History of the Cabinet Building
The Cabinet Building was designed in 1837 by an officer of the Royal Engineers then serving in Bermuda.
When it was first opened in 1884, it was known as “The Public Building” and housed the Customs and Treasury Departments and the Bermuda Library on the ground floor with the Council Room and the Secretariat on the upper.
It has remained the home of the Council and the Secretariat ever since, with the exception of a period
of nine years (1969 1977) when the Executive Council was based in offices on the second floor of the General Post Office at Church and Parliament Streets.
Entering the Entrance Hall, the doors are of Bermuda cedar. Some of the cedar was given to the Cabinet Building by the Consul General of the United States and some of the cedar was from the O1d Bus Garage on East Broadway. These doors were installed in 1989, completing the renovations to the ground floor of the Cabinet Building.
There is a large portrait above the stairs, facing down into the Entrance Hall, which is that of Queen Victoria. This is a copy an original portrait which hangs in St James’ Palace, London and is on loan from the St. George’s Foundation of New York. It shows the young Queen at the beginning of her reign, shortly after her marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg-Gotha.
In the Upper Hall, over the stairs, note should be taken of the portrait of Sir Thomas Gates who was with Admiral Sir George Somers in the Sea Venture in 1609.
In the Upper-Hall, facing the stairs is a portrait of William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke; the original, painted in 1627 for King Charles I, hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
To the right is a portrait of Sir Edwin Sandys, a member of the Bermuda Company during the early years of colonization.
Lord Sandys, a descendant of Sir Edwin, had two copies made of the original portrait and in 1959 kindly presented one to Bermuda and the other to the House of Burgesses in Richmond, Virginia, to mark the 350th anniversary of the settling of both Bermuda and the Virginia Colony.
From the large casement window in the Upper Hall a pleasant view of Hamilton Harbour can be seen which, from April to November each year, includes cruise ships alongside Front Street.
Either side of the casement window are portraits of King George III (1760 1820) and Queen Charlotte these are believed to be the works of Allan Ramsay, Court Painter (1713 1784). It was the taxation policy of George III and his Minister, Lord North that so exasperated the North American colonists that on 4th July, 1776, they proclaimed their independence from Great Britain.
To the left of the door leading into the Senate Chamber is a portrait of Sir Francis Forbes who enjoyed a successful career in the legal profession and, moving to the Southern Hemisphere, served as a Chief Justice in New South Wales.
THE SENATE CHAMBER
When Parliament is in session, the Senate meets at 10.00 a.m. each Wednesday to discuss matters sent forward by the House of Assembly. The gallery to the left of the main entrance is for the use of the public. To the right, there is a small glass topped table. The book inside bears the signature of Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, who was present for the convening of Parliament on November 2, 1990.
Beyond, on top of the bookshelves, is a long glass case, which contains The Black Rod. This is the emblem of office carried by a senior Police Officer who, when the Governor is about to open Parliament following a General Election or a seasonal Recess, summons the elected representatives from the House of Assembly and leads them in procession to the Senate Chamber.
The Black Rod in the case was fashioned by the Crown Jewellers and is topped with a silver Coat of Arms and tipped with an inset Bermuda crown piece. It was presented to the Government in 1964 by Mr. B.C.C. Outerbridge who gave many years of service to Bermuda, in the House of Assembly both as a member and as Deputy Speaker, and subsequently in the Senate then known as the Legislative Council.
The portraits above the Black Rod are of former Senate Presidents:
Senator the Hon. Albert Jackson, CBE, JP 1987 1998
The Hon. Sir George Ratteray, Kt., CBE 1969 1980
Senator the Hon. H.E. Richardson, CBE, JP 1980 1987
The portraits on the northern wall of the Chamber are of King George V and Queen Mary, the grandparents of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and are from originals at Windsor Castle. The two velvet covered beneath the portraits were used by Sir J. Tronnsell Gilbert, President of the Legislative Council, and Lady Gilbert when they attended the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey in 1953.
Between the two portraits is the Royal Coat of Arms and beneath this is the dais from which the Governor, when opening Parliament, delivers the Throne Speech setting out the Government’s programme for the next Session of the Legislature.
The chair on the dais, now used as the Throne, has an interesting history: it was made of Bermuda cedar for one of Bermuda’s early Governors and bears on its back a carved inscription which reads – “Cap. Iosias Forstor Esv. Governor of the Sumer Islands Ano do 1642”.
In 1897, Josias Foster’s chair was discovered in the Island of St Croix in the West Indies, having been taken there by his descendants in 1800. The chair was duly purchased from the family and on return to Bermuda was installed in its current place of distinction.
The original circular table around which Bermuda’s Senators deliberate, has also served many and varied international gatherings. The “Three Power Conference” took place in Bermuda in December 1953, when President Eisenhower of the United States met with Sir Winston Churchill of Great Britain and Monsieur Joseph Laniel of France.
Again in 1957, President Eisenhower was in Bermuda, this time to meet Primer Minister Harold Macmillan of Great Britain; and in 1961 Mr. Macmillan met with President Kennedy of the United States. On each of these occasions the table has been dismantled and removed to another, larger location.
The twelve armchairs in use with the table were obtained by the Hon. Robert Kennedy, the Colonial Secretary of the day who, in 1841, wrote from abroad to his deputy Charles Fozard: “I have selected and ordered a dozen very handsome chairs for the Council Room. They are elbow chairs of a very suitable pattern .... I will pay the cost out of the balance of the Powder Fund money in my hands, which is, I believe, about one hundred pounds”.
The chair at the northern side of the table with the slightly higher back, was bought in 1982 for the use of the President of the Senate.
Two signed lithographs on the southern wall 0f the Chamber show Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and were presented by their son Prince Alfred, when he visited Bermuda in 1861. The lithographs were restored at the British Museum, through the interest of Mrs. Joyce Hall MBE in 1982.
CABINET BUILDING GROUNDS
Immediately beyond the flagpole located at the front of the Cabinet Building is the Cenotaph –Bermuda’s memorial to those who died in the world wars of 1914 1918 and 1939 1945. Remembrance Day is observed each November 11th, with a simple and moving ceremony, in which wreaths are laid by the Governor, the Premier, the Opposition Leader, the Commander of The Bermuda Regiment and Resident Services and Service Associations.
The monument is a replica of the Cenotaph, which stands in Whitehall, London and except for the engraved slabs, which came from England is built entirely of Bermuda Limestone.
To the east of the Cabinet Building is a granite obelisk which was erected by the people of Bermuda to the memory of Major General Sir William Reid, KCB, Governor of Bermuda from 1838 to 1846.