Tag Archives: Bermuda history

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.

Lucy Harington of Harrington Sound

What’s in a name? One ‘r’ or two?

I plan on reading a book entitled “The Noble Assassin”, historical fiction about Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford. But I wanted to find out some of the facts about this lady before the novel inserts itself in my understanding as “this is actually what happened”.

Despite the spelling variation, Harrington Sound, the large inland sea-water lake in the middle of Bermuda, was apparently named for this lady.

Harrington Sound, Redshank island

Harrington Sound, Redshank island

Poets (John Donne and Ben Johnson) and musicians seemed to be falling over themselves in their efforts to honour her, dedicate works to her, write poetry to her – she had over 50 works dedicated to her. Why was she so popular?

  • She was well connected – her father was Sir John Harington, Baron of Exton. This family were said to have the most extensive estates in Rutland in the 16th century. Rutland? It’s a tiny county almost as small as Bermuda in the east midlands, UK.
  • She clearly came from a wealthy family, though some sources suggest her father and brother made huge losses and she inherited debts. She did however have sufficient to buy both Twickenham Park and Moor Park estates. There she became an amateur gardener – a 17th century Charlie Dimmock (you might have to be British to know her – a TV gardener).
  • And she was intelligent – home schooling resulted in fluency in French and Italian and she was knowledgable about classical art and poetry.
  • One author described her as “a fit companion for men” but we need to allow that in 1949 he might not have intended what this could mean today.
  • She performed in court masques, as a Lady of the Bedchamber for Queen Anna of Denmark she would join the other court ladies in these extravagant performances. For one, Masque of Blackness, the ladies all used body paint to blacken their faces and arms, which was actually quite controversial even then. She had speaking parts in some of the dramas and helped with directing others – clearly not just backdrop material.
  • But she wasn’t exactly “available” having been married from the age of 13 to Edward Russell, 3rd Earl of Bedford. He made some poor decisions and spent some years in prison and under house arrest after supporting the “wrong-would-be-monarch” but his fortunes picked up somewhat when King James came to the throne. It appears that he was happy to permit his wife an active life at court in her own right.
  • She may have been considered beautiful, though the few portraits that exist don’t really confirm this, but maybe it was like early photographs, smiling was considered inappropriate.
Lucy Harington

Lucy Harington from National Portrait Gallery (online digital)

It seems she never actually set foot in Bermuda, but as a wealthy lady investing in the adventurous Virginia Company she was one of the original shareholders and thus land owners of the island. She was the only woman among the 117 original investors in The Somers Isles Company that was granted a charter to control Bermuda in 1616.

One of the local websites encouraging tourists here states that Lucy Harington “did a lot for the parish”, immediately triggering an image of a parish fete with stalls of home-made jam; but I don’t think she actually DID anything for the parish of Hamilton and probably was only vaguely aware she had a large body of water named after her. After all, which would you prefer, a poem written for you or a salty mid-Atlantic lake that in all likelihood you would never get to see?

Early Bermuda Map showing Harington Sound (image Wikipedia)

Early Bermuda Map showing Harington Sound (image Wikipedia)

So why the spelling mistake? In one of the earliest maps of the island they do have the name spelled with just one “r” but modern spelling has morphed to Harrington. I don’t think it is of major importance, after all the Harington family descended from the earlier Haveringtons by a series of typographical variations.

Amazing – Harrington Sound has a Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Harrington-Sound/135689173130265
Admittedly the person posting most on there seems to be me, and I didn’t even know it existed! How do these pages just appear? Oh well, maybe I will end up “doing a lot for the parish” just like Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford (1581-1627)

Sunrise over Harrington Sound

Sunrise over Harrington Sound

Around the islands

Bermuda Islands

Map of Bermuda Islands

Last weekend we joined a Bermuda heritage lecture-on-a-boat as it drifted gently around the Great Sound islands. It was indeed a most pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon and unusually I stayed awake through the whole talk. The speaker was Andrew Bermingham, who has a particular interest in military history and the Boer war – yes Bermuda played a role in the Boer war, though separated by 7,188 miles of Atlantic Ocean.

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The Boer war was a series of battles in Southern Africa from 1880 to 1902 between the British and the Boers, descendants of Dutch colonists. The British and Dutch had been fighting over the Cape Colony for nigh on 100 years. By 1900 the British were running out of space and supplies in the Cape Colony so they shipped several thousand prisoners of war overseas, some 1,100 to Bermuda. They were imprisoned on some of the islands in the Great Sound: Hawkin’s, Burt’s, Hinson’s, Long Island, Port’s, Morgan’s and Tucker’s.

