Monthly Archives: August 2015

Richard Norwood, Surveyor of Bermuda in the 17th Century

Bermuda: town planning of the 17th century

Bermuda: town planning of the 17th century

School geography lessons taught me the basis of English town development: growing outwards from a small crossroads, extending along rivers, canals and railways, concentric circles becoming more residential as they expand away from an industrial centre.

Bermuda developed along very different lines.  Although it began in the 17th century the island urban geography was as planned and deliberate as Milton Keynes. If you don’t know Milton Keynes, it is a grid of roundabouts connected by identical sections of dual carriageway, designed in the 1970s. So Bermuda is essentially a long road from end to end with “tribe” roads coming off in perpendicular fashion.

For this design we have to thank one Richard Norwood, a 17th century opportunist who happened to be on Bermuda in 1616 when Captain Tucker was wanting someone to do a survey of the island.  Norwood negotiated a fee of 2lbs tobacco or 5d per share.  There were 400 shares in the Bermuda stock.  At 12d per shilling, 20 shillings per pound, this amounts to £8 and 6 shillings.  Or about £800 ($530) of 2015 purchasing power.

At the age of 49, Richard Norwood wrote a journal.  This came to light in 1945 and was transcribed by the Historical Monuments Trust.

Text of Norwood's journal.

Text of Norwood’s journal.

Looking at the scrawled page – apparently typical of Elizabethan secretary script – this cannot have been an easy task.  That and some unfamiliar spelling:

  • turkell = turtle
  • rowle = roll
  • pilloberes = pillowcases
  • cushings = cushions
  • cokernuts = coconuts
  • puter = pewter
  • horeglase = hourglass
  • trinilts = tree nails
  • secticles = spectacles
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From “The Journal” (thanks to Wesley Craven and Walter Hayward and Bermuda National Library)

The focus of the journal is spiritual castigation, but from within the “catalogue of sins” we catch glimpses of the 17th century Bermuda.

Richard Norwood was forced to finish his formal schooling at the age of 12, when a fellow schoolboy with the memorable name of Adolphus Speed, won the only scholarship by a small margin.

He became apprenticed to a fishmonger in Stony Stratford.  this little town is quite close to my UK home and today is a charming place, but Norwood described it as

“much given to deboistness, to swaggering, brawling and fighting, to swearing and drunkenness” 

Whether dislike of the town or of the fish, he left his job somewhat abruptly at the age of 15 and served a short prison sentence for failing to honour his apprenticeship.

Thereafter he found work in the docks at Lymington and gained some fame when he fashioned a primitive diving bell from a hogshead barrel and used it to recover a large ship’s gun that had been accidentally dropped overboard into the harbour.  His innovation came to the attention of the Bermuda Company.  the adventurers commissioned him as a technical specialist for “there was a great store of pearls in the Summer Islands” or so it was thought.

After a 5 week voyage during which Norwood studied maths, navigation and religion, the ship stuck fast on the rocks.  The enforced 2 weeks on the offshore reef were enough for the conclusion that there were no pearls to be found.  So for the next year, 1614 or thereabouts, Norwood found himself at a loose end on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

He cannot have had much respect for authority , for he ignored Governor Moore’s restrictions that nobody should venture beyond Burnt Point, some 3 miles from the town of St George and built himself a boat from a hollowed tree with logs aside to balance it (basically a trimaran) and sailed 16 miles from Longbird Island to Somerset, where he gathered palmetto berries.

Governor Moore gave way to Captain Tucker and in 1616 Norwood began his island survey.

His journal describes how he began first in Bedford Tribe, which is now Hamilton Parish.  In order, he surveyed Smiths, Devonshire, Pembroke. But then a geographical leap across to Somerset was prompted by the need to plant the season’s crops away from a “plague of rats” brought to the mainland by Spanish ships. Reverting to order, Paget, Mansill’s (Warwick) and finally Southampton to discover an ‘Overplus’ of excess land between the westernmost parishes.  St George’s was not divided into tracts, it was maintained as an administrative parish.

The division of land

At this time Bermuda had a population of 600 people.  It had now been divided into 8 parishes, each of 50 shares of 25 acres per share.  each share had a stretch of coastline and a plot inland.  The land was allocated to the Adventurers according to the size of their investments.

During this time Norwood claimed to have read the Old Testament 5 times and the New Testament, 10.  Whilst this seems an honourable thing to do, it also sounds boring. I am reminded to be grateful for my Kindle.

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A week in Bermuda: the perfect holiday!

