemming (Deportivo Municipal), Victor Benitez (Alianza Lima), Jose Fernandez (Universitario), Isaac Andrade (Sport Boys), Juan de la Vega (Alianza Lima), Oscar Montalvo (Deportivo Municipal), Miguel Loayza (Ciclista Lima), Juan Joya (Alianza Lima), Jose Carrasco (Deportivo Municipal), Juan Seminario (Deportivo Municipal). Peru coach Orth also used a 2-3-5 formation with Flemming and Fernandez flanking Benitez at the back and Andrade and de la Vega in Midfield. Up front Joya was the centre forward with Loayza and Montalvo to his right and Carrasco and Seminario to his left.

The game was referred by Erwin Hieger. Hieger was born in Austria and referred in the Austrian League before emigrating to Peru in the mid 1950s. He took charge of a number of matches in the 1957 Copa America under Austrian nationality but had become a Peruvian citizen by the time he referred in the 1968 Olympic football tournament.

Peru started the game very brightly and Howe and Armfield found it very difficult to cope with the movement of Seminario and Montalvo. The former opened the scoring in the 10th minute and then added a second five minutes before half-time. Debutant Greaves, who had finished as the First Division top-scorer with 32 goals in the season just ended, pulled a goal back in the 58th minute but Joya restored the two-goal lead nine minutes later. Seminario would complete his hat-trick after 80 minutes to make the final score 4-1 to Peru. Despite his three goals Seminario was actually criticized by certain members of the Peruvian media for his greedy play. Jose Fernandez was named man of the match with high praise also being received by both Montalvo and Loayza.

England had decided to wear a blue shirt for the game, for the first time since their disastrous 1-0 defeat to the United States in Belo Horizonte during the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. As a result of this thrashing the blue shirt has never been worn again by England. Each of the Peruvian players received a sum of 4500 sols for their performance against England. 2500 sols of this was received as salary from the Peruvian Football Federation with the remaining 2000 sols been paid as prize money by the local drinks manufactuer Backus and Johnston.   England’s defeat resulted in much delight in Peru but much criticism back in London. Sam Leitch, the famous broadcaster and journalist, wrote in the Evening Standard “Imagine that indignity that Peru, playing with four good players and seven ballet dancers, and sponsered by a brewery, made England look like a panting novice.”

Norman Deeley’s poor performance against Peru meant that he never played for England again and Albert Holden won only one more cap, in England’s next fixture away to Mexico which they also lose, 2-1. England would finish their tour of the Americas with an 8-1 thrashing of the United States with Charlton getting a hat-trick in what would be Billy Wright’s 105th, and last, England cap but overall the tour was considered to be a disaster.

As a result of their performances against England a number of the Peru team earned moves abroad. Victor Benitez was signed by Boca Juniors of Argentina in 1960 and then 8 years in Italy’s Serie A played for, amongst others, both Milan clubs and AS Roma. Juan Joya also moved to Argentina in 1960 to join River Plate and then spent 8 years with Penarol of Uruguay. Shortly after the England game 20 year-old Miguel Loayza was signed by Spanish giants Barcelona but only managed 10 games, scoring 4 times, before returning to South America in 1961 to join Boca Juniors. He then played for 5 other Argentinian clubs, including River Plate, before finishing his playing career with Colombian side Deportivo Cali. Hat-trick hero Juan Seminario earned a move to Sporting Lisbon of Portugal before joining Real Zaragoza of Spain. His 33 goals in the 1961-62 season brought him to the attention of Serie A club Fiorentina. He returned to Spain in 1964 to play for first Barcelona and then CE Sabadell before finishing his career back in Peru.

At the time the Peruvian FA refused to select players who played outside of Peru for their national team and so Seminario, Benitez, Loayza and Joya never appeared for the Peruvian national team again after the England game although Juan Joya later played one game for Uruguay. Other players moved abroad a few years later. Isaac Andrade played for various clubs in Argentina between 1962 and 1969, Oscar Montalvo played for Deportivo La Coruna in Spain in the mid 1960s. They would also end their international careers with these moves. The Peru team of the 1960s could easily have rivaled those of the 1930s and 1970s had all these players been able to represent their country but as it was they failed to make much of an impression during that decade.

