Built Heritage: Camden
BUILT HERITAGE: February 2022 By Linda Abend and Margie Lloyd, Bermuda National Trust
This post is part of a series of architectural articles by the Bermuda National Trust that highlight some of Bermuda’s endangered historic buildings.
Although no premier has ever lived there, Camden in the Botanical Gardens has been the official residence of Bermuda’s premiers since 1979. It has instead been used occasionally for Government entertaining. The main house is surrounded by ancillary buildings which include a carriage house, stables and an arrowroot factory, the latter now the home of Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. The whole complex is listed grade 1.
The core of the main house Camden is believed to date back to the early 1700s when it was owned by Colonel Francis Jones, one of the wealthiest property owners in Paget. The house and 50 acres remained in the Jones family until 1811 when it was sold to merchant William Durham who with his brother Josiah had offices in St Vincent where they prospered. Durham made major alterations and Camden as it now stands dates to his ownership. In 1822 after the financial collapse of his Bermuda business Durham was forced to sell ‘Camden Park’ with its 34½ acres. The sale advertised that “The house is built more substantially and on a better plan than most of the Houses of this Colony.”
The next owner was James Henry Tucker and began the long Tucker family ownership that lasted almost 150 years. Tucker was a Hamilton merchant, serving as mayor for 21 years and representing Paget in the House of Assembly. He was also a leader in agriculture, resulting in the production of arrowroot that became a lucrative export business for Bermuda. On his death in 1871, Camden was inherited by his son, Thomas Fowle Jauncey Tucker. Like his father, he served as a member of the House of Assembly and mayor of Hamilton and continued the production of arrowroot. The Tucker trade name was said to have been the guarantee in Britain and the United States that the arrowroot was of the best quality.