An itinerary for visitors:

Having had a series of visitors during this last year I realised that the itinerary we used for them might be of interest to others. So here it is:

Day 1: Meet at airport, drive to home (or hotel) and sit in garden with cool drinks, listen to tree frogs and wait for the sunset. If your visitors have come from UK then keep them awake until past 9pm – they will still wake early but won’t be asking for breakfast at 4am the next day. The BA flight arrives around supper time but the passengers are very well fed generally, +/- wine, so I have discovered the best solution to “do we have supper?” is a bacon roll with a glass of wine. If you are island visitors staying in a hotel then perhaps a bowl of Fish Chowder – practically every restaurant/eating place serves this.

On the water.

On the water.

Day 2: This might depend on which day of the week it happens to be, so the days are interchangeable with the basic premise of “just one big thing each day”. So this day is a Kayak paddle with snorkelling. It does help if you have your own kayak and water access but even if not there are plenty of places to hire kayaks. We are lucky enough to have water access into Harrington Sound so we paddled across to Trunk Island and swam around the shallow waters there, good site for the snorkel-naive to practise.

Experiments with GoPro (image with permission from SL)

If based at the West End then Mangrove Bay and the islands around there would work just as well. For our last visitors we did a picnic lunch and took them into Hamilton for dinner. This coincided with Harbour Night, gombeys and craft stalls along Front Street. At the moment Harbour Night is only during the peak summer months, but I did see a news article that it might be extended later into the Autumn or that the Winter tourist program might have a similar event on a regular basis. Gombeys are amazing so if you don’t catch them at Harbour night look out for the Saturdays in the Park at Queen Elizabeth Park (Par-la-ville) or if it’s winter then Tuesday’s at Pier 6 along Front Street.
For dinner my recommendation is Angelo’s in the Walker Arcade, good menu, pleasant ambience and always tasty food. Of course that depends on your budget, but I am assuming you don’t wish to take out a mortgage to fund your island holiday.

Image with permission from SL.

Image with permission from SL.

Day 3: Start with a Jetski adventure. See previous post for suggestions. This was probably my son’s favourite activity, the girls on the other hand were “glad we have done it but never again” – with varying degrees of tremor when they finished! Substitutions for this would be a Wildcat Round the Island tour or one of the Boat trips around the Great Sound.
After the Jetski we visited the small Hayden Chapel, with a bottle of water and half an hour to watch the view or read a book. If you are closer to the East End then this would be a brief visit to Tucker House in St George or to Carter House on St David’s Island.
For lunch we visited the Southampton Princess Hotel – their Pulled Pork Tacos are delicious and I recommend the strawberry lemonade. I understand the cocktails here are also good, but I was driving 😟

The afternoon is for one or more of the South Shore beaches.

Image by SL

Image by SL

Day 4: In the morning visit Miles Market to pick up a picnic lunch then hire a Boston Whaler from Grotto Bay for the afternoon – 1-5pm, very reasonable cost at $140 plus fuel. Remember sun lotion, hats, snorkels and water.
If you wish to have a slightly bigger boat I would suggest St George, Mangrove Bay or Somerset. The advantage of doing this in Castle Harbour is the wreck off Nonsuch Island and the almost deserted beach that is only accessible by boat. Round this off with a drink at the bar at Grotto Bay or Swizzle Inn, then supper at home. I chose not to cook so a take-out from East meets West solved that issue.

Day 5: Dockyard, Glass-bottom boat, Mini-golf with a drive back via the sea-glass beach. To be honest the glass bottom part of the boat trip is the hook to get you on the boat, you don’t actually see that much under the boat, but what you do get is a gentle chug out to the Wreck of the Vixen, a feeding frenzy of bream, chub and snapper and maybe a few turtles on the way. Oh, and a rum swizzle! This is very reasonably priced at $45 per person and the tour guides are great. We were on a boat piloted by the youngest Captain on the island who started driving boats at the age of 4 – he is a little older than that now!
Don’t like mini-golf? What’s not to like – our very sceptical visitor was a convert after the first six holes, or was that just because each set of six ended up at the bar?

Turtle

Turtle

Day 6: Tobacco Bay for an early snorkel – before 10:30 the visibility is best as after that people kick up sand and you have to go further out in order to see the big fish. Then take a walk to the end of the little promontory with a can of drink and sit watching the parrot fish around the rock towers. That brings you to around midday for lunch at Blackbeards Restaurant, just around the corner overlooking Achilles Bay. I would highly recommend the scallops wrapped in bacon. Sun cream and hat are vital here if you want to sit and look out at the sea while you eat.

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Replete with lunch you take a drive to St David’s Island for a gentle walk along Cooper’s Island nature reserve. The second and third beach along from Clearwater Bay are just amazing, white sand, unspoilt, turquoise sea, everything that’s good about Bermuda.

