History – St. Johns Church

Table of Content


St. Johns Church


Early Settlement-The Foundation of Pembroke Church

Tradition says that Pembroke Church was first built in 1621; in 1996 the parishioners celebrate its 3 75th anniversary. Although there is no historical record to support the tradition, there is no record giving any other definite date. All that can be definitely said is that a church existed in Pembroke in October 1618, for at that time the Assizes presented Judith, the wife of Roger Bayley, for disturbing the congregation during Divine service by ‘railings, miscalling, and all other uncivil speeches’ in Pembroke tribe church. The records do not help us to determine how many years before 1618 this church was built, but there is reason to think that the Virginia Company had intentions to found a church in Pembroke in 1612 when Governor Moore arrived in his ship, the Plough, with the first settlers. It was certainly not built immediately, but may well have been built in 1615 or 1616.

Bermuda had been claimed by the Virginia Company in 1609 following the chance shipwreck of the Sea Venture. The Company’s shareholders saw an opport11nity of making money by owning and farming shares of land to grow exotic crops to sell in England. Consequently, it was important to them to develop a plan for this uninhabited island showing the boundaries of their shares, and also to provide some means whereby the settlers would have some form of government three thousand miles from London. The plan was not formulated immediately but was developed and modified over the first years of settlement. By 1615, the Company had decided that about one-quarter of Bermuda would be set aside as the ‘General Land’ to provide revenue to support the expense of government, and the remaining three-quarters would be divided into eight ‘tribes’ ( our modern parishes) each containing fifty shares to be owned by the individual shareholders.

In the ‘General Land,’ there would be shares set aside in lieu of salary for the Governor, the Secretary, and other officers, and there would be glebes set aside to provide sites for churches and to support the clergy.

Richard Norwood (in later life a parishioner of Pembroke and a Council member) was the surveyor to determine the details of this plan. Although he completed the survey and took it to England in 161 7, the details of boundaries were not known in Bermuda until about 1622. Norwood, following his instructions from the Company, laid out only two glebes for churches and the support of clergy: one on St. George’s Island, and one in Pembroke. It is likely that the Company reasoned that one church was needed in St. George’s, the capital, for official functions, and one other, centrally located, would serve the population in the main island. Thus the churches in St. George’s and in Pembroke can claim to be the oldest church foundations in Bermuda.

The foundation of Pembroke was not, however, put into effect until after Governor Moore’s departure in 1615, when many settlers left St. George’s to seek choice tracts to farm on the main island on behalf of a shareholder. The colony’s first minister, George Keith, joined the exodus from St. George’s. He probably went to Pembroke where a glebe was set aside and was probably the first minister to officiate in Pembroke church. A later minister, Samuel Lang, is known to have gone to ‘dwell in Pembroke tribe’ in 1620. The following clergy served in Pembroke before the first official appointment to Pembroke was made in 1623:

1615-1617   –   George Keith   –   Left for Virginia
1617-1619   –   Lewis Hughes   –   Returned to St. George’s
1620-1621   –   Samuel Lang   –   Died
1621-1622   –   Lewis Hughes   –   Returned to England

On Norwood’s return to England in 1617 with his refined survey and his first-hand detailed account of what Bermuda was like, the Company (now the Bermuda Company) revised its original plans to provide Bermuda with only two churches and two clergymen. Lewis Hughes, sent to Bermuda in 1614, records that the Company decided in June 1618 that it intended to provide for four ministers, and this provision was incorporated into the laws for Bermuda of 1622. Two more glebes for the extra two churches and ministers were found by taking one from the ‘General Land’ which lay in Tuckers Town at the boundary with Smith’s tribe, and the other from a strip of unassigned land between Southampton and Sandys. The additional churches could serve the inhabitants of the main island both near its eastern and near its western ends, leaving the earlier glebe in Pembroke to serve the central area.

The settlers, however, felt that four churches, one in St. George’s and three on the main island, were inconvenient, and petitioned Bermuda’s House of Assembly in May 1623 to allow each tribe to build its own church. The Assembly granted the petition, and this marks the official foundation of the churches of the remaining tribes. Although Bermuda and one in each tribe, the Company decreed that the number of ministers would be five; throughout the seventeenth century under the Company’s rule, Pembroke shared its minister with Devonshire.

Pembroke Tribe Church from South East 1819

The Church Building

The earliest churches in Bermuda were probably built of wood and stucco, in the manner of the half-timbered Elizabethan buildings with which the settlers were familiar in the England whence they came. The only trade mentioned in the early records in connection with the building of these churches is that of carpentry. Buildings of Bermuda stone did not appear until after 1620 when Governor Butler built the State House in St. George’s of stone ‘as an invitement of others to do the like’. One presumes that the first church built in Pembroke was of this wood-and-stucco type. Just where it was built before October 1618 is uncertain. On the one hand, the Company had decided in June 1618 that the Pembroke church should be located on the glebe, which would have put it somewhere near the site of the present St. Monica’s or near the present Pembroke Rest Home (the former rectory). On the other hand, the building of the church would have been started before the Company’s decision was made, let alone made known in Bermuda. It appears most likely that the first church was built on or near the present site because this was a neck of hard ground between the marshes ( which made travel difficult in Pembroke in the early days) and thus was a convenient location to serve the whole tribe. The land .chosen for the site of the church was on a share owned by the Earl of Pembroke.

Timbered buildings of the Elizabethan type do not fare well in Bermuda’s climate. Consequently, it is highly likely that all of these earliest buildings were replaced sometime in the seventeenth century by more sturdy churches, with walls of Bermuda stone but with roofs thatched in some fashion with leaves of the endemic Palmetto palm. The early parish minutes and accounts for Pembroke, which begin in 1663, give some details of the materials bought to repair the church, and these materials are more consistent with those needed to repair a stone building than one predominantly of wood. They also tell us that the parishioners were regularly called upon to provide a number of palmetto leaves in proportion to their land-holdings, and to gather at the church at a certain time to rethatch the roof. It was the occasion for a grand party; the parish accounts itemise expenses of thatching and they are primarily to provide rum, brandy, wine, and sugar clearly, thatching was thirsty work.

Bermuda suffered very severe hurricanes in 1712 and 1716. That of 1712 blew down St. George’s and Smith’s churches, and the hurricane of 1716 appears to have blown down most of the others. It damaged Pembroke church beyond repair.

At a parish meeting held on 14 August 1716, it was agreed that the church should be completely rebuilt, and teams of parishioners were organised to convey stone and lime to the site, and an assessment was made to divide the estimated quantity among the land-owners in proportion to their holdings. In July 1717, the appointed building committee signed a contract with Moses Wellman, the mason, with specifications that are summarised below. This contract is recorded in the Pembroke minute book, and the entry is reproduced in Plate 3.

The church is to be built forty-six feet in length and about twenty feet in breadth, with a porch and vestry to be each sixteen feet square. The floor is to be one foot higher than before, and the church walls are to be raised to a height of nine feet from the floor to the wall plate and the porch and vestry walls are to be eight feet (or thereabouts) high. Two buttresses are to be built at each end of the church, and the inside of the church roof is to be pointed before the ceiling is added. For this work, the vestry will pay Moses Wellman or his assigns the sum of thirty-two pounds ten shillings (current money) at the raising of the roof, and a further thirty-two pounds ten shillings when finished and whitewashed, for a total of sixty-five pounds.

The parishioners are to supply split or sawed laths and nails, and large stones for the foundations which they will lay. The parishioners shall also shall make and mix all the mortar ‘the first time over’ as the workmen will require, and shall find two ladders and scaffolding.

