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Published: August 2nd 2022
Verdmont (1710). Original front facade. The balcony has been reconstructed. Descendants lived in the house until 1951, never modernizing it with indoor plumbing or electricity. It is an excellently preserved early 18th century house. 6 Verdmont Lane.
For our second day in Bermuda, Susan and I planned to see the Verdmont house museum and then explore the city of Hamilton. Verdmont is out in the country, about halfway between Hamilton and St. George. Getting there requires taking a bus. (Or renting a scooter. Visitors may not rent cars in Bermuda.) Another SeaExpress ferry took us form the Dockyard across Great Sound to Hamilton. There were rain squalls along the way, but the rain had let up by the time we docked in Hamilton. Next, we needed to find the bus terminal.
The Hamilton bus terminal is next to City Hall on Church Street. It's very busy, showing the popularity of bus transport. We caught a Line 1 bus from Hamilton to St. George, along the South Highway.Following proper Bermuda bus protocol, we addressed the bus driver with a cheerful "Good Morning!" We then asked her to drop us at the stop nearest Verdmont, whch she agreed to do. The bus ride was scenic and we passed the Botanic Gardens and a number of suburban houses and small communities. Most of the riders were locals. As someone boarded the bus, he or she greeted everyone with a "Good
Approach to Verdmont
View from Verdmont's balcony. This was the original approach to the house.
Morning!" (What a friendly place Bermuda is!)
After a period of time, Susan noticed a roadside sign for Verdmont pointing in the other direction! Oops, the driver had forgotten to let us off and we were now several miles past the site. She let us off in the middle of the countryside and advised us to take the next bus heading back towards Hamilton. That driver would let us off at Verdmont.
Well, the way I looked at it, we were able to see more of Smith's Parish and I was able to take more photos! After about half an hour, another bus did come and picked us up. In the meantime, traffic on the South Highway had been heavy with cars, taxis, trucks, and scooters. (Scooters are popular with locals and visitors.) The new bus did let us off at Verdmont. It was just a short walk up the driveway to the house.
Verdmont is the best preserved colonial house in Bermuda. Verdmont house was built about 1710 by John Dickinson, a prominent colonial ship owner. The grounds of Verdmont once stretched all the way across Bermuda's Smith's Parish. Unlike most houses of the time, Verdmont
Kitchen outbuilding at Verdmont.
was built on a hill. It was privately owned until 1951 and was never fitted for indoor plumbing or electricity. The Bermuda National Trust has collected excellent pieces of Bermuda-produced colonial furniture with which to furnish it. Few people were there. Shortly after our tour began, a couple from Ottawa we had seen the previous day at the Tucker House arrived. They were seeking out historic houses as were we. After looking around the house and grounds and enjoying the view down towards the ocean, we caught a pink Bermuda Breeze bus back to Hamilton.
Entering town, the bus traversed the roundabout where a local fellow named Johnny Barnes has become famous for greeting morning rush hour traffic. He was already gone for the day, but Susan spotted the statue commemorating him. Unfortunately, it was on the opposite side of the bus, so no photo.
Once in Hamilton, Susan and I decided to hop off along Front Street rather than ride back to the terminal. Time to find a place for lunch and look at some of the stores. A rain squall came up about then, but we were dry under the arcades that line the sidewalk. We
Enslaved Persons at Verdmont
Plaque commemorating the enslaved people at Verdmont.
UNESCO "Routes of Enslaved Peoples: Resistance, Liberty and Heritage" Project.
decided on lunch at the Hog Penny pub, where interior fittings taken from a former London pub add authenticity.
Everything is imported into Bermuda and it is not a shopping destination like many of the Caribbean islands are. There are British stores, like Marks and Spencer and specialty stores. At Front and Queen Streets, however, is Gosling Brothers, purveyors of famous Bermuda rum and other spirits. We did buy some rum and had it sent to the ship. (If it is delivered to a cruise ship, it is sold at the duty-free price. If you carry it out, it is full price.)
Susan was ready to return to the Dockyard and Norwegian Dawn, but I wanted to explore Hamilton further. There were many more sights to see and photos to take. So, she caught the 3:00 p.m. Dockyard ferry and I continued up Queen Street. I stopped in at the Bermuda National Library. It's both a national library and a public library. I asked about Bermuda special collections and was shown where the Bermuda Room was located. I noted microfilms of the Royal Gazette newspaper going back to the 18th century among other research materials. There was also
a display on Bermuda's Gombey
dance tradition. The Bermuda Gombey tradition was begun by slaves who were allowed to gather on holidays. The colorful costumes and the dance draw from African, Native American, and Mummer sources. It is similar to Mardi Gras and Carnival traditions. (The masks reminded me of the Chinelos dancer costumes I had seen at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.) The exhibit included a miniature Gombey figure, so I did get to see the Gombey costume, after a fashion.