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Then to cap this day off I suggest a Sunset Cruise. Our last visitors went with AnaLuna Adventures and they asked me to give the company five stars in the TripAdviser Review – they sailed to Flatts Inlet, swam around the island there and then off into the sunset with champagne. Idyllic.

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Day 7: This is where you have some choices to make : shopping in Hamilton, any of the museums, a wander in the Botanic Gardens or perhaps a walk along the railway trail at Baileys Bay. It is your last evening so a meal out perhaps? We enjoyed a relaxed meal at La Trattoria, good choice on their menu, and attentive wait staff (my husband suggested that was down to having two beautiful young ladies with us, but whatever, they were fun).

Day 8: A brief trip to the Zoo/Aquarium (it still isn’t fully open yet but at least what they have done is looking very good, much better displays than previously) and then drive into St George for the Ducking Stool at 12:30. Note this doesn’t happen on Friday or Sunday so you may need to shift days around. It was pouring with rain when we went this week, but the Town Crier announced that he wouldn’t let a bit of rain prevent the wench from getting what she deserved! So we all got soaked in one way or another.
End the week with a bacon butty and glass of wine looking out across the water.

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Prescription: Seven day course of treatment. Repeat often, prn (when required) with food and wine.

Four-legged friends: dogs on Bermuda

The first dog was landed on Bermuda in 1609, and was probably a Spaniel called “Finder” or “Salty”: the ship’s dog of the Sea Venture. I don’t actually know the name, those are guesses based on the fact that medieval dogs were frequently named on characteristics. Ship’s dogs were used for retrieving things lost overboard, taking messages between ships, and hunting when ashore. Most definitely working dogs. The main need for a working dog on Bermuda in 2015 would probably be a drug-sniffing dog at the airport – they did have one when we first arrived but I haven’t seen him since. Neither have I seen any Guide Dogs for blind persons. But there are plenty of dogs on the island, most living quiet and happy lives, but some reaching headlines every now and then.

So what do you do if you want a dog on Bermuda?

Two websites might be sensible starting points:

Bermuda SPCA: http://www.spca.bm

Government regulations on animals: http://www.animals.gov.bm/portal/server.pt

If you are coming to live on the island and already own a dog then you will need an import certificate, a microchip and vaccinations.

The import certificate must be dated no earlier than 10 days before landing your dog and to get this document you will need a health certificate for the dog, original vaccination certificates and evidence of tick and flea treatment on the day of examination. There are no quarantine regulations, but certain countries of origin require a minimum of two rabies vaccines and certificates to confirm no contact with foot and mouth within previous 30 days. The government website suggests that dogs less than 10 months old do not qualify for entry onto Bermuda, but it is unclear whether this applies to dogs from UK.

Dogs and cats are subject to import customs duties: 25% plus a 1.1% wharfage fee. Now this is based on the value of the dog so you will need original evidence of the purchase of the dog and price paid.

There are dog breeders on the island, however, and there is a pet shop in Hamilton with the most adorable puppies. (For my RSPCA friends I am not advocating buying puppies for pet shops, just commenting on their cuteness). The SPCA have dogs “looking for forever homes” but they also comment that they have a long waiting list for adopting dogs.

However you acquire the dog, it will need a licence which is $25 per year if the dog is neutered but $115 per year if not. Unlicensed dogs may be destroyed.

Like UK, there are certain breeds of dog that are banned on Bermuda. It is far too sensitive an issue for me to venture into but just to state, pit-bull dogs are prohibited and will be dealt with harshly if found unlicensed on the island. In 2012 the newspaper revealed there were 1300 unlicensed pit-bulls on the island – but given these dogs are kept below the radar I have doubts about the validity of the figure.

There are some rules you will need to be aware of:

  • Dogs must be kept on a leash
  • Dogs are not allowed on beaches during Summer months, 1st April to 31st September.
  • Special permits are needed of you have more than 2 dogs on your premises.  Note that “premises” includes other households on the plot and requires the landlords permission. This multi-dog permit is specific to the dogs, owner and the address.
  • There are fines for being found in breach of these rules : $50 for an unleashed dog, $100 for a stray dog and $200 for a noisy barking dog, which requires only one neighbour to make a complaint.

Now I have owned dogs, and numerous other pets alongside the children, but I am not sure dogs are really a good idea on Bermuda, or indeed that Bermuda is best set up for dogs. It can be VERY hot, there aren’t acres of fields and parks for exercise and the dog can never run free. But thats just my opinion and I am sure there are hundreds of responsible dog owners who will work around the particular problems posed by Bermuda-life.

My landlord has an amusing story of his dog being taken to court for chasing ducks across Harrington Sound onto land owned by the Zoo … I cannot tell it like he does, but he had me in stitches of amazed disbelief.

Useful contacts for dog-owners:

Hermione, my first dog

Hermione, my first dog