Message from the Executive Director

Heritage Month is an important time for the Trust, and this year we decided to celebrate by inviting the community to a free Open House at Verdmont. We welcomed some 200 visitors of all ages to the lovely 300-year-old historic home and garden in Smith's Parish on 21 May, where we had a number of heritage-themed activities for all ages to enjoy. We hold special places such as Verdmont in trust ‘for everyone, forever’, so it is right that we should open them to the public for free at least once a year.


We also recently had a timely reminder of the importance of preserving places like Verdmont, which keep the present connected to the past. Many thanks to Jean Freeman, who repatriated a gold wedding band from 1868, which had been found between floorboards at Verdmont in the 1940s. If you missed the media coverage, you can read the intriguing story below, which has left us with a mystery to solve.


Finally, thank you to everyone who voted on the new paint colour for Waterville and submitted name suggestions for the colours! The choice was between two colours on our ‘heritage palette’, which was created as a result of an analysis of the historic paint layers on several very old Bermuda homes. We are delighted to announce that the bolder of the two colours won the vote and it will be named Bermuda Swizzle.


Wishing you a very happy Bermuda Day from everyone at the Trust!

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Karen Border

Executive Director

Natural Heritage Update

Myles Darrell, Head of Natural Heritage

Unintended consequences

The month in our great outdoors


Sometimes people cause harm when they genuinely intend to do the right thing. For example, when they add imported species to our environment, unaware of the chain of events they are about to launch. We’ve seen it with the Red-eared Slider terrapins which have taken over so many ponds, driving out our native species. People bought them as pets for their children; when the children and the terrapins have grown and the cute little terrapin tank is no longer wanted, tipping them into a pond seems the kindest option, but it’s a nightmare for our ecosystem. Similarly with plants, as a group of student volunteers found this month at Gilbert Nature Reserve. 

 

We removed Elephant Ear (Epipremnum pinnatum) and saved a mature Olivewood and Palmetto from likely death by smothering. Invasive vines are especially concerning to our open canopy forests and typically dumped in our open spaces when they are no longer wanted as a house plant. In the openings the students created by clearing, we planted Cedars, Olivewood, Jamaican Dogwood and Snowberry.

 

It’s still a great month for working outside and the calendar was packed with numerous other awesome activities throughout our open spaces:

Pumpkins and Loquats at Government House

Our Eco/Garden Club team has been using the greenhouse at Government House to grow pumpkin and watermelon, and most recently planted loquat seeds to raise the seedlings for planting next year in and around Bermuda’s open spaces for everyone to enjoy. Our pumpkin seedlings are starting to cover the ground, providing moisture retention and weed management around native and endemic trees and shrubs in the recent Queen’s Platinum Jubilee planting at Government House. With any luck we can provide fresh pumpkin to the community and various food-based charities in the near future.

The Under 40’s Bermuda team

On 1 May volunteers from the Under 40’s group planted almost 70 mostly native and endemic plants at Sherwin Nature Reserve and beautified the railway trail in preparation for the End to End Walk. This section of railway trail in Warwick has never looked better and is reason enough to get out for a walk.

Appleby back at Sherwin

We are enormously grateful for Appleby’s sponsorship of Sherwin Nature Reserve. Their ongoing physical and financial help has turned things around at this Warwick beauty spot. The eponymous donor of the reserve, Dennis Sherwin, would be delighted to see the improvements! 

Fidelis at Paget Marsh


The Fidelis Insurance team planted 45 native and endemic trees at Paget Marsh. A small but very hard-working team added to previous plantings with more endemic trees and a strong focus on shrubs and ground covers to create a more diverse forest complex. 

The End to End was an amazing way to connect with the community and we enjoyed providing a water stop for the event, from which the Trust’s nature reserves along the railway trails will benefit. 

Leaves of three, let it be!

Poison Ivy is particularly bad this year and everyone should keep a look out as this could steal the joy from being in the great outdoors, leaving you scratching at home covered in red spots, hunting for the calamine lotion!

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Cultural Heritage Updates

Charlotte Andrews, Head of Cultural Heritage

Verdmont Open House

Our free Open House at Verdmont during Heritage Month reflected the month’s ‘Togetherness’ theme with some 200 people from Bermuda and elsewhere coming to explore the museum. We welcomed visitors who knew the site well and visitors who had never visited before. 

 

As the open house brochure shows, visitors participated in over a dozen heritage activities. Creative ways to connect to the history, environment, architecture, archaeology, collections, and lived experiences of past people that directly relate to Bermuda today offered something for everyone. 

 

We received meaningful feedback about Verdmont that will inform our museums strategy. And we continue to welcome community feedback about the interpretation and use of Verdmont. Feedback relating to Verdmont as an African Diaspora Heritage Trail site is especially welcome to inform the Trust’s RISE project to ‘Re-imagine International Sites of Enslavement’. Please contact Dr. Charlotte Andrews on charlotte.andrews@bnt.bm or 236-6483 x225 with anything you would like to share. 