In May 1962 England returned to Lima for a second international game against Peru which would act as a warm-up to the World Cup which was to be held in neighbouring Chile shortly afterwards. Walter Winterbottom was still in charge of the England team and a number of players from the 1959 game were still present – Jimmy Armfield, Ron Flowers, Jimmy Greaves, Johnny Haynes and Bobby Charlton. The full England line-up was: Ron Springett (Sheffield Wednesday) – GK, Jimmy Armfield (Blackpool), Ray Wilson (Huddersfield Town), Bobby Moore (West Ham United), Maurice Norman (Tottenham Hotspur), Ron Flowers (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Bryan Douglas (Blackburn Rovers), Jimmy Greaves (Tottenham Hotspur), Gerry Hitchens (Inter Milan), Johnny Haynes (Fulham) – Captain, Bobby Charlton (Manchester United). Both Moore and Norman were making their England debuts.

This time England played with a 4-2-4 formation which was much in fashion at that time. The fullbacks were Armfield and Wilson with Moore and Norman, the debutants, at centre-half. Charlton and Flowers made up the midfield and up front were Douglas on the wing, Hitchens at centre-forward with Greaves and Haynes as inside forwards outside him.

This was the first senior international for the Peruvian national team since losing to Colombia in the South American qualifiers the previous May and six players made their Peru debut versus England –  Guzman, Bazan, Lobaton, Mosquera, Zevallos, Zegarra. Donayre won his 2nd Peru cap, nine years after his 1st.  The team was coached, for the first time, by the Brazilian Jaime de Almeyda who was also the manager of Alianza Lima at the time. To warm up for the England game Peru had played two friendlies against Spanish club Real Zaragoza who featured Juan Seminario, hat-trick hero from the 1959 game and reigning La Liga top-scorer, in their side. They also had another Peruvian in their ranks, veteran defender Guillermo Delgado. Seminario scored twice in a 4-1 Zaragoza win in the first game but Peru won 3-1 in the second.

The Peru team was: Rodolfo Bazan (Alianza Lima) – GK, Willy Flemming (Deportivo Municipal), Adolfo Donayre (Alianza Lima), Rodolfo Guzman (Alianza Lima), Juan de la Vega (Alianza Lima) – captain, Manuel Grimaldo (Alianza Lima), Víctor Zegarra (Alianza Lima), Nicolas Nieri (Sporting Cristal), Hugo Lobaton (Sporting Cristal), Alejandro Zevallos (Centro Iqueno), Oscar Montalvo (Deportivo Municipal). Later on in the game Humberto Arguedas of Universitario would replace de la Vega and Nemesio Mosquera, also of Universitario, replaced Zegarra. Flemming, de la Vega and Montalvo remained from the previous meeting in 1959.

De Almeyda had hoped to include Guillermo Delgado and Juan Seminario from the touring Real Zaragoza, who had agreed to release them, as well as other Peruvians playing overseas such as Juan Joya and Miguel Loayza but was refused permission to do so by the Peruvian FA. They argued that they had to take into account the long-term future of the national side and not consider the result of just one game.

The game, at 3:45 pm on the 20th May at the National Stadium in Lima, was attended by around 32,000 spectators. The referee, as for the game 3 years previously, was  Erwin Hieger. England played far better than in 1959 and the young debutant centre-halfs Moore and Norman were rarely troubled despite the good play from Montalvo and Zegarra in the Peruvian attack. After quarter of an hour England were awarded a penalty which was converted by Flowers. Greaves then scored a hat-trick between the 24th and 40th minute giving England a 4-0 half-time lead. The England forwards continued to torment the Peruvian defence in the second half and nly a fine performance by Bazan in the Peru goal prevented further English goals. After the game the England team attended a reception at the Lima Cricket club hosted by local English residents. They then left for the World Cup in Chile where they would be defeated in the quarter-finals by eventual champions Brazil.


