Tag Archives: Bermuda National Trust

A Puzzle … and half an answer ….

In the corner of the Library at Verdmont, the historic house belonging to Bermuda National Trust, there is a framed print:

The framed print from the Library at Verdmont. Photo courtesy of Bermuda National Trust.

The framed print from the Library at Verdmont. Photo courtesy of Bermuda National Trust.

There is a green folder in each room that informs the docent or the enquiring visitor just what each item on display is and where it comes from. But with this picture I came unstuck – the description given just didn’t quite fit. And so I have been puzzling over this intermittently for a few months now, am a little closer to an answer but haven’t quite got there. I am now handing it over to .. well, to anyone who can help!

What I have discovered so far:

The style of the image
It appears to be a bookplate or similar, a print from an engraving commonly found inside books from the late 17th and 18th century.

Richard Blome (1635-1705)
Blome was a prolific publisher of cartographic and heraldic material in the second half of the seventeenth century. He was a pioneer of the subscription method to finance his productions: by paying in advance a subscriber was rewarded by his coat of arms being placed within the work. This page was dedicated by Richard Blome to Robert Clayton.

An early publication by Blome was a book of maps entitled “Brittania” which was criticised for plagiarism from similar maps by Camden and Speed. Then in 1667 he had a new series of maps engraved for “A Geographical Description of the Four Parts of the World”. These were engraved by Francis Lamb, Thomas Burnford and Wenceslaus Holler.

in 1680s Blome moved away from maps and published “The Gentlemans Recreation”, part encyclopaedia and part treatise in gentlemanly sports of the day. It was printed in 1686 and contained 85 engraved plates, many of which are dedicated to specific gentlemen. “The History of the Old Testament”, another by Blome, consisted of 2 volumes with 238 engraved plates done by Johannes Kip.

Could this plate be from one of these books? There IS one plate in an edition of “The Gentleman’s Recreation” dedicated to Sir Robert Clayton but the image is called “Pomona” and is of apple picking – definitely not the one I am looking for.

It was common to change the dedications in subsequent editions of a publication, using the same picture but substituting the new subscribers details.

Sir Robert Clayton (1629-1707)
Sir Robert Clayton came from a poor background but his successes in life include being instrumental in establishing deposit banks in England. He became Lord Mayor of London in 1680 – referred to in this engraving. As Lord Mayor he was known for extravagant entertaining and his cedar dining room was reportedly decorated with classical scenes painted by an English artist Robert Streater. The facade of Clayton’s London home in the Old Jewry was the subject of engravings in 1679, copies are held in The British Museum.

Clayton was also a major benefactor to St Thomas’s Hospital and Christ’s Hospital.

Sir Robert Clayton by John Smith. Image courtesy of National Picture Gallery.

Sir Robert Clayton by John Smith. Image courtesy of National Picture Gallery.

He owned an estate, Marden, in Surrey and was MP for Bletchingley in Surrey from 1690 until his death in 1707. A monument in Bletchingley Church depicting him and his wife was erected during his lifetime and subsequently both were buried there.

He married Martha Trott in 1659. She was the daughter of Perient Trott. Their wedding gift or dowry was one share of Trott’s stock in the Somer’s Island Company. They had one son who sadly died shortly after birth on 16 August 1665. At this time the Claytons fled the plague in London to stay with Robert Vyner in Middlesex.

Perient Trott (died after 1670)
Perient Trott was a London merchant in Vine Court. His unusual first name came from his Mother’s surname “Perient”. His father was Martin Trott and mother Anne Perient.

In 1658 Trott purchased 20 shares of land on Bermuda from Robert Rich, the Earl of Warwick. He never visited Bermuda himself but mixed in the circles of merchants who traded with Bermuda and further afield in South Carolina and the West Indies. But Trott was sometimes controversial – once being censured for illicit tobacco trading and another time protesting against the Bermuda Company who were restricting trading ships to the island. However, by 1671 his wealth had increased substantially and he had taken warehouses in St Botolph Without at Bishopsgate. He now owned land on Bermuda in parishes of Hamilton, Pembroke, Paget and Warwick.