Boers in Bermuda reported by Boston News 1901

This wasn’t the first time the islands had been used to contain people – since the 17th century they had proved useful for quarantine in outbreaks of smallpox and yellow fever.

As the afternoon wore on I began to lose track and could well have believed there were actually 365 separate islands as Anthony Trollope had claimed in 1858.

An old canning factory?

Some of the islands have interesting stories, though I am not sure they are all entirely true.

Burt’s Island aka Skeeter’s / Murderers’/ Moses Island : just over 7 acres and now used for government youth projects.

The eponymous Mrs Burt was in charge of the isolation cottages in the late 18th century. I assume she was off the scene before the next chapter of the island story – in 1879 Edward Skeeters was convicted of murdering his wife and sinking her body attached to an 80lb boulder. The trial was long, with a long adjournment when a juror fell ill and a doctor pronounced him to be “suffering from a disease for which he might at any moment need surgical assistance”. After numerous days where every neighbour and his dog was called upon to testify, the jury took just 20m minutes to reach a verdict of guilty. For the full version (sorry about the spoiler) read it online in the Royal Gazette of 15th April 1879 and the final instalment in the edition of 10th June 1879.

Edward Skeeters

Extract from Royal Gazette, May 1879

There might in fact be a connection between Burt and Skeeters since one Lydia Burt gave evidence at the trial and she stated she was Anna Skeeters’ daughter – this seems to have been by a previous relationship as Edward and Anna Skeeter’s children died in infancy. It is a sad tale with a somewhat vindictive end – Edward Skeeters was sentenced to the death penalty and he was buried on Burt’s Island with an 80lb boulder as his headstone – yes, the same one he had used to sink his wife’s body.

Burying him on this island seems to have set a precedent as several more murderers were interred there during the early twentieth century. Hence the common name “Murderers’ island”. I cannot find any reason for the alternative name “Moses Island” though Moses is not unusual as a surname or first name on Bermuda.

Argus Island:
Yes, I know, it’s bank, not an island – but it was designated as an island for a short period of time during the 1960s. This seamount is some 30 miles SW of the main Bermuda island and in some narratives is called Plantagenet Bank. During the Cold War over $7 million was spent on projects by the US Navy to construct research and defensive laboratories in connection with Project Artemis. The result of Artemis was a marine sonar system to detect submarines at long range. The Argus Island Tower was 192 feet above the sea surface and designed to stand up too waves 70 foot high. However after 8 years the tower was condemned as unsafe and finally demolished in 1976 and Argus lost its Island status.

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Argus Island Tower 1963 (image from Wikipedia)

Agar’s Island:
I am jumping about a bit geographically as this one is situated on the inside curve of the Great Sound on the left as you approach Hamilton. It was named after Sir Anthony Agar one of the investors in the Somers Isle Company of 1630.

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Powder Magazine on Agar’s Island 1870 (image from Wikipedia)

This island has 3 separate claims to fame – first in the 1880s it was a huge powder magazine and then in 1908 12 large fish tanks were built into the stone moat and opened as the first aquarium on Bermuda. Then in 1914 the silent film “Neptune’s Daughter” was filmed from Agar’s Island – it featured Annette Kellerman and some scenes have her diving into a lagoon pool which actually looks a bit like the one at Blue Hole (warning – would be called skinny dipping these days and I am sure it is not permitted on Bermuda now).

The Great Sound
Don’t panic, I am not going to comment on all the islands! That was covered in a small book by Terry Tucker, appropriately entitled “The Islands of Bermuda” first published in 1970 – there is a copy in the library. She concluded there were some 120 separate islands aside from the 8 principal ones that are today connected by bridges. I began with a boat trip round the Great Sound, but I have spent the best part of the afternoon captivated by one island in Harrington Sound – for that story you will have to wait, I haven’t got to the bottom of it yet and it goes pretty deep!  Then for my relatives who accompanied me on the tour, I am still looking for the history of the single red-roofed building that stands on the skyline! If any reader can tell me why it is red and not white like every other building ….

