St Peter's Graveyard collapsed grave
St Peter's Church collapsed grave

Officials at St Peter’s Church in St George’s are faced with a mystery after a tomb with no inscription collapsed under heavy rain.

“All the reference books I have looked at so far have not said. It would be great if we could find out a date and a name.”

The Reverend Canon John Stow, acting priest in charge at St Peter’s, said that the barrel-vault over the “ancient” stone grave, which collapsed into the tomb on the night of February 4, was likely to date back to before 1830.

“The challenge will be finding out who it belongs to,” he said.

The side wall of the tomb subsided after days of heavy rain, toppling the semicircular vault.

The tomb stands in the oldest part of the graveyard.

Liz Christopher, the church warden, flagged up the damage, leaving Mr Stow to head the project to conserve and restore the tomb.

The area around the grave has been secured, with the church to “consult widely with the many parties who have an interest, and then to restore the tomb for posterity, following professional advice and using the correct materials”.

The tunnel-like design of the vault was said to be similar to several in St Peter’s Churchyard, each with a particular variation on this feature.

Most date from the early years of the 19th century, when forts in St George’s underwent rapid expansion, and the materials and skills for their stonework were readily available.

St Peter’s Church and its grounds lie within the St George’s Preservation Area and are an iconic feature of the St George’s World Heritage Site.

The cemetery for free and enslaved Black residents is regularly visited by school groups, and the churchyard has African Diaspora Heritage Site status.

The tomb to be restored is catalogued but unnamed in the reference book Bermuda Memorial Inscriptions by Hilary and Richard Tulloch, published in 2011 by the Bermuda National Trust and the National Museum of Bermuda.

Mr Stow added: “A desk survey is under way to identify, if possible, the name of the family associated with this grave.

“This vicinity of the churchyard has been closed to burials for nearly 200 years.”

Authorities of the Anglican Church of Bermuda were quickly notified.

Other organisations contacted include the Heritage Office of the Department of Planning, the Bermuda National Trust with its Heritage Committee and Archaeological Research Committee, the National Museum of Bermuda, and the St George’s Preservation Authority.

The charity Friends of St Peter’s Church is also closely involved.

Mr Stow said that once a structural survey has been undertaken, a mason skilled in historical conservation and restoration work would be engaged.

Jonathan Bell, Royal Gazette