Today is my second day as a National Trust docent at Verdmont. I have just opened up and am eagerly awaiting visitors. On Monday there were just two, and, despite that having no bearing whatsoever on today’s expectations, I am rather hoping for a few more.
Now I am not going to bore you with the whole docent speech, but you need to know a little about Verdmont. If you are English I suspect you will have in mind some magnificent edifice – the likes of Chatsworth or Hatfield – scale it down significantly, even smaller than Sissinghurst, paint it pink ( Bermudian-salmon-pink ) and place it on a hill overlooking the south shore, add a pleasant sunny day with a gentle breeze and now you know why I chose to volunteer here specifically.
Built in the final decade of the seventeenth century it is a Georgian style house, the first of its kind in Bermuda, two storeys with four rooms on each floor. Older houses were generally just one room deep, or built in a cross-like shape so this one shouts about the wealth of its owner – in this case from privateering (licensed piracy).
And the reason it is special is that structurally it has been unaltered for 300 years and even though there was a lady living here until 1952, there is no plumbing or electricity and no modern gadgetry of any sort.
I had to break off then – visitors 🙂
And they were from England (just a small twinge of homesickness)
Although I suffer from the English reticence when it comes to asking for money I managed to sell them a guide book.
So now I am sitting outside in my portable camping chair (after Monday when I fidgeted between uncomfortable chair and garden bench I resolved to bring my own) drinking coffee from my thermos. The weather is just perfect, less humid than a month ago but still a bright blue sky and about 27C. There is a cockerel making a racket somewhere distant down the hill and a Kiskadee has twittered at me a few times, but that’s all I can hear – close to perfect.
So where was I?
I will leave you to look up details of Georgian architecture – basically pleasingly symmetrical with large sash windows, in this case painted white and dark green, traditional for Bermuda windows. If you are really observant you will see in the picture that the back door is offset from the centre – this accommodates a beautiful if creaky, cedar staircase. Bermuda cedar is actually a juniper tree, native to the island, it makes for attractive golden brown furnishings of which there are some priceless examples at Verdmont. A blight in the early twentieth century has decimated the numbers of trees but there are several in the grounds here.
What little I knew of furniture before coming here was garnered from Sunday evening Antique Roadshow programmes. Now I can recognize a “split-splat chair” and marching legs but not yet spot a fake Chippendale. One of the visitors today (it is much later by the way, lunchtime was marked by a stream of people and no lunch), was a curator for a museum collection in Boston and he waxed lyrical about the intricacies of the dovetail joints in the cedar chests. I learnt more from him than he did from me showing him around. The pattern of dovetailing was used as a signature to the carpentry – I have just checked and there are at least four different patterns on the chests here. I am not sure if that was a characteristic specific to Bermuda as he said the chests in his collection were more uniform in style.
Well, it is time to close up now, a process that takes forever: the windows have internal shutters which are kept in place with bolts and horizontal bars and then the sill protected by a towel to collect condensation or rain. The lack of any form of lighting makes this all feel rather creepy and although in theory I know ghosts don’t exist, I can’t help feeling a little spooked. I have brought my torch today – the solid heavy one that suggests more protection than just the light it emits.
I shall post this when I get home (no Internet here of course) and tell you more about the national trust here in a later blog.
Where is the torch?