He had two sons, Samuel and Perient Junior, as well as his daughter Martha. Both of his sons spent some time living in Bermuda. The Christian name “Perient” was passed down through the family for several generations. Between 1726 and 1739 one Perient Trott was Speaker of the House of Assembly in Bermuda.
Samuel’s son, Nicholas Trott, became a renowned 18th century judge in South Carolina.

The Coat of Arms
The engraving bears a coat of arms, the left side depicting the arms for Sir Robert Clayton and on the right side are the vertical stripes of the Trott family.

Towards the top of the image is a banner that reads: Book1 Part 10 Chap 34

This could be the chapter heading of the book in which the engraving sat or it could be a description of the picture itself. It is a classical drawing and there are several classical works that run to ten parts and 34 chapters but after browsing some such as Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars and Livy’s History of Rome the text doesn’t fit the picture. Plato’s Republic has a Book 1 that deals with justice and one of the figures seems to represent Justice but, since it is not an obvious link, I am more inclined to think the banner refers to the book published by Blome.

I have found similar images on an auction website, with an accompanying description suggesting they might come from “The Gentleman’s Recreation” since they are of similar size and format.

The Figures
One seated, three standing. The one to the left of the throne appears to be a depiction of Justice with balancing scales and a sword. Could they depict the four cardinal virtues – Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance? One is sewing, another holds a wreath and seems to have fruits on her shoulder while the seated figure has no distinguishing features apart from looking sternly at the figure of the young black boy who seems to be presenting himself, cap in hand and hand on chest. The boy has a collar around his neck perhaps indicating he is a slave although he seems well shod.

Another possibility for the figures is that they represent Roman Goddesses – for example the aforementioned Pomona was often drawn with fruit,

The signature
At the bottom of the engraved image appear two names – one to the left and one the right side. The one on the right is similar to that of Johannes Kip, a Dutch engraver who arrived in England in 1688. He was known for engravings of country mansions.
The left hand signature I cannot make out. Kip sometimes did engravings after work by Leonard Knyff but although the first initial looks like an ‘L’ the second name seems to start with an ‘I’.

The connection to Verdmont is through the Trott family, a descendant, Samuel Trott, owned the house from 1803, and his son after him. It is an engraving typical of those that would have decorated homes around that time period and so may actually just be representative of this, without any particular significance to the place or even to Bermuda. My search for the origin of the image has led in many directions but not yet to an answer!

Suggestions welcome …..

Further Information:

Sir Robert Clayton

British History

Bermuda Settlers of the Seventeenth Century Julia Mercer



Blow me down with a feather, but just as I am about to post this on the blog, checking through the references and …. there it is:

Well, this is a screenshot

Well, this is a screenshot


Not exact, but the image is the same with just the banner at the top and the dedication section that differ.

The book is entitled : The History of Nature in Two Parts
Apparently published in 1720 which is after the apparent dedication date of 1680 and after the deaths of Clayton, Blome and Trott. This makes it seem that maybe this book was not the original for the image, just using it again!

You can see the whole book on the Open Library website, the book reference is

The picture is entitled “Duties of Masters and Servants” and the writing beneath is one possible explanation for the figures portrayed.
Open Library: The History of Nature in Two Parts


I am left with some unknowns still –

Who drew the original picture from which Jan Kip made his engraving?
In which book did the dedication to Robert Clayton appear with this image?
How did the picture find its way to Verdmont?

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


Out and About

Who would give you a car wash for your birthday?

Who would give you a car wash for your birthday?


I had the car washed this morning – one of those that pulls you through which is always a scary experience. As a new customer I was given this leaflet and I must say I had never thought of buying someone a carwash as a birthday present.  I have to thank Chuck because I have inherited his unused points and points can be exchanged for soapsuds 🙂





Camouflaged zebra

Camouflaged zebra


Outside my husband’s office they have resurfaced the road and this is how they have reinstated the pedestrian crossing!






