Bermuda’s early history and The Town of St George

Stravaig'n the Blue
Mon 2 May 2022 12:56
Bermuda is named after the Spanish explorer Juan de Bermúdez who discovered the archipelago in the very early 1500s. The first recorded mention of "La Bermuda" is on Pedro Mártir de Anglería ’s 1511 map Legatio Babylonica and it was included on Spanish charts of that year.

Bermuda was on the homeward course for mariners (Spanish, French, British and Portuguese) returning from the Caribbean and the Americas as they followed the Gulf Stream north in search of the westerly winds that kick in at around these latitudes.  However, unless ship wrecked, none stopped here for long and Bermuda, with no indigenous population, wasn’t settled until a century after its discovery.

In June 1609 Admiral Sir George Somers set sail aboard Sea Venture, the new flagship of the Virginia Company, leading a fleet of nine vessels loaded with several hundred settlers, food and supplies for the new English colony of Jamestown, Virginia.  The fleet was caught in a storm on 24 July and Sea Venture which got separated from the other vessels sprung a serious leak. When the reefs to the East of Bermuda were spotted, the ship was deliberately driven on to them to prevent it sinking and every living thing on board, 150 sailors and settlers and one dog, was saved.

This plaque at Gates Bay on the North East corner of Bermuda commemorates the event.


The survivors spent nine months on Bermuda building two new ships, the 40 ft long Deliverance (shorter than Stravaig) and the 29 ft Patience, mostly from Bermudan cedar. When these vessels were complete, most of the survivors set sail on 10 May, completing their journey to Jamestown on 8 June 1610. 

In 1612, the Virginia Company's Royal Charter was officially extended to include Bermuda and a party of sixty settlers under the command of Sir Richard Moore, the island's first governor, arrived on the Plough. They founded and commenced construction of The Town of St George (just down the road from Gates Bay) which was designated Bermuda's first capital and is the oldest continually inhabited English town in the New World.

This satellite image of St George’s shows clearly the reefs to the north east and north west. Gates Bay is just off St Catherine’s beach. The town’s military history is reflected in the street names (Old Military Road, Redcoat Lane, Grenadier Lane, Fort George Hill and Khyber Pass) and the many fortifications (Fort St Catherine, Fort Albert, Fort Victoria, the Alexandra Battery and Gates Fort).