by P. Ann van B. Stafford
Historic Cayman CONTENTS
1750 – 2016 Cayman Islands Governors and Predecessors
1910 Notes on the HISTORY of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George S.S. HIRST
Notes on the Early History of the Camanas by Roy Murray, 2010 (pdf)
1656 Jamaica – Settlers from Nevis (pdf)
1661-71 The first recorded settlements – Little Cayman and Cayman Brac
1735 Isaac Bawden married widow Sarah Lamar, both of Camanas, in Port Royal
1773 Gauld Survey Pop. 450
1773 Thomas Thompson settled at Prospect
1776 Prospect Fort built
1787 Miskito Coast / Mosquito Shore of Nicaragua and Honduras evacuation by the British, to Grand Cayman via Belize. Population substantially increased.
1780 Pedro St. James built by William Eden (he died in Nicaragua in 1801)
1790 Fort George, George Town, built
1794 Wreck of the Ten Sail
1802 Corbet Report Pop. 933 (pdf) (No inhabitants on Little Cayman & Cayman Brac)
1831 First Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly of Vestry and Justices, Dec. 31
1839 and 1843 House-shaped grave markers of Thomas Knowles Eden (son of William Eden, builder of Pedro St. James) and his wife
1891 Census Pop. 4,322 (pdf)
1911 Census Pop. 5,564 (pdf)
1970 A HISTORY of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by Neville Williams
Note: for more details visit Cayman Cutural
Pedro St. James
1503 May 10 Christopher Columbus sighted Cayman Brac and Little Cayman on his 4th. voyage and named them Las Tortugas. Over the next 100 years, the name Caymanas or Cayman became common.
Cayman Islands Governors and Predecessors 1750 to 2016
Chief Magistrates or Custodes
- 1750 William Cartwright
- 1776 William Bodden
- 1823 James Coe the Elder
- 1829 John Drayton
- 1842 James Coe the Younger
- 1855 William Eden (grandson of William Eden, builder of Pedro St. James in 1780)
- 1879 William Bodden Webster
- 1888 Edmund Parsons
- 1898 Frederick Shedden Sanguinnetti, ISO
- 1907 George Stephenson Shirt Hirst
- 1912 Arthur C. Robinson
- 1919 Hugh Houston Hutchings
- 1929 Captain G.H. Frith
- 1931 Ernest Arthur Weston
- 1934 Allen Wolsey Cardinall, CMG (later Sir Allen)
- 1940 Albert Colinridge Panton Snr, MBE (acting)
- 1941 John Penry Jones
- 1946 Ivor Otterbein Smith (later CMG, OBE)
- 1952 Andrew Morris Gerrard, CMG
- 1956 Alan Hilliard Donald
- 1960 Jack Rose, MBE, DFC (Later CMG)
- 1962 Jack Rose, MBE, DFC (Later CMG)
- 1964 John Alfred Cumber, CMG (later Sir John)
- 1968 Athelstan Charles Ethelwulf Long, CMG, CBE
- 1971 Athelstan Charles Ethelwulf Long, CMG, CBE
- 1972 Kenneth Roy Crook (later CMG)
- 1974 Thomas Russell, CMG, CVO
- 1982 George Peter Lloyd, CMG, CVO
- 1987 Alan James Scott, CVO, CBE
- 1992 Michael Edward John Gore, CVO, CBE
- 1995 John Wynne Owen, MBE (later CMG)
- 1999 Peter John Smith, CBE
- 2002 Bruce Harry Dinwiddy, CMG
- 2005 Stuart D.M. Jack, CVO
- 2010 Duncan Taylor, CBE
- 2013 Helen Kilpatrick CB
William Bodden (Governor Bodden I 1776-1789)
William Bodden (Governor Bodden II 1789-1823)
(see Founded upon The Seas – A History of the Cayman Islands and Their People p.45-46)
Notes on the History of the Cayman Islands
by George Stephenson Shirt HIRST MB, Commissioner of the Cayman Islands 1907 – 1912.
published by The P. A. Benjamin Manf. Co.
1910 original printing in 3 volumes
Ira Thompson and his Kiemanos Museum exhibit
Notes on the Early History of the Camanas by Roy Murray
Journal of the University College of the Cayman Islands (JUCCI) 2010 Murray JUCCI 2010
John Camden Hotten’s Lists 1600 – 1700, London 1874
Jamestown The first permanent European colony in America (Virginia)
Captain John Smith Captain John Smith, explorer, played an important role in the establishment of the Jamestown settlement.