Car park round the back

Car park round the back 


Just up from here, I think it might be called Park Road, there is the junction where you fail a driving test: coming from Wesley Street you turn right into what looks like a one way street but for about 15 feet it is two-way and if you don’t pull over to the left, well, sorry, you have just failed.






From a tourist guide book 1952

From a tourist guide book 1952


or get her a pink bike?


Bus stop

  Bus stop

Maybe not suited for wheelchairs

Maybe not suited for wheelchairs


North Shore Road, outside a primary school – double buggy not such a good idea!




















Why do the guns point inland?      Alexandra Battery

Why do the guns point inland? Alexandra Battery

Old fire hydrant

Old fire hydrant

New fire hydrant

New fire hydrant







Leaking tree

Leaking tree


Paget Marsh is a boardwalk through dense vegetation, a nature reserve run by the Bermuda National Trust.




Aerial roots

Aerial roots







No door

No door











No self-respecting girl...

No self-respecting girl…

Clothes to pack 1952 Travel Guide to Bermuda

Clothes to pack











Dr Luke Blackburn


Munificent or Malefactor?

It was 1864 and Bermuda faced an epidemic of yellow fever.  Not for the first time, more than five outbreaks had devastated the islanders, in 1817 it had taken 213 people from St George’s town alone.  They had tried refusing landing to ships that carried disease and buried the victims in separate cemeteries, but they were no closer to a solution.

The illness began with fever, aching and weakness. Then briefly you might feel slightly better, but the short-lived reprieve was followed by jaundice and bleeding with progressive liver failure.   Vomited blood is customarily black as coffee-grounds and the stools become loose, tar like and offensive.  Few recovered from this point, kidney failure following rapidly and death usually within 10 days. Altogether pretty unpleasant.

Man with yellow fever Image from Wellcome Library

Man with yellow fever
Image from Wellcome Library

Pages from Nineteenth Century Textbook

Pages from Nineteenth Century Textbook









This was all going on during the American Civil War and although Bermuda was officially neutral it did play an important role in blockade running to enable trade with Southern states (for more on this you should visit The Globe National Trust Museum).  Amidst all the politics and fast ships, along came Dr Luke Pryor Blackburn.

You need some background in order to judge him fairly, he features on many websites, some clearly written to support the guilty verdict. I mean to be balanced but as I began to write that I realised I wanted to show him to be innocent.  Misguided physicians allegiance or hindsight that  what he did would not have worked?

Luke Blackburn was born in 1816, in Woodford County, Kentucky.  He was one of 13 children, born into a Presbyterian family strongly involved in politics. Apprenticed at 15 to his physician uncle, Churchill Jones Blackburn, he gained his degree in medicine at the age of 19 in 1835, which seems young by todays standards but was probably not that unusual at the time. Maybe he was primed to develop an interest in what would today be the field of Infectious Diseases – he witnessed cholera and yellow fever as it swept across the southern states.  His finals dissertation was on cholera:

Dr Luke Blackburn's Dissertation

Dr Luke Blackburn’s Dissertation

He married shortly after becoming a doctor, and had a child within a year (a son who later went into medicine) and for a while he cultivated his political interests.  His CV would have either been impressive with its variety of roles in working life or showed lack of sticking power to any one thing.  It was enough to impress the mayor of New York in 1854 who called upon Dr Blackburn to treat yellow fever patients – this seemed to be in exchange for a New York medical apprenticeship for his son so maybe not completely altruistic.

Kentucky was one of the border states during the civil war, while trading heavily in slaves for the southern states and being officially represented by the central star on the Confederate flag, they diplomatically tried to remain neutral. But Luke Blackburn was open for his support of the Confederates.

How he turned up in Bermuda is not exactly clear – some sources have the Canadian authorities sending him as a Confederal Agent, others claim he volunteered and had already devised his wicked scheme.  They report that he refused payment for his medical services, but far from intending to boost his credentials in generosity it is written as if to underline his evil intent.

Perhaps my favourite source is “The Biography of a Colonial Town” by Sister Jean de Chantal Kennedy, 1961. Not for its unbiased writing, but for the element of storytelling she manages to incorporate.  Luke is described as having “subdued an outbreak of yellow fever” and ‘stemming the onslaught” of cholera.

