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Harris says more investigation needed on compulsory purchases

Dr Edward Harris

More than 2,000 acres of land has been the subject of compulsory purchase orders, a leading archaeologist said yesterday.

Edward Harris added compulsory purchase orders by central authorities over the years had caused “a lot of major displacement”.

He also called for more archaeological surveys to be conducted at graveyards to find out what they contain and their precise boundaries.

Dr Harris was speaking as he gave evidence to the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Losses of Land.

He said: “People’s houses have been taken away from them for no reason.

“I would suggest there may be a further commission to look into other areas to understand how things happened and how they developed.”

Dr Harris was questioned about his role in the removal of several sarcophagi from a burial site at Tucker’s Point Golf Club in 2012.

The commission earlier heard that the custodian of the graveyard, Marsden First United Methodist Church, had given its consent for the concrete slabs to be removed as they were not part of the original graves.

Dr Harris, who acted as a consultant during the removal, backed the church and said the sarcophagi were made from modern materials.

He insisted that no graves were disturbed during the removal work.

Dr Harris said: “The tombs were placed there in the 1990s on what the hotel owners believed to be the site of graves, but there was no evidence to show that there were graves beneath the sarcophagi.

“There was no evidence of grave cuts. No remains were seen or disturbed.”

But Dr Harris agreed with Dirk Harrison, the senior counsel for the commission, that the matter “wasn’t handled very properly”.

Dr Harris was asked what he would have done differently today.

He said: “I would not have proceeded with it.

“However, where there are different circumstances and it had been decided to move the graveyard, the sarcophagi would have been moved.

“Circumstances in an archaeological sense dictate how things are handled.”

Dr Harris said he was unaware of “the depth of conflict around the cemetery” when he became involved in the project.

He added: “Had I been aware of it, I probably would not have become involved.”

Dr Harris said that it was not uncommon for graves to be moved “when they are in conflict with modern circumstances”.

He added: “I should also like to mention the graveyard in Warwick in which slaves were buried – and also white people I understand – and that graveyard was translated into the modern graveyard.

“That is to say, the burials were dug up completely and moved when the road was expanded.”

Dr Harris said: “The whole question of appropriated lands is an interesting one.

“It’s in with our history almost since the beginning. There are many lands that were taken from Bermudians.

“It’s difficult to imagine the west end without the tourism attraction of Dockyard but that was achieved by dispossessing about 15 families off Ireland Island.

“In the case of Ireland Island, we now actually have all of the conveyances.

“We know who owned the land, how much land there was, how much was paid for it and so on.

“But in a lot of these cases there are no detailed historical records to show exactly what’s what, who owns what – to show the line of progression of the property through time.

“Our record of the preservation of historical material is not a good one.”

The hearing continues.

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Published December 02, 2020 at 8:49 am (Updated December 02, 2020 at 8:49 am)

Harris says more investigation needed on compulsory purchases

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