Chapter 1-1The signatures to this contract are of men active in the affairs of the parish at the time. They are: Abiel Beek, William Place, John Lowe, Joseph Newman, John Mitchell, Steven Ingham, Nathaniel Trott, Samuel Sniith, Joseph Stowe, Thomas Burt, Cornelius Hinson, Thomas Dunscomb, Thomas Wood, Abraham Adderley, Edward Swan, Benjamin Wood, John Pitt, Thomas Morris, John Ward, Joshua Whitney, Nathaniel White, William Adams, Adam Eve, Richard Harmar, and two others whom we have been unable to identify. Many of these surnames are still to be found in Bermuda, and some in Pembroke parish.

Other records contain similar building plans for other churches blown down in one or other of the two hurricanes, and they all have the same form and only differ slightly in dimensions. Generally, the specifications state that the new church is to be much the same as the old church, and there is a uniformity of design. Consequently, one is safe in assuming that the earlier Pembroke church was very similar, at least in size and form, to its replacement.

The church was completed in 1718, as a note in the parish register put it: Be it remembered this 24th October 171 7, the double row of cedar trees was planted around the church in Pembroke Tribe, all within the bounds of the churchyard, and the 17th November following, rafters were raised upon the new church, and it is hoped it will be finished in four months.

The two large cedar trees which are now growing very close to the Hinson Cooper wing are thought to be of this planting, but if they are. they were not planted in the churchyard but on the land of Thomas Hall which lay to the north of the church.

At this time, the northern boundary of the churchyard lay within the present church, approximately along the line of pillars supporting the north gallery. A drawing of this rebuilt church, made in 1819 By an ininerant artist, J.C.S. Green, is reproduced in Plate 2. One can obtain an idea of the form and size Of this early Pembroke Church by viewing old Devonshire church, and the (now Presbyterian) Christ Church, Warwick.

Over the years, the church required the continual maintenance that buildings in Bermuda do. The roof was renewed in 1745, and major repairs were made in 1774 and again in 1776. In 1782 a ‘best London-made twelve-light’ chandelier was purchased for 45 6s. Notwithstanding these repairs, there was a growing feeling that the church was becoming too small to serve the growth of the population which ws drawn to Pembroke parish by the increasing bustle of the new town of Hamilton. In 1803, the parishioners petitioned the legislature for help, noting that the church could not hold half the inhabitants of this rapidly growing parish, and that the pews were so tied up that it was impossible for a newcomer to get one. No help was forthcoming for that source, and in 1807, a committee reported that the church was in very poor repair; the ceiling needed to be removed and replaced the roof needed patching and repair, and there were several weaknesses which needed to be fixed. This report was discussed at length, and parishioners agreed that the work had to be done and raised the money to complete it.

The problem of the inadequacy of the capacy of the church became more pressing as the second decade of the nineteenth century began. A Church Fund was started, but there was controversy as to whether it should be used to enlarge the old church or build a new one in the town of Hamilton. Eventually, in 1818 it was agreed that part of the fund could be used to repair the old church, and the remainder be put to building a new church in Hamilton. In May 1820, a parish meeting decided to enlarge the old church by adding to the south of it, but in the following November, the meeting had second thoughts. It then decided to leave the old south wall of the church intact, and enlarge the church to the north and to the east so as to make it 28 feet wide from ‘outside to outside’, and to raise the walls to give a 15 foot ceiling.

Once a contract was let, the parishioners decided on a number of details–all the windows were to be new ‘with an arch’ and to contain 24 panes of glass; the whole church was to be raised by three courses of stone. It was subsequently discovered that the old south wall was in a ‘shattered’ condition, and could not be built upon, and it was agreed that it be renewed. The rector, Coster, was asked to design a new pulpit, and his design in mahogany was accepted. The work was funded by the issuance of certificates which were taken up by parishioners and repaid by an annual assessment of ls per £1 of property value.

A vestry had not been included in the building plans, and it was agreed at a vestry meeting in 1823 that this defect be remedied by building one 18 feet wide by 1 7 feet long, ‘to be 16 feet in the clear’ with the door to be in the centre of the north wall of the church and one window in the east and one in the west ‘with arches to correspond’. The rebuilt church had a gallery in the west end, and in 1829, the vestry authorized the building of a second gallery in the south end to accommodate those who sat in the west gallery which was to be used for the new organ.

In 1831, the growth in the number of black parishioners caused consideration of further enlargement of te church. The rector, Lightbourn, and Archdeacon Spencer, urged expansion and offered 50 and 100 from the London Society for the Conversation and Religious Instruction of Negros if the Pembroke parishioners would match this donation. The parishioners did not feel that this was necessary, arguing that they had already enlarged the church substantially, and that they were disposed to grant as much space as possible; they argued that they had done so, giving back the black people one-fifth of the seats in the church. The rector and the archdeacon returned to urge enlargement in 1833, ut the parishioners felt that they could install more seats without adding to the building.

After emancipation of the slaves in 1834, the need for more accommodation became even more evident to the parishioners. In 1835, with the debt of the previous alterations liquidated, the parishioners felt that more accommodation could be obtained by making adjustments and building a ‘steeple’. In June 1836, the parishioners agreed to demolish the vestry and add to the north of the church, exactly as the 1821 enlargements had added to the south. They also agreed to build the tower at the west end. The work was put in hand, and it was completed in 1838. At this point, the church itself was cruciform, perfectly symmetric, and finished with the tower at the west end, and so it remained without further alteration until 1874. It had also encroached on Thomas Hall’s land at the north, and the parishioners bought a strip of land from him for $50 to accommodate the new addition and to provide access to the new north door.

Major changes were made between 1874 and 1914. In 1874, an apse was added to the east end, in 1886 an organ chamber was built to the design of Cardy Hallett on the north-east to house the new instrument which had been ordered from the firm of Wedlake in London.

In 1900, an addition was made to the southeast to the design of Horace H. Hallett, the brother of Cardy Windows and doors had to be replaced in 1905 to plans by Mr. Hallett, with the windows containing panes of ‘cathedral glass’. A ‘lighting fund’ was started to install kerosene oil lamps, and the Service Book records that the Christmas Eve service in 1899 was ‘the first evening service held in this church’. The sidesmen spearheaded a campaign in 1907 to light the church with acetylene gas; these lamps were suspended from the ceiling as can be seen in Plate 4. The St. John’s Guild raised money to convert to electric light in 1923.

Chapter 1-2In 1914, the apse was demolished and the present chancel and apse were built to the design of J.H. Dale, together with a new organ chamber and a vestry, and the services of Horace H. Hallett were called upon again for the new apse. The new chancel was first used on 19 July 1914. This enlargement was accomplished through the generosity of a bequest by the late Frances Russell Reid of Pembroke Hall. The addition built in 1886 to house the organ and now vacant, was designated as a memorial chapel by the vestry in 1921.

The vestry began a discussion in 1937 of the possibility of a further addition to provide a better vestry room. Mr. Hinson Cooper was asked to prepare plans, and a fund was started. In 1939, four graves on the site of this addition were cleared by transferring the remains to the new north cemetery, but the fund had collected only a little more than half of the estimated cost. The shortage of funds, together with the onset of World War II, caused the project to be temporarily halted. The new wing, containing a vestry, a choir room, and a parish meetirig room in memory of Hinson Cooper, a longserving churchwarden, was completed and blessed in October 1973.

All these changes are depicted in Plate 1, and Plate 4 shows the interior view, with the church dressed for Easter, taken from a postcard made in about 1909.

The apse of 1874 had been floored in 1883 with Minton tiles which were given as a memorial to the Hon. Joseph Wood, Samuel Saltus, and Donald McPhee Lee. These three gentlemen were close friends and pillars of society and of Pembroke church. Saltus left his house, ‘Westfield’, to the rectors and vestry as a rectory, and the residue of his estate to found a school which became known as the Saltus Grammar School; Wood was a legislator and lived at ‘Woodlands’, the large house which is on the School’s property; and Lee established the Royal Gazette in 1828 and ran it until his death in 1883.

The Minton tiles were badly laid in 1883, and had to be re-laid in 1896. It was intended that they be transferred to the new apse when it was built in 1914, but most were broken in the attempt to raise them.