We’d like to express our sincere thanks to everyone who made the open house such a success, especially the Bermuda Rose Society, Ronnie Chameau, Diana Chudleigh, Friends of Verdmont, Samantha Moncrieff, Sami Lill and Uber Super Duper, David Swift and Pembroke Paint, Linda Weinraub and Fluent Studio, Trust council and committees members Alana Anderson, Linda Abend, Tiffany Banner, Meredith Ebbin, Margie Lloyd, Robert Masters, Robin Mayor, Denise Ribaroff, and Linda O’Shea, student volunteers and our many wonderful bakers. 

154-year-old gold ring returned to Verdmont 

A former resident of Bermuda, Jean Freeman, has repatriated a 154-year-old gold ring, found between floorboards at Verdmont in the 1940s, and gifted it to the Trust.


Jean was the first wife of William Joell, whose father Alan Paul Joell, sold Verdmont to the Trust’s predecessor, Bermuda Historical Monuments Trust, in 1951. When William Joell was playing at Verdmont as a child, sometime in the 1940s, he dug out from the floorboards a gold ring inscribed To Emma from Willie 18 June, 1868. He gave it to Jean as her wedding band when they married. 


Jean said it had long been her intention to return the ring to its rightful place, and since she was visiting Bermuda in May, she asked if she could hand it over right at Verdmont. We were delighted to meet Jean and her family, including her son Willy Freeman and daughter Keri McKittrick, who both still live in Bermuda.

As an archivist herself, Jean appreciates the cultural heritage value of objects such as this in telling the story of a place and the people who lived there and connecting families in the present with the past. Her own research to date suggests the ring may have belonged to Emma Elizabeth Spencer, who lived at Verdmont and would have been of marriageable age in 1868.


We are very grateful to Jean for bringing the ring ‘home’, and look forward to carrying out further research to see if we can find out more about its history and confirm the identities of Emma and Willie.


If anyone has an object, or story, related to one of the Trust’s properties, we would love to hear from you!

Culture Minister visits the Trust’s World Heritage Museums

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Executive Director Karen Border and Head of Cultural Heritage Dr. Charlotte Andrews welcomed Minister of Youth, Culture & Sport Dr. Ernest Peets, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Dr. Jennifer Attride-Stirling and the Director of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Dr. Kim Dismont-Robinson to Tucker House and Globe museums in St. George’s, following their visit to Verdmont museum in April.  The Trust team shared their aspirations for the BNT museums as part of the wider World Heritage Site cultural tourism experience and management plan.

Heritage at Risk

Watlington House, formerly 31 Parsons Lane

This is part of a series of architectural articles by the Bermuda National Trust to highlight some of Bermuda's endangered historic buildings.



by Linda Abend and Margie Lloyd

Watlington House has been much altered and it is not known exactly when it was built. However a house on the site is believed to have been built by Francis Watlington whose grave is located behind the house. The inscription on the tomb reads ‘Sacred to the memory of Francis Watlington – Native of Wales – 1679’. Francis’ father came to Bermuda in 1622 as Provost Marshal (an early term for chief of police). By the early 1800s it was the home of mariner William Watlington and his wife Elizabeth.



In 1867 the Watlingtons, along with many other Devonshire families, had to sell their ancestral home to the War Department under the Bermuda Defence Act of 1865. Benjamin William Watlington’s house and 11¾ acres of wood and arable land was just one of the many Devonshire properties listed in The Royal Gazette of 17 December 1867. Many more followed and although properties were taken throughout Bermuda, Devonshire, the most centrally-located parish, was the most heavily affected. John Cox, in his book The Best of Old Bermuda, shares a letter by Aubrey Cox in which he wrote “about a third of the parish was taken by the War Department for the use of its garrisons and the families concerned loyally gave up all they had had for the betterment of the empire and tried to build their lives afresh in new places…. It was the beginning of the end.” John Cox explains that this expropriation effectively split the parish and had a tragic impact on Devonshire’s whole make-up, both physically and socially. 


Click here to read the full article.

Heritage Education

May has been a very busy month for Heritage Education. We welcomed the news that field trips were reinstated after a 2-year hiatus. We ran 10 field trips involving students from both private and public schools. The theme for the month seems to have been birds, as Somersfield P1s took part in two learning experiences to learn about our feathered friends, including a visit to Spittal Pond, and P6 students from BHS visited Somerset Long Bay Nature Reserve to undertake some bird spotting.  

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Students at Vesey Nature Reserve

During the first two weeks of May, we collaborated with Bermuda Educational Network's Horizons Program and ran two new learning expeditions. The first was based at Vesey Nature Reserve where 223 P2s from 12 primary schools learned about the difference between natural and man-made. They also learned about quarrying and the significant role enslaved men played in shaping Bermuda. P4s were based at Verdmont, where they were introduced to the differences between the lives of the enslaver families who lived there, and those they enslaved. The second part of the learning experience saw the students participate in a scavenger hunt, whilst plotting cardinal directions.

BNT Maintenance Team

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