Disambiguity: For the IT nerds who have landed on this page I know nothing about “Google Glass” the new wearable computer, but feel free to read the blog anyhow!
The topic came up when a visitor to Verdmont asked if the glass in the windows was made in Bermuda …..
My attempt to answer this question has led through several hundred years and from sand to bottle banks.
Google can sometimes produce random results and search terms “Bermuda + glass” did not disappoint – in the randomness that is, it didn’t answer my question. So result no. 3
“Pyramids of Glass found in the Bermuda Triangle”
Impressive, apparently 2000m deep, it is a smooth glass pyramid 200m tall with two spouts on the top that create a giant vortex: the answer to the Bermuda Triangle, of course, it’s obvious if you think about it. Thinking is not high on the list of the many websites that have copied and pasted the quotes from “renowned scientist Dr Verlag Meyer” – he doesn’t exist, his name just means “Meyer Publishing House”. They do exist – publishing car magazines, so probably not related to this “power plant focussing cosmic rays” or “ancient supply warehouse for Atlantis” . This hoax has popped up repeatedly since 1991 when it was a newspaper article (newspapers are black and white paper versions of the Internet) and despite this pyramid being “larger than Cheops” and that the scientists have “high resolution computerized data”, there is not a shred of real evidence – underwater glass pyramids do not exist!
Back to my search page and I land on
Bermuda’s best sea glass locations
Sea glass is the result of years of tumbling in waves and sand, the original fragments of bottles and broken glass are smoothed and frosted. People collect it, for decoration, jewellery, or mosaics. So last weekend I dragged my husband off to one of the recommended beaches for sea glass – now I have a bowl of fragments in green, brown and white and have lots of creative ideas. To my family: guess what you are getting for Christmas!
The beaches, by the way, are at Alexandra’s Battery in the east end of the island and Convicts Cemetery Beach (note to self: must explore that name) at Dockyard in the west. Check before you go to Dockyard because developers have bought Alberts Row, the Victorian buildings that stand in front of Convicts Beach and access may be restricted while they build.
While we are down at that end of the island and thinking of glass I have to mention the Dockyard Glassworks, where you can watch the very skilled artisans make sculptures, flame worked pieces and blown glass. It is hot inside the warehouse but they provide stools and seats and at the other end of the building you can buy Bermuda Rum Cake which, according to their advertising, lasts 3 months – cake lasting that long? Not in my house!
So far we have glass sculptures, sea glass and a dubious glass pyramid, but no answer to my question about window glass.
I changed my search terms:
Windows + glass = stained glass windows
With all the churches on Bermuda (see archives) you would expect some to have stained glass windows – they do:
The Anglican cathedral in Hamilton has the “Angel Window” by a local artist – I will have to make a trip there as there are no google images of the actual window. This is where it gets a little muddled – the cathedral is called “The Most Holy Trinity” and it stands in The City of Hamilton but there is also a “Holy Trinity Church” that is in the parish of Hamilton. With me so far? Now both have remarkable stained glass windows, both claim “the most beautiful in Bermuda”.
Sir Edward Burne-Jones was a pre-raphaelite artist who designed for William Morris and Company, who produced stained glass windows in the late 1800s. He designed over 100 stained glass windows, including the set of five in Holy Trinity Church, Bermuda.
While I can find lots of images of his work, I haven’t yet found one from either Holy Trinity – you will have to visit for yourself.
The windows at Verdmont are not stained glass! they are very simple:
They are 18th century sash windows with relatively small panes fitted into wide muntins – you can see the layers of putty and paint on the outside that keep the glass in place. In a pattern of “twelve over twelve” with cedar frames, recessed in the wall – the white surrounds are mainly decorative as opposed to protection for the wood.
In England at the time this house was built (early 1700s) there was a window tax. This tax continued until 1851, just before the erection of Crystal Palace – just as well I guess. In 1746 a glass tax was introduced as well, based on the weight of glass used – effectively a double tax on windows. Cheaper glass was used in public buildings – the thick small panes like bottle bottoms common in pubs were considered defective so the tax levied was much less. Fortunately Bermuda didn’t have a window or glass tax, but even so Verdmont had larger windows than many homes of the time.
Plate glass production (a French development) was expensive because the plates had to cool slowly over days and then required many hours of polishing. Sheet glass came into production in 1838, requiring less time to cool and less polishing. But neither process would have been undertaken in Bermuda.
So I had arrived at an answer – No, the glass was not made in Bermuda.
It was brought in from England, for all 25 windows in Verdmont main house! some 600 small panes, then extra for the doors – a significant shipment.
What has happened to the windows of Verdmont over time does not seem to be known. It is unlikely that any panes are original, though some clearly are older than others. A few are cracked, not at all surprising given that the window shutters are on the inside of the building – unusual for Bermuda and a risk in hurricane season.
On an island with so much sand and limestone it seems strange that glass making did not take place. If anyone can demonstrate it did I would love to hear from you.
PS I haven’t forgotten about the bottle banks – “Bermuda recycles” will have to be another post!