Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bermuda and World Heritage

Archaeology in Bermuda was well-represented at the recent World Heritage Site conference in the UK last weekend. The conference was held at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, and included a paper by Paul Belford on community aspects of the recent work in Bermuda. Important contributions to subsequent debate and discussion was also made by Charlotte Andrews of the Bermuda Maritime Museum.

The later history of Dockyard was one of the issues under discussion...

Insignia of HMS Bristol, which visited in 1978, 1988, 1990 and 1996.

This is one of several ships' insignia left by Royal Naval and other vessels visiting dockyard. They represent an important part of the later twentieth century history of the site. For more of these images visit our contemporary archaeology pages.

Other aspects of this twentieth century history are perhaps more controversial, but need to be tackled if all elements of Bermudian society are to have a meaningful engagement with the island's history and archaeology.

In particular there is concern about the restoration of the former Casemates Prison to its original form as barracks. If archaeology is to be truly representative of all sections of the Bermudian community it is important that elements of the prison itself are recorded before this restoration takes place. It was here that Erskine Burrows and Larry Tacklyn were hanged in 1977 for murders including that of Sir Richard Sharples. These executions were followed by the most serious episodes of rioting ever seen on the island.

This may not be the happiest episode in Bermudian history, but it is an important part of the story of the island and its people. Archaeology surely has a part to play in recording the material evidence, and engaging with different communities who have valid - but often unrepresented - perspectives on the historical narrative.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

In the news...

Our work at Verdmont and elsewhere featured in the local news - first a story in the Mid-Ocean News, followed by coverage of the open day at Verdmont House in the Bermuda Sun.

With the fieldwork phase of the research project now completed, we are beginning reporting and planning of future work. All of us on the project team are very grateful to our friends and colleagues in Bermuda for their support and enthusiasm... in particular Richard and Anna Lowry, Nicki O'Leary, Steve Conway, Diana and Nigel Chudleigh, Stephen Copeland and Ronnie Watlington.

More pictures of our work will be posted here soon, as well as links to the reports when they are finished. Apologies for not updating more frequently when we were actually there, for which we blame the very slow connection in the Archaeology Lab.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Excavations at Government House

On Friday we conducted the first archaeological excavation to take place at Government House. The Bermuda National Trust were invited by Lady Vereker to investigate the possible site of a midden in the grounds, which she discovered after trees were lost in Hurricane Fabian.

Excavations in progress, with Govern- ment House behind.

We excavated a trench approximately 4m x 2m in plan to evaluate the archaeological potential of the midden, centred around the bole of a screw palm where Lady Vereker has discovered some pottery. We were able to recover a wide range of pottery, glass and other artefacts (including some brass buttons) and a quantity of bone and shell. Most of the artefacts date from the later nineteenth century, so the midden is probably associated with the present Government House rather than its predecessor.

Katie showing Lady Vereker some of the artefacts from the dig.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Excavations at Verdmont

This week we have been excavating at Verdmont House. We have made excellent progress in only three days, opening ten test pits and completing five of them. We have found a wide range of artefacts. These have included early 18th century slipware and tin-glazed earthenware, various bits of 18th and 19th century glass and miscellaneous earthenware, and both large and small mammal bones.

The main focus of our excavations has been at Verdmont Cottage, thought to be the site of the kitchens and/or slave quarters and/or stables. Today part of the building is a house rented out by the Trust, and part of it is storerooms for the grounds maintenance team.

We have excavated nine test pits to the west of this building, recovering artefacts that have been discarded from the kitchen and/or slave quarters.

The scene on Monday - Trenches 1 and 2 being opened up...

Trench 3 in foreground, Trench 1 being excavated behind

Cher (right) and Tom (left) in action on Trenches 8 and 6 respectively

Emma hard at work digging through rubble in Trench 7

Katie breaking the ground on Trench 9

Paul trowelling under the palm tree in Trench 10

Monday, April 03, 2006

Verdmont House

We began excavations today at Verdmont, exploring the area to the west of 'Verdmont Cottage' to see what (if any) evidence remains of the former use of this range as a kitchen and/or slave quarters. More information and photos will be uploaded shortly.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sir George Somers (1554-1610)

Sir George Somers, the 'discoverer' of Bermuda (at least as far as the English are concerned) was from Dorset. A true Elizabethan adventurer, his exploits seem sadly forgotten in his native county. His heart is buried in St. George's (after his death from a 'surfeit of pork'), but the rest of him is to be found in Whitchurch Canonicorum. He was born in Lyme Regis, and later became the town's Mayor. He was one of Sir Walter Raleigh's captains and had a lucrative career attacking Spanish ships - from the spoils of which he was able to buy Berne Manor.

Scroll down to see some photos of Lyme Regis and Whitchurch Canonicorum taken during a recent trip by Paul Belford and Kate Page-Smith.

Lyme Regis

The origins of Lyme Regis go back to the 8th century, and the town was granted a royal charter (hence 'Regis') by Edward I in 1284. Lyme was an important port during the middle ages, and the unique 'Cobb' probably dates from the 13th century. This circular stone harbour was first mentioned in 1377, and was originally detached from the mainland although it is now connected by a causeway.

The Cobb formed the nucleus of an important port and shipbuilding centre, and was one of England's most important trading ports until well into the eighteenth century.

View of the interior of the Cobb.

View of the town of Lyme from the end of the Cobb.

