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Demolition plans for Mary Prince home changed

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Ocean View Golf Course, Watlington House (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Revised plans for the Ocean View Golf Course warehouse, as submitted on Wednesday.

Plans to demolish a historic building linked to National Hero Mary Prince have been modified after a series of objections.

The former Watlington House – used by Ocean View Golf Course as a warehouse – was set for demolition as part of plans to build a new warehouse on the site.

However revised plans have shifted the proposed location of the new warehouse to the east of the historic building.

While above-ground water tanks and a single-storey shed attached to Watlington House are still set for demolition, the older portion of the structure will remain.

Margot Maddison-MacFadyen, a historian with the University of Prince Edward Island who studied Ms Prince, said the change of plans was “wonderful”.

“I am so happy to see they have made a change of heart,” she said. “It was a great response.

“They are now more than a golf course – they are keepers of history.

Dr Maddison-MacFadyen added that she hoped the nearby grave of Francis Watlington – located to the North of the building and outside of the are impacted by the proposal – could also be protected by the golf course.

“Since the Ocean View Golf Club has revised the plan, it might be a good time to protect the grave as a historical monument,” she said.

“Then they would have both Watlington House, which is associated with Mary Prince, and at the same time they would have this historic grave.”

She added that she believed Watlington House could be featured among other sites in the Caribbean and the UK to create an international Mary Prince Trail, to highlight the history of the freedom fighter.

“Antigua, the Grand Turks, London and Bermuda all have buildings we have identified linked to Mary Prince, while some are still missing,” she said.

“I think there is going to be an international trail that goes beyond Bermuda so people can follow the life of this hero.”

Dr Maddison-MacFadyen was one of several people who filed objections to plans to demolish the building, including the Mary Prince Historical Trust, the Bermuda National Trust and the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sport.

Clarence Maxwell, a renowned Bermudian historian, said the property was the location of a significant moment in the National Hero’s life and should be preserved.

“It was from this site that she, her mother and her sisters walked to Hamilton where Prince and her sisters were sold,” Dr Maxwell said.

“The maintenance of the buildings on this site, especially as it is included in historical tours chronicling the life of this Bermudian National Hero, is essential to the preservation of her memory.”

The building was once the home of the Watlington family, and was the setting for a pivotal moment in the life of National Hero Mary Prince, whose story helped to end slavery across the British Empire.

In her landmark autobiography, The History of Mary Prince, Ms Prince wrote that she had been taken to the home as a slave to be prepared for sale by her mother.

She described the “sorrowful meeting” at the home and recalled her mother telling her: “I am shrouding my poor children; what a task for a mother!"

The next day she and her siblings were walked to Hamilton, where Ms Prince was sold to Captain John Ingham for £57.

The property was one of several compulsory purchases made in 1867 under the Bermuda Defence Act 1865 which led to the creation of Fort Prospect and the establishment of the British garrison.

The southern façade of the building was modified by the British War Department, but much of the property still carries the features of an old Bermuda home.

When the surrounding property became the Ocean View Golf Course – the first Black golf course on the island – the building was converted to serve as the clubhouse.

The building was also used by the Black community for funerals, weddings and other social events until it became a storage area for the golf course.

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Published August 06, 2021 at 8:07 am (Updated August 06, 2021 at 8:07 am)

Demolition plans for Mary Prince home changed

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