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Flying flag of St. George of England

Bermuda's Town of St. George

An introduction to this World Heritage accredited municipality

Historic Town of St. George

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda Online

To refer to this web file, please use "bermuda-online.org/seetown.htm" as your Subject.

In conjunction, see Bermuda's History of the 1600s

Introduction

St. George's Harbour sceneTown crest

Old Town of St. George

Welcome to the fifth oldest Northern European municipality in the Western Hemisphere, after St. John's in Newfoundland founded by the British; Annapolis Royal (formerly Port Royal) founded by the French in Nova Scotia, in 1605; Jamestown, Virginia, founded by the British in 1607 and Quebec City founded by the French in 1608. All were long after the Spanish founded their empire in the New World and the Portuguese theirs. Bermuda's first capital, St George's, was settled in 1612 and is the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the Americas. St. George's used to be Bermuda's capital until the 19th century after being substantially outgrown by Hamilton. 

The town occupies a unique place in Bermuda's history. Discovery Bay, not far away, was the first place in Bermuda where in 1609 British colonists landed involuntarily after their ship the Sea Venture, sank after being destroyed by reefs. Prior to that, Bermuda had been uninhabited except by stranded Portuguese and Spanish mariners in New World expeditions.

The town also played a role in the American Revolution. Bermuda depended on the American Colonies for food, and when the war began, supplies grew dangerously low.  Defying and ignoring the town-based British governor, George Washington and prominent British Bermudian but pro-American legislator and landowner Henry Tucker and his friends agreed that Tucker and his supporters would steal a large quantity of town-based British Army gunpowder for food under the cover of night and roll it down the hill to nearby Tobacco Bay from where it was loaded on to American ships, in the very first action by a group of American sailors and militia who later became the US Marine Corps. During the war of 1812-14, this time when Bermudians were seen to be more openly pro-British, the town again played a significant military role, both as a depot for British prison ships moored at Convict Bay housing American prisoners-of-war and again as the capital of Bermuda from which the Attack on Washington DC was planned from the Royal Navy's main command post then at Mount Wyndham nearby.

Thanks entirely to a British Government (not Bermuda Government or Bermuda Tourism) initiative, because the United Kingdom, not Bermuda, is a member of UNESCO, on November 30, 2000 it became one of the now nearly 1,000 World Heritage properties (the list increases each year) in 145 countries on the UNESCO list - see http://whc.unesco.org/en/list. Briton Frank Lawrie, on behalf of a British committee in the United Kingdom that makes recommendations for nomination for UNESCO World Heritage status, had earlier visited many occasions to go through a UK shortlist and help get the town formally nominated by Britain as a UNESCO World Heritage site. He was then a senior United Kingdom civil servant with Historic Scotland. Thus, on the UNESCO country-by-country listing, it is not shown under "Bermuda" but as one of the World Heritage sites of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The British Government had to be involved in classifying it as a British overseas territory and therefore as one of Britain's such sites. It was described as “The Town of St George's, founded in 1612, an outstanding example of the earliest English urban settlement in the New World. Its associated fortifications graphically illustrate the development of English military engineering from the 17th to the 20th century, being adapted to take account of the development of artillery over this period.” See it there under the UK as the Historic Town of St. George's and Related Fortifications. In the past, and on other websites and in other guidebooks relating to Bermuda, there have been misunderstandings relating to Britain's involvement. This should clarify matters. 

There have also been misunderstandings re what constitutes a World Heritage site. It is not a country but a specific place or places within a country that make them historically, culturally and in specific other respects unique. This is why some countries have more than one UNESCO World Heritage sites. Italy, for example, has 47; Spain has 43; China has 41; the UK, including Bermuda and other British Overseas Territories has 28, the same as India; the USA has 21, etc). As Bermuda is so small (only 21 square miles or 58  square kilometers in total size) compared to these countries and with her former colonial historical and cultural uniqueness already recognized by UNESCO through Britain, it is unlikely there will be any further World Heritage Site additions in Bermuda in the foreseeable future.  Until 2011, UNESCO was funded principally by the USA.

Town of St. George, BermudaSt. George's Town (1)More of St. George's

On April 26, 2001 The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, was present in the Old Town, with appropriate formalities and other dignitaries, to mark its World Heritage accreditation. These UNESCO sites are deemed important for all humanity rather than just the host nation or island or nation nominating another as happened in this case when Britain recommended its oldest British Overseas Territory, Bermuda. One of the criteria for inclusion on UNESCO's list (with Britain being a UNESCO member, Bermuda is not) is "to represent a masterpiece of human genius." In this case, the genius was the ability of the British ship Sea Venture to reach Bermuda in 1609 albeit by accident not intent under the leadership of British Royal Navy Admiral Sir George Somers and to establish Bermuda as a British Colony with its first settlers all from Britain. 

Town coinMany old stone buildings still stand today (built from models and drawings originally from England). They were built from Bermuda stone after 1619 for protection against elements and fires. Before that, they were thatched with palmetto. Their external British Bermudian architecture has not varied much in 380 years. The town has remained a port, residential and trading center. It was Bermuda's original official capital until 1815. Many properties have remained in the same families.  

For at least a century now the town is populated by individuals whose ethnicity and heritage are mostly African Bermudian, not European Bermudian. Cobblestones were imported from Wales (as none were available from local materials in Bermuda). There are also a Town Gateway, Town Center Gateway, heraldic signs and a small new public garden. Since the mid-1990s the town’s narrow streets and lanes have, one-by-one, been dug up and re-paved to create a more old world feel to the World Heritage Status town.

On April 1, 2011, with the enactment of Bermuda's new Municipalities Act 2011 to replace the Municipalities act 1923 which it deemed out-of-date and no longer relevant, the Bermuda Government took from the St. George's municipality the Corporation of St. George the collection of all wharfage fees, earlier a major source of income for the Corporation. Government gave the Corporation of St. George, $700,000 to compensate for some of the fees it can no longer collect. Since April 1, 2011, all residents on the electoral register of the town have the right to vote. Earlier, only town businesses and their owners could vote.  The change meant that the Parliamentary Election Act now applies to municipal elections as well, run in the same way as national elections. Anyone ordinarily resident in this municipal area is allowed to vote and electors' names are taken from the annual Parliamentary Register, compiled every June.