Digging up the past in Bermuda

One of my favourite TV programmes when back in UK is Timeteam – Tony Robinson (Baldrick) talks through a 3-day targeted dig somewhere in Britain and you learn small fragments of history while wishing you had considered archaeology as a degree instead of whatever.  It is one of the things I have missed since being in Bermuda, the familiarity of his voice as a background to Saturday afternoons as we watched back-to-back episodes on Channel 4.
Bermuda TIme Team

Bermuda TIme Team

I did did not take much persuading therefore to join a National Trust Visit to the Smith’s Island Archaeology Dig last Sunday afternoon.

 

Smith's Island (picture from Prof Jarvis's blogspot)

Smith’s Island (picture from Prof Jarvis’s blogspot)

Smith’s Island sits in St George’s Harbour, 60 acres, unconnected to the main islands, a few houses in the middle section but mainly undeveloped and very overgrown.  It is important historically because way back in 1610 some of the first settlers made this island their home for a while.  The story goes that three men, Christopher Carter, Edward Waters and Edward Chard, declined to return to England with other survivors of the Sea Venture expedition and they remained to establish themselves in the hope of growing tobacco and perhaps other crops which might make them rich when traders next called in on Bermuda.  I am not quite sure why but they are sometimes referred to as the Three Kings, though they were just ordinary sailors and not noble or rich, I guess they were the effective kings of Bermuda for a couple of years.

Sir Thomas Smith, after whom the island is named, was one of the Adventurers of the Virginia Company (later Somer’s Isles Company) – I don’t think he ever lived there, owned it or even landed there himself.

In 1612 when the first intentional colonists came over from England they stayed to begin with on this island, moving later to St George, most likely because they realised they would need more space.  A few families set up farms on the island, during the 17th and 18th centuries the Pitcher, Asser and Sharp families were known to live here. 1786 saw a Dr George Forbes build himself a substantial home and he is also ought to have set up a building for temporary housing smallpox victims. The darker aspects of the island continued when a whaling station was established there in 1920.  However the Bermuda National Trust now own one third of the island and the government have set up a reserve on another third.

The only way to get there

The only way to get there

Twenty or so of us boarded the BIOS boat across the harbour to Smith’s island.  It was hot and humid so the breeze and spray was welcome, the barrel of ice cold water even more so (thanks to Peter for realising none of us would bring sufficient for our needs and carrying the barrel)

Pretty much overgrown

Pretty much overgrown

The Dig

Professor Michael Jarvis, a modern version of Indiana Jones, leads a group of students from University of Rochester; for them it’s a credit-bearing five weeks of hard work, not cheap either – $4000 plus air fares – but they aren’t all history or archaeology majors, one I spoke to was doing business studies and her friend was a psychology major.  Then there are volunteers, both Bermudian and from elsewhere.  It began in 2010 and will probably continue until 2018, always the last week of May and the month of June so quite hot for digging.  But if you fancy five weeks on Bermuda ….

 

The group blog about their excavations on http://www.smithsislandarchaeology.blogspot.com and if you go to that site you can see images of some of the finds and a lot more technical detail.

To date they have looked at one site that probably had a wooden framed house on it, another they hope will be the home of Christopher Carter, a cave site where there is evidence of people living at some point and a small building near a bay the map refers to as Smallpox Bay.  Some of the artefacts include a military button and an animal bone, cherts from non-local stone and pieces of glass.  I realised that an awful lot of digging, brushing and sweeping goes on for every small piece of evidence and came to the conclusion that neither my knees nor my patience would cope with this sort of work.

This was probably the last visit to the site for 2014 but if you get a chance to take this trip next June I would strongly recommend it.  It was a very pleasant if dusty afternoon!

The images below are my own photographs.

 

Under a blue tarpaulin

Under a blue tarpaulin

Wall of smallpox hut with possible GR inscription carved into wall (look very carefully for that!)

Wall of smallpox hut with possible GR inscription carved into wall (look very carefully for that!)

An oven, possibly at the site of the home of Christopher Carter

An oven, possibly at the site of the home of Christopher Carter

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Tribe Matters: Devonshire

The Tribes of Bermuda

The Tribes of Bermuda

Tribe:  a social division of people defined by a common characteristic

Early on in the colonial history Bermuda was divided into tribes which were further subdivided into shares.  The painstaking work that this entailed fell to Richard Norwood, a teacher from England.  Each tribe was 1,250 acres and each share was 25 acres – the divisions in straight lines across from North shore to South shore making plots of land of varying width but crucially each with access to a portion of coast. There were 8 tribes divided in this way, with St George’s and several other discrete islands remaining as company land. The tribe was then named after the Adventurer who had purchased most share within that tribe.