Pocohontas Pochohontas (c 1596 – March 1617) was a Native American woman notable for her association with the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia.
Pocohontas statue, Jamestown, Virginia, USA
Pocahontas was captured and held for ransom by the English during Anglo-Indian hostilities in 1613. During her captivity, she converted to Christianity and took the name Rebecca. When the opportunity arose for her to return to her people, she chose to remain with the English. In April 1614, at the age of 17, she married tobacco planter John Rolfe, and in January 1615, she bore their son, Thomas Rolfe.
Pocohontas statue, St.George’s Church, Gravesend, Kent, England, UK
In 1616, the Rolfes travelled to London. Pocahontas was presented to English society as an example of the “civilized savage” in hopes of stimulating investment in the Jamestown settlement. She became something of a celebrity, was elegantly fêted, and attended a masque at Whitehall Palace. In 1617, the Rolfes set sail for Virginia, but Pocahontas died at Gravesend of unknown causes, aged 20 or 21. She was buried in St George’s Church, Gravesend in England, but her grave’s exact location is unknown, as the church has been rebuilt.
1620 Voyage of the Mayflower to Plymouth, America
In September 1620, a merchant ship called the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, a port on the southern coast of England. Typically, the Mayflower’s cargo was wine and dry goods, but on this trip the ship carried passengers: 102 of them, all hoping to start a new life on the other side of the Atlantic. Nearly 40 of these passengers were Protestant Separatists–they called themselves “Saints”–who hoped to establish a new church in the New World. Today, we often refer to the colonists who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower as “Pilgrims.”
Plymouth Colony Massachusetts
1623 St Kitts and Nevis
The islands were originally settled from South America, and had Amerindian populations at the time of the first European landings. St Christopher’s (St Kitts) was sighted by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493. It was colonised by the English under Sir Thomas Warner in 1623 and during the following centuries sugar was grown on plantations worked by enslaved Africans. Already in 1624, however, another part of the island was colonized by the French (who also used slaves on their estates) and the two powers fought over the island during the 17th and 18th century until St Kitts was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Versailles (1783).
Nevis was settled by the English in 1628. It, too, was subject to attack, from the French and Spanish, in the 17th and 18th centuries, with less damage, however, to its economy.
The first English ship, which had arrived on 14 May 1625, was captained by John Powell. The first settlement began on 17 February 1627, near what is now Holetown (formerly Jamestown), by a group led by John Powell’s younger brother, Henry, consisting of 80 settlers and 10 English laborers.
1634 Michaell Bowden
Michaell Bowden of Helston (Cornwall) age 27, born 1606 or 1607.
1633 or 1634 In the Robert Bonaventure for St Christophers (St Kitts) from the Poart of Plimworth (Plymouth, Devon). All husbandmen (farmers) bound to serve there some 3 and some 4 yeares.
Hotten’s Lists 1600-1700 p.153
1635 Luke Stokes
Luke Stokes, age 35, Hotten’s List p.52, London to Barbados in the Peter Bonaventure April 1635. Governor of Nevis. He would have been 56 when he left Nevis to settle in Jamaica. He and his wife soon died, but their teenage sons survived and built Stokes Hall Great House in St Thomas.
1635 Robert Watler
September 2, 1635 Robert Watler, age 20, was transported from London to St Christophers / St Kitts , imbarqued in the William and John, Rowland Langram Mr. (Master). Robert Watler may have been the progenitor of the Cayman Watlers.
1656 Jamaica – Settlers from Nevis
Caribbean Basin map, showing St. Kitts and Nevis
Bowden, area in St. Thomas, Jamaica, which takes its name from a former owner, William Bowden, an early settler from Nevis in 1656.
A – Z of Jamaican Heritage by Olive Senior (1985), p.26.
A – Z of Jamaican Heritage by Olive Senior (1985), p.157
One year after the English conquest of Jamaica (1655), Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, issued a proclamation in the other colonies inviting settlers for the new colony of Jamaica.
Nearly everyone ignored the invitation – except for the people of Nevis, (in the eastern Caribbean), most of whom volunteered to go.
1656 In December 1656 the ageing Governor of Nevis, Major Luke Stokes, his wife and teenage sons arrived with 1,600 colonists from Nevis and St Kitts. They settled in the Morant Bay area (of eastern Jamaica).