Chapter 1 - 3In 1967, it was agreed to improve the baptistry by moving the gallery stairs from the south to the north side. As work was begun, it was found that the gallery was in poor condition, and a major renovation had to be undertaken. In the process, it was discovered that the pillars, long covered with a dark brown paint, were of cedar. These were stripped and cleaned. The front panels, painted the same dark brown, were found to be of pine. The vestry ordered that they be replaced by the cedar panels which can be seen today The vestry agreed that this treatment be extended to the pillars and fronts of the north and south galleries also. The north gallery had to be strengthened to carry the weight of the nave organ when that was installed in 1968.

The decision to add to the carillon of bells in 1970 revealed that a major reconstruction of the tower was necessary and was promptly put in hand. A major programme of repair and restoration of the church fabric was begun in May 1983; a service of thanksgiving on its completion was held in December 1984.

The demand by a number of the parishioners for the building of a second church to accommodate population growth, with a preference for a site in the town of Hamilton, was satisfied by the building of Trinity Church on the site of the present Bermuda Cathedral. This was begun in 1844. It was built in a gothic style and the chancel and transepts were completed by 1855, at which time it was consecrated by Bishop Feild. It was also known as the Chapel of Ease of St. John’s. The early records of baptisms, marriages, and burials which were performed in Trinity Church were entered in the St. John’s Registers. The building was completed in 1883 but destroyed by fire set by an arsonist in 1884. The rebuilding of Trinity Church, which later became the Bermuda Cathedral, was undertaken by a building committee in the national, rather than parish, interest.

In 1899, the Rector, James Davidson, argued strongly for a Mission Church to serve the people in what had become a densely populated part of the parish. Funds were collected, and a building erected on the glebe. It was dedicated to St. Monica and was opened for service in May 1907. A second mission church, St. Alban’s, quickly followed in September of the same year. Both began as Sunday Schools, but St. Monica’s developed as Mission Church and added a sanctuary in 1928 and a church hall in 1940. The need for a further mission station was met by the opening of St. Augustine’s in 1911. Although St. Alban’s had a very active life as a Sunday School and a church for a period, it is no longer used, being much closer to St. John’s. St. Monica’s and St. Augustine’s, however, both thrive to this day and require separate chapters to describe their development.


St Johns Church Building

Church Furniture

The early church had box pews. These were complete boxes, fitted with a door giving on to the aisle, and had plank seats. Some were single, having seats along one side, others were double, having seats on both sides so that the occupants faced each other. In the earliest days, the pews were assigned to individuals by the churchwardens in accord with the parishioner’s rank and position; the men were seated on one side of the aisle and the women on the other. Making these assignments in such an equitable manner as to satisfy differing views of the social hierarchy was a task fraught with difficulty. Southampton’s difficulties were so extreme as to bring the matter before the Governor and Council in 1627, and Devonshire recorded difficulties after their new church was built in 1718. Pembroke, however, records no such troubles, and the practice of segregating the men from the women appears to have been replaced by family pews at some quite early date.

Once pews were assigned, families regarded their pew as personal property and early wills often contain a pew as a bequest. In 1775, the legislature passed an Act or the more regular Payment o the Clergy, under which pewholders were to pay an annual rent for their pew. After the passage of the act, each parish held an auction at which families and individuals bid for the pew of their choice, or for a seat in a pew. This accomplished some redistribution of the seats, but generally, the families retained the pews for which they now paid an annual rent. Each year, the churchwardens listed the pews which had become available, usually because the ‘owner’ had died or had removed from the parish.

In Pembroke, these were few, and a newcomer had difficulty in obtaining accommodation. This became extreme in the early nineteenth century, and was a major pressure for enlarging the church. With the diplomatic help of the rector, Alexander Ewing, the parishioners were persuaded to give up their rights to pews and allow them to be auctioned afresh in 1803. This achieved some redistribution, and allowed a few newcomers to obtain pews, but the demand for pews continued to exceed the number available. In 1775, Pembroke had 25 pews on its list; this number increased to 54 with the rebuilding of 1821, of which two were reserved: one for the Governor and one for the Admiral when in residence.

When the church was rebuilt between 1821 and 1838, the Pembroke vestry agreed that doors and book-rests were to be installed on all pews, and those who had already put doors on their pews were to be refunded. The box pews were removed in September 1883, and the picture of the interior taken by J.B. Heyl, as well as that of Plate 4, shows what older members of the congregation will remember as the old open pews of which a few are retained in the west gallery. This change increased the number of pews substantially.

These pews served well until they were severely weakened by termites and were replaced with the present ones in 1969 and 1970. They were made in the shop of Burland, Conyers, and Marirea under the supervision of David Ifor Nisbett.

The practice of renting pews was considered by the vestry in 1962. It was decided to continue the practice but the rates were increased. This was not a successful move, and the practice was discontinued.

Pulpit, Reading Desks, Altars:

The pulpit is that originally built in 1821. It was originally installed at the crossing of the nave with the transepts on the northwest corner (see Plate 4), but was cut down a foot or so when it was installed in its present position after the chancel was built in 1914. The silver reading desk on it was added in 1954 in memory of the Rev. Eustace Mordaunt Strong, donated by Maud and Morris Gibbons. The ‘Communion Table and Altar’ which was obtained under Lyttleton’s incumbency was made by Mr. Johnson for £4 in 1769; it is probably the small graceful cedar table which is now used as a credence table for the nave altar and sits under the pulpit; certainly, this table is of the style and has the patina of this period. The portable nave altar itself was made from old mahogany of the church by Ifor Nisbett in 1973.

Carved Cedar Board 1625Thomas Packwood was commissioned to build a reading desk in 1774 for £5 2s, and this is the reading desk behind the pulpit on the north side of the chancel. The ‘branches’, i.e. the candalabra, on it and on the pulpit were purchased in 1833. The reading desk on the south side is a copy made by a master shipwright, A.G. Cresdee, and presented by him in May 1948. Cresdee also made the elegant mahogany prayer desk, now in the memorial chapel; it was presented by his wife, Gertrude A. Cresdee in 1945.

There is preserved in the vestry a cedar board with a carved design (Plate 6) and the date 1625. This had been found behind the pulpit when it was moved. It is actually two boards, now joined together with one at the top and one at the bottom. Its origin is unknown, but it is likely to have been a Plate 6. The carved cedar board with date 1625 part of a significant piece of furniture, e.g. a pulpit or a reading desk, which had been installed in the church in 1625.

The altar in the present apse was presented by a large group of parishioners in memory of their beloved dead whose remains lie in the churchyard. The panelling was provided by the vestry from parish funds. The altar and panelling were dedicated on 20 June 1915. The altar replaced an ‘altarpiece’ which had been bought by private subscription in Halifax in November 1823.~ The sanctuary also contains a walnut credence table (on the south side), the gift of Bishop Feild. The altar rail of walnut on decorated iron supports was made in Halifax in 1874 and given by Hon. Thomas S. Reid. It was originally installed in the 1874 apse and reinstalled in the new apse in 1914.

On each side of the sanctuary arch, facing the congregation, is the Decalogue, spread over two panels, one on the north and one on the south. They are painted on canvas mounted on a wooden frame and are said to have been executed and presented by one of the daughters of Governor Lefroy whose term ran from 1871 to 1874. The brass eagle lectern was presented by Governor George Henry Barker in memory of his wife, Frances Isabella, in January 1902. The cedar portable lectern of simple and pleasing design was made by the late George Trott, cabinetmaker, and was presented by the parents of Andrew William Doughty in commemoration of his ordination to the priesthood on 30 June 1983.

