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Berkeley goes back to its roots with meeting to save historic house

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Posters outside Wantley from Berkeley alumni and concerned members of the public. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A historian who publicised plans to demolish a historic house where the founders of the Berkeley Institute first gathered is to hold a meeting at the school in a bid to ensure the preservation of the home.

Posters outside Wantley from Berkeley alumni and concerned members of the public. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Maxine Esdaille of the Africa Diaspora Heritage Trail said hundreds of people had contacted her since she highlighted workmen clearing out Wantley on Princess Street in Hamilton as a prelude to its proposed demolition.

Ms Esdaille asked for no more than 14 people to gather at the Berkeley Institute in Pembroke on Friday for a brainstorming session on ways to preserve Wantley.

The group was kept small to comply with Covid-19 health restrictions.

Ms Esdaille said: “I have suggested a small group of us get together to move forward in a positive way.

“Our aim is to keep the building and give the BHC an opportunity to rethink this in the best interests of Bermuda’s history.”

Ms Esdaille said people and groups that had signalled an interest in attending the meeting included two architects and representatives of the Berkeley Educational Society.

The Victorian-era home of businessman Samuel Robinson is now owned by the Bermuda Housing Corporation – which wants to have it knocked down.

Posters outside Wantley from Berkeley alumni and concerned members of the public. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A group including Berkeley former pupils and neighbourhood residents gathered on Monday outside Wantley to hear about its history.

Wantley Building, on Princess Street (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Berkeley Educational Society traces its roots to a meeting in the drawing room of Wantley in 1879. The school opened 12 years later.

Demolition of the house is on hold because it is in a Historic Preservation Area.

The BHC said last week that its decision to demolish and rebuild the house was the least expensive option.

The quango said structural damage, including two fires in the past year caused by intruders to the building, made repairs uneconomic.

Ms Esdaille asked for suggestions for the site, including the demolition of Wantley, restoration, or “a combination of both”.

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Published June 16, 2021 at 7:51 am (Updated June 16, 2021 at 7:28 am)

Berkeley goes back to its roots with meeting to save historic house

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