Historic Bermuda Town of St George's

Recognized internationally as the world’s oldest continuously inhabited English town outside England, the little Bermudian town of St. George’s, founded in 1612, is also the first such town that was ever established. Populated with almost 2000 people today, this is actually one of the largest permanent populations on Bermuda.

The History of St. George’s

The island was discovered after the Sea Venture, a ship owned by the Virginia Company, crashed into the reef, and its discovery was lead by Admiral Sir George Somers and Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Gates. Even after new ship was built, the two gentlemen decided to stay on the island and to stake Virginia Company’s claim on the island resulting in Bermuda falling under the possession of Virginia Company through its Third Charter of 1612. The Virginia Company was dissolved in 1622 but history had already been made.

St. George’s was not only Bermuda’s capital until 1815 but the links to the United States were forged by the migration of 10,000 Bermudians to Virginia and the southeast before 1778. Did you know that George Washington also visited Bermuda?

St. George’s Today

A walk through St. George’s is an opportunity to explore architecture that is more than 200 years old and to revisit the past. The government in Bermuda has actively worked to ensure that these buildings are retained in their former glory and any efforts to redevelop such areas has been stifled, and rightly so. Interestingly, in order to keep the ambiance of St. George’s as original as possible, even telephone and power lines are hidden underground and the streetlights that light up the town each evening would actually have you believe that you are in the 18th century! Littered with tiny streets that are a picture of days done by, ideally a tourist should spend a full day just strolling down these streets for some perspective about the value of modern living.

As was common in the past, the centre of St. George’s has a square, known as King’s Square and facing it is the Town Hall, with its cedar wood ceilings and floors. This Town Hall is still in use today! Some historical artifacts have been redone including the replica stocks at the Square. In Bermuda in the old days, there used to be something called the ducking stool, which was used to dump gossiping women into the harbor and a replica has also been made of this, as a reminder of how little regard was paid to women who gossiped! This replica is still useable and for entertainment value, it is even possible to see this action performed today if you are at the right place at the right time.

Attractions at St. George’s

A visit to St. George’s would not be complete without a visit to its harbor. There you will find a life-sized bronze statute of Sir George Somers that is a good photo opportunity. In addition, in the town itself, historical sites worth visiting include the first stone building in Bermuda, the old State House, which was built in 1620, the Unfinished Church, the Bermuda National Trust Museum, and not to be missed is St. Peter’s Rectory, which is apparently the oldest Anglican church in the Western hemisphere.

Many of the tourists’ attractions in St. George’s are on the UNESCO World Heritage List including the Castle Islands Fortifications. These fortifications were built to protect entry into the harbor and in order to fortify itself, the original two guns on the Sea Venture were used as part of the fortifications. It is the oldest standing stone structure in Bermuda and its Captain’s House, the oldest stone home in Bermuda. These fortifications served useful to repulse an attack by Spain in 1614 and were used again during World War II by the military garrison in Bermuda.

It is possible to get a guided tour of St. George’s although if armed with a good map, it is easy to do this on your own. You can walk through St. George’s and it will take you about two days to explore every nook and cranny. If you get a chance to visit Penno’s Wharf Cruise Terminal, you will find Bermuda’s World Heritage Centre. This is full of information about the town of St. George’s, its heritage and background and you can opt to view these either interactively, via video or pictures.

From St. George’s, it is possible to walk to Ordnance Island via a bridge and visit a full sized replica of the Deliverance, one of the ships used by the crew to leave the island after the Sea Venture was destroyed, and other artifacts of the British colony in Bermuda. It is also useful to note that this island was once used to hang prisoners!

Another must-visit is the Carriage Museum where you will see well-maintained carriages reminiscent of a bygone era. There is also a restaurant there where you can stop for lunch. After all this exploring it may be useful to have a quiet lie-in by the beach. Tobacco Bay beach is ideal as it is wonderful for sunbathing and for snorkeling. Just remember not to sunbathe topless or nude there. From this beach, it is also possible to view cruise ships coming in and their passengers disembarking.

Exploring St. George’s is an experience and quite apart from the wonders of Bermuda, this is an opportunity to wander into the past, in one of the few countries in the world where tremendous value is placed on history and where modernity sits subtly in the wings as history flows by. St. George’s is perfect for land lovers, for beach junkies and for people who want to take a break from the real world, its rush and hassle, its speed and lack of care. Surrounded by Bermudians who seem to know what to value in life, St. George’s is the perfect destination for a visit.

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