1657 On the low lying coast, the new settlers started to die of fevers as soon as they arrived.
1200 people died within 3 months.
By March, two-thirds of the settlers, including Major Stokes and his wife, had been buried.
The survivors managed to establish plantations in the area, and many of them prospered.
William Bowden was one of the settlers from Nevis.
1656 Jamaica – Settlers from Nevis
1661-71 The first recorded settlements were located on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, during the tenure of Sir Thomas Modyford as Governor of Jamaica (1664-70). Muddy Foots, Little Cayman, is named after him. Because of the depredations of Spanish privateers, Modyford’s successor, Sir Thomas Lynch (1671-74), called the settlers back to Jamaica, though by this time Spain had recognized British possession of the Islands in the 1670 Treaty of Madrid.
1669 Little Cayman The Spaniards, having sunk several small English ships and secured the rest, sent about 200 armed men ashore at Little Cayman’s eastern end, still called Muddy Foots. They marched the length of the island and ransacked and burnt twenty or so turtlers houses and huts.
1669 Sir Thomas Modyford (1620-1679), Governor of Jamaica 1664-70.
The Dependency Question by Nicolas J. G. Sykes, 1996, p.36.
Lord Windsor (1627-1687, Governor of Jamaica 1661-1663.
Sir Thomas Lynch (died 1684) was the English governor of Jamaica on three separate occasions – 1663-64, 1671-74 and 1682-84.
1670 Treaty of Madrid, Spain recognized England’s sovereignty over Jamaica and various other Caribbean islands, including Cayman.
Early 18th. Century Isaac Bawden / Bowden / Bodden was probably one of several itinerant turtlers from Jamaica. He settled at East End, Grand Cayman, in the area called Old Isaacs on the George Gauld 1773 map.
1735 Nov.9 Isaac Bawden, mariner, married widow Sarah Lamar, both of Camanas, entry in Port Royal Church Parish Register. The ceremony was performed by Thomas Alves, Rector of Port Royal. (Hirst p.28)
1735 Nov.9 Benjamin Lock Bawden, born Dec. 17, 1730 and William Price Bawden, born Nov. 11, 1732, sons of Isaac Bawden and Sarah Lamar: their baptism was recorded as a separate entry in the same register.
(Founded Upon the Seas p.45-46)
Benjamin Lock Bawden, born Dec. 17, 1730 and William Price Bawden, born Nov. 11, 1732
West Indian Mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni
Mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni, Endangered. 1730s – 1740s The first formal land grants were made in Cayman, mainly to cut Mahogany. Mahogany furniture had become popular in Britain and Europe and Mahogany surpassed turtle as Cayman’s most valuable product.
1735-1741 There was considerable informal settlement.
1741-42 Land Grants A codicil stipulated that those who could prove, with two witnesses before a magistrate, that they had occupied, planted or felled trees within the granted land, could retain possession of that land, with 30 acres of adjacent woodland, provided that they took out a patent within two years. (Founded Upon the Seas, p.41)
1741-42 Land Grants – all grantees to bring 10 white servants into their plantation, regardless of how many slaves they owned. Walter / Watler may have come with Foster.
1741 Murray Crymble land grant of 1000 acres – extremely wealthy absentee Jamaican merchant.
1741 Samuel Spofforth land grant – wealthy absentee merchant, Bermudan shipowner – to cut Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum), from Central America, for its dye, and also Mahogany, for its timber, from Cayman.
Mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni, West Bay, Grand Cayman
1741 Cayman land grant to William Foster, a Kingston, Jamaica, merchant, to cut and plank Mahogany, from the present George Town to Pull-and-Be-Damned Point, South Sound. William Foster had become well acquainted with this part of Grand Cayman during the 1730s. There is no evidence that he settled there. There are no records of Fosters in the later 18th. century. No Fosters were recorded in Corbet 1802 Census. Fosters existed on Cayman Brac from 1833.
1742 Mary Bodden – last of the 18th. century patentees. Her grant dated January 15 was for 1000 acres.
1765 Cayman – 2 Walter brothers married 2 Bawden sisters in Jamaica, parish unknown.
Waide Walter Snr, mariner, married Rachel Bawden
Stephen Walter, mariner, married Sarah Bawden
1765 Royal Navy officers Remark Books provide information about Cayman. HMS Active anchored off Grand Cayman. Captain Robert Carkett noted that there were about 20 families, most of whom cut Mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni) and Fustic (Maclura tinctoria) which were exported to Jamaica.