Expatriate players

Nolberto Solano is by far the most succesful Peruvian player to have plied his trade in the English leagues. After moving from Boca Juniors to Newcastle United in 1998 to became the first ever Peruvian to appear for an English club he made 240 appearances, scoring 45 goals, in two highly succesful spells with the Tyneside club punctuated by a season with Aston Villa where he finished as the club’s player of the season.

After leaving Newcastle he spent a season with West Ham United before leaving for short stints in Greece with Larissa and back home in Peru with Universitario.   In 2010 he returned to the English game when he signed for Leicester City and later that year moved to Hull City before finished his career at Hartlepoool United. During the latter part of his time at Hartlepool he also combined his playing career with coaching duties at Northern League side Newcastle Benfield.

In 2000 Ysrael Zuniga became the 2nd Peruvian to play in England when he joined Coventry City, then of the Premier League, for £750,000 in January 2000 following a very debut succesful season with FBC Melgar of Arequipa in which he scored 32 goals. Zuniga was almost joined at Coventry by his Melgar team-mate Walter Zeballos but that transfer broke down due to passport problems.

During the 2nd half of the 1999-2000 season Zuniga scored two goals, against Bradford City and Sheffield Wednesday, in 6 games. The following  season he found the net only once in 15 league appearances, against Manchester United at Highfield Road, and Coventry ended up relegated. Another goal came in the League Cup away to Preston North End. In total he managed only 4 goals in 30 appearances with the Midlands club before moving to Estudiantes of Argentina.

On 1st July 2007 two more Peruvian footballers moved to England – Claudio Pizarro and Miguel Mostto. Striker Claudio Pizarro had spent a number of succesful seasons playing in the Bundesliga scoring 100 goals in 240 games with first Werder Bremen and then Bayern Munich before joining Chelsea on a free transfer. He got off to a promising start, scoring on his Premier League debut as Chelsea beat Birmingham City 3-2 at Stamford Bridge.

However, following Jose Mourinho’s replacement by Avram Grant Pizarro fell out of favour and moved further down the striking pecking order after Chelsea signed Nicholas Anelka in January 2008. He managed only one other goal in Chelsea colours, also against Birmingham City in the return match at St. Andrews. He finished with a record of 2 goals in 31 appearances, the majority of them as substitute. The following season he returned to Werder Bremen for a very succesful loan spell and re-signed for them permanantly in 2009.

Miguel Mostto finished at the top scorer in the Peruvian Primera Division in both 2005 and 2006 scoring 18 and 22 goals respectively. His goalscoring exploits resulted in him being signed by Championship side Barnsley for a fee in the region of £350,000-£400,000. His only goal in 14 appearances during the 2007-08 season came with a second-half equaliser at home to Burnley in October. In January 2008 he was allowed to join Peruvian club Coronel Bolognesi for the rest of the season.  The following season Mostto struggled with personel problems as a result of his young son’s serious illness and homesickness because his family had stayed in Peru. Barnsley allowed him to go back to Peru for a short period to deal with these matters but he returned briefly to England and scored his second goal for the club in the home match versus Watford in November. In January 2009 he returned to Peru permanently when he joined Total Chalaco.

The last Peruvian to appear for an English club, up till now, was Diego Penny. Unlike the previous players, who were all forwards, Penny was a goalkeeper. After making 180 appearances for Coronel Bolognesi from the southern Peruvian city of Tacna between 2004 and 2008, during which time he was also called up for the national team, the 24 year-old Penny signed for Championship side Burnley. He made his debut for Burnley in the opening game of the 2008-09 season but a 4-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday resulted in him losing his position to Brian Jensen for the rest of the season. Burnley ended the season by being promoted to the Premier League via the playoffs.