Thus the tribes were named:

  • Sandys – Sir Edwyn Sandys
  • Southampton – Henry Wrothesley, Earl of Southampton
  • Mansil’s – Robert Mansell aka Mansfleid (who later sold his shares to Earl of Warwick)
  • Paget – William Paget, Fourth Lord Paget
  • Pembroke – William Herbert, Third Earl of Pembroke
  • Cavendish – William Cavendish who became First Earl of Devonshire
  • Smith’s – Sir Thomas Smith
  • Bedford’s – Lady Lucy Harrington, Countess of Bedford (later sold to James Hamilton)

They were referred to as Tribes up to 1684, presumably as churches were established within them. The remnants of the earlier naming is seen in the multiple “Tribe Roads” that dissect the island perpendicular to the long roads.  To call them roads is somewhat ambitious – some only wide enough to roll a barrel.

I have focussed first on Devonshire because that’s where I am living.

William Cavendish is, I have discovered, a common name – the one in question was born 1552 and died 1626 and was the First Earl of Devonshire, but research is complicated by unimaginative naming of children, all William, with the occasional Henry thrown in randomly.

William Cavendish must have had a large extended family – his father had three wives and his Mother married four times, dissatisfaction as much as death prompting the changes.  Anyhow, he was the second son of (predictably) William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick.  Second son? Yes, Henry was an embarrassment to his Mother who disowned him so William became her favourite.

William Cavendish, First Earl of Devonshire. (1552-1626)

William Cavendish, First Earl of Devonshire. (1552-1626)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my English readers will recognise the “Devonshire ” and correctly link him to Chatsworth House (in Derbyshire, just to confuse everyone).  This now enormous estate was originally purchased by William’s father for £600; his money came from land he had amassed in his name during the dissolution of the monasteries – he was Privy Councillor and Treasurer to Henry VIII.  Sadly William the elder lived only long enough to conceive three sons and spend just five years owning Chatsworth – maybe three wives is not such a good idea. So at the age of 5, our William was left fatherless, with two not-so-very-nice stepfathers to come.

He was educated at Eton, Cambridge and Gray’s Inn.  He didn’t inherit his vast estates until he was 56 when his mother died leaving him four impressive estates in the English Midlands.  William was a Member of Parliament for two years – first for Liverpool (1586) and then for Newport, Cornwall (1587).  It might seem odd that he represented areas so far from his family home, but explained by the acrimonious relationship with his stepfather George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury.  In 1605 William became Baron Cavendish, step one on the ladder to peerage. Debrett’s informs that he advanced to the dignity of Earl of Devonshire in 1618.

William married Anne Keighley, a fecund lady who gave birth to 6 children in 8 years; of course they named the eldest William. They hired Thomas Hobbes, later philosopher, as tutor to the young boy, a relationship lasting over 20 years and enabling Hobbes himself to invest in The Somers Island Company.  Inevitably this new William became Earl of Devonshire and so on almost ad infinitum (current incumbent is called Peregrine, and it’s a Dukedom now)

All that is preamble to explaining how he managed to own 10 shares of land in the parish of (now) Devonshire.  fellow parishioners included Pennistone, Dike, Barnard, West, Lukin, Ditchfield, Nicholls, Fletcher, Delaune, Roger, Palmer and Rich.  Of course, it is unlikely that many if any of them actually came to Bermuda, preferring absentee landlord status – the rules are tighter these days.

It has been hard to find anything pertaining to the character of  William Cavendish. One small extract from “History of The Virginia Company” by Edward Duffield Neill describes how Cavendish quarrelled with Earl of Warwick, each calling the other a liar over a matter not detailed.  It is said that he challenged Warwick to a duel and that the Privy Council subsequently blocked the ports of England to prevent them reaching the continent (were duels perhaps banned in England ?)  Cavendish was apprehended at Shoreham, Essex , but Warwick reached Ghent.  The whole incident contributed to the Virginia Company Charter being declared null and void in 1624. It is said that their wives remained friends throughout.

Devonshire has for its coat of arms that of the Cavendish Family.