1765 William EDEN from Wiltshire, England (b.1737- d.1801), arrived in Grand Cayman from Jamaica
1773 Gauld survey map and notes, early settlers: Total Population: 450
George Gauld 1773 map of Grand Cayman – Heritage Charts (zoom in to see where houses are marked)
“in all 39 families, consisting of at least 200 white people and above [the] same number of Negroes and Mulattoes.
21 families at Bodden Town (South Side), 13 at West End commonly called Hogsties (present day George Town), 3 at East End and 2 at Spot’s Bay.
1773 Thomas THOMPSON, native of Penicuik, Scotland arrived in Cayman sometime after 1773. He founded and settled PROSPECT. Prospect is not marked on the Gauld map, nor are any houses marked in that location. Shortly afterwards, he commenced cultivating cotton extensively, which he shipped to England.
1776 some time after this date – Fort at Prospect built. ‘Prospect Fort was built, armed and manned by Caymanians for the defense against pirates during the administration of
Governor William Bodden, Governor from 1776 to 1823.
The monument was erected by the Cayman Islands Historical Association in 1954’. (Wording on the plaque.)
William Bodden (Governor Bodden I 1776-1789)
William Bodden (Governor Bodden II 1789-1823)
1789 April 23. At the Grand Camaynas, aged 67, Wm. Bodden, esq. chief magistrate of that island, the first known death notice of a settler, published in The Gentleman’s Magazine, London, 1789.
(Note: aged 67: it looks a though 6 has been written over a 5. If he was born Nov.11, 1732 (see above), and died on April 23, he would have been 56 when he died and it was the 7 that should have been overwritten as a 6.)
The fort at Prospect was “intended to oppose the progress of an enemy landing at Sandy Bay”. It had 4 small guns and was slightly strongly that the George Town Fort.
1780 Pedro St. James built by William Eden from Devizes, Wiltshire, England, at
Great Pedro Point.
Pedro St. James
Photo c. 1910 George S.S. Hirst
1787 Miskito Coast / Mosquito Shore of Nicaragua and Honduras evacuation by the British, to Grand Cayman via Belize, of 300 or so settlers including 250 slaves. The population was substantially increased and new cotton plantations were established.
1789 April 23. At the Grand Camaynas, age 67, Wm. Bodden, esq. chief magistrate of that island.
The first known death notice of a Cayman settler, published in the Gentleman’s Magazine, London, 1789.
1790 Fort George in George Town constructed at approximately this date.
Fort George, artist’s impression of what it looked like in its heyday
Caymanian Compass, Feb. 23, 2000.
Fort George ruins, George Town, showing what remains of the original walls.
In 1972 a developer started to demolish the historic site.
1794 Wreck of the Ten Sail: ten ships, including HMS Convert, the navy ship leading a convoy of 58 merchantmen, wrecked on the East End reef.
1800 Pedro St. James sold
William EDEN’s (1737 – 1801) son William Eden (II), (by his first wife Dorothy (nee Bodden), as William the Executor and Heir at law, came into possession of Pedro St. James and sold it to James Coe (his brother in law) in 1800. James Coe left the island some years later and resold it to William Eden (II), who occupied it for some years. At his death he bequeathed it to 2 coloured boys named Joseph and Samuel, who assumed the surname Eden and thus started a new family of that name.
There were a lot of descendants called William Eden from both branches of this family.
1801 After William Eden died in Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua, where he was buried, his 2nd. wife, Elizabeth ‘Bessy’ (nee Clark) married Thomas THOMPSON of Penicuik, Scotland, who settled in PROSPECT.
1802 Corbet Report – Cayman Islands Census
Lt. Governor Nugent Letters on the Cayman Islands: Corbet report:
Governor NUGENT of JAMAICA instructed Edward CORBET to proceed to the Cayman Islands and give a full report of the population, cultivation, soil, etc.
The places of residence were East End, Frank Sound, Bodden Town, Little Pedro, Spotts, Prospect, South West Sound, George Town (formerly called Hogstyes), West Bay, Boatswain Bay and North Side.