Penny made his only top-flight appearance when he replaced the injured Jensen after 15 minutes in the home game against Wigan Athletic in October 2009. The score was 1-1 at that time but Burnley would go on to lose 3-1. This would be his last appearance for the Lancashire club although he had also played 2 games in the League Cup earlier that season. He started the 2nd Round tie against Hartlepool United, which Burnley won 2-1, and again replaced the injured Brian Jensen, this time in the 34th minute, in the 3-2 defeat away to Barnsley in the following round. He left Burnley by mutual consent at the start of the following season following their relegation from the Premier League and signed for Peruvian club Juan Aurich a short time later.

Like Penny, Mark Cook was also a goalkeeper. He started his career at Newcastle United playing for their youth and reserve teams. Nolberto Solano was also on Newcastle’s books at that time but would shortly leave the club for West Ham United. After leaving Newcastle United, Cook ended up at non-league club Harrogate Town. Meanwhile in June 2012 Solano started his managerial career with his former club Universitario from Lima, one of the big three clubs of Peruvian football. His first signing for Universitario was his old team-mate Cook who arrived in Lima to much attention from both the Peruvian and English media, and elsewhere. Cook was the first, and so far only, English player to appear in the Peruvian league in the professional era.

Cook made his Universitario debut in the 1-0 home defeat against Sport Huancayo at the beginning of September. His 2nd game for the La “U” came two weeks later in Moquegua when the home team Cobresol were victorious 3-0. An injury to his finger then prevented Cook from making further appearances. Universitario’s poor performances in the Second Stage of the Torneo Decentralizado led to Nolberto Solano’s sacking and Cook left the club to return to England shortly afterwards.


English involvement in the early football history of Peru

There is much debate about exactly who introduced football to Peru. Some sources claim that it was English sailors who were responsible during their visits to Callao, at that time a very important trading port, in the late 19th century by. The sailors would arrange kick-abouts between themselves and the local residents, known as Chalacos.

Others say that it was young Peruvians, or the offspring of English immigrants living in Peru, who brought the game back with them when they returned home after studying in England. Alejandro Garland (1852-1912) was a Peruvian-born writer and economist with an English father and an education gained in England and Germany who, in the early 1870s, tried to organise football games in a small park between the Exhibition Palace and the prison known as the Lima Panopticon. However, this was met with little enthusiasm, even amongst those locals who had also been educated in England, and after the War of the Pacific, fought between a united Peru/Bolivia and Chile broke out in 1879 participation in all sporting activities were halted.

English residents in Lima had already formed a number of sports clubs by that time with some sources claiming that the Lima Cricket and Football club was founded in 1859. Although football was part of the club’s sporting program it’s main focus was cricket. Similar clubs with an emphasis on other sports but with some involvement in football emerged later on. Regatas Lima, formed in 1875, was mainly focused on rowing whilst Lawn Tennis (1884) was the second oldest tennis club in the Americas. Ciclista Lima (1896) was initially only interested in cycling but introduced football into its program following the merger with the Association Football Club (1897) in 1917.

The first documented football match to be played in Peru took place on 7th August, 1892 at Santa Sofia, a playing field close to the Jose Pardo Institute which belonged to the Lima Cricket and Football club. The game involved residents of Callao, captained by a Mr. Foulkes and a team representing Lima, captained by Pedro Larranaga. The teams were mostly made up of English residents with the remainder being Peruvians. According to some sources the result of the match was 1-1 with neither side finishing with eleven players. In 1895 an “international” match was played between a team made up from Peruvian and English residents of Lima and a team from the crew of the British cruiser HMS Leander. The latter team won 5-0 in front of a crowd of 3000. Similar matches also took place over the next few years.

