Further ill-treatment of Wantley not to be tolerated
The news of the impending demolition or partial demolition of Wantley on Princess Street is nothing short of a travesty.
In 1879, Samuel D. Robinson and the other founders met at Wantley to discuss opening a school for all children. The founders called themselves the Berkeley Club because they subscribed to the belief of Bishop George Berkeley. The
bishop felt that White boys and American-Indian boys (from St David’s) should learn together.
In 1829, his idea was partially realised with the opening of Devonshire College with support from overseas benefactors.
The student body comprised White boys from Smith’s, Devonshire, Pembroke and Paget parishes; there were no Indian students. Emancipation took place in 1834 and the school closed in 1835. Decades later, the Government bought the property — site of Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute. The proceeds of the sale were split equally between two trusts. This was to reflect the intent of the overseas benefactors; one to benefit White students and the other for Black students.
The first portion was used for Saltus Grammar School. Berkeley Institute founders included a trustee of the second portion, but they would not apply for it They believed they would be obliged to be limited to having a Black student body rather than the interracial student body envisaged.
This principled stand caused the opening of the school to be delayed for 18 years, The school opened in 1897 with an integrated student body. Since that time, the Berkeley Institute has produced the vast majority of Bermuda’s Black professionals.
Wantley was also the home of Samuel’s daughter, Agnes May Robinson, who in 1919 started Bermuda’s first social welfare organisation, the Sunshine League. She sheltered homeless young men who had trespassed in animal sheds or slept on Hamilton’s docks, causing them to be contemptuously called “wharf rats”.
In 1931, the wife of the new governor, Sir Thomas Astley Cubitt, agreed to be honorary patron of Sunshine League. She was so impressed with the work that she started her own charity, the Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association.
This is indicative of the significance of Wantley to Bermuda.
The question is when and why did the Bermuda Housing Corporation acquire the property?
Why was the property allowed to deteriorate to the present condition?
What options have been considered concerning the future of Wantley?
In the absence of information to the contrary, one may assume that malice, ignorance or incompetence is at the root of this mess. That will not be tolerated