So, on arrival he took quarters in The Hamilton Hotel where the local medical men asked him to address their meeting.  One took offence at the suggestion that he used the “application of onion with tobacco to the stomach” as a remedy for yellow fever.  Luke Blackburn impressed upon them the need for strict quarantine procedures, a reasonable idea even if it would not have reduced the mosquito carriers of the disease. He began treating the fevered patients and again is noted for not charging a fee.

V0010538 A girl suffering from yellow fever. Watercolour.

A girl suffering from yellow fever. Watercolour. From Wellcome Institute.




V0011984 A parodic cosmological diagram showing opposing aspects of t








What happened next may or may not be true.

Dr Blackburn reportedly (the nurse and the barman were witnesses) took the bedding and clothes from those who had just died of yellow fever and packed them into his trunks. In one instance he is supposed to have sent the relatives out to arrange burial while he himself laid out the deceased in an unknown nightgown, the patients own clothes “mysteriously” disappeared.  According to other sources he was in league with an Edward Swan whose role in this was to ship the trunks of (possibly) infected clothing to the northern states, to New York and Unionist ports.     It is even suggested that Blackburn himself selected particular fine shirts from amongst the dead persons’ clothing which he addressed to the President.

Note I have moved from referring to him as Luke, through Dr Blackburn and now Blackburn – and so they did on Bermuda as he fell from grace.  A man who might have been a federal agent or a double agent or a Unionist spy, Mr Fred Buckstaff, tracked the trunks and on finding them awaiting shipment challenged Edward Swan, who soon squealed.  Then another came forward , Godfrey Hyams, claiming he had been involved and had received shipments of infected clothing in Boston, Philadelphia and other ports, that the intent was a “cunning plan” to spread the contaminated clothes amongst the Unionists and so bring the Northern war effort to its knees.

The doctor’s supporters dwindled as the evidence seemed to mount against him.  It didn’t help that this was shortly followed by President Lincoln’s assassination so talk of conspiracy plots dominated the headlines.

No one seems to know quite how, but Dr Luke Blackburn left Bermuda and found himself in Canada. Here he was actually charged, but not with germ warfare or the equivalent of the time, but with damaging Canada’s neutrality.  His defence was reputed to be:  “it is too preposterous for intelligent gentleman to conceive”  The charges were dropped.

One might expect a guilty man to lay low, so perhaps it speaks well of him that he soon after travelled to the southern states when yellow fever took a hold in New Orleans.

I found one source that explains some of the research that was undertaken with respect to epidemics of fever – it appears that throwing cats from a height was involved …IMG_1044

So for the next ten years or so Dr Luke Blackburn seemed to have been an itinerant medic treating fevers of all descriptions with no little success – Memphis outbreak in 1873 and Florida in 1877.  Until he found himself back in Kentucky in 1879 and running in the election for Governor.   Some of his opponents tried to blacken his name with tales of “Dr Blackvomit” and reporting controversial statements of apparent evidence on a daily basis in the papers, but it seems his good deeds overshadowed any hint of malicious activity and he was selected as the Democrat candidate with a resounding majority of 935 votes to 22 and later on that year he was elected Governor of Kentucky with 56% of the votes.

He remained a controversial figure in this new role, granting pardons to criminals to avoid overcrowding in the prison, capping payments to state officials, reducing the number of jurors. After a tempestuous four years in post he withdrew from public life, set up a sanitarium where he worked until his death from an unknown illness in 1887.

The state of Kentucky erected a granite monument over his grave in Frankfurt (Kentucky town not German) which depicts the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

So what do you think? There is both information and misinformation on websites and it is probably impossible to get to the truth of the matter.  What I conclude is that no trunks were actually shipped from Bermuda with infected clothing; that it would have been a reasonable assumption that yellow fever was infectious and spread by contaminated bedding and clothes so it is logical to remove those items to prevent spread of disease;  that from all accounts it was a busy, scary period of time and fanciful stories tend to spread rapidly when tinged with the element of fear.