Jack Greenwell, from Crook in County Durham, began his playing career with his home-town club Crook Town. In 1909 he played for West Auckland during their victorious campaign in the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy tournament, often refered to as “the first World Cup”. He then played for, and managed, Barcelona before managing numerous other Spanish clubs. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1939 he fled briefly to Turkey before moving to Peru where he became the manager of both Universitario de Deportes, who won their 3rd Campeonato Peruano title in 1939 and the Peruvian national team.

The 1939 Copa America was held in Peru in January and February of that year with all games taking place at the National Stadium in Lima. Prior to the tournament four teams – Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil – withdrew leaving only five participants – the hosts Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Ecuador, who made their Copa America debut. The tournament format was that of a single round-robin schedule where all teams played each other only once.

Peru’s first game was against the debutants Ecuador and they won easy 5-2 thanks to a hat-trick by Teodoro Fernandez, managed by Greenwell at Universitario, and two goals from Jorge Alcalde of Sport Boys from Callao. In their second game, against their bitter rivals Chile, Greenwell used an attacking 2-3-5 formation and Peru won 3-1 with two more goals by Fernandez and another by Alcalde. The same scoring pattern was repeated in the 3-0 victory over Paraguay.

In their final match Peru had to play Uruguay, the strongest South American side at that time. Both teams had 100% records and so the game would decide the title. In front of a full- capacity crowd of 40,000 spectators Peru opening the scoring through Alcalde in the 7th minute then Victor Bielich added a second after 35 minutes. Uruguay pulled one back just before half-time but Peru hung on to record their first ever Copa America title. Not long afterwards Greenwell moved to Colombia where he coached a number of clubs before dying there from a heart attack in 1942 aged 58.

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The World’s Most Dangerous Roads – Peru

The last episode in the BBC series “The Worlds Most Dangerous Roads” featured the TV presenter and “adventurer” Ben Fogle and the comedian Hugh Dennis travelling from the town of Concepcion in the Central Peruvian Andes through the jungle to Satipo and Pozuzo to reach their final destination in Ciudad Constitucion close to the geographical centre of Peru. In the 1980s the site was chosen by the Peruvian president of the time, Fernando Belaunde Terry, as a possible location for a new capital city of Peru. Today the story behind the idea seems to be very little-known by many Peruvians and even though I have read extensively on the history of Peru I also had no idea of the plan and therefore decided to carry out some research into it.

Peruvians living outside of Lima have complained for many years that the country is “Lima-centred” and that the decisions of the government are dictated by what happens in Lima with much of the countries finances and resources being allocated to the city. Belaunde Terry, an architect by profession, had originally had the idea of relocating the capital in the 1950s when he was a Professor of Architecture at the National School of Engineering in Lima and an aspiring young politician. He got the idea from what had happened in Brazil in 1956 with the construction of Brasilia.

When the constitution of Brazil was re-drafted in 1891 due to the country converting to a republic one of its articles contained the suggestion that the capital city should be moved from the heavily populated and resource biased SE of the country to the sparsely populated centre. However, it wasn’t until Juscelino Kubitschek became Brazilian president in 1956 that these plans were actually put in place. Kubitschek held a contest in order to find an urban planner to build his new capital and this was one by Lucio Costa. Oscar Niemeyer was given the job of the chief architect for the city’s public buildings whilst Roberto Burle Marx was the chief landscape designer. Construction of the city took place between 1956 and 1960 and on April 21, 1960 the new capital was officially inaugurated. New capital cities were also built, for various reasons, in Australia (moving from Melbourne to Canberra in 1927), the United States (moving from Philadelphia to Washington DC in 1800), Nigeria (Lagos to Abuja in 1991), Turkey (Istanbul to Ankara in 1923), Pakistan (Karachi to Islamabad in 1960) and New Zealand (Auckland to Wellington in 1865).
In 1980 Fernando Belaunde Terry became president of Peru for the second time. His first presidential term had lasted from 1963 to 1968 when he was ousted by a military coup led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado leading to 11 years of military rule. When Peru reverted to a democratic government in 1979 General Francisco Morales Bermudez agreed to hand over power to a legally elected president who would be chosen during the election of April 1980. Belaunde won this election with 45 percent of the vote in a 15 candidate contest.

