Replica of an original 1600’s Bermuda dwelling is planned
A new project put forward by the St David’s Historical Society could give a taste of Island life 400 years ago.
The society is hoping to build a temporary settler’s dwelling on the same St David’s property that is home to historic 17th century Carter House, recreating the type of structure built when settlers first moved to St George’s.
Society president Richard Spurling said the project would give both visitors and locals an idea of what the first settlers had to overcome to make the Island home.
“The purpose of the project is to provide a glimpse of our earliest beginnings 400 years ago,” Mr Spurling said.
“It will exhibit how the first settlers built their dwellings and structures using what they could find. It will demonstrate their resourcefulness, skills, their tenacity, their hardships and the minimum level of comfort they tolerated.”
He said excavations in Jamestown have given historians an idea of how buildings of that era were constructed, and the Bermuda dwellings were likely built on the same principles.
“Although using different materials, the techniques and know-how, both being English and of the same period, would have been the same,” Mr Spurling said.
The frames of the settlers’ dwellings would have been made with local cedar and limestone mortar instead of cut limestone, he explained.
The buildings would have a sand or dirt floor and a palmetto thatched roof.
The proposed dwelling would be made with cedar from North Carolina or Virginia rather than Bermuda cedar. Mr Spurling said that other aspects of the construction would be historically accurate at least while there are visitors.
“We plan to have as many schools, clubs and groups as possible visit the project during construction so that they can observe the techniques and the process. We have some tools from that period and we will use them when we have visitors,’ he said.
“If we know they are coming, we might even dress in costume, but we will use modern tools when no one is looking. Have you ever tried to drill a hole in cedar with an augur?”
He estimated that the cost of completing the project could reach $50,000 with labour and materials, but volunteers would carry out some of the work.
If the project gets planning approval, several fundraising events will be held to fund the construction, including a “barn raising” and a roof wetting.
Mr Spurling said he hoped work would begin on the dwelling next spring so that it can be completed in time for the 400th anniversary of St George’s and St Peter’s Church next July.
How long the dwelling would remain standing could be determined by the weather.
“The dwelling is a temporary structure because, as for the original settlements, these relatively frail structures do not stand up to hurricanes or winter storms well,” Mr Spurling said.
“In the event the building is damaged by such an event, it will be another educational opportunity demonstrating how much the settlers had to tolerate.
“It will be interesting to see how the dwelling stands up to Bermuda weather.”