The link between mosquitoes and yellow fever was not far away – first proposed in 1881 but not confirmed until 1900.  The virus was isolated in 1927 and a vaccine developed by 1937, for which the South African Max Theiler won the Nobel Prize (1951). The same vaccine is used today and in 2013 WHO announced that one injection will confer lifelong immunity.  You don’t need one to come to Bermuda though 🙂

Postcard from DPLA  (US archives)

Postcard from DPLA
(US archives)

Halloween in Bermuda

Preparations for Halloween began back in September.  These were on display in Gorhams:






Just about every organisation seems to be putting on some form of party or event.

Bermuda National Trust have an evening of Ghost Stories told by John Cox who is described as ‘Bermuda’s favourite ghost whispererhttp://www.bnt.bm/documents/GhostStoryFlyerQ42013.pdf

I had the pleasure of meeting John at Verdmont last week – he is reassuringly normal, no baleful stare or spine-chilling handshake, at least not then in the middle of the day.  You can hear one of his real ghost stories on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwgEiw_t3NQ where he talks about his own home and the family ghost Mary, but for the Verdmont ghosts you will have to go to the talk on Thursday.  I am not sure I want to know – I have to open up and close up when it is very dark inside and it is creepy enough without thinking about apparitions. The first time I was in the nursery there I scared myself as I brushed against the cradle, setting it rocking with a rhythmic tap on the floorboards – or was it me?




The local newspaper boasts article headings such as

“Will your pet look scary for Halloween?”

” A friendly mansion? Don’t be fooled…be scared, very scared”

and the more down to earth one

“Residents balk at price of trick-or-treat candy”

(I did buy some, but we have eaten it, the mellow-creme-pumpkin sweets are particularly addictive)

I was brought up in England and during my childhood Halloween was a minor event, less celebrated than Bonfire Night and possibly slightly frowned upon in my standard CeeofEE familyIt is, after all, based on a pagan festival to do with magic charms, faeries and spirits. For my own children we went along with some dressing up and visiting immediate neighbours for trick-or-treat but not the full-fat-American-style Halloween that appears to take place here on Bermuda.

Dressing up is apparently to fool or scare the evil spirits




And the treats are to appease the faeries, who are, apparently, angels who won’t commit to either God or the devil and so are condemned to walk the earth until judgement day.

The story behind pumpkin lanterns seems to relate to an Irish scoundrel called Jack who trapped a devil in a tree.  He only let the devil go when it was promised to him that he, Jack, would never go to hell.  But when he died he didn’t make the grade for heaven either and so was given a turnip lantern to help find his way back to Ireland – he is still searching.

So the Christian Church set up “All Saints Day” on 1st November, the day after Halloween.  Do you remember that really long hymn we sang at school assemblies For All The Saints ? 

Eleven verses, each ending with an un-singable  Alleluia, Alleluia, one of those hymns more ancient than modern.

I think through this hymn I confused Saints with Knights, but then St George was usually depicted as a knight in armour.  St George is honoured here in Bermuda  – confusingly being the name of a town, an island and a parish, all at the far eastern end of the island.  That was where they first settled back in 1609 (the wreck of the Sea Venture) and 1612 (first colonists to arrive on the Plough).  It is a really pretty town with quite a lot for visitors to see, deserving a whole section of its own.

Some Saints have their own days for commemoration; of course St Georges Day in England is celebrated on 23rd April, the day on which the Roman soldier George of Lydda was executed for his Christian beliefs.   I was surprised to find out that there are several different lists of Saints and George does not appear on the Eastern Orthodox Calendar even though their art depicts the familiar George and the Dragon images.  That he usurped Edward The Confessor as England’s Patron Saint as late as 1552 is probably part of the reason that the town, island and parish were named after him on Bermuda, not all that long afterwards.


Well, I need to go and buy some more treats, just in case so will leave you with more images of Halloween on Bermuda:



The Library








West Indian Top Shell (Citterium pica)

Native snail and protected. I found this one in Devonshire Bay. It is probably only a baby as they grow up to 4″ across – its about 2″.