Corporation of St. George

The British-style administration of the town is headed by the Mayor, Garth Rothwell, mayor since January 2013, previously an Alderman and Deputy Mayor. The position was vacated on December 17, 2012  when Kenneth Bascome stepped down after his election to the House of Parliament. Mr Rothwell has also served as a Chairman of the Trustees of St George’s Preparatory School and has been a member of the Education Board and Planning Board. He is a co-owner of Robertson’s Drugstore, which was founded by his grandfather Freddy Robertson, and has a son and daughter, both of whom live in St George’s with their families. All matters about the town past and present should be addressed directly to the Mayor and Corporation, at  "Buckingham," 2 King Street, St. George's GE 05, telephone (441) 297-1532, fax 297-0062. Or e-mail corpstg@northrock.bm. Or at Storekeeper's House, 5 Ordnance Island, St. George's GE 05, same phone number. Full-time officials include a Town Manager and Secretary. 

Book about the town: The Historic Towne of St. George. By British-born Bermudian the late David Raine, local resident and town councillor who died in August 2004 at the age of 63.

Constituency and Member of Parliament

Kenneth Bascombe, JP, MP, One Bermuda Alliance, elected December 17, 2012, represents St. George's North, one of the two electoral districts in the Parish. In the previous general election four years earlier December 2007, Dame Jennifer Smith was the victorious Member of Parliament. There are approximately 1,220 voters in the constituency.

Founded in 1612, incorporated in 1797

This ancient town began three years after Bermuda was founded in 1609 - by accident- as a British colony in 1609. Nine ships left England under the overall personal command of Royal Navy hero Admiral Sir George Somers. He was born and bred in Lyme Regis, the lovely historic town in Dorset, England from where Bermuda's History began. Lyme Regis has a special section on this unique chapter of Bermuda's earliest colonization history. It can be found at "Lyme Regis and Bermuda."

English colonists landed in 1609Town in 1618Town sign

Centre graphic: Town in 1618.

Under the command of Admiral Sir George Somers, Royal Navy, the fleet sailed from Plymouth in Devon, England. They were bound for Jamestown in Virginia under the first 17th century Virginia Charter of April 10, 1606 - not the Second Virginia Charter of May 23, 1609 as some historians believe, wrongly. But the flagship "Sea Venture" was blown off course and wrecked on the reefs off Bermuda.  Another vessel - the "Catch" - perished in the same tempest. Stranded here for 42 weeks, the colonists left Bermuda in 1610 in two small ships and with many local provisions. They arrived in Jamestown in time to rescue it from starvation. The town was the first municipality in Bermuda, established before St. George's Parish (in which the town is located).  It was referred to initially as New London. It was first populated by British settlers. They arrived in 1609 by accident instead of going to Jamestown in Virginia. 

See Charters between England and Virginia including Bermuda

Princess Pocahontas Admiral Sir George Somers wrote his last will and testament at his home in Lyme Regis on April 23, 1609. It was just before he set out for Plymouth in expectation he would reach Virginia but instead was shipwrecked on what is now St. George's Island, Bermuda. The writings in 1609 and 1610 of William Strachey from Lyme Regis have been recorded in local, American and British history. 

It was as a direct result of how the Bermuda colonists rescued Jamestown in 1610 that Bermuda was included by name with Virginia in the Third Virginia Charter of March 12, 1612 and settled deliberately. Stachey wrote the main accounts and was described in the original ship's manifest as Secretary Elect to the Deputy Governor of Virginia. Later, Strachey became famous as the author of the first code of laws for Virginia. 

The colonists who arrived in Jamestown included widower John Rolfe (later the husband of Princess Pocahontas, pictured) whose first wife and infant child died in Bermuda. 

The women among them were the first ever to be allowed in as voluntary female colonists. Goods carried by them included large sea shells like conch, coral for ballast, the original signet ring of Strachey with his family crest and more. They are all now preserved by a Jamestown museum. Thus this earlier Bermuda town has great importance in early British North America as the catalyst of British colonial development in North America. By contrast, not until 1620 did the "Mayflower" - also from Plymouth in England - reach Plymouth in Massachusetts. 

Named by Admiral Sir George Somers after St. George of England

St. George's Town Crest  St. George himself

"God for Harry, England and Saint George." Shakespeare, King Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1

In 1609, Admiral Sir George Somers, who founded Bermuda, named the town not after himself but in honor of the Patron Saint of England, St. George.  The admiral's ships all flew the flag of St. George, as ships of the Royal Navy still do today. The Admiral died in Bermuda on April 24, 1610 - a day after the anniversary of his patron saint. But in this British colonial town named after the saint, the Flag of St. George is flown only over St. Peter's Church, not in the town proper, not even on April 23, the official feast day in England of St. George, who died in 304.  No particulars of his life have survived but veneration of Saint George as a soldier saint is extensive, not just in England, especially in the east where he was martyred. It is not known how and why he became the patron saint of England.  But his cult was popularized by crusaders returning from the east, initially led by King Richard of England.   This is why St. George is most often shown wearing a white tabard with the red cross of the crusaders and is the patron saint not only of England but also Boy Scouts (as St. George was a hero of Lord Baden - Powell), various places in Spain and elsewhere. Places in the United Kingdom dedicated to his saintly name and history include St. George's, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales; St. George's Island, Cornwall, England and Ogbourne St. George, in Wiltshire, England. Other places include this town, of course; St. George's Parish in Bermuda; Georgetown in the Cayman Islands, Georgetown of Guyana in South America and St. George's of Grenada in the Caribbean. None are as old as our town.

