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Julian Tucker: a towering presence

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Julian Tucker played a significant role in the development of the iconic structures at St Mark’s Church and St Paul AME Church (Photograph courtesy of Shirley Pearman)

In 1846, a decision was made to enlarge St Mark’s Church in Smith’s Parish to accommodate the ever-growing Coloured parishioners. When the work began, it was discovered that the building was in such ill-repair that a new church had to be built. Two of the parishioners involved in this decision were men about whom I have previously written — Robert Packwood, a carpenter, and his son, Robert Jr, a mason.

Towards the end of the 1800s, the decision was made to add a tower and spire to the otherwise plain-looking church. Henry J. Hinson, a medical doctor, offered his services to design this new addition. He was an amateur architect who had developed a keen interest and love of the Gothic Revival architecture that he had seen while studying medicine in Scotland. The St Mark’s assignment was the first of his designs and was added to the west end of the church in 1874. The contractor selected to build the tower and spire was Julian Tucker, a Black master builder. Mr Tucker and his fellow workmen completed the design to the exact detail of the plan at a cost of £489. In Kenneth Robinson’s book, Heritage, he mentions that at the completion of the project there was “much regret that such good work and so full of expression should have been hidden by daubing over with cement”.

In December 1843, Julian Tucker was baptised in Devonshire. There is no record of his birth, which would have occurred nine years after the abolition of slavery. It is possible that his parents, Nathaniel Tucker and Minerva Howard, had been enslaved.

Julian Tucker married Georgina Cox Jennings in 1864. Regrettably, Georgina died in 1866, leaving him with two very young children. In 1867, he married Ann Ellen Richardson, with whom he had five more children. He was one of the first trustees of St Paul AME Church and a member of the early Friendly Society Institution, which, before his birth, had in 1835 freed the slaves on the Enterprise. I was unable to find any documented evidence of how or where he developed his skills as a master mason, but skilled he was.

The Royal Gazette advertisement on July 21, 1874 of the tower and spire job at St Mark’s Church being put out to tender

In 1900, Dr Hinson was asked to design a modified version of the St Mark’s steeple for St Paul AME Church in Hamilton. Once again, the services of Julian Tucker were called upon.

St Mark’s Church in Smith’s (Photograph courtesy of Lionel D. Simmons)

The funding for the construction of the St Paul steeple was provided by church members and by 1902 the steeple had risen to 96 feet at a cost of about £7 a day. In the original plan, it was to be about five feet higher, but it is said that one of the workmen slipped, fell and died. After this tragic event, it was decided that it would be too risky to continue, and in the interest of safety, it was decided to complete it at the height seen today. The staging from base to the top remained in place for three years and there was criticism of the church for this prolonged delay. However, in 1904 the plastering and final touches began. It was during this period that Julian Tucker, respected master mason, died at the age of 61.

St Paul AME Church in Hamilton (Photograph courtesy of the Bermuda National Trust)

There is no record of any of his previous work, but the beauty of his meticulous craftsmanship — both at St Mark’s and St Paul — remains as a testimony to the greatness of Julian Tucker and his talented team of unnamed workmen.

Cecille C. Snaith-Simmons is a retired nurse, writer and historian

Cecille C. Snaith-Simmons is a retired nurse, writer and historian. With thanks to Joy Wilson-Tucker and Derrick Burgess, Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly


Heritage by Kenneth Robinson, PhD (1979)

Bermuda National Trust Architectural Series:

Smith’s Parish

Hamilton, Town and City

The Royal Gazette (July 21, 1874)

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Published March 29, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated March 28, 2023 at 1:46 pm)

Julian Tucker: a towering presence

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