The Casemates stamps depict some of Bermuda’s most iconic structures. *Photo supplied
The Casemates stamps depict some of Bermuda’s most iconic structures. *Photo supplied

TUESDAY, JULY 26: I am pleased to be here to highlight yet another fine addition to our Stamp Series – the stamps depicting some of Bermuda’s most iconic structures – Commissioners House, the Casemates Barracks and other images of the Royal Naval Dockyard.

So much has been written and recorded about the Royal Naval Dockyard, its cultural importance and its physical structures that it seemed only appropriate that we honour its historical legacy in a Stamp series.

Without question, Dockyard is considered to be one of the most fascinating areas in Bermuda.

Its buildings and architecture are timeless, and over the decades the Royal Naval Dockyard has certainly enhanced Bermuda’s reputation of being one of the most culturally attractive locations in the world.

In a moment, you will hear more from Mr. Stanley Taylor of the Bermuda Philatelic Bureau regarding the history of this stamp series.

However I’d like to share just a few highlights. History tells us that the Bermuda Dockyard of the Royal Navy was established in 1809 as a result of the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), which ushered in the independence of 13 British colonies of what became the United States of America.

History also tells us that the construction of the Dockyard took over 50 years.

Casemates, the second oldest building in Dockyard, housed the Royal Marines Light Infantry.

It was built during the period 1839 to 1843 by large number of British convicts who were brought in from England, and it served as Bermuda’s maximum security prison from the early 1960s until 1994.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is such a ghostly sense of history associated with Casemates wouldn’t you agree?

It conjures up thoughts of a rich and exciting history, which will forever be etched in our imagination.

But the Casemates Barracks was also a significant location for the training of tradesmen.

And I want to commend the members of the Stamp Design Advisory Committee, in particular the former Chair and Minister of Education, the Hon. Dame Jennifer Smith, for recognizing this aspect of the facility’s historical significance and taking the steps to create a series of stamps in honour of this legacy.

Now more than 200 years later, the Casemates Barracks continues to have significant historical relevance.

In recent years, Cabinet sanctioned its approval for this building to become the Bermuda National Museum.  And it has already yielded some exciting developments with the discovery of a major piece of local heritage, buried in the lower yard of the Casemates Barracks complex.

The feature proved to be a tunnel that runs underneath an existing building and courtyard for some 60 feet.

So we are thrilled with the work taking place at the Casemates Barracks complex, as we know that the final result will be a special historical gem that our residents and visitors alike can enjoy and appreciate for many years to come. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in making this evening’s events a reality.

Particular thanks to Dr. Edward Harris, the members of the Stamp Design Advisory Committee, the members of the Philatelic Bureau, the Bermuda Archives for their images, and to the Creative Design team at the Department of Communication and Information for the final works of art you see today.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a wonderful piece of our history.

And as we earnestly take time to look around and explore this part of Bermuda, we cannot help but be struck by the combination of past and present images – these formidable architectural structures and the new, modern bustling sea port community that is Dockyard.

Yes, our past and our present seem to embrace each other in this beautiful place that is the Royal Naval Dockyard.

And may we continue to preserve our historical legacy for our generations to come.

Thank you.  

The Bermuda Dockyard of the Royal Navy was established in 1809 as a result of the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), which ushered in the independence of 13 British colonies of what became the United States of America.

The construction of the dockyard took over five decades and the 35 cent stamp illustrates its state in 1857 from a painting by Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper, later Lieutenant-General and Commanding Officer, Royal Horse Artillery. The Casemate Barracks on the hill to the left is one of the three significant buildings completed by the late 1850s, the other being the Great Eastern Storehouse with its towers and on the right, the great Commissioner’s House, the earliest of the trio.

An old ship, or convict hulk between the Barracks and the Storehouse served as a hostelry for the English and Irish prisoners who largely built the Dockyard from 1823–1863, when the Convict Establishment at the Bermuda Dockyard was disbanded. A small Bermudian sloop with its distinctive triangular sail of the famous Bermuda rig sails slowing into the harbour of the dockyard at the western end of the island.

By the late 1850s, the great stone dockyard at Bermuda was reaching the end of its period of construction. In 1857, Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper painted a view of the dockyard from the veranda of the Commissioner’s House as seen in the 70 cent stamp, the first major stone building at the naval base, completed about 1830.

From that vista, one could look out over the nearby Victualling Yard, with its large, two-storey warehouse for the storage of foodstuffs for the fleet of the Royal Navy, now stationed at Bermuda to keep an eye on the navy of the United States of America in the period leading up to and through the American Civil War of 1861–65.

In the centre left may be seen the two original headquarters buildings of timber construction of the first period of the Bermuda Dockyard, which were demolished shortly after the Tupper painting was executed.

In the distance stood the massive Casemate Barracks, now part of the National Museum of Bermuda, as are all of the great fortifications of the dockyard, some of which can be seen fronting the sea on the right sector of the illustration.

The 85 cent stamp shows part of a panorama of the Bermuda Dockyard painted by an unknown artist in 1856. Many British army and naval officers were trained in the arts of drawing and painting and it is likely that the view was the work of such a professional, as much of the art produced in Bermuda in the nineteenth century was by military personnel.

On the left, Casemate Barracks rises over the dockyard, with a porch roof for protection from the sun for the officers and soldiers, who called the “Casemates” home. In the foreground left a convict hulk is moored behind a small warship or dispatch vessel, the latter in front of the Great Eastern Storehouse with its twin towers, one for a clock and the other for a dial that indicated the time of high tide, an important navigation factor in the days of sailing ships.

In the forefront of the painting is the rubble facing of the Breakwater that was built to form a quiet anchorage for the dockyard; the wooden structure on the right is a latrine perched out over the open waters of Grassy Bay.

The $1. 25 stamp shows a photograph was taken of the Casemate Barracks and the buildings of the Lower Ordnance Yard of the Bermuda Dockyard in 1899, probably from the top of the great Floating Dock, which was moored for 30 years at the wharf just east of the buildings.

In the foreground, the only road into the dockyard approaches the Dockyard Gate, where it forks, one route heading up the hill to the barracks and the Commissioner’s House beyond by way of the Northwest Rampart of the dockyard fortifications. Next to the road was the Commissariat, or Bakery, which adjoined the main building of the Lower Ordnance Yard, which was used by the soldiers who manned the guns of the dockyard for offices, arms stores and testing laboratories for gunpowder.

The fortifications of the Land Front rise above the building to the left , while the eastern façade of Casemate Barracks is captured with its ground level porch where the officers’ quarters were located. A separate set of steps for the officer’s are to be seen leading to that area. The Casemate Barracks is part of the National Museum of Bermuda.