William Shakespeare wrote "The Tempest"  because of Bermuda

William ShakespeareSylvesterJordainDiaryApril 23, 1564 was the birth, at Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, England, of  British playwright William Shakespeare. For Bermuda, he has a special claim to fame. His story about Bermuda in 1610 as the still vexed Bermoothes in "The Tempest" where the settlers had been alive and well after all after the sinking of the "Sea Venture" and had succeeded in their journey from Bermuda to Jamestown in Virginia, made the Town of St. George and Bermuda famous. It was because William Strachey wrote the description of the wreck of the Sea Venture in Bermuda in 1609 and the time spent there by the passengers and crew. He spent a year in America before returning to Lyme Regis. It was mostly from his accounts that Shakespeare wrote The Tempest. Except that instead of correctly showing Bermuda, Plymouth and Virginia in his story, he used an Italian island and the people as mythical. 

Yet there are many sections of his play where he originally used the word for word accounts of the epic voyage of the "Sea Venture" ship that ended its days in Bermuda and gave him the inspiration for the drama. He was a friend of the Earl who knew Admiral Sir George Somers well. He was the first famous literary historian of Bermuda. 

He was the son of John Shakespeare, a highly respected citizen of Stratford, where he held various offices including that of bailiff, or presiding officer, and his wife Mary, the daughter of Robert Arden of the Warwickshire landed gentry, closely related to the ancient Catholic family of Arden. Alas, all versions of "The Tempest" have used the fiction of Shakespeare, instead of the facts and accounts of the "Sea Venture" he was given. 

When he died in 1616 - also on April 23 - at Stratford upon Avon on his 52nd birthday, his dramatic works were of critical importance for the hundreds of compositions they inspired from composers from then to now. 

At his death, more than half of his plays remained unpublished. They appeared for the first time in the famous First Folio of 1623. 

Other historical or commercial links with St. George

There was once a famous old Bermuda family, the Forbes, of the famous Forbes Clan of Scotland. They emigrated in the mid 1700s to Bermuda from Scotland. At one time, they owned homes both in this town and on Smith's Island, site of Bermuda's first settlement, in the harbor of the town.  A son of the second generation of Doctor George Forbes was Francis Forbes who was Bermuda's first native-born Attorney General. He was so promising that he was sent by the British Government to Canada, as Chief Justice of Upper Canada. His reputation became such that he was sent, as a significant promotion, as Chief Justice of the huge Australian state of New South Wales. He was knighted as Sir Francis Forbes and died in Australia. His family began many Australian Forbeses.

Twinned since 1996 with Lyme Regis

Admiral Sir George SomersThe seaside town in Dorset, England - many centuries older and also a World Heritage site - occupies a unique place in Bermuda and English history. It is because our famous Admiral Sir George Somers - the man who discovered and colonized and is the Father of Bermuda - was born, lived in, represented and was buried there. He was accompanied to Bermuda and Jamestown by other settlers from Lyme Regis. They included scribe William Strachey. 

Lyme Regis was granted its Royal Charter in the year 1284, hence its Latin version of Royal in its name. It was then a prominent English port. Admiral Sir George Somers - born on April 24, 1554 and shown on the left - was one of the sons of John and Alice Somers, both also from Lyme Regis. He became a Freeman, first a Mayor of and then a Member of Parliament for Lyme Regis. He married Joanne Somers - originally Heywood or Hayward. She was also from the town. Once established, they lived in Berne Manor, near Lyme Regis. Much later, Lyme Regis had other famous figures. They include Jane Austen - with her "Persuasion" in Lyme Regis. She wrote many books. Modern author John Fowles established an international reputation with his The French Lieutenant's Woman. He was then the Curator of the town museum. 

In 2009, to celebrate 400 years ago when Admiral Sir George Somers left his native Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast in the flagship Sea Venture intending to sail to Virginia, but became shipwrecked on Bermuda, a traditional civic procession walked through Lyme Regis, along Marine Parade, to the Cobb, where a plaque commemorates Sir George, sometime Mayor and Member of Parliament for the historic town. Mariea Caisey, in her last year as Mayor of St. George's, visited the UK resort to greet Councillor Michaela Ellis, elected Mayor of Lyme Regis only four days before. Her predecessor Sir George Somers had been Mayor in 1604. Police stopped the traffic on the busy bank holiday, so the long procession could walk along the main road, led by the two macebearers and preceded by the Lyme Regis Junior Band and the majorettes. On a hot, sunny day there were many spectators along the route. At the Cobb, on the 13th century harbour wall, Lyme Regis Town Crier Phil Street and St. George's Town Crier David Frith in turn saluted the memory of Admiral Sir George Somers as the flags of both towns were hoisted aloft. Alan Vian portrayed the Admiral, recalling his farewell words as left Lyme Regis. Rev. Stephen Skinner gave the blessing and the mayors returned along the Cobb to the marquee by the Marine Theatre for lunch. A toast to the success of the twinning was drunk with Bermuda Dark 'n' Stormy (rum and ginger beer, the original name of which was the Scapa Flow).

On July 25, 1996 Lyme Regis and this town were twinned, initially in Lyme Regis. Then-Mayor of St. George Henry Hayward and then-Lyme Regis Town Council Mayor Mrs. Barbara Austin signed the documents. A flight of the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows acrobatic team roared overhead. They used smoke to form a heart shaped image over Lyme Regis Bay, in tribute to Bermuda where Admiral Somers in 1610 asked that his heart be buried. Other ceremonial events included the raising of the flags of Bermuda and Lyme Regis in the British town where the body - minus his heart - of Admiral Somers was landed for burial in Lyme Regis after he died in Bermuda in 1610. His remains are interred at the nearby church going back to the 9th century and a brass plaque records how he was buried on July 4, 1611. It was erected by public subscription in 1908.

Special twinning message of congratulations from Her Majesty the Queen to both towns were read and paintings were exchanged by the Mayors. Bermudian guests were taken to see the still standing old Lyme Regis home of Sir George and Lady Somers. The local newspaper, The Lyme Regis News, published an eight page color supplement. Later, Mrs. Austin visited Bermuda. One of her three sons is Kerry Austin. Another is a photographer whose works have been featured in Bermudian and prominent United Kingdom publications.

