Work starts on preservation and restoration of Ferry Island Fort
A team of landscapers began tearing out casuarina trees and other invasive plants yesterday as part of a renewed world heritage restoration project at Ferry Point Park.
Thanks to funds raised over the past year, the St George’s Foundation, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Works, will continue the preservation and restoration of Ferry Island Fort, completed between 1795 to 1798, as well as a nearby gunpowder magazine built in the 1820s.
The St George’s site will become an educational resource for students and residents, and a learning programme is already in the works that will be integrated into the school system.
Peter Frith, manager of the Foundation, yesterday conducted a short tour up to the fort accompanied by Wayne Furbert, the acting public works minister.
Mr Frith explained that Ferry Island Fort enhanced the protection of the ferry crossing and the shipping lanes in Castle Harbour. Originally equipped with cannons, it also served as a defensive position for the island of St George’s should any invading force approach from the mainland through what is now the Bailey’s Bay area.
Mr Frith explained: “The fort was designed to protect the ferry which was the only way to get from Hamilton to St George’s. The ferry was first set up by the very first settlers in the 1600s.
“You can see the remains of the old ferry dock and the other side is Coney Island Park. There used to be a flat barge that was hauled across on a wire using horses to carry the people back and forth.”
Casting his gaze over to Castle Harbour beyond the causeway which would not have then existed, he continued: “Over at Castle Roads, there are two very old forts – they would fly their flag and might even have sent smoke signals if a ship was spotted.
“Fort George was another lookout where they would get the signal and they let the Governor know to get the forces ready in case we came under attack.
“With the armaments and cannons changing, it was decided that only Martello tower was needed – this became obsolete and they abandoned it.
“We are going to release a brand new education programme that focuses on Ferry Reach which will go into the middle schools and slowly work into the curriculum. It will be used as an experience for field trips and students will be able to physically come and explore.”
The gunpowder magazine which, while still standing, is structurally compromised and vulnerable to hurricane and water damage.
Mr Frith added: “It has one of the most beautiful Bermuda stone vaulted ceilings inside, it looks like it did in the 1820s. This was where the powder was stored for Martello tower and Ferry Island Fort. They quarried the stone out of the hillside and used it to build this.
“We will take each stone away, mark it and identify it, and where we have to find new stone we will cut it and position it and then put the whole thing back again.”
Mr Furbert said he was overwhelmed as he was unaware of the fort’s remains and said he would love to return to see how the project progresses.
He said: “The work the Foundation is doing is fantastic and I hope it will encourage more Bermudians to get involved and come here and do something that is worthwhile.
“It is something for our future. I certainly plan to bring my granddaughter down here now I have seen it. I congratulate them for what they are doing.”
Peter Barrett, treasurer of the St George’s Foundation Heritage Preservation Working Group and board member, said the project would ensure the fortifications are “safe and presentable for all to visit and learn of our great history”.
He added: “The St George’s Foundation aims to ensure we provide our locals, students and visitors of all ages enjoyable experiences around our Unesco World Heritage Site.”
Cheryl Hayward-Chew, chairman of the board, added: “The St George’s Foundation board is excited to be continuing this important programme that is clearly aligned with our mission of collaboration, education and awareness.
“We look forward to supporting Bermuda’s Unesco World Heritage through tangible initiatives such as this.”
Mr Frith said that works could take up to a-year-and-a-half to complete and that fundraising continues.
This is the second phase of the St George’s Foundation-led project which first saw the clearing of invasive growth from Martello tower and around the Old Lime Kiln located just off the Railway Trail.
For more information, visit: https://sgf.bm/