Plaque commemorating the exploits of Sir George..

The full text of the plaque reads...

Admiral Sir George Somers Kt

Elizabethan seafarer, politician and military leader. As a merchant trader he flourished in Lyme Regis. Warring with the Spanish increased his wealth.

1587 purchased Berne Manor, Whitchurch Canonicorum.
1588 prepared Dorset ships to repel the Spanish Armada in Lyme Regis, the
Jacob, Revenge and Bonaventura
1595 successfully attacked Caracas, Venezuela.
1601 repelled the Spanish invasion of Ireland.
1604 Mayor and MP for Lyme Regis.
1606 founded the London Viginia Company.
1609 aboard
Sea Venture
he led a fleet to Virginia. A hurricane shipwrecked him on Bermuda, founding England's first Crown Colony.
1610 he died in Bermuda, his heart was buried there.

A volley of muskets and a cannon saluted his last journey to Whitchurch Canonicorum. Shakespeare wrote
The Tempest
in tribute to Sir George Somers.

1995 Lyme Regis twinned with St George's, Bermuda
2000 St George's granted World Heritage status
2001 Lyme Regis became a gateway to Dorset's World Heritage Jurassic Coast.

Unveiled by his excellency Thorold Masefield
Governor of Bermuda 1997-2001

Some of the older cottages in Lyme Regis.

Whitchurch Canonicorum

The church of St. Candida and St. Cross at Whitchurch Canonicorum is probably 11th century in origin, although most of the fabric today is 13th century.

As well as the remains of Admiral Sir George Somers (see below), the church also contains the remains of St. Candida (or St. Wite) herself (probably an eighth century martyr), and is one of only two churches in England to contain the remains of its patron saint. In the graveyard is the tomb of the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov (famously assassinated by an umbrella on Waterloo Bridge).

View of the church from the entrance to the churchyard.

Sir George's plaque in the church.

The full text of the plaque reads...

Admiral Sir George Somers
Shipmate of Sir Walter Raleigh, coloniser of the Bermudas, born near Lyme Regis 1554, owner of Berne Manor in Whitchurch Canonicorum, died in the Bermudas November 1610, buried beneath the old Chantry, under the present Vestry July 4th 1611, erected by public subscription 1908.

A picture of Sir George Somers, together with the coat of arms of Bermuda, located by the door to the Vestry.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Project information now online

Although all participants have now recieved a copy of the Project Design, it is also available for download on the Ironbridge Gorge Museum website. Everyone is now booked in and ready to go, and we are all looking forward to an exciting season now less than a month away.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Fieldwork in 2003

Project participants might be interested to see some pictures from a previous visit to Bermuda. In July 2003 Emma Dwyer and Barry Devon, then MA students at Bristol University, undertook voluntary work for the Bermuda National Trust. We supervised an archaeology summer camp for local school children and produced a pilot survey of standing buildings and potential sites of archaeological interest in the World Heritage Site of St George's.

We excavated test pits with the children in the grounds of Reeve Court, a Bermuda National Trust property in St George's.

The children were introduced to the methods of stratigraphic excavation and recording. They also washed and marked their finds. You can see some more photos from the 2003 summer camp here

We also produced a database for the Bermuda National Trust, surveying the built archaeological heritage of the town of St George's, and conducting a pilot survey of potential archaeological sites using archive research, map regression and fieldwalking.

This is the Hannibal Lodge in Old Maid's Lane, a listed building within the St George's World Heritage Site.

Our accomodation was in Buckingham, a BNT property in St George's, and on Wednesdays a market would be held in the town for the benefit of the visiting cruiseships.

Gombey dancing is unique to Bermuda and has roots in West African tribal music. It incorporates influences from across the Atlantic; the Caribbean, Native Americans and apparently, the British military.

Souvenir dolls for sale.

Dingy racing is a popular spectator sport; before the construction of road bridges, dingies were used to sail between the islands that make up Bermuda. This race took place in St George's harbour.

The racing dingies are fitted with out-size sails to increase their speed, so a team of six has cram into the vessel to keep it in the water.

It rained once when we were in Bermuda, so I took a photo to prove it!

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Our accommodation will be at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research (BBSR). The research station was established in 1903, and has been on its present site since the 1920s. The nucleus of the complex is a magnificent Edwardian former hotel, with extensions including state of the art oceanographic laboratories, teaching rooms and a research library. The BBSR also has its own research vessel. More about the history of the BBSR can be found here.

Members of the 2004 field school on the steps in front of the BBSR.

Our accomodation will be self-catering, we will have a flat and a dormitory bedroom in the main 'Wright Hall' part of the complex. The project will cover the costs of basic food, and we will work out the details of this when we get there. An overall map of the BBSR complex can be found here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Welcome to the Bermuda project blog for 2006. This page is initially intended for use by participants in the project, but later on as a wider platform for dissemination of our results.

The fieldwork element of the project will take place from 3rd to 13th April 2006. There are three main aims for fieldwork and research...

1. Excavation at Verdmont House - looking for evidence of the slave quarters
2. Survey of historic shipyards - industrial and maritime archaeology
3. Excavation at Government House - exploring an upper class rubbish heap!

The project is jointly run by the Bermuda National Trust and Ironbridge Archaeology. We are recieving academic and technical support from the University of Bristol (UK) and Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada).

More information will be posted here shortly.