Another Twinning Ceremony with Lyme Regis was on April 30, 1997, this time in Bermuda. It started at 10:20 am. Organizations present in King's Square for the Blessing by the Rev. Anthony Hollis, Rector of St. Peter's Church, were the Bermuda Regiment Band, Bermuda Sea Cadets and St. George's Volunteer Fire Brigade. At 11:15 am, at the church, there was a solo by Jacklyn Piper of Lyme Regis. From 1 to 5 pm, at King's Square and Ordnance Island, there were performances by Steel Pan Music, Empress Mennin Dancers and The Hayward Gombey Troupe. Concurrently, there was a Fish Chowder Festival and Contest, Rowing Competition, Floral Cycle & Bonnet Pageant and a St. George's Preparatory School Car Boot Sale. At 6:30 pm, sunset, there was the unveiling of the Major Donald H. (Bob) Burns Memorial Park at Ordnance Island, with a Scottish Piper in attendance.

Twinning Committee members from Bermuda for the April 20, 1997 event were then-Mayor J. Henry Hayward; William (Bill) Davis, chairperson; Louise Anfossi; Leslie Barrett; Joan Davis; Nick Duffy; Richard Elsom; Pat Hayward; Harry Ingham; Stanley Kennedy; Graham Maddocks; Bernard Oatley; Lily Oatley; Jill Raine; Larry Jacobs, then Corporation Secretary; Counselor David Raine, ex-officio. 

Guests from Bermuda, in local ranking order at the time, were:

Jennifer Smith, MP Grace Bell, MP Richard Spurling, MP and Mrs Spurling Mayor J. Henry Hayward, MBE and Mrs. Hayward
Aldermen Lois Perinchief, MBE Alderman & Senator Noela Haycock & Mr. Haycock Alderman Ross Smith & Mrs. Smith Councilor Leon "Jimmy" Williams MP
Councilor E. Michael Jones & Mrs. Jones Councilor Terrence Roberts & Mrs. Roberts Councilor Louis DeSilva Councillor David Raine and Mrs. Raine

Other local guests specifically invited and in alphabetical order, were

Brian Anfossi & Mrs Anfossi Lesley Barrett & Mrs Barrett Chief Inspector Vendal Bridgeman & Mrs Bridgeman Anthony Correia & Mrs Correia
Colin Curtis William (Bill) Davis & Mrs. Davis Nick Duffy & Mrs Duffy Lance Furbert & Mrs. Furbert
Michael Gringley & Mrs Gringley Joyce Hall, MBE Richard Harris & Mrs Harris Rev Anthony Hollis & Mrs Hollis
Harry Ingham & Mrs Ingham Larry Jacobs & Mrs Jacobs Stanley Kennedy & Mrs Kennedy Eric Laing & Mrs Laing
Graham Maddocks & Mrs Maddocks Louis Mowbray & Mrs Mowbray Bernard Oatley & Mrs Oatley Roger Oldfield & Mrs Oldfield
Janet Outerbridge Dr & Mrs Brian Peckett Gary Renaud Mayor Emeritus Norman Roberts & Mrs Roberts
Clifford Rowe & Mrs Rowe Hugh Skiffington & Mrs Skiffington Andrew Trimingham Philip Troake & Mrs Troake
Lt. Dwayne Trott & Mrs Trott Sam Wharton & Mrs Wharton David L. White Reginald Young & Mrs Young

Lyme Regis members were

Mayor Barbara Austin Richard Fox Captain Geoff Cozens Dr. Jeff Evemy
Ken Whetlor Chris Worsford Philip Street Richard Elsom & Mrs. Elsom
Dawn Street Marilyn Fox Renee Charrington David Cousins
Jacklyn Piper John Piper Jean Sitton Allan Tuffin
Dorothy Tuffin Iris Mann Trevor Mann Silvia Peters

Banana Manor

4 Blockade Alley, Town of St. George. Originally called Lough House. Name was changed in the 20th century. Won the 2003 Bermuda In Bloom best Garden in this Parish Award. A privately-owned, not open to the general public, historic house in the Town of St. George built by one of the town's most prominent 18th-century citizens. He was the Honorable Dr. George Forbes, originally from Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, west of Aberdeen, in Scotland. Born there in 1710 he was a graduate in 1734 of the University of Aberdeen, specializing in "phisick and surgery." He emigrated to Bermuda shortly after his graduation, as a medical doctor. He brought with him recommendations from his relatives Lord Forbes, the Duchess of Gordon and his kinsman, Lord Gordon, Sir Arthur Forbes and Sir Duncan Forbes. In Bermuda, he fell in love with and married Mary Jones, daughter of Francis Jones, a prominent local merchant, councilor, militia general and frequently Bermuda's President (leading legislator, president of the legislative counsel). He became renowned throughout Bermuda for his decency and humanity. He pioneered smallpox inoculation in Bermuda and saved many lives. He was the personal doctor of Governor William Popple and became a councilor, vestryman, Justice of the Peace in 1763, briefly Chief Justice in 1749 and, like his father-in-law, President of the Council, member of the Executive Council of the Bermuda Government. In 1759 he was made the Honorable George Forbes. He purchased Paget Island  - then called Paget Ford Island and 36.35 acres - in St. George's Parish for sixty pounds sterling. There is a large tomb in his honor on the left, shortly after you enter the ancient church of St. Peter's in the old town of St. George. His first child was Francis - born at Brackish Pond, Devonshire, Bermuda. Others, including James, William and Thomas, were born in the old town above. Two sons, Francis and Robert, were sent to medical school in Edinburgh and two others, William and Thomas, left Bermuda and became merchants in St. Kitt's, West Indies. James did not succeed as a merchant in Georgetown, now Guyana, and Charlestown, South Carolina, and returned to Bermuda.  Dr. Francis Forbes married Mary Tucker of Bermuda and had a son, also Francis, later Chief Justice in Canada, was knighted and as Sir Francis Forbes was transferred by the British Government to Australia as Chief Justice of New South Wales, lived in Sydney and died there. His descendants today include Forbes family members of Sydney, Bermuda, Scotland, England, South Africa and Forbes wineries in Victoria, Australia. Some time later, the house passed to a member of the Lough family which descended from the Forbes family of Bermuda. During the American Civil War it was leased by the Confederate military agent in Bermuda, Major Norman Stuart Walker, and his family. Lough House was where a son of Major and Mrs Walker was born on June 15, 1863, and at the special request of Mrs. Walker, a Confederate flag was ceremoniously draped over her lying-in bed. It then had various owners including F. C. Outerbridge and at one point was subdivided. Now owned by a member of the Hayward family originally from St. David's.

