The practice of house naming began hundreds of years ago with the English nobility whose manor houses, castles and estates bore traditional family or place names. Gradually, the practice spread to the local gentry and then to the middle classes, tradesmen and merchants. Today the name of a house may be decided by its location or an outstanding feature, or the name may recall the homeowner’s special vacation spot, have historical significance or derive from sentiment, memories or, simply, inspiration. Our homes are a very personal part of our lives; they are where we seek comfort and peace from the world, where we spend time with our family and friends, where we can just be ourselves. So why not give the most significant and beloved structure in our lives a name?
Peppers, the home of Paul and Penne Leseur, sits on a truly stunning property. Paul and Penne greet me on a beautiful morning, after which Paul scoots off on his rider mower, leaving Penne and me seated on the verandah where Penne begins the story of naming their home.
The Leseurs were married in 1963. In 1967, they purchased a vacant property (a former quarry) on Wreck Road, an idyllic country road in Sandys Parish. The property, which boasts a lovely view of Pilchards Bay, had three stone quarries, no topsoil and was covered with sage, Mexican pepper and fiddlewood trees—all somewhat invasive. The view sold them! While they had to set about removing most of the trees before their cottage could be built, they are grateful to Hilton Davis who built their small five-room house in just 14 working weeks.
When the couple was thinking of a name for their cottage, Peppers came to mind as it had been a real challenge to remove the snarled thickets of these particular trees. The Leseurs continue to keep these invasive trees at bay even though they provide nectar for the bees kept by local beekeeper Lewell Woolridge and his son, Lewell Jr. There is, however, an additional supply of nectar from the trees and shrubs in the woodlands of nearby Hog Bay Park. (Learn more about the Mexican pepper tree at www.conservation.bm/invasive-species/.)
Peppers began on a one-third acre lot; however, as neighboring property became available the Leseurs were able to purchase additional lots, and now Peppers sits on two and a half acres. Paul and Penne are avid gardeners who do most of their own gardening with the assistance of someone who comes a few Saturdays each month. Most of these beautiful gardens are in raised beds, while some are walled in, creating garden rooms. The gardens boast an array of perennials, including native and endemic plants. There are also several old garden roses and avocado, banana, and pawpaw trees, as well as our beautiful endemic cedar trees. The Leseurs understand the important contribution the gardens make to Bermuda’s delicate environment, and therefore adhere to a strict “no spray” policy to protect visiting birds, bees and other beneficial insects.
Paul and Penne are involved with many local organizations and are happy they can contribute to Bermuda’s well-being. Paul is deputy chairman of the Bank of Bermuda Foundation and director of the St. George’s Foundation, chairman of the Preservation Committee of the Bermuda National Trust and a member of the management team of Buy Back Bermuda. Penne sits on two committees at Bermuda High School. She is a member of the Garden Club, the Rose Society and the Environment Committee of the Bermuda National Trust, and represents these organisations on the Parks Commission and assists with the refurbishment of Government House.
I asked Penne if she had a favourite piece of furniture in her home, and she said her favourite piece would be her grandmother’s cedar chest dating back to 1729. The Leseurs’ favourite spot on the property is on the verandah, overlooking their garden handiwork and admiring the view they never take for granted. Their advice to future home owners is to start small and add later, and because a house begins deteriorating the moment it is completed, money should be reserved for its yearly upkeep.
Bermudians love to cook and entertain, and before we say good-bye Penne shares with me her Grandmother Young’s recipe for oatmeal molasses bread—a favourite at Peppers.
Oatmeal Molasses Bread (2 loaves)
1 cup water
3 generous tbsp butter
1–1/2 cup large oats
1–1/2 pkg active dry yeast
½ cup dark molasses
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
5–6 cups flour
Combine first three ingredients in saucepan and scald. Put oats in large bowl and pour in hot milk. Let cool. Dissolve yeast in ½ cup warm water; when raised add to bowl. Add molasses, honey and salt to bowl and mix. Stir in flour one cup at a time until mixture no longer sticks to side of bowl. Knead for 8–10 minutes. Transfer to bowl, cover and let rise to double its bulk. Turn out and divide to make two loaves. Knead slightly and put in loaf tin. Bake in a preheated oven for 40–50 minutes or until tester comes out clean.