The Memorial Chapel:

When the organ was moved from the organ chamber built in 1886 to its present location, the old organ chamber was initially used to provide additional seating. In 1921, the vestry designated this space as a memorial chapel and considered a plan whereby the reredos, i.e. the panelling behind the altar, together with the altar itself would be presented in memory of Bishop Llewellyn Jones, Bishop Feild’s successor, by a number of parishioners who had been confirmed by him. This plan apparently was not completely put into effect, because on 6 April 1933, the Service Book records a dedication service of the furniture in the memorial chapel. The altar, reredos, and panelling were the gift of Miss Nellie Thompson in memory of her parents; the communion rail was the gift of Olivia Estelle Groves in memory of Benjamin William and Olivia Jane Walker and of Dagmar H. Dickinson; the credence table was the gift of friends in memory of Helen Darrell, and the dwarf screen was a gift of the congregation.

In April 1924, a lectern for the memorial chapel was dedicated. It was a gift of Mrs. Rhoda Elizabeth Alice Jackson in memory of her son, Cyril Healey Jackson, who was killed in action in World War I in 1915. The pedestal was made in 1850 by Cyril’s father, the celebrated black woodworker, John Henry Jackson, of choice and beautifully figured cedar. It had been exhibited in the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851 in London where it had won the distinction of being ‘highly commended’. The bookrest was made by Mr. W Tite to plans sketched by – Mrs. Jackson. It is now in the south transcept.

Also in the memorial chapel is the aumbry and sanctuary lamp presented in memory of Mrs. Lena Peel in 1973, and a prayer desk in mahogany presented by Governor Sir Edwin and Lady Leather in 1977. A crucifix, or Christus Rex, had been presented by the St. John’s Guild in 1983 in commemoration of the amalgamation of the guilds of St. John’s and of St. Alban’s which had taken place the year before. It hung in the reredos of the memorial chapel until it was stolen.


The question of providing a font was frequently discussed in the minutes. The churchwardens were instructed to procure a baptismal font to be made of stone ‘taken from the caves or limestone’ in 1824. In 1833, the vestry ordered a pedestal for the font. But in 1847, the vestry minutes note that a stone font was presented to the church by Vice-Admiral Sir Francis Austen and family. Still later, the rector, Mark James, urged the provision of a new font in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. A subscription was raised, the present font was obtained and dedicated by Bishop Llewellyn Jones in February 1898, just three months before the Rev. MarkJames died. It was made in Exeter, England, with a base of Portland stone, the font of Caen stone with a small shaft of Mansfield stone to relieve the work. It is said that it replaced an iron font, and was, at that time, located at the intersection of the nave with the transepts. The removal of the font to its present location took place after the building of the chancel in 1914. The marble floor in the present baptistry was dedicated in June 1915.

The Baptistry was restored in commemoration of the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Michael Ramsay, in May 1968.


In 1826, the vestry authorised the construction of two chairs, to a design by Archdeacon Spencer, in anticipation of the arrival of Bishop Inglis. These two, carved in cedar, now grace the north and south sides of the sanctuary.


Pembroke church contains some fine stained-glass windows which are memorials to bishops, to farmer clergy, or to parishioners. That to Bishop Feild is the northern window in the sanctuary, and that to Bishop Llewellyn Jones is in the south wall of the chancel.

Former clergy are remembered by the windows to the Rev. Joseph Fraser Lightbourn on the south side of the sanctuary, to the Rev. Canon Mark James on the south wall of the chancel, and to the Rev. Canon Nowel B. Chapman on the west side of the north transcept. The Chapman window was designed by Professor Wolfe of the Fine Arts Department of Syracuse University, N .Y.. Memorials to parishioners or their families are the most numerous. The central east window was given by Frances Russell Reid in memory of her family. It, with the windows to Bishop Feild and to the Rev. J .F. Lightbourn to the north and to the south of it, formed a unit, made by James Ballentine & Son, Edinburgh, after designs by Herdman R.S.A .. These windows were originally in the apse of 1874, and were moved to the new apse when it was built in 1914.

The four-light east window of the south addition, representing the Adoration of the Magi, is a memorial to Robert Alexander Tucker. Other families memorialized by windows are (in clockwise progression) Adolphus John Harvey and his wife, Hon. Eugenius Harvey, Hon. James Tucker (circular window over the south gallery), Leveson H.S. Heyl, Benjamin John Alfred Hayward and his wife, Theodore White (in the baptistry, designed by Vivienne Gardiner), L.G.B. Powell (the two lights in the west gallery), the John Greenslade family, Arnold Randolph Vaucrosson (circular window over the north gallery), Emma Maria Conyers, and Lt. Walter Neville Conyers, killed in action in 1916 (both in the memorial chapel) .


The church always had a bell, and in 1838 the sexton was instructed that the bell be rung for 15 minutes before services. But in 183 7 it was deemed ‘insufficient’, and a new one was erected in 1842. It, in turn, was deemed ‘insufficient’ and yet another new one was installed in 1860. It was a 31-inch bell, weighing 672lbs from John Warner & Sons, Bellfounders, in England. After it was installed, a floor was built under the bell, and the concourse below was ceiled. The bell was fixed since the vestry members were afraid that ringing it by a wheel might ‘prove injurious to the structure of the tower’. The bell was supplemented by a carillon of thirteen bells, cast in the foundry of John Taylor & Sons, Loughborough, England, and was first heard in January 1913. They were a gift by Mrs. Conyers in memory of her late husband, James Adam Conyers.

Subsequently, the same firm enlarged the carillon to 25 bells by the generosity of a number of parishioners whose names are recorded on a bronze plaque under the west gallery. It first pealed forth on 20 December 1970. An electric striking mechanism with a keyboard was given by A.E. Nichol in memory of his wife.

Church Silver and Vestments:

A communion cup, with other furniture, was sent as a gift to Pembroke tribe in 1620. It is possibly this set, described as ‘consisting of one cup and two pa tens’ and ‘injured and hardly fit for use from long wear’ which the vestry sent to New York to be exchanged for ‘two silver cups and two patens’ in 1839. The Service Books record other gifts and thee dedication, amongst which are the following:

Furniture donors

Services of the Church

The instructions issued to Governor Moore in 1612 enjoined him to effect ‘a religious government’. The charter, granted by James I to the Bermuda Company in 1615, went a stage further and required that all the governors of the Company, as well as all those who went to settle, were to swear to the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, which bound them all to allegiance to the reigning monarch of England and to the Church of which the monarch was the head. Thus all settlers were required to be of the Church of England, but as we have noted in Chapter III, the distance between the settlers and the potential wrath of the ecclesiastical authorities in England made the due observance of the oath a matter of little concern.

Elizabeth I had added all colonies overseas to the see of the Bishop of London, and Bermuda was automatically included in 1612. London was chosen, it is believed, simply because the early settlements had been established by companies of London merchants, and their business addresses were in the city of London. Bermuda was not settled by people seeking religious freedom, as motivated the settlers who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 to Plymouth Colony in what is now Massachusetts, or those who still later (1629) went to found the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Instead, the Bermuda settlers came out in the hope of a living better than that which they had in England.

Some came as ‘factors’ i.e. agents for the owners of shares of land, and others as tenants of the owners on terms which allowed them half of the produce of the land under their lease. Still, others came as indentured servants which, in many respects, was a euphemism of the time for slavery of those who were sent out from England as labourers to work the land and grow produce, mainly tobacco, for the English market. The Church in the seventeenth century ministered to a farming community, for Bermuda’s development of the carrying trade with ships did not occur until the next century.

The church services initially were those of the Book o Common Prayer, but in 1620 Governor Butler translated the services for the Eucharist and for Marriage from a Genevan rite used in Guernsey which had a sanction (if not approval) from James I.

This was done to settle differences between the two ministers, Lewis Hughes and Samuel Lang, and it was urged by Butler on the grounds that the different churchmanships of these two clerics confused the people. Butler would have liked to achieve uniformity, but despaired of getting this in Bermuda when ‘all the bishops in England could not [achieve it] there’. Nonetheless, these two headstrong clerics accepted the compromise, but it was short-lived.

