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Step back in time in the Cayman Islands

Date: 03 Apr, 2019

Reminders of an earlier era are never far away in Cayman. There are numerous sites across the Cayman Islands where visitors and residents can learn more about the island’s unique history and culture.

 

Mission House in Bodden Town Grand CaymanPhoto by Gene Pascual

Mission House

Step back in time and enjoy a guided tour of the historic Mission House, tucked away in the heart of Bodden Town.

In the 1700s when it was built, the two-story Mission House was considered a mansion and was representative of an economic class to which few residents belonged; most Caymanians at the time lived in simple wattle-and-daub huts.

The site rose to prominence in the 1800’s and became known as the “Mission House” to early missionaries, teachers, and families who lived and contributed to establishing the Presbyterian ministry and school in Bodden Town.

After being destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the Mission House was faithfully rebuilt by Seth “Boosie” Arch, a grandson of the Watler family who lived in the house for 77 years.

Today, the rooms are decorated with numerous artifacts belonging to the families who once occupied it. The Mission House also houses a small resource room organised by the Cayman Islands National Archive, as well as a display from the Cayman Islands National Museum. To book a tour email projects@nationaltrust.org.ky or call (345) 945-3769.

Wreck of the Ten Sail

In 1974 Captain John Lawford of the HMS Convert was tasked with overseeing a convoy of 58 merchant ships bound mainly for Europe. One night, while headed westward, Lawford awoke to the sound of a cannon-fire distress signal.

He tried to turn the fleet around, but the waves pushed the vessels towards Grand Cayman and onto the island’s reef. However, the people of East End lost no time in helping to rescue the crew. Some 450 passengers were saved, and only six lost their lives. Legend has it that one of the passengers was a prince, who granted the islands their tax-exempt status in return for the favour.

The remnants of the Wreck of the Ten Sail have disappeared from the seas. However, during a 1994 visit to the Cayman Islands, Queen Elizabeth II dedicated a memorial to the event. It stands against a stunning cliffside view of the ocean in East End, commemorating the incident and the few lives lost.

Wreck of the ten sailsPhoto by Gene Pascual

Pedro St. James

Discover the unique heritage and culture of Cayman with a visit to Cayman’s national historic site, Pedro St. James, a stunning great house set in seven landscaped acres along the oceanfront.

Pedro St. James is the oldest building in the Cayman Islands and is often referred to as the “Birthplace of Democracy.” Built in 1780 by William Eden, a plantation owner, Pedro St. James came to serve as the meeting place for Cayman’s first elected parliament and long remained an important government centre, with the proclamation freeing the slaves of the British Empire being read from the front steps.

Interior of Pedro St James Castle Grand CaymanPhoto by Janet Jachrow

The house later became a residential building, housing Eden’s descendants. When lightning struck its front steps, killing the great-granddaughter of William Eden, Mary Jane, the Eden family left, and the house fell into disrepair. After changing hands for years, Pedro St. James was purchased by the Cayman Islands Government in 1991 and restored in a project costing $8 million.

Patiently restored outhouse kitchen Pedro St James Grand CaymanPhoto by Janet Jachrow

Visitors are free to tour the home, featuring authentic furnishings and artifacts from the 18th century, or join a guided tour.

Pedro St James exterior Grand CaymanPhoto by Janet Jachrow

Little Cayman Museum

The Little Cayman Museum preserves and protects the island’s unique cultural heritage.

With each room of the Little Cayman Museum, visitors will discover generations-old artifacts that shed light on the island’s past. Artifacts include maps, catboats and accessories, thatch crafts, clothing, and more. A gallery of images by local and international photographers showcases some of the most impressive marine life sightings around Little Cayman.

Little Cayman Museum InteriorMost contents of this non-profit museum come from the private collection of the late Linton Tibbetts. Born on Cayman Brac in 1923 and known locally as “Mr. T.,” Tibbetts was an entrepreneur whose endeavours included everything from real estate to airlines, but he was also intensely passionate about his childhood home and helping others to connect with and understand Cayman’s heritage.

The museum is in Blossom Village, Little Cayman.

Little Cayman Museum boat

Read more from issue one of Your Cayman here.

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