Casemates Barracks & Prison Bermuda
Casemates is one of the oldest buildings in the dockyard located at its southern side. It was built during the period 1839 to 1843 by large number of British convicts who were brought in from England. The convicts lived in extremely poor conditions in old and abandoned warships that were crudely modified for bare living. Casemates served as the barrack for the men of Marine Infantry who defended the dockyard area against possible enemy invasion and lived here for years.
This two storied building housed 120 men from the marine defense complete with officers rooms, a mess, canteen and offices. The roof of the building was made of bricks and concrete so that it could withstand enemy bombings and cannon shots. It is some 8-foot thick. The walls of the building is also several feet thick and made of hard limestone rocks.
Subsequently in 1951 when the dockyard lost its significance as the Royal Naval base and the British navy left the island, the Casemates became the main prison for Bermuda's convicts. A prison's visitors center was also built later. It remained as the main prison for decades until 1995 when a new prison Westgate was built on Pender Road just outside the dockyard. Since then the Casemates facility has been lying idle and vacant.
In the recent times, an underground tunnel has been discovered right under the place where the prison's visitor center used to be. It is strange that even during the excavation work that took place while building the visitors center, no one noticed this 60-foot tunnel. The tunnel was used for transit during the days the British Navy occupied the grounds.
The entire dockyard area including the Casemates is under the administration of WEDCO (West End Development Corporation). In 2009, WEDCO has handed over Casemates and its adjoining areas to Bermuda Maritime Museum
on a 99 years lease to build a National Museum here.
Casemates will eventually become part of Bermuda National Museum
. It is planned to be converted into an exhibition center. The tourists should be able to then access various parts of the building.
UPDATE December 2013: The restoration work is still in progress but very slow. It's likely to take several more years before it's open to public.
Location and Contacts
Royal Naval Dockyard, Ireland Island, Sandys Parish.
Phone (Visitors Service Bureau at the dockyard): 441/234-3824
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