Monthly Archives: May 2014
UNESCO World Heritage Site #274: Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications, Bermuda
From the World Heritage inscription:
The historic town of St George with its related fortifications is an outstanding example of a continuously occupied, fortified, colonial town dating from the early 17th century and the oldest English town in the New World.
St George is a picturesque and outstanding example of the earliest colonial English urban settlement in the New World.
Its associated fortifications graphically illustrate the development of English military engineering from the 17th to 20th centuries, being adapted to take account of the development of artillery over this period. Discovered in 1505 by the Spanish captain Juan Bermudéz, Bermuda was later stocked by the Spanish as a place of refuge in cases of shipwreck. The permanent settlement of St George began in August 1612 with the arrival of a governor, a clergyman, and 60 settlers, to be joined a few months later by 600 more people. A watchtower was built on Fort George Hill and the foundations of several forts were laid to guard the entrances to St George’s Harbour and Castle Harbour. The Crown assumed responsibility in 1684 for the colony, of which St George remained the capital until the mid-19th century. During this period Africans and Indians were brought to Bermuda; their descendants make up the majority of the multiracial society of today. For the next century the economy of the island centred on the cedar tree, used for ship construction.
The mid-18th century was a time of economic stagnation for the town, but military activities during the American Revolution (1776-83) saw the beginning of a boom. The Corporation of St George was formed in 1797. St George was to remain a strategic military location for the next two centuries until the US naval base closed in 1995. The economy picked up again with the development of the tourist industry in the later 19th century. The Town and its Corporation’s efforts to save historic buildings began as early as 1920.
St George was a garrison town from its earliest days, and military installations developed on the eastern side of the town. The first of many barracks were built on Barrack Hill in 1780, such as residences for senior officers, officers’ messes, hospitals, a garrison chapel, etc., followed during the course of the 19th century. These were constructed in standard British military style but using local materials. At the end of the American Revolution, Britain made St George’s Island its main naval base. Work on the dockyard began at the turn of the century, with drastic changes in the system of fortifications, with the construction of forts George, Victoria, St Catherine, Albert, and Cunningham (on Paget Island). The fortifications continued to serve until the coastal defence came to an end in 1956.
The architecture of Bermuda is unique, and has changed little in its basic elements since the end of the 17th century. The simple, well proportioned houses, of one or two storeys, are constructed with load-bearing masonry walls, rendered and painted in pastel colours, and roofs of stone slabs painted white. Some of the houses, such as Bridge House, the Hunter Building, or Whitehall, are impressive mansions, dating in their present form from the 19th century and embellished with imposing balconies and verandas. There are several churches, the most important of which is St Peter’s Church, the oldest Anglican Church site in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. The Ebenezer Methodist Church of 1840 is a fine building in neoclassical style.
I really enjoyed my time in Bermuda. It is a peaceful, laid back island with a great deal of history to go along with the sun and sand.
The only downside to Bermuda is the cost. Everything there is very expensive. Expect to pay at least $20 for every meal and over $200/night for a room during the high season.
St. George, the area where the world heritage site is located, is in the northernmost part of the island. I’d highly recommend renting a scooter which will allow you to visit most of the fortifications and historic buildings in the span of a few hours.
Fort St. Catherine (shown above) is also a museum which charges an admission of $7 to enter. Many of the other forts are free and you can walk around them as you will. If you are in the southern part of the island, consider taking a ferry to St. George where you can then explore the historic buildings.
Comparing Gary Arndt’s and Francis Tapon’s West African Experiences
My friend and author, Francis Tapon, has been traveling around Africa for the past year. While I was sailing up the west coast of Africa this year, he had been traveling across similar territory by land.
Given how different our trips were, I thought it would be interesting for Francis to compare his observations about Africa with mine. Although his experience in Africa has been much more extensive, we’ve come to similar conclusions about some things, and very different conclusions about others.
He has also begun a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the pilot episode of the Unseen Africa TV show. All money raised will go directly to the production of the pilot.
Take it away, Francis….
Although Gary and I explored West Africa around the same time (he went through a few months after I did), our experiences were radically different. So it’s understandable that we sometimes reached different conclusions. It’s equally remarkable that we often agree with each other. What follows is a comparison of our two trips through West Africa, with a focus on three West African countries.
But first, a bit of background on how Gary and I met. Probably like you, I first bumped into Gary in cyberspace. Soon thereafter, I was on his “This Week in Travel” show to discuss the sexiest country ever: Moldova.