Bank of Bermuda Building

Now HSBC but still called this locally. Built in the 1970s as a bank after a former grocery store was demolished. But the present parking lot is believed to be rich in history. Modern maps don't say that in the town's earliest years - dating back to when Governor Richard Moore began it, was the first Government House in Bermuda - dwelling of the Governor and seat of the British colony. It was noted by Nathaniel Butler, Governor 1619-22, as a handsome house built of wood, in the shape of a cross. It was demolished by Samuel Harvey in 1693 after being in disrepair since 1685. When built, it was on part of a sea inlet - no longer there. When the second Government House was built in 1699 nearby by Governor Samuel Day, the area that housed the original Government House became a garden for the second Government House - later, the Globe Hotel. In those days and until 1815, St. George's was the capital of Bermuda. The area may have degenerated into waste land until the 1930s, when John Smith built a grocery shop on the site.  

Bermuda Fire Service

From April, 2007 Bermuda’s three fire departments are unified into a single national fire service. After 76 years of existence the volunteer St. George Fire Brigade became history, along with the Bermuda International Airport fire service. Both are absorbed into the Bermuda Fire Service to form a comprehensive emergency service that will span the Island. The 35 volunteers of the former St. George Fire Brigade have expanded training opportunities using such facilities as the smoke and heat chamber at the Hamilton fire headquarters. They will be trained up as emergency medical service providers, giving the East End a rapid response team able to administer immediate medical assistance to casualties awaiting the arrival of an ambulance. Likewise the full-time staff at the airport’s fire department become part of the national fire service and receive cross-training. The current St. George fire station is also to be replaced with a new facility in the town, most likely in the Tiger Bay area. Volunteer fire-fighters in St. George may find themselves being called upon to deal with emergencies as far away as Dockyard if the need arises. They will also be given “Crash Fire Rescue” training needed to deal with airport incidents.

Bermuda Forts

Technically, the town got World Heritage status not only for its municipality (as a town, not a city by any British or North American definition) because of the former British Army then in Bermuda forts guarding it. Those in this Parish - but not the town although some of the following are very close to it by land or sea - include some of the oldest and most historic, as well as most picturesque in Bermuda. The town has hundreds of British Army and Royal Navy reminders. At one time, the British Army had extensive barracks just up the hill from the town. Its official garrison church was St. Peter's, where regimental flags and pennants used to fly and plaques still in the church show the town's many links with the British Army. And the Royal Navy once had many vessels moored in the harbor.

Bermuda Police Service

There is a newly-renovated Police Station on Duke of York Street.

Bermudian Heritage Museumpublic busesShopping

On York and Water Streets at the foot of Barrack Hill, next to the Somers Gardens and in the historic, brown two-floor Samaritan's Lodge building. It shows the history of the black people of Bermuda and local black history. Telephone 297-4126. Registered charity # 406.

It began on March 8, 1998 and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm. There is an admission charge per person. There are two floors. Of interest are collections of old photographs and sculptures. Notable in the Eagle Room is "Minna, the slave girl" crafted in Bermuda cedar by local artisan Hubert (Cookie) Spence. She was mentioned in the book "Chained on a Rock" by the late author, librarian and historian Cyril Outerbridge Packwood, one of the museum's founding members. Of outstanding interest are the beautiful and intricate Bermuda Cedar animals carved by Bermudian David Ifor Nisbett, a retired master craftsman and former superintendent and manager of one of Bermuda's largest wood-working facilities.

Bermuda National Trust Museum public busesShopping

Old Globe Hotel

32 Duke of York Street, across St. Peter's Church. Telephone (441) 297-1423. In the renovated  (at a cost of $431,000) Globe Hotel, King's Square, owned by the Bermuda National Trust. Open Mondays to Saturdays, 10 am to 4 pm and on Sundays, 1 pm to 4 pm. It began life as Bermuda's second Government House - dwelling and seat of power of the colonial Governor (Samuel Day) from 1698 to 1700.  When he refused to give it up after being replaced as Governor, it became his private residence and a third Government House was built on the site of the Unfinished Church. Later, as the Globe Hotel, it became the headquarters of the Confederate Agent in Bermuda in the American Civil War. For many years it was known as the Confederate Museum. This has now been deemed politically incorrect and the building is now referred to instead as Rogues and Runners, much to the outrage of at least one American writer. 

Keith Forbes graphic

Advance Confederate shipIt has displays, maps, memorabilia and period furnishings on Bermuda's role, biased towards the Confederates. 

It angered Union forces. 

Artifacts and more tell of blockade running and linking Bermuda with the Confederates, thanks to the skills of Britons and Canadians. 

When the American Civil War began in 1860, it was not long before Bermuda, with its convenient access to open ocean and its St. George's in particular, became the second-largest, after Nassau, Bahamas, transshipment base for large British-built but not British-approved (because Britain was officially neutral) ships crossing the Atlantic.

It was also the principal West Atlantic base for smaller but faster, also mostly British-built but Confederate-owned fleet of blockade runners. 

In contemptuous defiance of British neutrality laws or regulations, large ships from the United Kingdom unloaded in St. George's huge cargoes of arms and ammunition, cannon, gunpowder, lead and other tools or weapons, plus huge amounts of smokeless anthracite coal from Wales, into town warehouses, where they were stored until loaded aboard fast steamers bound for Confederate ports. 

Hope Confederate ship

Confederate purchasing agents and British speculators - English, Scots, Welsh and Irish - rented every available wharf, storehouse and warehouse, often at exorbitant rates, while Bermudians made fortunes from renting or leasing their wharves or warehouses. It turned usually sedate St. George's into an overcrowded, polluted, often lawless and dangerous town, especially with sailors looking for liquor and women.  

There were dangers, too.