Writing in 1646, Nathaniel White noted that the people did not believe that they were lawfully married unless the service from the Book of Common Prayer was used. Nonetheless, considering the preferences of the seventeenth-century clergy as noted in Chapter III, the Book o Common Prayer was soon discarded. Particularly during Sampson Bond’s tenure of nearly thirty years, the services in Pembroke were those of the Congregational Church of Massachusetts, and a visitor from Boston would have felt completely at home.

After the government of Bermuda was transferred from the Bermuda Company to the Crown in 1684, Henry Compton as Bishop of London enforced the use of the Book o Common Prayer of the 1662 edition. One reaction against this by some Bermudians was the formation of what is now Christ Church, Warwick, which obtained its first minister from Massachusetts in 1718. In Pembroke, however, the congregational habits of the people gradually turned to a comfortable acquiescence with what today we would call low-church Anglicanism.

The service of Morning Prayer was the staple, which, conveniently, could be led by lay readers, since in the eighteenth century no church could expect a service from its rector more frequently than once in four weeks. There are records of the sending out to the colonies books of homilies, and one presumes that they were used by the lay readers to supply the sermon. It was also common practice for ·the parish to save up its infants for baptism on the 5unday that the rector did come, and on these occasions, the service of baptism, usually for several children at a time, was combined with Morning Prayer.

The surplice returned to use, and the old account books of Pembroke show entries beginning as early as 1739: ‘To washing the surplice and Table linen twice- 5s 4d.’ Likewise, the account books show entries for the provision of bread and wine for Communion, but the frequencies of these entries suggest that the Eucharist was not celebrated more than about four times a year.

With the passage of the act of 1820 and the provision of one cleric for two parishes, each church could count on a service from its Rector each Sunday, in the morning on one Sunday, and in the afternoon on the next.

The usual Sunday Services in Pembroke since the 1820 Act consisted of Morning Prayer, the Litany, and Ante-Communion all together with a sermon when the service was held in the morning, and Evening Prayer for those held in the afternoon.

Special services were held for the Lodges and Friendly Societies as they celebrated their major feast days, including a service of Vigil at 4:00 a.m. on Christmas morning for the Loyal Order of Good Shepherds. On the first Sunday in Lent was held the service of Commination or the Denouncing of God’s Anger and Judgements against Sinners. The service books frequently note that the service of Churching of Women, or the Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth, was held, presumably on a personal basis with the new mother.

Through most of the nineteenth century, the Holy Eucharist was infrequently celebrated, probably not more than about four times a year. The change towards making the Euchrist the central service was begun in 1872 by the newly-i11ducted rector, Mark James, who gave notice that henceforth there would be a celebration of the Eucharist once a month at the regular Sunday morning service. The congregation accepted this, and these services drew about 100 communicants. James also began celebrations on major feast days such as Epiphany and Ascension Day.

James Davidson (who followed Mark James) continued this practice. Since Davidson had the benefit of a full-time curate, he introduced more weekday services. The practice of alternate morning and afternoon services continued until 1921 when, by an act of the local Legislature, Pembroke and Devonshire were made separate livings.

Gradually the pattern of Sunday services at St. John’s changed and the parishioners had a celebration of Holy Eucharist at 8:00 a.m., Morning Prayer (on about half the month’s Sundays) at 11:00 a.m., and Evening Prayer at 7:30 p.m., the late hour being possible since the church was first lighted in 1899. Holy Communion gradually replaced Morning Prayer at the 11:00 a.m. services, but eventually, the 11:00 o’clock service was moved to 9:30 a.m., and Morning Prayer followed at 11:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of the month. The service of Morning Prayer was discontinued in 1986 because of lack of support.

The Holy Eucharist was celebrated also, as now, at 8:00 a.m. In 1968, the experimental rite known as Series II began to be used at sung Eucharists in place of the Book o Common Prayer. Series II was replaced by Rite A from the Alternative Services Book in September 1983, and it was used, as now, at sung Eucharists and at weekday celebrations. The Office of Holy Communion from the Book o Common Prayer continued (and continues) to be used for the said Eucharist on Sundays at 8:00 a.m.

All rectors throughout the history of Bermuda were conscientious in administering the lesser sacraments of baptism and marriage and providing a sermon at funerals. As we have noted, baptisms usually were performed in conjunction with Morning Prayer in the church, but, naturally, when circumstances required, they were performed privately either at the house of the child or at the rectory.

Burials were performed in accordance with Bermuda’s custom under which the interment took place within twenty-four hours of death. Since St. John’s had the only cemetery in Pembroke until 1880, all burials in it were conducted by the rector, whether the deceased was a member of St. John’s or not. This practice raised problems when the clergy of the Methodists and other denominations wished to perform the burial service for their own members; this matter is described in Chapter VIII.

Marriages were generally solemnized at the house of the bride (or of a relative) in accord with long-standing custom, beginning with the early settlement. The Bermuda Company had sent out several instructions to the Governors to stamp out this practice but to no avail. Lyttleton, in the eighteenth century, attempted to insist that marriages be solemnized in the church. His success was short-lived since in the nineteenth century the performance of marriage in the bride’s house was a common practice. This did not change until the present century A story is recorded of one of Lyttleton’s marriages in an unspecified church, which could very well have been Pembroke.

An Irish military captain was to be married to a Bermudian girl and met Lyttleton by appointment at the church, only to find that it was locked and that the churchwardens one of whom had the key, were away on business elsewhere in the Island. Lyttleton agreed to perform the ceremony in the church porch and sent to a neighbour for a copy of the Book o Common Prayer The neighbour mischievously removed a page of the marriage ceremony. The ceremony began, and after the groom had plighted his troth, Lyttleton turned the bride and to the next page only to find the page missing.

Accordingly, a second prayer book was sent for, and by the time it had arrived, dusk had fallen. Nevertheless, Lyttleton soldiered on, and the couple were duly married. The couple then repaired to the bride’s house where the wedding supper began with a profusion delicacies and much liquid refreshment. The captain’s friends became tipsy and rowdy, and the bride, fearing for her safety, fled upstairs to the stronghold of her bedroom and locked the door. ln vain did the groom plead to gain admittance.

Nothing daunted, he found a ladder and climbed up to her window He had only just got his head over the sill when the bride realised her privacy was being invaded and instinctively slammed the wind sash down on his neck. Equally instinctively, the groom kicked, and the ladder fell away from the house. Then only did the bride realise that the intruder was her new husband, and with great solicitude raised the window. Whereupon the husband fell to the yard below. The story ends at this point, concluding only with the comment that was four weeks before matrimonial relations could begin.

Music in the Church

Music was always an important feature of the services in Pembroke Church. From the earliest days up to the introduction of an organ, the direction of the music was in the hands of the parish clerk.

Although the Canons of 1604, which officially governed the church in Bermuda, state clearly that the parish clerk was an appointment by the rector, the parish meetings in Bermuda regularly took under their jurisdiction this appointment along with the appointments of churchwardens, and other officers.

Generally, the parish clerk continued in office for several years, and the parish meeting did not always record ·an officially renewed appointment. His duties are quite clearly expressed in a minute of the Pembroke parish meeting in June 1666, at which Hammond Johnson was chosen as clerk: the said Johnson is to register all matters and agreements in the church book; further, it is ordered and voted that in case Mr. Sampson Bond, minister of the said parish, shall at any time desire that Hammond Johnson shall read the Psalms or other matters as to his ease and conveniency shall be thought fit, [he is to do as instructed]; [but] if not desired, the said Johnson [is] not to meddle.

The ‘church book’ refers to both the minute book and the register of baptisms, marriages, and burials. Johnson, one notes, was instructed by the parishioners to read the Psalms; perhaps his singing voice was not tuneful to the congregation’s ears.

These duties did not alter materially until about 1800 when the increased amount of paperwork associated with assessments and pew rents required a separate person to be the vestry clerk.