Family names listed: Thomas, Poucheau, Bodden, Morton, Conoir, McCoy, Semon, Faturn, Leach, Wood, Silver, Watler, Hide, Walker, Rivers, Hoye, Hall, Jennett, Ebanks, Bishop, Amazon, Collins, Bush, Higgins, Toulinery, Hind, Spleen, Sutherland, McLean, Thomson, Eden, Coe, Knowles Eden, Drayton, Nixon, Prescott, Savery, Scott, Wilson, Jackson, Parsons, Barrow, Trusty and Mitchell.
1802 Census Total population 933, including 545 slaves.
Little Cayman and Cayman Brac were uninhabited.
Click here for pdf: 1802 Corbet Cayman Census
1823 Dec. 13 The Magistrates and principal inhabitants held a meeting at Pedro St James, the residence of William Eden (son of William Eden the builder of Pedro St. James). They leased the property from him to be used as a court house, jail and animal pound.
1826 James Shearer Jackson imprisoned in Pedro St. James
1831 Dec.31 – Cayman’s Founding Fathers of Democracy and Justice.
The First Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly of Vestry and Justices sat on Dec. 31, 1831 at Pedro St. James.
John Drayton – Senior Magistrate
Robert S. Watler, John S. Jackson, Abraham O. Fuertado, Waide W. Bodden, James Coe, Jr., Edwin John Parsons, William Eden, Sr., Esq.
BODDEN TOWN George W. Wood, James Hunter Wood
PROSPECT James Coe, Sr. William Eden, Sr.
S.W SOUND John Goodhew
GEORGE TOWN James Parsons, Sr., William I. Bodden, Thomas L. Thompson
WEST BAY Samuel Parsons, William Bodden, Jr.
1855-1879 Custos William Eden (b. Jan.5, 1807, d. Sept. 17, 1879) (grandson of William Eden, builder of Pedro St. James in 1780), son of Thomas Knowles Eden (1782-1843) and Elizabeth Charlotte (nee Coe) (1783-1839).House-shaped gravestones of Thomas Knowles Eden (1782-1843) and his wife Elizabeth Charlotte Eden (nee Coe or Thomson?) ( 1783-1839), Prospect Point, Grand Cayman.
Find A Grave:
1874 Sketches of the entrance to South West Sound and
George Town from the anchorage of H.M.S. Eclipse, April 1874.
The Log records that “the fort at Georgetown is in ruins and being so overgrown with bushes cannot be seen from the anchorage.” (Fort George).
A History of the Cayman Islands by Neville Williams, 1970.
1882 map of Grand Cayman
c. 1890 Old Courts Bulding
drawing by John Doak
1881 Census Total Population: 3,066
1891 Census Total Population: 4,322
1911 Census Total Population: 5,564
A HISTORY of the CAYMAN ISLANDS
by Neville Williams, 1970
to mark the Tercentenary ot the Treaty of Madrid, 1670.
Founded Upon the Seas
A History of the Cayman Islands and Their People
by Micahel Craton and the New History Committee, 2003
the year of the Cayman Islands Quincentennial celebrations –
Christopher Columbus sighted Cayman Brac and Little Cayman on his 4th. voyage in 1503.
For more information and pictures:
Additional Notes, Links and Connections:
Sir William Penn, British Admiral (1621 – 1670)
Sir William Penn (23 April 1621 – 16 September 1670), Royal Navy Officer, was an English admiral and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1660 to 1670. He was the father of William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania
William Penn (24 October 1644 (O.S. 14 October 1644) – 30 July 1718) was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, early Quaker and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was an early advocate of democracy and religious freedom, notable for his good relations and successful treaties with the Lenape Native Americans. Under his direction, the city of Philadelphia was planned and developed.
William Penn, English Quaker leader and colonist (1644 – 1718)
….. That same year (1670) Penn also had an unexpected opportunity to strike another blow for freedom of conscience and for the traditional rights of all Englishmen. On Aug. 14, 1670, the Quaker meetinghouse in Gracechurch Street, London, having been padlocked by the authorities, he preached in the street to several hundred persons. After the meetings, he and William Mead were arrested and imprisoned on a trumped-up charge of inciting a riot. At his trial in the Old Bailey, Penn calmly and skillfully exposed the illegality of the proceedings against him. The jury, under the leadership of Edward Bushell, refused to bring in a verdict of guilty despite threats and abusive treatment. For their refusal the jurymen were fined and imprisoned, but they were vindicated when Sir John Vaughan, the lord chief justice, enunciated the principle that a judge “may try to open the eyes of the jurors, but not to lead them by the nose.” The trial, which is also known as the “Bushell’s Case,” stands as a landmark in English legal history, having established beyond question the independence of the jury. A firsthand account of the trial, which was a vivid courtroom drama, was published in The People’s Ancient and Just Liberties Asserted (1670).