Bermuda stamp

Bermuda stamp

Sable (black) shield

3 stags heads caboshed (cut of behind the ears)

coronet of an Earl – silver balls on points with gold strawberry leaves between

Cavendish green serpent

2 rampant stag supporters

 

 

This is the sign along South Road approaching Devonshire from Smiths (needs a soapy brush)IMG_2062

Devonshire Old Church

Devonshire Old Church

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This is the church in Devonshire that was built to replace the one destroyed in the 1716 hurricane.  It was an ambitious upgrade for the parish, the original having been a smaller wooden framed build with palmetto thatch.  But in 1851 it too proved too small for the congregation and was replaced by a new church on adjacent ground and renamed “Christ Church” rather than merely Devonshire Parish Church.  For fifty years the old church was left to decay, used only for housing an old hearse. 

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This little building is where the new hearse was stored in the late 19th century.  Nowadays the hearses are owned by Funeral Homes or Undertakers, not by the Church but you can still get a horse-drawn hearse http://www.marquisranch.bm/carriage.html

Back in 1612 when the first English colonists arrived on Bermuda, there was not the wide choice for religious worship that there is today – it was Church of England, under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London.  In England The Act of Uniformity 1559 specified that everyone should attend church once a week and that the Book of Common Prayer be used for the order of service. If a commoner objected to this Act, by not going to church, they were fined, but if a member of the clergy refused to sign the Act they were shipped out to minister to the colonies – maybe a better lifestyle but certainly a drop in income as the annual stipend was about ⅔ of that in an English parish.  

The early church ministers in Bermuda were appointed from among the unemployed or non-conforming clergy.  So it was that one of the early ministers, Lewis Hughes, had been disciplined for his connection to a witchcraft case back in England.  Records document him as a conscientious and dedicated cleric who travelled across the whole island by foot in his duties. 

If you are interested in the history of the Bermuda Anglican Church there is a comprehensive book “Chronicle of a Colonial Church” by AC Hollis Hallett, covering the early years 1612 to 1826. 

One amusing story from this book is about a woman called Elizabeth Carter who was imprisoned and fined for correcting the preacher, William Edwards, during his sermon on 30 January 1673: he was preaching on the Book of Esther but managed to mix up two of the characters as he told the story so she promptly stood up to tell him he had it wrong. I don’t suggest anyone tries this at home, the penalty may not have changed much. 

I had a pleasant wonder around the church and church yard at Devonshire Old Church.  The grounds and church were restored in 1903, financed by Aubrey Cox, and from 1938 onwards it has been used for Christenings, Weddings and Funerals.  

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The building at the top left of this picture is the “new” Devonshire parish church.  http://www.christanglicanchurch.bm

I haven’t yet found out why the burial plots are fashioned like they are with whitewashed stones.

And I didn’t explore too closely the one where the stone slab cover appears to have been disturbed! 

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For those who are wondering just whereabouts Devonshire is, here is an old map of Bermuda:

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As back in UK the Royal Mail float dominates the news ( you hadn’t noticed?) alongside “plans for strikes in the run up to Christmas” (again) I have been finding out about the postal service in Bermuda. Since we were once a British colony, now termed “British Overseas territory”, you won’t be surprised at the similarities between UK mail and Bermuda mail.

For example, the post boxes:

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These are Bermuda post boxes.

British ones were not always red – they started off green so as not to be an eyesore. But Bermuda did not get Post Boxes until 1882, some thirty years after the first mainland box at Carlisle and eight years after the introduction of pillar- box red. Anthony Trollope introduced them to England, the author of The Palliser books, The Barchester Towers series and more. ( I love the TV series of The Pallisers, and Barchester Chronicles shows Alan Rickman in a pre-Snape character with a remarkably similar name! watch them if you haven’t already )
Apparently he wrote every morning before going to work at the Post Office ( http://anthonytrollope.com ). He did also visit Bermuda in his role of Post Office Inspector and even wrote a short story based on the islands, "Aaron Trow", but his reports of Bermuda were not that favorable which is probably why the island makes more of John Lennon’s visit here than that of Trollope.

Back to post boxes – in Bermuda and England alike, the form of a cylindrical stand-alone pillar with a horizontal flap for mail near the top became the standard design. The smaller the flap the older the box. Age is also denoted by the name of the monarch – my photos show two George V boxes, one George VI and a more modern Elizabeth II. On Bermuda now there are 46 post boxes – no, I have not counted them all personally, the fact came from a book published last year celebrating the Bermuda Post Office Bicentennial.

Right back in the beginning, around early 1800s, the island mail was carried by a man on a horse who rode west on Wednesdays and east on Thursdays. If you had a letter to be posted you just waited alongside the main road until he came by. No house deliveries, you would be sent a message and have to walk to the Post office to collect it – and pay for it. The rates were 4d per ounce.