In 1821, the Pembroke vestry with the Rector, George Coster, in attendance, appointed Benjamin Atwood as clerk. But in 1825, after Coster had left for Newfoundland, the vestry for undisclosed reasons appointed Alfred Ketchum as clerk but neglected to terminate Atwood’s appointment. On Sunday, 17 April 1825, the churchwardens arrived at the church for Morning Prayer and found Atwood already in the clerk’s pew.

The churchwardens went to the vestry room and sent the sexton to ask Atwood to come and see them, but Atwood refused. The churchwardens then went to Atwood and showed him the minute of the vestry meeting which had appointed Ketchum in his stead. Atwood refused to budge. The churchwardens threatened to remove him from the clerk’s pew by forcible means, but Atwood defied them ‘with fists bent’. The churchwardens then told Atwood that he officiated at his own peril, and instructed Ketchum to go to his own pew and give out the Psalms. But Ketchum demurred, arguing that it was not proper to give out the Psalms from any place but the clerk’s desk. By this time, Atwood had given out the first Psalm, and the service had begun. The vestry appealed to the Attorney General for a legal opinion and received the interesting answer that the clerk was appointed for life and could not be removed unless he committed a serious misdemeanour.

The source of music for the services in the seventeenth century was the metrical version of the Psalms, with tunes, first published by Sternhold and Hopkins in 1562. Later editions were enlarged and published by John Day, and were widely known as ‘Day’s Psalter’. They were officially sanctioned for use in the services of the Church of England by the Royal Injunctions of 1559, and by the seventeenth century, the wide use of these Psalms had given them such a familiarity and acceptance as to make them inseparable from the Book o Common Prayer. From about 1700, other versions had appeared which gave congregations some choice. Tate and Brady published new translations in 1696, but this ‘New Version’, as it was called, never completely supplanted the ‘Old Version’. A further alternative was Isaac Watts’ Psalms and his Hymns and Spiritual Songs which were first published in 1707. Hymns did not come into general use until the latter half of the eighteenth century, and in the nineteenth century, there was a growth in interest in hymns as distinct from the Psalms. The collection, Hymns, Ancient and Modem, was not published until 1861, and was first used in Pembroke on 12 March 1884. It was replaced by the present Hymns or Todays Church in March 1985.

In the early days, it was rare for parishioners to have either a copy of the Book o Common Prayer or of the Psalms. Consequently, it was the duty of the parish clerk to ‘give out’ the Psalms by the process of ‘lining out’. The clerk would sing the first line of the Psalm, and the congregation would then repeat it.

This was followed by the second line, first by the clerk, and then by the congregation, and so on until the end. If the parish clerk did not have suitable vocal ability for the task, then a ‘singing clerk’ would be hired for the purpose. In 1727 there is a record of John Masters as singing clerk, not only in Pembroke but in Hamilton, Smith’s, and Devonshire as well.

Singing clerks were not easy to find. Presumably, the Psalms were said, rather than sung, in Pembroke when Masters was leading the singing elsewhere.

Pembroke acquired its first organ in 1830, and it was installed in the gallery at the west end. It was a barrel organ and was also fitted with a keyboard. Quite a repertoire of tunes was available in a set of barrels, each of which had projecting spikes which, when the barrel was turned, pushed levers which activated different notes on the organ. It was similar in construction to the present day music boxes. The first organist was Miss Susan Wood, and a small boy was conscripted to pump the bellows. Bishop Inglis commented in his diary on this organ as he heard during his visit in 1830, and he noted that ‘the singing and chanting was good’.

This comment, together with others in his diary, tell us that by this date the congregation had added the Te Deum, Jubilate, and the Responses to their vocal achievements. The organist was provided with a ‘musick stool’ in 1838, and the vestry ordered the churchwardens to have printed ‘such anthems as she may require for the use of the church’. This suggests that a choir had been formed. Miss Wood served as organist until 1846 when, at her request, she retired and Miss Angelina Eve succeeded her.

In time, this organ was replaced by one which was a little larger, but by 1886 it was decided that a still larger instrument was needed. An organ chamber was built (where the present side chapel is and a contract was entered into with H. Wedlake of London to provide a two-manual organ with his ‘patent pneumatic action’. It was duly delivered and installed in the new chamber and was first used at the morning service on Advent Sunday, 1887. It gave satisfaction for a short period, but the climate adversely affected the pneumatic action. Although Mr. Wedlake gave assurances that he would make adequate repairs, he failed to act when asked to do so.

The vestry turned to the firm of George Jardine & Son of New York, which replaced the pneumatic action with tracker, but retained the pipework, and added a rank of pipes to the Great Organ. The church had to be closed for about six weeks while the work was in progress, and services were held in the Cathedral. The re-built organ made its debut in September 1896 and at the time was said to be the ‘largest and most complete organ’ in Bermuda. It had two manuals and pedals with a total of 22 ranks containing in all 1200 pipes.

With the building of the new organ chamber in its present location in 1914, the organ was moved there by the organist, G.F. Boucher. Boucher Was effectively retired by the vestry in 1927, and his successor was H. Walter Wheeler. The organ began to give trouble, and in 1931 the rector urged that the vestry give consideration to ‘re-actioning the organ. An organ fund was started in 1932 and although the vestry received several specifications and prices, it decided not act until the organ fund reached £1000.

In 1935 the organ tuner, Roy Conyers, wrote to the vestry stating that he could not tune it since so much was wrong, particularly leaking bellows. He could do temporary repairs for £30, and the vestry accepted his offer. Finally, in 193 7, the vestry accepted the specifications and tender of Casavant Freres of Canada. The reconstructed and enlarged organ was dedicated on 13 December 1937. According to the Royal Gazette: ‘The organ is ”new” in every respect except that the original pipes have been retained but the action will be electrical as opposed to the old-fashioned ”tracker” action, the scope of the instrument has been considerably enlarged and an entirely new console now on the opposite side of the chancel, has been installed.’

The electric action, like the Wedlake pneumatic action of fifty years before, suffered in Bermuda’s climate. In 1938 Roy Conyers passed over the care of the organ to Fred Anfossi who reported that although the cable linking the console with the organ was, supposedly, designed for Bermuda’s climate, it was not damp-proof. Between Anfossi and Casavant, the problem was rectified.

A new console by Austin was presented to the church in memory of Dorothy Tucker Powell and was dedicated in April 1965. The Nave Organ was designed, built, and installed by the Bermudian builder, Thaddeus Outerbridge in 1968, and was blessed by Bishop Armstrong on 27 October. Outerbridge also installed the forceful Fanfare Trumpet in December 1974. The organ was completely rebuilt with virtually all new pipework in 1989, once again by Casavant Freres. On Casavant’s advice, an elliptical hole was cut in the wall separating the organ chamber from the memorial chapel and filled with a screen designed by Neville Tite and made by Granville Gilbert. The organ and screen were dedicated on 5 November 1989 and the inaugural concert, using its total of 53 ranks and 2,911 pipes, was given by Martin Neary, Organist, and Choirmaster of Westminster Abbey.

The Churchyard

It has been noted that the early settlers in Pembroke, in common with the settlers in other parishes, had built their church on privately owned land. There was a dispute in Smith’s over the appointment of a Reader in 1656, when the owner of the land on which the Smith’s church was built objected to the individual appointed and threatened to ‘pull down’ Smith’s church. This raised fears among the settlers that other churches may be similarly in jeopardy, and the Bermuda Company ordered that all the existing churchyards should be surveyed and laid out by Richard Norwood, the General Surveyor, and the churches be given title to the land in perpetuity. Norwood did this for the church and churchyard in Pembroke in November 1670 comprising one acre of land.

In the early days, there were complaints that straying cattle were frequently to be seen in the churchyard, and some people even tethered their cows there. Various methods were tried to stop this inconvenience, and eventually at a Pembroke parish meeting in 1747, a subscription was taken up to build a wall round the churchyard. This was fitted with gates, and appeared to be an effective solution.