Treaty of Madrid (1670)
The Treaty of Madrid (also known as the Godolphin Treaty) adopted in 1670 was a treaty between England and Spain. More complete name is: “A treaty for the composing of differences, restraining of depredations and establishing of peace in America : between the crowns of Great Britain and Spain : concluded at Madrid the 8th/18 day of July in the year of our Lord, 1670″ 
Under the terms of the treaty, Spain recognized English possessions in the Caribbean Sea: “all those lands, islands, colonies and places whatsoever situated in the West Indies.” Spain confirmed England was to hold all territories in the Western Hemisphere that it had already settled; however the treaty did not define what areas were settled. England took formal control of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands after the treaty was signed. Spain also agreed to permit English ships freedom of movement in the Caribbean. Each country agreed to refrain from trading in the other’s territory, and both countries agreed to limit trading to their own possessions. England agreed to suppress piracy in the Caribbean. 
The boundary created by this treaty was at latitude 32° 30″, where part of the present-day boundary between Georgia and South Carolina lies, extending west roughly from modern Hilton Head
Pedro St. James
At the end of a quiet, mango and mahogany tree-shaded road in Savannah, Grand Cayman, high atop a limestone bluff, lies one of the Caribbean’s most spectacular historic restorations, the Pedro St. James Historic Site. After seven years and a $7.5 million transformation, the Cayman Islands government has created the country’s most ambitious heritage attraction to date and its first national landmark.
The final phase of the most extensive restoration project in Cayman’s history was completed in December 1998 and unveiled during a gala Grand Opening celebration. Sprawling over 7.65 acres with a breathtaking view of the azure Caribbean, Pedro St. James is one of the country’s genuine treasures awaiting discovery by all visitors.
Behind a traditional coral stone wall rises an authentic, three-storey early 19th century great house and outbuildings, with traditional “grounds” planted with pineapple, banana and other provisions. The adjacent acres are covered with luxuriant tropical plants, palm-lined walkways and a splendid manicured Great Lawn sprawling to a jaw-dropping view of the Caribbean. At the main entrance is the Visitors Centre featuring a state of the art multimedia theater where visitors experience 200 years of Cayman history in 20 minutes.
Today, it is a site whose grandeur is befitting of its importance as the Birthplace of Democracy in the Cayman Islands.
Formerly known as Pedro Castle, this is the oldest known existing stone structure in the Cayman Islands. The original building is believed to have been built of quarried native rock around 1780 as a great house by William Eden, a mariner, plantation owner and early settler.
Pirates & Folktales
There never was a Spanish-built castle, nor any proof that pirates ever came ashore at Pedro, much less built a fortress here. These were 20th century fabrications of combining local folktales and the stories created by a very real, American-born adventurer turned entrepreneur Tom Hubbell, who owned the site from 1954 until his death in 1977. In the 60’s, Hubbell renovated the long-abandoned stone ruins, originally planning a small guest house and bar. He chiselled the date “1631” into the top of the building’s entrance, added jagged crenelations along the top level and promoted it as a fortress once inhabited by Captain Morgan and other pirates.
Later Hubbell leased it as a bar and restaurant and rustic two-bedroom inn. Pedro Castle became a much bigger attraction as a popular watering hole. It survived hurricanes, a fire, and a variety of owners until a second fire in 1989 finally reduced the building to ruins once and for all.
In November, 1991, the Government bought the 7.65 acre property from Hubbell’s estate to develop as Cayman’s first national landmark and heritage tourism attraction. At that time, the price of CI$852,000 (US$1,039,634) made it the most expensive official land acquisition in the history of the Cayman Islands.
Commonwealth Historic Resource Management Ltd., the Canadian consulting firm responsible for Antigua’s Nelson’s Dockyard, was selected in 1992 to work with Cayman’s Historic Sites Committee as project managers. They launched a public education campaign emphasizing the official name was no longer Pedro Castle, but Pedro St. James Historic Site and Restoration.
The project began with two years of archaeological research and simultaneous searches in archives in Jamaica, Scotland, England and Spain. Together, these efforts unearthed historic facts far more interesting than romantic fiction.