In October 1864, Bat, length 230', beam 26', draft 7'6", speed 16 knots, her sisters Owl, Stag, and Deer were side-wheelers with long, low, molded steel hulls, schooner-rigged fore and aft, with two funnels. They had twin, 180-nominal hp., vertical, double-oscillating, Watt engines and capacity for 800 to 850 bales of cotton, plus enough anthracite to return from Nassau, Havana or Bermuda. Bat reached Halifax on her maiden voyage and ran down to the Cape Fear River, attempting entrance the night of October 8 1864 with a cargo of shoe machinery and 200 tons of coal; she was turned back by blockaders. On October 10, Captain A. Hora, a blockade runner, tried again and was hit by USS Montgomery. The 30-pounder amputated the leg of seaman Match Madick, an Austrian, who had been captain of the forecastle in the Alabama during her battle with USS Kearsarge. Captain Hora surrendered and called Montgomery's surgeon but Madick died.

Flamingo, length 270', beam 24', draft 7', crew 45, speed 16 knots. She suffered a serious setback in Bermuda, with with her sister, Ptarmigan, while their crews battled yellow fever. She was wrecked off Battery Rutledge on the north side of Charleston harbor.

Greyhound was fast, with red streak along her light lead colored hull. Built in Liverpool in 1863 she left for the Confederacy on January 5, 1864 on her maiden voyage, and ran between there and Bermuda mostly. Commanded by Lt. George Henry Bier, CSN, on 9 May 1864 she ran out of Wilmington NC, with 820 bales of cotton, 35 tons of tobacco and 25 casks of turpentine. Captured next day by USS Connecticut, she became celebrated as the ship that carried a mysterious "Mrs. Lewis", soon recognized as "the famous rebel lady, Miss Belle Boyd.” The prize master, Acting Ensign Samuel Harding, Jr., USN, who took Greyhound to Boston was persuaded by his charming prisoner to let Captain Bier escape from Boston to Canada; for this Harding was dismissed from the  US Navy in disgrace, so married Belle Boyd in England.

In January 1865, when Wilmington, North Carolina was captured by Union forces, the fleet of blockade runners based in Nassau and St. George's, Bermuda, vanished - and so did the prosperity that the US Civil War had brought Bermuda by being so hugely on the side of the Confederates. See the story of Bermuda and the American Civil War and a video with great images of the forces which shaped Bermuda, titled Bermuda: Center of the Atlantic. 

 Lynx was a long, very fast Clyde-built (in Scotland) paddle-steamer with two stacks and two masts, all painted white. She met her end bound for Bermuda, running out of Wilmington NC, under Captain Reid, with 600 bales of cotton, passengers and special cargo, including $50,000 in gold. She was hit eight times, six below the waterline, by the 100-pounder and 30-pounder rifles of much slower USS Howquah, assisted by Niphon and Governor Buckingham. Sinking, with one of her wheels damaged, Lynx was beached about six miles below Fort Fisher. The Confederates all escaped, along with the gold, although Federal sharpshooters got near enough to wound one crew member. The ship's remains were set afire.

Owl, length 230', beam 26', draft 7'6", speed 14-16 knots. She was at Bermuda with cotton. Captain John N. Maffitt, once the Florida captain, collected the latter's survivors in Bermuda. (She was a Confederate cruiser sunk by the Union Navy). 

Robert E. Lee, length 283', beam 20', draft 10', speed 13.5 knots. A schooner-rigged, iron-hulled, oscillating-engined paddle-steamer with two stacks originally the Giraffe, built on the Clyde during the autumn of 1862 as a fast Glasgow-Belfast packet. Alexander Collie & Co., Manchester, acquired her for their blockade-running fleet but were persuaded by renowned blockade-runner Lt. John Wilkinson, CSN, to sell her to the Navy Department. Her first voyage, for the Confederate Navy, was into Old Inlet, Wilmington NC, in January 1863 with valuable munitions and 26 Scot lithographers, eagerly awaited by the Government bureau of engraving and printing. She established a legendary reputation by outracing the blockader USS Iroquois. Lt. Richard H. Gayle, CSN, assumed command in May, relieving Lt. John Wilkinson. Robert E. Lee's luck ran out on November 9, 1863, after 21 voyages in 10 months carrying out over 7,000 bales of cotton, returning with munitions invaluable to the Confederacy. She left Bermuda five hours after her consort, Cornubia, only to be run down a few hours later by the USS James Adger.

Stag. Length 230', beam 26', draft 7'6", speed 16 knots. She was a fast, modern, steel paddle-steamer built for the Confederate Navy at Liverpool as Jones, Quiggin & Co.'s Hull No. 169 in 1864 to the order of Cdr. James D. Bulloch, CSN. She sailed from Liverpool on her maiden voyage in August, getting away from Nassau about 1 September. For the rest of the year, she was busily running out of Charleston and Wilmington to Nassau or Bermuda. She fell into Union hands when she attempted to run into Wilmington in January 1865; Fort Fisher having just fallen, she was trapped by the Union Navy along with the Charlotte.

Blacksmith's Hillpublic buses

A steeply inclined street at the western end of Water Street. It has been re-surfaced with brick paving. Former overhead wires have been relocated  underground. The street takes its name from blacksmith Samuel Adams who opened his Old Town shop in the 1700s while his brother built the Armoury building at the end of the street. The Rev. Richard Tucker acquired the blacksmith's shop in 1852 but it is not known when the shop stopped operating.

Boardwalk

The Corporation built a waterfront boardwalk from Ordnance Island bridge to the Shell gas station at Hunter's Wharf, following a refusal of the Bermuda Government to waive an archaic "Queen's Bottom" fee to property owners because it goes over the water. Only the Corporation can build the boardwalk without penalty.