It would appear from the early records, that there was little or no control over the location of a grave or of its type. The parish meetings attempted to take control of the use of the graveyard early in the eighteenth century, by demanding that its permission be sought before any burial plot be enclosed. The earliest record of such permission is in 1731 when a Pembroke parish meeting declared that ‘Charles George had the liberty of the whole parish to run a wall round his father-in-law and his wife deceased … there being room between them for the old gentlewoman [his mother-in-law] when she is deceased.’ In 1803, the Pembroke vestry demanded a fee for its permission. But in 1831, Daniel Vaughan requested permission to enclose some plots and pointed to the wall built by James I. Saltus around his plots without benefit of permission payment of a fee. The vestry then levied a fee of 6s 8d per square foot on Saltus, but an appeal was launched to the Attorney General who declared the vestry had no right to do so. In 1838 Pembroke began the first register of the graves.

In 1855, the vestry received a petition which expressed the view that the burial ground was very crowded, and that it was almost impossible to make a fresh interment without disturbing the other dead.

At this time the cemetery did not extend south of the church much further than the level section of the present graveyard. The vestry entered into negotiations with Thomas Hall who owned the property immediately adjacent to the old churchyard to the south and to the east. It also considered, as an alternative, a part of the ‘Woodlands’ property on the other side of what is now St. John’s Road. Neither owner was enthusiastic to sell, and the matter had to wait until 1864 when an acre was bought from Thomas Hall’s estate, and the churchyard was extended southward to its present extent in that direction. It was enclosed by a ‘panelled wall’ on the western and southern sides built by Benjamin and William Seon for a cost of £230. The Seons also cut away some of the original hill and turfed the whole.

At the parish meeting in 1864 when it was decided to purchase land to extend the churchyard there were a number of Methodists present. They proposed that one-third of the new lot be unconsecrated and be assigned to the burial of those whose persuasion was not that of the Church of England. But this proposal was defeated when the vote was taken.

Ever since the nineteenth century when non Anglican groups grew in strength, the use of the graveyard by these other groups posed problems, and there have been many pamphlets written on the subject of the ‘Burial Question’. This question was whether the ministers of other denominations had the right to preside over burials of their adherents in the parish cemetery. In the nineteenth century, the rectors of Pembroke Church had buried those of other persuasions in the churchyard but had asserted it was their right and responsibility to read the burial service, and not allow the ministers of other persuasions to do more than play an assisting role in the interment. The churchyard, for example, contains the grave of Fr. Lyons, one of the early Roman Catholic priests who ministered in Bermuda.

He died in 1853 of yellow fever; his burial is entered in the Pembroke Burial Register, and his burial service was conducted by the rector, J .F. Lightbourn. The issue was brought to a test in 1875 over the burial of Mrs. Esther Levy, a Methodist. The cortege arrived at the Pembroke church gate and was met by the rector, Mark James, to conduct the burial service. The ceremony then became quite unseemly with both Mark James and John Cassidy, the Methodist minister, reading burial services in competition. Although James stopped and protested at this intrusion, Cassidy replied that he intended to continue. So both continued until Mrs. Levy was lowered into the grave. James brought a suit against Cassidy in the courts for trespass, and the court decided in favour of James and imposed damages of one shilling on Cassidy

In 1902, the burial ground was again deemed to be full, but the process of acquiring more land was now different. Since 1867 the responsibilities of the old vestry had been divided between two bodies: the church vestry and the parish vestry (today known as the Parish Council). The church vestry dealt entirely with church affairs and collected the pew rents, while the parish vestry collected all the taxes and dealt with such matters as the relief of the poor, licensing of liquor establishments, and acted as the parish board of health. In 1902, the church vestry notified the parish vestry (in its capacity of the board of health) that it was necessary to make provision for ‘an extension to the burial ground or the creating of a parish cemetery’.

Eventually, in 1907, the legislature passed the Pembroke Parish Public Cemetery Act which empowered the parish vestry to acquire land for a burial ground, and vested title of that land in the parish vestry The result was the acquisition in 1908 of the strip of land which lies adjacent to the east side of the old churchyard and which is now bordered on the east by the Marsh Folly Road. It was generally known as the Pembroke Parish Public Cemetery, and in May 1911 the western half of it was consecrated as a burying ground for interments according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England.

The addition to the north of the church (where in Plate 10 is a lily field) was bought from R. C. Hollis Hallett by the Church vestry in 1926 as part of the acquisition of the remainder of the Hall estate including ‘Maria’s Hill’, now the Rectory The parishioners purchased a hearse in 1819, and a building to house it was built on land donated by Thomas Hall for the purpose in 1827. This building still stands on the south side of St. John’s Road at the entrance to the Saltus Grammar School.

Repairs to the hearse were frequently needed and noted in the minutes. In 1860, the Hearse Keeper, James T. Butterfield, told the vestry that he had been asked to pick up a corpse in Hamilton. Because of the short notice, he had had to use a more spirited horse than the usual one which ‘was from home’.

The horse took flight with the hearse and overturned it, doing considerable damage as well as injuring the driver. He sought some financial help for the necessary repairs. The vestry granted him one pound.

Most of the clergy who died in office are buried in the churchyard, although in many cases one does not know where. Samuel Lang, who served the whole Island before the Bermuda Company established the livings, may well be buried in Pembroke in 1621. Others include William Viner (1649), Sampson Bond (1692), Samuel Eburne (1713), Jonathan Chapple (1744), James Holliday (1754), James Barker (1791), Alexander Ewing (1822), Joseph F. Lightbourn (1872), Mark James (1898), Eustace M. Strong (1949), and E. Noel B. Chapman (1965). In addition, the churchyard contains the graves of Bishop Edward Feild (1878), and of the first Bishop of Bermuda, Arthur Heber Brown (1948). The graves of the bishops lie with that of Governor Laffan (1882) just south of the tower.

Chapter 8 -1

The Rectory and other property

The Pembroke glebe was the original property which provided revenue to support the rectors and to maintain the church. It comprised two shares (or fifty acres) and stretched from the North Shore to Crow lane harbour where Bond’s Bay is today, named after the Rector, Sampson Bond. On it, south of the marsh, the rectory was built at a very early date. What is now Parson’s Road was a path which led westward to St. John’s, and eastward, connecting across the fields with Parson’s Lane, to Devonshire Church, both churches being included in the rector’s living. The early records show that money was collected to repair or rebuild the house in 1690, which was apparently not completed or not paid for until 1698.

Chapter 9 -1

Repairs to the rectory were a frequent subject of discussion in the parish meetings throughout the eighteenth century, and generally the costs were equally shared with Devonshire. A milk-house was added in 1709 and a kitchen was added in 1726, but the record does not indicate how the rectors prepared meals before this date! The kitchen was replaced in 1750. Major repairs were undertaken in 1804, and in 1832 two rooms were added to accommodate Lightbourn’s burgeoning family.

In 185 7, the rector, Lightbourn, made the request of the vestry that he be permitted to move from the rectory and live in the town of Hamilton. At that time, Hamilton was a residential town. The vestry, however, refused Lightbourn’s request, stating that it understood that he was required to live on the glebe land. However in 1871, a committee searching for a building suitable for a poorhouse recommended that the rectory be used, and, with the consent of the rector, this recommendation was accepted, and the rector was compensated by an annual rental with which he was free to engage a residence elsewhere. Thus, the Rev. Mark James, Lightbourn’s successor, took the house ‘Fenchurch’ at the west end of Laffan Street.