Then a chap called William Benet Perot arrived in Hamilton, Bermuda, built a house that he called "Par-la-Ville" (it means beside the town, it was on the edge of town) from where he ran a Post Office.

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The building still stands today, with part of it now the Bermuda Library. The post office itself is still operational – with an interior of cedar wood counters, probably looks much the same as it did back in the 1800s. Keen to provide an out-of-hours service he made a hole in his front door through which customers could post their letters along with the money to pay for postage – like much of the rest of the world, Bemuda now ran a prepaid service. Unfortunately for him when he added up the money it seemed never enough for the number of letters in the box. So he introduced ink “stamps” called “Perot Provisionals” – customers could buy the envelopes in advance with one of these markers on: his signature and the words “paid in Hamilton” or “paid in St George’s”. These were used between 1848 and 1856, but only 11 are known to still exist. The last one that changed hands did so in 2005 for £60,000.

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Now the first English stamps were made in 1840, the rate was 1d for a letter. So the charge in Bermuda, by then 5d per ounce, was excessive and they brought the charge down to 1d to match England. The first Bermuda stamps had a left facing Queen Victoria with the country name written across the top and value across the bottom. I know that on British coins the monarch faces in he opposite direction to the previous one – the Queen faces right so Charles will face left – but with stamps I cannot see any rules or pattern to which profile appears (willing to be enlightened).

I inherited a stamp collection from my grandfather, which one day I will sort, catalogue and tidy. I added to it today with a Bermudian First Day Cover that was issued in May this year:

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They are Gombey dancers, I will write about them at a later date.

How did the mail actually reach Bermuda?

Obviously this involved boats, The Packet Trade, from Tudor times through to 1823 (nobody on Bermuda until 1609 so maybe no Tudor ships came this way). A “paquebot” was small, fast and lightly armed – against pirates. In 1823 the Admiralty took over the service and from 1850s it employed contract carriers. One of these was “The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company”. It ran boats from Cornwall to Halifax via Bermuda. By steamship in 1850, from Falmouth it was a 40 day journey.

Around 1900 the post office in Hamilton became the General Post Office, there was one at St George’s and a sub post office in each parish, found along the main roads on the island. I think I said before there are only really three roads so if you drive along you are bound to find a post office.

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If you are coming to live over here, you probably want to know how much it all costs now – sadly a bit more than 1d per ounce.
A letter to England will cost $4.45 (up to 100g), slightly cheaper to US at $4.30. There is no longer any surface airmail, all goes by air.
It is currently £4.60 to post a letter (200g) to Bermuda from London. Note to daughter: it helps to write the correct address, including the surname and add “Bermuda” to the envelope – though I can reassure you it does arrive if you don’t do this, but takes a little bit longer.

To my shock when I first collected a parcel at the Post Office I was handed a Stanley knife on a string – this is to open your parcel, the post office collects import duties and adds a $5 clearance fee on top – please don’t send me Christmas presents, and definitely not ones I might be embarrassed to explain.

Does Bermuda have Postmen?

Yes, and women. They have mopeds rather than push bikes. I did see that bikes are being withdrawn in UK for health and safty reasons – reportedly a postman fell off his bike when the chain broke and was awarded £10,000 for damages. So perhaps it is understandable, they cannot afford to be paying out for injuries at that rate.

The legendary “postman vs dog” situation happens in Bermuda too: last month a vicious (have I spelled that right, I tend to write viscous) dog aptly named “Trouble” bit a postman’s leg “almost off” and only ran off when the quick thinking postie threw a barbecue at it … Yes, I have trouble imaging all of that (http://bermudasun.bm – Sep 29 2013) .

Back in 2005 a dog bite triggered the postal workers to march on the cabinet building and demand more stringent dog control laws (still awaited). Again the paper report is graphic, I won’t repeat it.

Bermuda postmen have it easy in comparison: In Exeter, UK, in October 2012, one postman was “eaten alive by fleas”. (Telegraph)
And the Daily Mail reported that one letter could not be delivered because of the giant spiders:

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I do believe that Bermuda Postmen have the better deal – they are allowed to wear Bermuda Shorts in Winter, a practice banned in UK ( Roymayall.wordpress.com)

I will happily accept responses by mail for this post 🙂
Ask my daughter for the address!

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