Historic Cayman

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

Historic Cayman

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

Cayman Islands Governors and Predecessors

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

Commissioners

  • 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)

Administrators

  • 1962 Jack Rose, MBE, DFC (Later CMG)
  • 1964 John Alfred Cumber, CMG (later Sir John)
  • 1968 Athelstan Charles Ethelwulf Long, CMG, CBE

Governors

Note:

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

1967 reprinted

History of Cay Hirst, publisher1967_1

History of Cay Hirst, publisher1967_2

History of Cay Hirst, publisher1967_3.jpg

 Ira Thompson Collection, Museum Nov20-15

Ira Thompson and his Kiemanos Museum exhibit

Cayman Islands NATIONAL MUSEUM – Ira Thompson Collection

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

1656 Jamaica – Settlers from Nevis

1656 Jamaica, Settlers from Nevis

1655 Oliver Cromwell‘s grand Western Design, English joint army-navy force, sent Admiral Sir William Penn and General Robert Venables to capture the island of Hispaniola.  They failed to take the city of Santo Domingo so they sailed on and captured Jamaica in May.
http://www.discoverjamaica.com/gleaner/discover/geography/history1.htm

http://bcw-project.org/military/anglo-spanish-war/western-design

1656 – Jamaica – The Settlers from Nevis by S.A.G. Taylor p.15.
In 1656 Cromwell issued a proclamation in other colonies, inviting settlers for the new colony of Jamaica. William BOWDEN, an early settler from Nevis, arrived in December with Major Luke Stokes, Governor of Nevis, in the Morant Bay area, St. Thomas, eastern Jamaica.
Within three months, by March 1657, two-thirds of the 1600 settlers had died of fevers in the low-lying coastal area.
Caribbean basin mapCaribbean Basin map, showing St. Kitts and Nevis

Jamaica Bowden - map

Bowden, area in St. Thomas, Jamaica, which takes its name from a former owner, William Bowden, an early settler from Nevis in 1656.

Bowden A-Z Jamaican Heritage

A – Z of Jamaican Heritage by Olive Senior (1985), p.26.

Stokes Hall A-Z Jamaican Heritage p.157

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

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.

Little Cayman settlement 1671 recall NJG Sykes

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)

Bawden baptisms 1735 - Seas p.46Benjamin Lock Bawden, born Dec. 17, 1730 and William Price Bawden, born Nov. 11, 1732

Doak '88 map early GC t

1734 land grant to Campbell and Middleton.
Grand Cayman – 18th. to early 19th. Century map showing land grants from 1734 and  settlers, using the outline of the island as surveyed by George Gauld, 1773.
John Doak, 1988.

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)

1773 Gauld map on 1989 Cayman stamp

1773 Gauld map on 1989 Cayman stamp

“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.)

Note:

William Bodden (Governor Bodden  I   1776-1789)

William Bodden (Governor Bodden II   1789-1823)

Bodden Wm, death 1789 - Seas p.46

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 Gentleman’s Magazine

Prospect Ft 1776-1823 monument Apr29-12

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 Hirst 1910

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.

Caribbean Mosquito Coast (or Miskito Coast)

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 Feb23, 2000 Compass

Fort George, artist’s impression of what it looked like in its heyday

Caymanian Compass, Feb. 23, 2000.

Fort George walls Jan23-16_i AS

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.

1794 Wreck of Ten Sail 4 stamps

Wreck of the Ten Sail, Feb.8, 1794 East End reef, Grand Cayman

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.

Pedro jail prisoner Mar12-08 AS

1826 James Shearer Jackson imprisoned in Pedro St. James

1831

1831 Pedro Founding fathers plaque Dec.31. Mar12-08

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.

MAGISTRATES  (8)

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.

REPRESENTATIVES

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).Eden, Thos K & Elizabeth, Prospect Apr29-12_105House-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:

Thomas Knowles Eden (1782 – 1843)

 Elizabeth Thomson Eden (1783 – 1839)*

Eden Charlotte & parents Prospect Apr29-12 AS1839  Prospect (Old) – Eden cemetery.
Thomas Knowles Eden (1782-1843) and his wife Elizabeth Charlotte Eden (nee Coe) (1783-1839) – the 2 house-shaped grave markers at left, their son William Eden (1807-1879), CUSTOS, and his wife Rachel Jane Eden (nee Bodden) (1811-1901) – plaque,
and their daughter Charlotte Matilda Eden (1843-1853) house-shaped grave marker.

 William Thomas Eden (1807 – 1879)*

 Rachel Jane Bodden Eden (1811 – 1901)

 Charlotte Matilda Eden (1843 – 1853)*

Eden, Custos Wm & Rachel Prospect 1879 Apr29-12_090 AS

Williams - sketches HMS  Eclipse1874

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 GC r

1882 map of Grand Cayman

1890 Old Courts Building J.Doak

c. 1890 Old Courts Bulding

drawing by John Doak

Museum Old Courts Blg. Aug10-12

Cayman Islands National Museum is located in the historic Old Courts Building on Harbour Drive on the George Town waterfront. It is one of the island’s few surviving 19th century structures. This wooden frame building has survived hurricanes and nor’westers.
It has been used as a courthouse, jailhouse, meeting hall for Sunday worship and civic dances. Photo: Ann Stafford, Grand Cayman, Aug. 10, 2012.

1881 Census Total Population: 3,066

1891 Census Total Population: 4,322

1911 Census Total Population: 5,564

1911 and 1891 census

History of CI Neville Williams Preface 1970

A HISTORY of the CAYMAN ISLANDS

by Neville Williams, 1970

to mark the Tercentenary ot the Treaty of Madrid, 1670.

History of CI Neville Williams Illustrations 1970

 A History of the Cayman Islands by Neville Williams, 1970

Founded Upon The Seas

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.

Founded Upon the Seas A History of the Cayman Islands and Their People

For more information and pictures:

Cayman Cultural

CaymanCultural pictures

Historic Cayman pictures

Additional Notes, Links and Connections:

Sir William Penn, British Admiral (1621 – 1670)

Admiral Sir William Penn (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 (1644 – 1718), Quaker

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)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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″ [1]

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.[2] 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. [3]

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[4]

Pedro St. James

http://www.plantationvillage.com/islandact_sj.asp
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.
Early History
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.

St. James Parish, Jamaica

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