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The Peppercorn Ceremony: Freemasons, Town Criers & an Only-in-Bermuda Tale

The greatest rental bargain on the island? St. George's Old State House, which the Freemasons "lease" for a single peppercorn annually. It's a colonial tradition celebrated with a spirited ceremony each spring.

Town Crier

In 1815, the island’s capital changed from the Town of St. George to Hamilton, leaving the 1620-built Old State House in St. George's empty and unused. The local Freemasons chapter moved into the building, which happens to be the oldest stone structure on Bermuda. The annual rent for the Freemasons? A single peppercorn. And, never mind inflation, that’s the way it’s stayed for almost 200 years.

An Old-Time Celebration

This only-in-Bermuda occurrence is marked every April during the Peppercorn Ceremony in St. George’s King’s Square. It's one of those events that makes you feel as though you’ve travelled back in time, with a parade full of officials and dignitaries in formal dress, horse-drawn carriages, military music and a classic Town Crier bellowing introductions.

As tradition dictates, the Governor and his wife arrive by carriage at precisely 10:58 am, their grand entrance accompanied by a 17-gun salute. The military guard of honour marches into the square to the stirring sounds of the Royal Bermuda Regimental Band & Corps of Drums. Then, the Freemasons present the Governor with the all-important peppercorn – on a velvet pillow, naturally. 

The Freemasons present the Governor with the all-important peppercorn – on a velvet pillow, naturally.