Northwest of the City of Hamilton in Pembroke Parish lies a small area of land jutting into the mouth of the Great Sound, called Spanish Point. The area includes commanding views of both ends of the island, houses a former wonder of the world, and boasts historical significance.
- At the edge of Pembroke parish, Spanish Point juts out into the Great Sound. This reach is very close to Dockyard on the water, though to travel there by car from Pembroke will still take you about 30 minutes. The name comes from a Spanish galleon, captained by Diego Ramirez, which landed on Bermuda before its colonization.
- After Captain Diego Ramirez’s ship was shipwrecked in the Great Sound in 1603, he left signs of temporary settlements in Bermuda. One place in particular suggested an encampment or rendezvous. No doubt it was that of Ramirez and, ever since, this site has been known as Spanish Point. However, the Spanish left no signs of buildings, so Ramirez and his crew must have had unhampered vistas of the picturesque coast.
- Ramirez’s 1603 visit produced the earliest known map of Bermuda. The crew also discovered that tobacco had been planted on island, possibly by earlier Spanish visitors. The crew repaired their ship, ate about 500 cahows, and were on their way.
- After Bermuda was officially settled and the land carved up into Tribes and shares, Spanish Point became a part of Pembroke Tribe and was divided into four shares as shown on early maps based on Richard Norwood’s 1616 survey of Bermuda. These shares, Numbers 24, 25, 26 and 27, were owned by Richard Edwards, Richard Caswell, George Sandys or his assignees, and William Payne respectively. And on the map, Abraham Goos’s for example, housing symbols show that, as early as 1616, homes (palmetto thatched cabins) were being erected overlooking the coast.
- Once work began on Ireland Island to create the “Fortress Bermuda” and the Royal Naval Dockyard, Spanish Point’s geographical position became more significant since its rocky peninsula points a hand towards the western tip of Bermuda, offering clear views both of Dockyard and of St. George’s. The naval commander-in-chief had previously resided at Mount Wyndham in Hamilton Parish, but with the growth of Dockyard and the establishment of the City of Hamilton as Bermuda’s new capital, Spanish Point seemed a far better location for the admiral’s Flag Station. In 1816, the Colony bought a house and part of the present grounds from John Dunscombe for £3,000, transferring them to the Crown as the new official residence for the commander-in-chief: Admiralty House. Admiralty House would be the residence of the commander-in-chief of North America and the West Indies right through the Second World War until the British Navy left in 1951.
- Admiralty House is one of the few parks outside of bustling Hamilton City in Pembroke. It boasts extensive nature trails, a swimming bay, and diving cliffs. The historic Admiralty House, now a ruin on the property, was the state home for British admirals living in Bermuda and also served as a navy hospital. Admiral’s Cave is a manmade cave carved by convicts, apparently so that an Admiral could have secret meetings with a lover. Those jumping from nearby cliffs, or ‘canon,’ now use the cave’s stairways to climb back up out of the water.
- Spanish Point is the accidental home of a former 19th-century wonder of the world: The HM Floating Dock ‘Bermuda’. It was the largest floating dock in existence at that time before losing this distinction in 1901 to its successor, Admiralty Floating Dock #1. It was built in 1866 in North Woolrich, England, and arrived in Dockyard in 1869. The dock was used to accommodate large warships and was more than 47,000 sq ft, 381ft long and 123ft at its maximum width, and a depth of 74ft. It could easily accommodate ships up to 370ft long and 25ft wide. It went on to serve the Royal Navy until 1906, later partially dismantled and towed away from its post in Dockyard. During the towing process, it was caught in a gale and drifted over to Spanish Point, where it got lodged on the rocks and became unmovable. In 1950, the Bermuda Government unsuccessfully tried to clear the bay of the remnants of the dock using dynamite. The now rusted and ruined floating dock is located at the entrance to Stoves Bay, also known as Pontoons, in Spanish Point.