- Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2016 12:04
Historic preservation is the core activity of the Trust. Programmes, projects and initiatives ensure buildings, properties, cemeteries and collections of historic significance are properly cared for and preserved for generations to come. Through ownership and stewardship programmes the Trust has been able to renovate and maintain numerous buildings and properties. Generous grants have enabled us to restore many of the pieces of fine Bermuda cedar furniture and works of art in our museums. The Architectural Heritage book series and publication of The Traditional Building Guide are part of ongoing efforts to document and provide information to the public about Bermuda’s unique building styles. The Archaeology Committee conducts research, excavations and cataloguing, to ensure that important links to our past are not lost.
The Trust also supports the Government’s listed buildings process, a register of buildings of historic or architectural significance protected under the Development and Planning Act. Click here for an article written by Assistant Director of Planning, Erica R.Smith, 'Protecting Bermuda's Built Heritage'.
Before proceeding with any plans for alteration or additions, listed building owners should seek the advice of the Bermuda Government’s Department of Planning. For more information on the listing process call the Department of Planning at (441) 297-7756.
Collections and Artefacts
The Bermuda National Trust has the awesome responsibility for the care of, and, more importantly, for promoting the understanding and appreciation of a wide range of objects that were crafted here with loving dedication by men and women, both black and white, over the decades.
During the years prior to the invention of the camera, memories were created by skilled people through drawing and painting. The Trust is responsible for an interesting collection of portraits (oils) and for a superb collection of documentary art (watercolours) that depict people, landscapes, seascapes and flora.
Ceramics, glass, metalware and textiles: although most of these things were not crafted locally, each item throws a little light on what life was like on formal occasions and during more intimate times in the reception rooms, the bedrooms, the washrooms and in the kitchens of the Bermudian home.
Trust Collections at the Bermuda Archives
The National Trust owns some intriguing and significant elements of Bermuda's heritage in its collection of pictures and documents held at the Bermuda Archives. The collection includes 114 accessioned works, including albums of floral studies and typographic views, and depictions of people and everyday life of years gone by. The Trust's collection which is stored safely in this climate-controlled environment contains a wealth of information on Bermuda's history, including all the deeds for Trust properties.
Paintings and Artwork
The National Trust also has a considerable collection of paintings and artwork held outside the Archives; these are an important part of the Trust's collections. Most valued are those painted in Bermuda, especially the Verdmont paintings which are closely connected to the Trust. There are some 400 pieces in the collection, including many imported prints that would have hung on the walls of the well-to-do in centuries gone by. The collection can be seen at the three Trust museums and in the Trust headquarters at Waterville, while a notable portrait of the Earl of Pembroke hangs in the Cabinet Building.
The definitive book on Bermudian furniture and silver is Bryden B Hyde's Bermuda's Antique Furniture & Silver, published in 1971 by the newly formed Bermuda National Trust. Furniture was made of the indigenous Bermuda cedar in the earliest days, in styles influenced by English, Spanish and American craftsmen. Hyde described its virtuesin cabinetry: "Cedar resists moth, cockroach, cricket, termite and mildew. It is strong and springy, does not warp, is easily worked, turned, carved, and finishes a red colour which fades to honey in sunlight. Its sweet smell is retained for centuries." He believed that the best cedar furniture was made between 1612 and 1750, after which mahogany came into fashion. He considered that the cedar chest-on-frame was the most characteristic of all Bermuda-made furniture, and the most Bermudian feature of these chests was the elaborate chest-front dovetailing.
The Trust's collection includes some 520 pieces, and can be seen at Waterville, Tucker House and Verdmont. Among the earliest are two pieces at Vermont: a wainscot chair dating from c 1660 and an outstanding Bermuda cedar tallboy which dates from c 1680. In the collection are many first-rate Bermuda-made pieces. The vast majority of the early pieces were probably made by slaves, who were known to be skilled shipwrights, masons, cabinet-makers and silversmiths, as well as fearless and skilled seamen and navigators.
Silver has always been prized both for its aesthetic and functional value and, in the days before modern banking, as a means of providing ready capital when needed. The Trust's collection of some 340 pieces includes items made in England, America and Bermuda. Between 1650 and 1900, 38 silversmiths worked in Bermuda, 12 of them born in the island, at least 7 of whom trained abroad. This gave Bermuda-made silver pieces an international flavour, although the North American silversmiths definitely had the greatest influence.
Porcelain and Pottery
The Trust has a vast collection of some 870 individual pieces on display at the museums and vitually all imported from England, China or Japan. The pieces mainly date from the 18th and 19th centuries, and reflect the changing tastes and fortunes of their owners during this period.
Other Elements of the Collections
The Trust collections also include textiles, books, glassware, tools, household implements and toys, most of which are on display at the Trust museums and which help to draw a picture of what life at Tucker House or Verdmont would have been like in previous centuries. In the kitchen at Tucker House are household utensils and implements; most notable is the hanging food safe, with its small cup on the chain which would have been filled with oil to deter ants. It came from Verdmont, where Lillian Joell lived without electricity or piped water until 1950, and it probably saw use into the middle of the 20th century.