Graves and Memorials
Brick paths wind through the historic churchyard which contains several graveyards including a walled area to the west of the church known as the black cemetery. Old garden roses (also called heritage and historic roses)bloom continually, but especially from October through May. See History for more information.
Large grandiose vaults and inscribed marble and slate headstones sit next to weathered and unnamed gravestones, some marking infant burials. A substantial vault near the vestry door records the passing in 1783 of Mary, 17 year old wife of Richard Bell, and her two daughters, one aged 2 years, the younger just 3 weeks.
One inscription reads:
TO ELLEN BURNS CATTRALE
WHO DIED AUGUST 5TH, 1850
AGED 8 YEARS AND 6 MONTHS
Here lie the relics of a charming flower
Which promised sweets but withered in an hour!
Children, presume not on a length of days,
But learn betimes to seek your Maker’s praise.
Parents be weaned from all created things
That heaven-born faith more free may stretch her wings.
Governor Receives Burial After 200 Years
In 2008 the skeletal remains of James Bruere, English Governor of Bermuda 1764 to 1780, were found after lying forgotten for more than two hundred years beneath the floorboards of St Peter’s. He was identified by the coffin plate lying amongst his remains which were later ceremoniously re-entombed in the churchyard in a vault just outside the vestry. Bruere was Governor of Bermuda at the time of the infamous gunpowder plot during the American Revolutionary War, when a number of the Governor’s citizens plundered a stash of gunpowder from the Island which was then used to devastating effect against the British forces. The Governor put up a reward for the capture of the Bermudians responsible – to no avail. As a person of some eminence, he would normally have been buried with some pomp and circumstance and there is no explanation why this did not happen.
A large white marble headstone marks the grave of Anne Willing Bingham of Philadelphia. The French writer Andre Maurois called her the “queen of the city” because of the lavish hospitality of her salon which attracted political figures who helped to shape the course of the new American republic. She was also said to be the most beautiful woman of her time and to have been the model for the famous Lady Liberty Draped Bust portrait on the new American coinage minted between 1796 and 1804, one coin of which is on display in St Peter’s Vestry. In 1800 Anne contracted a serious illness, probably tuberculosis. She set sail for Madeira in search of a more favorable climate in which to recuperate, but died in Bermuda on 11 May 1801, aged 37 years.
In the black cemeterylies Pilot James ‘Jemmy’ Darrell,born a slave in 1749. In 1795 while still a slave, Jemmy Darrell piloted the 74-gun HMS Resolution, safely to its mooring near Tobacco Bay, St George’s. The ship’s Admiral was so impressed with the pilot’s skill that he successfully recommended Darrell be granted his freedom. Pilot Darrell was one of the first to be made a King’s Pilot, whose main responsibility was to pilot British naval ships through the treacherous Bermuda reefs. He was also the first known black person to purchase a house. He died aged 66 in 1815 and his property, located on Aunt Peggy’s Lane not far from this spot, still remains in family hands.
A steeple and bell tower added to the west of the church in 1815 house a clock purchased in Portsmouth, England and shipped to the island by John Till (Mayor and later Church Warden of the Parish) “on his own responsibility and knowing the great need of such an addition to the Church Tower”. The steeple was removed in 1826 and the tower has had a flat roof since then.
After the settlers had built their simple church in 1612, lacking a tower or steeple, they hung their bell on a nearby cedar tree. The big tree died of old age many years ago, toppled over by a hurricane, fortunately causing very little damage to the graves underneath. But it has been left as an example of the massive cedar trees the first settlers found foresting the island.
Atop the church tower below the weathervane is a yellow (we prefer to call it golden) rooster which came from the wheel-house of the tug boat “Gladisfen” working in Bermuda waters during World War I. The cock on church steeples was adopted at an early period of Church history as an emblem of clerical vigilance, in commemoration of the cock that crowed after Saint Peter denied Jesus.