In 1880 Pembroke Church received the house and property, ‘Westfield’, off the Pitts Bay Road, as a bequest from the estate of Samuel Saltus, long an active member of the church . It, with a further neighbouring cottage and land, known as ‘Guests’, was left to the Rev. MarkJames and his successors, with the provisos that if a later rector should deem it unsuitable, it could be rented, or, with the vestry’s concurrence, it could be sold and the proceeds of the sale devoted to the purchase of a more suitable property. It was used as the rectory until 1926 when the parishioners sold ‘Westfield’ and purchased from R.C. Hollis Hallett most of the remaining part of the Hall estate, the Maria’s Hill property. This included the old house and enough land to provide an extension of the graveyard to the north of the church, as well as land to the south and east which was subsequently sold to the Marsh Reclamation Commissioners, and a part to the government for the Marsh Folly Road which was cut in 1934. In 1962, one-and-a-half acres of the land was sold to the Pembroke Sunday School for the erection of new premises.

The old house, after refurbishment, became the Rectory and continues in that use. In 1959, the church vestry bought the remaining part of the Hall estate from the estate of R. C . Hollis Hallett comprising the triangular piece of land north of Langton Hill. On it, the vestry constructed the two houses as residences for curates and to provide income for the church.

Throughout the earlier years, the glebe served as a source of revenue for the rector. Some rectors actually planted it themselves, or leased it to tenants and collected the rents. When the Rev. James Barker died in 1791, his estate claimed a crop of cotton which he had planted on the glebe in response to an act of the legislature encouraging the growth of that crop and offering a bounty for those that prepared it for market abroad. This delayed the entering into posession of his successor, the Rev. Alexander Ewing.

A further complication arose because Barker’s estate also claimed the cedar trees growing on the glebe, and the vestry had to go to the courts to remove this claim. The cedar trees growing on the glebe were always a source of contention between the rector and the parishioners ever since Thomas Abercrombie, the rector of Hamilton and Smith’s had quietly cut and sold a large number of cedars on the Hamilton parish glebe in 1664. The Bermuda Company soundly berated him for this act, and altered their form of contract for succeeding ministers so as to exclude the cedar trees from the rector’s rights to the produce of the glebe.

Until Barker died, the parishioners had retained fairly close control over the use of the cedars on the glebe, cutting them only when timber was needed to repair the church or the rectory. However, Ewing, as Rector of Hamilton and Smith’s, as well as of Pembroke and Devonshire, had the advantage also of the profits of the Hamilton parish glebe which now had grown a fine crop of good-sized trees after Abercrombie’s earlier rape of the land. Ewing sold these trees in 1796 to Major Andrew Durnford of the Royal Engineers, who was in Bermuda to rebuild the forts and took the opportunity to build himself a substantial residence in St. George’s which was jocularly known as ‘the fifth fort’. The courts at this time sided with Ewing against the Hamilton parishioners and the sale was approved.

In time, much of the glebe was divided into building lots which were initially taken by individuals on an annual rental, but with the separation of Devonshire and Pembroke into two livings by the act of 1921, the glebe lands were transferred to the synod which would approve all disposals of land and divide the proceeds between Pembroke and Devonshire.

Private donations also added to the land held by Pembroke church. At some unknown date, an acre of land in Spanish Point was left to the church as a glebe, and its rental became part of the emolument of the Rector of Pembroke. This land was effectively purchased by the Government by an act of 1835 and transferred to the Imperial Government in London to form part of the Admiral’s residential property at St. John’s Hill, the government paying an annual rent to the rector. Under the will of Samuel Saltus, the church also acquired in 1880 a house called ‘Guests’ and land to benefit the rectors and the poor.

A further donation was made by Mrs. Joseph Yates in 1898 of the triangular strip of land now lying between St. John’s Road and Euclid Avenue opposite the West Gate of the Churchyard. She had purchased this when the ‘Woodlands’ property was being sold and gave it to the church with its stand of cedar trees to remain as an oasis of shade.

Parish Life in the Early Days

Today, we see the church used only for services (and the occasional concert) and the churchyard used only for the burial of the dead. But until the Town Hall was built in the new town of Hamilton, the church was used for many other purposes as well. The church itself, as the building which contained the only large meeting room in the parish, was used during the week for many secular functions. It was the centre of the parish, and there the parishioners met on occasions to transact parish business, both ecclesiastical and civil. Regularly in Easter week, the parishioners met in the body of the church to choose the parish officers.

These were not only the two churchwardens, but also the parish constables, the surveyors or waywardens (whose duties were to maintain the public paths and roads), the poundkeeper, (who collected straying cattle, kept them in a pound in the churchyard, and released them to the owner only on the payment of a fee), and such other officers as the necessities of the time demanded. At other times, when called together, the parishioners met to choose jurors to send to the Assizes, to elect their representatives to the House of Assembly, to settle on parish rates and approve parish expenditures (including the salary of the rector), and to transact such other business as was pressing.

Although there was a requirement as early as 1627 to appoint members to be the vestry as the executive of the parish meeting, all parishes (except St. George’s) uniformly ignored this rule, preferring to retain control over parish affairs themselves through a parish meeting. This did not change in Pembroke until 1771 when vestry members were chosen. In 1777, however, the parishioners did not elect any officers or vestrymen until they were taken to task by Governor George James Bruere who declared that in Pembroke ‘a deep-rooted and remarkable obstinacy hath always prevailed’ and insisted that officers be chosen. The parishioners obeyed and elected officers and vestrymen in August 1777.

The act of 1793 made it compulsory for every parish to choose a vestry of ‘a number, not exceeding twelve, of fit and able persons resident within the parish’. The church was occasionally used as a school from at least 1674 (and possibly before), but this was not a successful experiment. The boisterous pupils did damage, and although the parish tried to make the schoolmaster responsible for damage to the building and to its windows, schoolmasters appeared to have been successful in evading this responsibility.

Permission for the use of the church as a school was withdrawn in 1725.

The parish Justices of the Peace or Magistrates held their quarter-sessions in the church, trying hapless parishioners for various transgressions against the law. Some were sent to be tried at the Assizes in St. George’s for serious crimes, but many were sentenced to whipping, or to spending some time in the stocks or the cage. The whipping post or pillory and the stocks were just outside the eastern end of church in the churchyard; the stocks were renewed in 1770. It is said that when two cedar trees were taken down to make room for the building of the chancel in 1914, they had marks on them where the stocks had been fixed. Until 1797, the cross-road from Crowlane Harbour (now Hamilton Harbour) to the North Shore passed by the eastern end of the church so that the stocks were readily visible to all who used this path. In 1797, the vestry agreed that this road be ‘stopped up’ and the road be re-routed so as to pass around the churchyard to the church’s western gate (as it now does) and continue on to the North Shore by what is now known as Langton Hill.

Such roads, in those days, were the responsibility of the tribe or parish in which they lay, and were generally known as ‘Tribe Roads’.

The ability of the parish meeting and its vestry to decide all things, both of the church and of parish government, gradually became eroded during the nineteenth century as the desire to centralise responsibilities in the Legislature began to grow. In 1867, an act of the Legislature divided the remaining responsibilities between two bodies: the Church vestry, and the Parish vestry (now called the Parish Council).

The Parish vestry took over the responsibility of the poor, administered the licences for the sale of liquor, and collected parish taxes through the annual assessment. The Church vestry was left with purely church-related affairs, and its major source of revenue lay in the collection of pew rents, which continued to be levied until the 1960s.

Today, the functions of the Parish Council have been severely reduced from what they had been, with the growth of the enormous civil service, and the removal of the control over parish affairs by the people of the parish.

Acknowledgments & References

The author is grateful to Mrs. Joyce Hall MEE for helpful discussions.
Thanks are particularly due to Mr. Ifor Nesbit and to Mr. Wentworth Christopher for providing the material for the chapters on St. Monica’s and St. Augustine’s.

It was felt undesirable to encumber the text with references to give the origins of the statements made. Suffice it to say that for the period up to 1826 references are to be found in the author’s Chronicle o a Colonial Church 1612-1826: Bermuda Quniperhill Press, 1993).

For the period from 1826 to the present, the major sources used have been the Vestry Minutes, the Service Books, and the Parish Newsletters.