Belaunde had studied engineering in Paris before his family moved to the United States in 1930. He attended the University of Miami (where his father taught) between 1930 and 1935 before switched to the University of Texas in Austin where he obtained his degree (a second) in architecture. Following his graduation he moved to Mexico to work as an architect for the company “Whiting and Torres” before returning to Peru in 1936 where he designed private housing. The following year he started a magazine entitled “El Arquitecto Peruano” (“The Peruvian architect”). He was also elected to the Architects Association of Peru and shortly afterwards worked as an advisor to the government on public housing. In 1943 he was named Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at the National School of Engineering in Lima and later became the Dean of the Civil Engineering and Architecture department.

Belaunde’s political career had begun in 1945 when he was elected MP for Lima but in 1948 a coup d’état by General Manual Odria led to the government being dissolved. Belaunde resumed his political career in 1956 when he was chosen to lead the National Democratic Front party but he lost that year’s election to Manuel Prado. In 1963 he won the national election and became President of Peru after a year of the country being led by a military junta.

As part of his election campaign in 1956 Belaunde had written a book entitled “Peruanicemos Peru” in which he wrote that Peru should colonise the central jungle and expressed his wish to construct a road called “El Marginal de la Selva” (“the Jungle Border Highway”) running along the line between the eastern edge of the Andes and the Amazon basin from the Ecuadorian border to Puerto Maldonado close to the Bolivian border in the SE of Peru that would help to unite all the people living in that region.

During his second term of presidency Belaunde finally decided to try and fulfil this ambition and on May 20, 1984 the city of Ciudad Constitucion was founded on the River Palcazu, between Puerto Bermudez and Puerto Inca, in the province of Oxapampa in the Pasco region of central Peru. He chose the name of the settlement in order to recognise the importance the national constitution has in regulating the institutional life of a country. Ambitious plans for the new city were drawn up by the architect Julio Ernesto Gianella, outlined in his book “Ciudad Constitucion : nuevo nucleo urbano en la selva central del Peru” (Ciudad Constitucion : a new urban centre in the central jungle of Peru). Gianella had won a competition held in 1982 to find the architect responsible for creating Belaunde’s new capital city, similar to what had happened with Brasilia 30 years previously. Gianella’s plans containing housing that was suitable for the climate, sanitation works, an airport, hospitals and a highway linking the city to the outside world so that supplies could be brought in.

This highway would later be designated as Peruvian Highway 5N (PE-5N) and would eventually run north along the edge of the Amazon basin right up to the Ecuadorian border. One of the dreams of Fernando Belaunde Terry, the “Jungle Border Highway” was thus fulfilled and indeed in May 1998 the road was christened the “Fernando Belaunde Terry Highway” in recognition of this. The section passing through Ciudad Constitucion is known as the “Marginal de la Selva Norte” (North) but when the road reached Pueblo Pardo, just across the border of the Junin region, around 160km to the south it would change to the “Marginal de la Selva Sur” (South) with the highway designation PE-5S. Various offshoots also broke off from the main highway to nearby towns and these sections were given extra suffixes to distinguish them from each other (A,B,C, etc). There is a proposal to extend highway PE-5S across the regions of Cusco and Madre de Dios all the way to the Bolivian border but there is some opposition to the plan from environmentalists as the road would pass through areas of fauna and flora rich virgin rain forest.


Despite all these ambitions very little of the planned city was actually built. The only buildings from the original city still existing are a few dilapidated wooden model houses a short distance from the modern day settlement of Ciudad Constitucion which are now being inhabited by members of the local Ashaninka Indians. One of the main reasons the building work was abandoned was due to the corruption that broke out between officials working for the senior government, for the civil service, the military and even among people very close to President Belaunde. In 1985 Belaunde lost the general election to Alan Garcia and his dream was abandoned.