Bridge House public busesShopping

Bridge HouseBehind King's Square. The house that stands today is a circa 1700 mansion, one of the earliest in the area, once near a bridge across a creek from the sea to a marsh. The original building which the present house replaced was a timber-frame house erected by planter and shoemaker Roger Bailey, whose father arrived in Bermuda before 1623.  The present house was once the home of Governor Benjamin Bennett in the early 18th century and later the American-born Revolutionary War Loyalist and privateer Hon. Bridger Goodrich and his wife Elizabeth. He purchased Bridge House for US$1,000 cash and prizes he amassed from capture by his Bermuda-built privateering vessels and their commanders of a large number of American ships during the Revolutionary War, after his American home and lands were confiscated by their local authorities. His ships blockaded Chesapeake Bay, much to the consternation of Thomas Jefferson  and others. Goodrich was appointed to the local Legislature, hence his Honorable title. There's an ornate Memorial to him in nearby St. Peter's Church. His exploits are written about in full in the 2012 book "The Prince of Privateers. Bridger Goodrich and his Family in America, Bermuda and Britain 1775-1825" by Nick Hartley. Later, the house ownership passed from Bridger Goodrich to Edward Goodrich. 

The house today, after many subsequent owners and most recently the Bermuda National Trust (BNT), the present owner, has the Bridge House Apartment, an office and artist's studio. Both the main house and rented apartment received sensitive but significant BNT upgrades in 2013-2014. Keith Forbes graphic.

Buckingham

2 King Street, GE 05, telephone 297-1532, fax 297-0062. Near the State House, this venerable building had a 1996 $175,000 restoration project spearheaded by the Bermuda National Trust and supported by the St. George's area Chamber of Commerce and several commercial organizations. The Corporation of St. George's - the municipal agency that runs the town - has offices here.

Bus routes

The Town and Parish are served by the following routes, some for a much longer length of time daily than others. See the schedule available free from the bus terminal in Hamilton and note its times on Monday to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday & Holiday, as well as where the routes go and do not go.
# 1 route (Hamilton to St. George's, via Harrington Sound Road, South Road, Castle Harbor, Harrington Sound Road, The Caves and Grotto Bay).
# 3 route (Hamilton to St. George's via Middle Road, Harrington Hundreds, Knapton Hill,  Harrington Sound Road, The Caves and Grotto Bay).
# 6 route (St. George's to St. David's).
#10 route (Hamilton to St. George's via Palmetto Road, Aquarium and Bermuda Perfumery).
#11 route (Hamilton to St. George's via Black Watch Pass, Aquarium and Bermuda Perfumery).

Bus Terminal

Old Military Road. 

Casino

Water Street. Not a casino as we know it today but a historic building owned and operated by the Bermuda National Trust and open to the public.

Charters between England and Virginia including Bermuda

See this file for good descriptions and links to each Charter.

Confederate Museum

Now see under "Rogues and Runners."

Corporation of St. George

The municipal entity that runs the town. All matters about the town past and present should be addressed directly to the Mayor and Corporation, at  "Buckingham," 2 King Street, St. George's GE 05, telephone (441) 297-1532, fax 297-0062. Or e-mail corpstg@northrock.bm. Or at Storekeeper's House, 5 Ordnance Island, St. George's GE 05, same phone number. Full-time officials include a Town Manager and Secretary. In May 2012 Kenneth Bascome was re-elected as Mayor of St George's. Alfonso Harris, who owns Churchill’s cigar and liquor store on York Street, was a Common Councilor who decided to take on mayor Bascome but lost. Mr Bascome won 299, or 66 percent of the votes compared to Mr Harris with 151 votes, or 34 percent. Mr Bascome, a 63-year-old taxi driver, has been mayor of the Old Town since December 2009. May 2012 was the first time an Ordinary Election has been held for the Corporation since electoral reforms in 2010. Those reforms dismantled a system that the Progressive Labour Party said protected a privileged minority. At all other such elections since 1923, residential ratepayers, property owners and business owners were allowed to vote multiple times, depending on the number of properties they possessed; the Municipalities Reform Act creates one vote per registered resident. In addition to the mayoral election, Common Councillors Quinell Francis and Renee Anderson-Ming were elected as Aldermen. Ms Anderson-Ming got 378 votes and Ms Francis 314 votes. Garth Rothwell held on to his post as Alderman with 228 votes. Steven Hollis was ousted as he got the smallest number of votes at 207. There was no vote for Common Councillors as only four people put themselves forward: existing Common Councillors George Sutherland and Eakin McLaughlin, and newcomers Cheryl Hayward-Chew and Phillip Anderson. A total of 459 votes were cast in the town which had 1,151 registered voters.

Cruise ship berthsship viewbuses

See Bermuda's Cruise Ship Season

Smaller cruise ships - up to 700 feet in length - can dock in town (a) when wind conditions are favorable and (b) they can access Town Cut, in one of two places, Ordnance Island -  no longer an island, once a British Army military depot and wharf, then a US anti-submarine base during World War 2 - or Penno's Wharf. When wind conditions are not favorable for cruise ships to enter Town Cut to get to St. George's, they are diverted to elsewhere in Bermuda. Both are within easy walking distance of attractions for all who are not severely disabled in a wheelchair or needing a stick or crutches. There is no elevator service for the disabled from the ships to the docks.

Large cruise ships cannot enter the town.  They must anchor and take passengers ashore by tender. 

Deliverance IIship viewbuses

Deliverance replica in St. George's,  Bermuda

Tourists visiting the ship 2012. Royal Gazette photo

DeliveranceOrdnance Island, town centre. Photo right: by this author Keith A. Forbes. Open to the public daily from 10 am to 4 pm for an admission charge. A replica of the ship that in 1610 saved the starving colonialists in Jamestown, Virginia. It was rescued thanks to concerned citizens in St. George's, after very nearly  being demolished. Over the past few years, the wooden vessel had fallen into a state of disrepair with rotted planks, structural damage from the elements and a missing mast that was destroyed during Hurricane Fabian in 2003. With demolition on the horizon, the Corporation of St. George's and the St. George's Foundation appealed to the public for financial support. The improvements include an educational exhibit to visually depict the ship's history and voyage from Bermuda to Virginia in 1610. The replica, originally built in 1967 by the Junior Service League of Bermuda, was privately owned since 1995, most recently by Nick Duffy who donated the vessel to the St. George's Foundation.