In 1780, William Eden, a mariner and early English settler, established a cotton and mahogany plantation on Savannah’s Pedro bluff with its spectacular view of the Caribbean and convenient anchorage for ships right offshore. His great house, called St. James, was built with slave labor using native quarried stone. It was a remarkable building for that period, when the population of Grand Cayman was only 400–of which 200 were slaves. It was the only house on Grand Cayman that survived the devastating hurricane of 1785. The original ruins beneath the “castle” are the oldest structure in the Cayman Islands. By 1823 the house and grounds were being used as a courthouse, jail and public pound.
Birthplace of democracy
But its greatest historic significance was not even publicly known until this decade. Pedro St. James was the site of a historic meeting of residents which took place on 5 December, 1831 during which it was resolved that representatives should be appointed for the five different districts for the purpose of forming local laws for better Government. The elections took place on 10 December in the five districts on Grand Cayman and on 31 December they met as the first Legislative Assembly for the first time in George Town.
“Pedro St. James Historic Site, considered the birthplace of democracy in the Cayman Islands, will serve as our premier national landmark. This is our equivalent to Independence Hall in the United States and will serve as a model for future heritage tourism attractions here,” said Minister Jefferson.
In addition, another historic event took place here in May 1835, when the proclamation declaring the emancipation of all slaves throughout the colonies was read at Pedro St. James and at a number of other prominent places in the Cayman Islands.
Historically accurate restoration
The new Pedro St. James great house was completed in January 1998, a historically accurate restoration of the original plantation great house, representative of the period between 1820 and 1840. The three-level design with wide verandahs was based on archival and architectural research about that era of Caribbean history, as well as the materials used in the original structure itself. This provided enough evidence for an accurate idea of what Eden’s original manor looked like.
Every detail reflects authentic building techniques of early 19th century Caribbean great houses – from rough hewn timber beams and wooden pegs to replacing the false upper level crenelations with a gabled framework. Other period features include mahogany floors and staircases, wide beam wooden ceilings; stone walls, outside wooden louvered shutters and mahogany doors.
The first floor houses the jail, store rooms, kitchen and pantry. The second level is a dining room, courtroom and verandah and the upper level contains the living quarters. Furnishings are a combination of original 19th century mahogany antiques and reproductions obtained from St. Kitts and other Caribbean countries. Rooms are accurate in detail down to walls painted with limewash the color of oxblood; candle sconces and brass door fastenings.
A bake oven and outdoor kitchen on the building’s northwest side are recreations of the original great house estate. More recent additions include an early 20th century Caymanian-style cottage and Steadman Bodden house, a restored traditional 100-year-old Caymanian wattle and daub home. Both were relocated to the site to enhance its educational heritage value.
One of the most beautiful locations in the Cayman Islands, Pedro St. James is already a popular venue for weddings and social events. The grounds have been landscaped as a magnificent natural tropical park with native trees and plants, as well as traditional medicinal and vegetable gardens representative of a small early 19th century West Indian plantation.
The $1.5 million Visitors’ Centre includes five-buildings in 19th century architectural style surrounding a landscaped courtyard. The main attraction is the 49-seat state of the art multimedia theater featuring a 20-minute video presentation on Pedro St. James and highlights of 200 years of Cayman history. Other facilities include a resource center, gift shop, and café. Interpretative displays and signs throughout the great house and grounds allow self-guided tours but guides are also available.
Pedro St. James Historic Site is located in Savannah, Grand Cayman and is open 8:30-5:00 daily. The multi-media show starts on the hour from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Admission is US$8.00. Children under 6 are free and children 6 to 12 years old pay US$4.00. For information, contact:
Phone: (345) 947-3329 http://www.pedrostjames.ky
Pedro St. James – where did the name come from?
1765 William EDEN (1737 – 1801) from Devizes, Wiltshire, England, arrived in Cayman in 1765. He was married first to Dorothy (née Bodden) in Savannah-la-Mar, Jamaica, on December 25, 1765. They lived at Spotts, marked Edens on the 1773 Gauld map. They had one son, William Eden II, and 3 daughters.
1780 William Eden built the stone house Pedro St. James at Great Pedro Point, Grand Cayman.
So William Eden was in Jamaica before arriving in Cayman. There is a town called Wiltshire, SW of Montego Bay in St. James Parish, Jamaica, on the road from Reading (north coast) to Savannah-la-Mar (south coast). Great Pedro Bluff is further eastwards on the south coast.