In May 2010 the modern town of Ciudad Constitucion, now with a population of between 6 and 8 thousand, and its surrounding area broke off from the district of Puerto Bermudez to become the eighth district of the province of Oxapampa under the name Villa Ciudad Constitucion. This gives its inhabitants the opportunity to elect their own mayor and council. The town has a full electrical grid, built with EEC funding, and even internet. There is also a modern, well-constructed bridge by which the PE-5N crosses the Palcazu river. In the small municipality building on the main Plaza de Armas is a life-size statue of Fernando Belaunde Terry, with a shovel in his arm, in commemoration for his dream of building a new capital city.

Ben Fogle and Hugh Dennis began their journey in the town of Concepcion in the Junin region. Concepcion was founded by Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador, in 1536 and was also the site of a famous battle during the War of the Pacific when the Peruvian forces routed their vastly outnumbered Chilean foes. Construction of the road from Concepcion to the jungle frontier town of Satipo was started in 1922 and three years later the first section, from Concepcion to Comas, was completed. In 1927 the first group of settlers arrived in the region in order to search for natural resources. These settlers were mostly Peruvian but they also contained Europeans from Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Italy and Spain. Thanks to the influx of these settlers the population of Satipo quickly grew and in 1929 it was officially given town status. In 1934 the road was extended from Satipo to the town of Puerto Ocopa. Five years later the road from Concepcion to Satipo was finally completed and later in 1939 the first vehicle made use of the highway thus hastening the onset of civilisation in the region.

In November 1947 an earthquake almost completed destroyed Satipo and badly damaged the road from Concepcion. It wasn’t until 1961 that the road was fully restored. In 1968 the President of Peru Fernando Belaunde Terry visited the region to carry out research into his plan to construct the Marginal de la Selva highway which he hoped would one day run right across Peru. From Satipo the tarmaced PE-5S road runs for approximately 100km to Pueblo Pardo. Around 25km from Satipo is the town of Bajo Pichaniqui (also known as Pichanaki) in the Chanchamayo valley. The town takes its name from the language of the one of the local Indian tribes – Picha (“Sweeping), Naki (“River”) and it famous for its fruit, timber and coffee plantations. The paved road, completed in 1999, help to bring in many peasants from other parts of Peru looking for work on the plantations. At Pueblo Pardo the PE-5S road becomes PE-5N which will eventually reach the Ecuadorian border. Between Pueblo Pardo and Villa Rica a side-road, the PE-5NA, heads NW towards Oxapampa.

The 78km stretch along PE-5NA from Oxapampa to Pozuzo was completed in 1976 but is still very rough in places as it passes through the Yanachaga-Chemillen National Park, through the small towns of Santa Rosa and Huancabamba, and over numerous small streams and rivers. The journey takes around 4 hours to complete during the dry season and is often impassable during the wet season.
Pozuzo was founded in the 1850s when a large group of settlers from Austria and German, frustrated by the challenging conditions in central Europe at that time due to wars and famine, decided to move to the Peruvian jungle thanks to the persuasion of the Tyrolean chaplain Josef Egg. In 1868 a further 300 Austrians and Germans settled in the area and formed other settlements which would subsequently become the towns of Oxapampa and Villa Rica. The land around Pozuzo had by now been deforested and transformed into fertile farming land and Pozuzo had also gained an importance as a site for the breeding of cattle. Today many of the older inhabitants of Pozuzo still communicate in the dialect found in the valleys of Upper Austria and the architecture, culture and cuisine of the town also strongly reflect the heritage of its original founders.

From Pozuzo the PE-5NA highway continues along the Pozuzo river to the town of Codo del Pozuzo (“Codo” being the Spanish word for “elbow” to denote the pronounced change in course of the Pozuzo river at the site of the town) in the neighbouring region of Huanuco then meets up with the main PE-5N highway close to the town of Puerto Inca. Around 70km south of Puerto Inca, along the PE-5N is Ciudad Constitucion.


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