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Britannia in Bermuda: A Guide to the Island's British Culture

Bermuda’s first settlers were from England, and though plenty has changed over the past four centuries, the island’s British heritage remains strong. See it around Bermuda in the historic sights and attractions, in the food, in the fashion and more.

From the London-style, bright red telephone booths to the traditional powdered wigs that members of Parliament sport, you'll see reminders of Bermuda's British colonial past throughout the island. Here are just a few ways to get familiar with Britannia in Bermuda.

Towns & Attractions from Colonial Times

Spending a few hours in the Town of St. George is like stepping back in time. With its Bermuda limestone buildings, quaint cobblestone alleyways and lanes, and many historic attractions, it’s a beautifully preserved example of what an overseas British settlement looked like in the 1600s. Just a few highlights include: 

  • St. George’s Historical Society Museum and Mitchell House – This 1730s home is now a fascinating museum with artefacts ranging from a vintage printing press to a detailed re-creation of an 18th-century kitchen. 
  • Tucker House Museum – See the Tucker family’s collection of silver, china and crystal, antique English mahogany and Bermuda cedar furniture, and hand-sewn quilts.
  • The Ducking Stool – In St. George’s King's Square, be sure to witness The Ducking Stool, a splash-filled historical reenactment of public punishment in the 17th and 18th century, based on a part of Bermuda’s history.
  • The Discovery – Also in St. George’s King's Square, climb aboard a detailed re-creation of this impressive ship, which took Bermuda’s original settlers to Jamestown, Virginia in the early 1600s. 

Cricket: The World’s Second-Most Popular Sport

It may be virtually unknown in the U.S., but cricket – the bat-and-ball game first played in England – is a hugely popular sport, with more than two billion fans worldwide. And thanks to the island’s deep British roots, it’s huge in Bermuda.

Cricket has more than two billion fans worldwide.

  • The island pretty much shuts down during Cup Match every summer, as residents come together to cheer on their favourite teams: Somerset from the west and St. George’s in the east. It’s a fierce rivalry that’s been going on since 1902. There are also festivals, parties and general island-wide revelry during the weekend. 
  • If you’re not here for Cup Match but still want to experience the excitement of cricket, check out the Bermuda Cricket Board’s page for upcoming schedules and events. 

Fashion Sensibilities

Some styles are timeless. Bermuda shorts were originally borrowed in the early 20th century from the British military's uniform for hot climes. Over the years, they’ve become a real fashion statement on and off the island. You may remember Pharrell rocking a pair at an awards ceremony a while back. You’ll see them all over Bermuda, too, of course. If you want to fit in, TABS (The Authentic Bermuda Shorts) offers Bermuda shorts for men and women in an array of island-inspired colours. No matter what time of year it is, putting on a pair is like stepping into summer.

Pub Grub

Fancy a pint? And maybe some fish and chips to go along with it? Opened in 1992 by a Bermudian (the Onion) and a Frenchman (the Frog), the Frog & Onion Pub is housed in the mid-18th century Cooperage in the historic Royal Naval Dockyard. The menu is filled with traditional, English-style pub food like Bangers & Mash, Shepherd’s Pie and Cornish Pastie. The pub is also home to Dockyard Brewing Co., Bermuda’s only microbrewery. Cheers!

Royal Naval History

Bermuda’s mid-Atlantic location made it the perfect stronghold for the British Navy for nearly 400 years – when Britannia ruled the waves. As a result, there are few places on the island where you won’t see traces of the Navy’s long history here.

  • Royal Naval Dockyard – With over 150 years of service as the bastion of Royal Naval might in the Western Atlantic, the Dockyard was home to warships, dreadnoughts and frigates. Today, it welcomes cruise ships and tourists, offering shops, restaurants, attractions and activities. But history is all around you in the fine old stone buildings, wharves and fortifications. 
  • Royal Naval Cemetery – Also known as the Glade, this cemetery has memorials for those who died while serving the British military in Bermuda. Many of the gravestones here go into detail about the person’s life and death – an intimate look at Bermuda’s history.
  • Forts – Once called the Gibraltar of the West, Bermuda is dotted with historic fortifications that kept the island safe from invaders. One of the most formidable is Fort St. Catherine. Constructed in 1614, it towers above pink-sand beaches and turquoise waters. Explore the labyrinthine passageways, antique artillery and a museum.
  • The Bermuda Maritime Museum – Located in the Royal Naval Dockyard (and part of the National Museum of Bermuda), the Bermuda Maritime Museum features a vast collection of seagoing artefacts. Don’t miss the exhibit on Bermuda's earliest shipwrecks and the underwater archaeology being used today to unlock their secrets. 

John Lennon’s Bermuda

A tribute to John Lennon at Masterworks

A Beatle in Bermuda? It’s true – one of England’s finest musicians cured his case of writer’s block here in 1980. He sailed here looking to escape the bustle of New York City and found plenty of inspiration, penning the bulk of his final masterpiece, Double Fantasy, right here in Bermuda. The title of that record was borrowed from a flower he saw in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. Today at the Gardens, you can see a monument to Lennon created by Bermudian artist Graham Foster.

A Touch of Old-World Class

 

What could be more British than traditional afternoon tea – which includes freshly brewed tea, of course, along with pastries, scones, jams and sandwiches.

Visiting a Royal House of Worship

More than four centuries old, the simple beauty of St. Peter’s Church has only deepened with age. Located in the historic Town of St. George, the church features rugged Bermuda cedar beams, candlelit chandeliers and gorgeous Communion silver. The oldest Anglican church in the western hemisphere has the royal seal of approval: in honour of its 400th anniversary in 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II granted St. Peter’s the title Their Majesties’ Chappell. 

St. Peter's Church