Built Heritage: Watlington House
BUILT HERITAGE: May 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.
Watlington House has been much altered and it not known exactly when it was built. However a house on the site is believed to have been built by Francis Watlington whose grave is located behind the house. The inscription on the tomb reads ‘Sacred to the memory of Francis Watlington – Native of Wales – 1679’. Francis’ father came to Bermuda in 1622 as Provost Marshal (an early term for chief of police). By the early 1800s it was the home of mariner William Watlington and his wife Elizabeth.
In 1867 the Watlingtons, along with many other Devonshire families, had to sell their ancestral home to the War Department under the Bermuda Defence Act of 1865. Benjamin William Watlington’s house and 11¾ acres of wood and arable land was just one of the many Devonshire properties that appeared in The Royal Gazette of 17 December 1867. Many more followed and although properties were taken throughout Bermuda, Devonshire, the most centrally-located parish, was the most heavily affected. John Cox, in his book The Best of Old Bermuda, shares a letter by Aubrey Cox in which he wrote “about a third of the parish was taken by the War Department for the use of its garrisons and the families concerned loyally gave up all they had had for the betterment of the empire and tried to build their lives afresh in new places…. It was the beginning of the end.” John Cox explains that this expropriation effectively split the parish and had a tragic impact on Devonshire’s whole make-up, both physically and socially.