The restoration, which began in September 2008 and was completed in February 2009, was undertaken by Michael Hooper, a resident of St. George's. Improvements included replacing any missing or rotten planks, fortifying the existing masts, building and erecting the missing mizzenmast, replacing the rigging, installing floodlights to illuminate it at night and ensuring the ship is waterproof so that the exhibit equipment will not be damaged.

Future visitors can expect to see a circular tour of the ship with facts about its history on the walls in words. The renovations were completed in time to participate in Bermuda's 2009 400th anniversary celebrations and take a leading role in educating children about Bermuda's history. Persons setting foot upon the restored Deliverance will be able to imagine life aboard it as it travelled to Virginia.

One of the many striking exhibits is the one-of-a-kind talking figure that leads visitors on an audio-visual tour of Bermuda's history. As visitors enter the ship they are greeted by a figure, a sort of robot, of William Strachey, a 1609 passenger on the original Deliverance, whose writings announced the passengers were saved, not lost, and whose words were likely borrowed by Shakespeare when he wrote The Tempest as the true tale of what devised. The replica pays homage to the vessel that sailed from Bermuda to Virginia in 1610 and was credited for saving the struggling colony's starving British inhabitants from their demise. The original Deliverance, which was not saved, was built in 1609 to 1610 by Admiral Sir George Somers and Governor Elect Sir Thomas Gates. The ship allowed them to continue their 1610 journey to Jamestown, Virginia, after 42 weeks in Bermuda. She was constructed at Buildings Bay from spars and timber salvaged from the Sea Venture - and native Bermuda cedar.  She was the larger of the two Bermuda built vessels and had about 80 of the 142 castaways. When the colonists arrived in Jamestown ten days later, they had enough food to buy some time for the Colony of Virginia, then with only about 60 souls remaining from the first two expeditions and those who had come ashore in 1609 as survivors of the seven other ships of the Third Relief Supply fleet also commanded by the Admiral.

Disabled parking & facilitiesDisabled

There is one Disabled/Handicapped Parking space in the town which has 177 other parking spaces. The bathrooms for men and women behind the Town Hall not far from the Disabled/Handicapped Parking space are capable of accommodating persons in wheelchairs - this is good. But disabled parking around the town generally is poor. Unlike in the USA, United Kingdom and North America where certain properties regardless of age or historic registration open to the public must be accessible to the unaccompanied handicapped or disabled, this is not yet a requirement in Bermuda.  There is no legal requirement in Bermuda to have any property comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

Ducking Stoolship viewpublic buses

On that part of Ordnance Island that was once the separate Ducking Stool Island, this is a ducking stool of the type used for public civil punishment in the 17th and 18th centuries. Troublesome people were immersed into the harbor waters. It cooled them off and terrified them out of their anti-social behavior. Visitors on a Wednesday at noon and at certain other times will see a modern day local lady volunteer for "witch for a day" duties, getting herself ducked according to ancient custom.

Fanny Fox's Cottage

Governor's Alley. Another of the historic premises owned and operated by the Bermuda National Trust.

Featherbed Alley

One of the historic and quaint streets of the town, known chiefly for its (a) Featherbed Alley Print shop museum and (b) St. George's Historical Society Museum. The print shop museum was located in the lower level (once the servant's quarters) of Mitchell House at 3 Featherbed Alley. The house is named for its architect, Walter Mitchell, who had it built in the 1720s. The museum featured a replica Gutenberg press. The museum was an 18th Century print shop, though its location was never formerly the site of such a business (see below). The Featherbed Alley Printshop concept was created by the Department of Tourism (DOT) of the Bermuda Government. The Gutenberg press was obtained from a local printing business which had imported it some years earlier.There is also a working replica of a Gutenburg printing press (brought to Bermuda in 1784 to print the colony's first newspaper). It was first invented in Germany in the late 1400's and refined slightly in the 1500's. It remained popular in Bermuda and elsewhere for printing of broadsheets for well over 300 years. The museum is largely dedicated to the history of Bermuda's first newspaper and printing business, that of Joseph Stockdale, who published the Bermuda Gazette. Stockdale originally operated his business from the cellar of his own house, Stockdale House, on Printer's Alley nearby (currently a private home, belonging to former news editor Bermudian Lt. Col. Gavin Shorto). Following his death, Stockdale's heirs continued to run operate the business from Stockdale House until they relocated to Hamilton, Bermuda, following discontinuation of St. George's as Bermuda's capital's in 1815 in favor of the much more centrally located and then new City of Hamilton. It is said that St. George's folk objected so much to the relocation and the business reasons for it that they  petitioned against the Bermuda Gazette, and the cancellation of subscriptions by many in St. George's, resulting in the closure of the newspaper.

Featherbed Alley Print Shop

Featherbed Alley Print Shop

 However, it was later reconstituted as the Royal Gazette, today Bermuda's only daily (Monday to Saturday) newspaper which has never been printed or published here, instead in Hamilton. Throughout the 1980s the Curator of the museum was the late Major Donald Henry 'Bob' Burns, MC, famous also as the town crier of St. George's, and holder of the Guinness Book of World Records record for the loudest human speaking voice. The upper level of the house holds the St. George's Historical Society Museum (see separate entry). 

Ferry Terminalship viewDisabledwalking areapublic buses

East of Town Hall at dock. See under "Ferries" in Bermuda Transportation for Visitors

Floating Dock

Off Bridge Street, to accommodate dinghies from visiting yachts. The raft is situated in Market Wharf, near the toilet block off King's Square, a listed building. The block dates back to the early nineteenth century and features a non-lapped stone roof and unusual small false chimneys. In the 1870s it housed the McCallan's grocery store and bake house, and in the 20th century it was in turn Annie Beach's restaurant, a tavern, Ernest Smith's tailor shop, plus a jewellery business of George Rankin Sr.  

The Town of St. George (part 2)

Other Bermuda geographic areas

City of Hamilton Hamilton Parish Paget Parish Pembroke Parish Sandys Parish
Smith's Parish Southampton Parish St. George's Parish Town of St. George Warwick Parish

line drawing

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Last Updated: July 24, 2014.
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