Scenic Shelly Bay, with its panoramic view extending from Hamilton Parish to Dockyard, has for decades been a favourite park for families, from its sheltered, shallow bay to its walking trails and playground. Beyond the car park, a stretch of field hosts cricket and soccer games as well as cyclo-cross races during the season. But Shelly Bay, together with its surrounds, did not always comprise a park, nor was its geography exactly as it is now.

  1. The bay’s name goes back at least to Norwood’s survey of 1663, recorded in Governor Lefroy’s Memorialsin. Historians, such as W. E. S. Zuill, agree it was named after Henry Shelly, a name listed as one of the passengers aboard the Sea Venture which was shipwrecked in Bermuda in 1609.
  2. The present-day beach was originally a mangrove swamp and later the site of a road built between Flatts and St. George’s. But cutting too many trees for firewood exposed the swamp and the road to the sea, which after a number of hurricanes eventually submerged them both.
  3. As far back as 1864 Shelly Bay had a racing track. The track included the site where the children’s playground is now, drawing hundreds of locals and tourists into a world of risk and excitement. It was also supported as a tourist attraction by airlines, such as Pan American Airways, which donated a trophy, and by a Mr. H. C. Blackiston, former head of the Withy and Furness Line, who also donated a cup to the winner of a mile-and-a-half race that began in 1920. The track closed in the 1950s, then reopened in December 1959 until its demise in 1961.
  4. Across the road from the Shelly Bay stretch of trail is the home of Theresa Tucker, who for just eight years was married to Charles Lloyd Tucker, Bermuda’s first black professionally trained artist, until his untimely death in 1971. He was born in Shelly Bay on a property overlooking Harrington Sound belonging to his mother’s family, the Steedes.
  5. Along the north shore, especially in Hamilton Parish, it is still possible to see archaeological signs that two hundred years ago the region was the center of busy shipyards. In 1664 the Bermoodian Aventure was launched at Shelly Bay. And another early Bermudian vessel most probably launched from Shelly Bay was the Betty, a shallop owned by Anthony Jenour.
The race track, Shelly Bay. Circa 1930.
Scene at the Shelly Bay racetrack, 1927.