Reaching Church Street, I looked for the many churches located along it. (The street is aptly named.) The large Gothic style Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity (Anglican) was built between 1886 and 1905. The cathedral is built primarily of locally quarried Bermuda limestone. Like the cathedral in Nassau, it is very English looking, but graced by palm trees. At Church and Court Streets I found the pink St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. St. Andrew's, completed in 1846, was initially supported by the Black Watch Highland Regiment stationed in Bermuda. A block up the street I could see the spire of St. Paul AME Church. Built in 1881, the church's congregation played an active role in Bermuda's civil rights
Verdmont (1710). Original rear facade. The doorway is off-center to make way for the interior staircase, violating Georgian principles of symmetry.
movement. There was street construction, so I could not get close to it.
This corner was also the start of political Hamilton. Sessions House was across the street and I walked around the block to see the front of it. The House of Assembly (lower house of Parliament) and the Supreme Court convene here. It was built in 1826 in the Italianate style and expanded in 1887. (Bermuda seems to have a thing for Italianate style Parliament buildings.) The House of Assembly is the world's second oldest Westminster-style Parliament. (Virginia's House of Delegates, the state legislature, predates it by a few years, but it has not assembled in the Westminster tradition for a while.)
Down Court Street and facing Front Street across a green expanse is the Cabinet Building.
Mosaic at Gosling's
The Bermuda Senate (upper house of Parliament) convenes here. The war memorial Cenotaph modeled after London's faces Front Street. I had picked up a Hamilton walking tour booklet at the National Library. It told me that the Old Town Hall was nearby. After looking at building numbers, I found it. It is a functional structure built in 1794, one of the first buildings in
Bermuda Cenotaph. War memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives for Bermuda during World War I and World War II. It is a replica of the Cenotaph in London. In the background is the Cabinet Building. 105 Front Street.
Hamilton. It continues as offices though, and now houses the Registrar.
Full circle and back to Front Street. But, there was still more to be seen. Opposite Front Street from the shops is Hamilton Harbour. The larger and more protected harbor is the reason the capital was moved here from St George. Holland America Lines' Veendam was docked and towered over the streetscape. As large as it appeared, only medium-size cruise ships can dock at Hamilton. (Thus the Dockyard cruise terminal in Sandys Parish was developed to accommodate typical cruise ships of today.)
I wanted to next find the Theatre Boycott Statue that my information told me was in a park near City Hall. I went up there but did not find a park where I thought the map showed it would be. So, I spent some time circling the blocks looking for it. I did pass the financial center of town, where bankers and businessmen sported colorful Bermuda Shorts with their jackets and ties. The famous Bermuda business attire was true! Finally a passerby saw me studying my map asked me if he could help me find what I was looking for. When I told him the
Hog Penny Restaurant & Pub
Hog Penny Restaurant & Pub. 5 Burnaby Street, Hamilton.
statue, he pointed me towards the side of City Hall. It turned out the Theatre Boycott Statue was in a tiny pocket park next to the car park. The statue was smaller than photos had suggested. The event it commemorates was the Theatre Boycott in July 1959 when Bermuda's segregated cinemas were peacefully boycotted and forced to integrate seating. The event is seen as the beginning of Bermuda's civil rights movement.
While on my search for the statue, I'd passed Par-la-Ville Park several times. I went back to take a closer look at it before heading to the ferry myself. The park takes its name from Par-la-Ville House, the mansion of William B. Perot. Perot was the Postmaster in the 1820s and issued the first Bermuda postage stamp. (The Perot Post Office he administered is still a functioning post office. Par-la-Ville House now houses both the Bermuda Historical Society and the National Library. The city park was Perot's garden and a large rubber tree Perot imported from Guyana still grows at the entrance. The Bermuda National Gallery is working on a project to establish an outdoor sculpture garden within the park. There are five sculptures of different styles now
Lamb Meatballs on Nan Bread served at the Hog Penny.
on view. While I was going around taking photos of them, another rain squall came up. I took shelter in a covered walkway, sharing it with a group of teens gathered after school. Again, the rain didn't last long. But, it was now time to head for the ferry dock to catch the 6:00 p.m. ferry for the Dockyard.
A crowd had already gathered when I arrived at the ferry terminal. A lot of visitors were returning to the Dockyard, but there were also many locals among the throng. When the ferry arrived, it was announced it was going to the Rockaway stop first, and then on to the Dockyard. So, this was an evening commuter run. What luck! A chance to see another part of Bermuda!
The ferry departed Hamilton at 6:00 p.m. and made its way across the Great Sound. Along the way we passed many of the numerous small islands that also make up the Bermuda chain. Rockaway is in Somerset Parish. It's a residential area, but was once the site of a US Navy base. Several commuters left here. I suppose they have to put up with a ferry crowded with visitors every day!
Gombey Dancer display at the Bermuda National Library. The Bermuda Gombey tradition was begun by slaves who were allowed to gather on holidays. Costumes and dance draw from African, Native American, and Mummer sources. It is similar to Mardi Gras and Carnival traditions.
From there, it was a trip along the coast of Sandys Parish and back to the Dockyard cruise terminal.
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