Often referred to as Springfield Mansion, the magnificent historical building is now a community centre and library, and was acquired by the Bermuda National Trust as part of the Gilbert Nature Reserve in 1973.
Springfield is in Somerset, part of the Parish of Sandy’s which lies at the western part of Bermuda. The Mansion is important for its Bermudian slave heritage as well as the archaeological history that the grounds of the mansion offer. Indeed, the whole site has been a live archaeological spot since 1994 and has been worked on for some time with mixed fortunes in terms of unearthing artefacts that provide detailed information on how people – in every class of – lived in years gone by.
The buildings and ground comprise of the main house, courtyard, a large buttery and slave quarters as well as several acres of farmland. The size and scope of the buildings and land indicated that the area was perhaps a plantation and findings from digs have proven as much.
Since 1994, the Bermuda National Trust has undertaken various archaeological digs at the site in association with the Department of Archaeological Research at Colonial Williamsburg.
As well as using the site to uncover Bermuda’s past, the building and gardens are in restoration in order to preserve it for future generations.
The mansion was a dwelling from 1671 to as recent as the 1960s – albeit in a very rundown state during the sixties – and was the property of the Hinson Gilberts family and their home for hundreds of years. A genealogy search will show a long family history in Bermuda and involvement in many goings-on in Bermuda that include a very diverse family, slavery, business and trade, and religion.
Excavations by the Bermuda National Trust and The Colonial Williamsburg have found that the family were very wealthy and had prominent dealings in slavery. They said:
“The architectural and archaeological records reflect the development of a prominent and wealthy West End family over several centuries. The site also bears witness to the lives of the people held as slaves by the Gilberts. At one point, as many as 19 men, women and children serving the Gilberts as domestics, masons, labourers, pilots and boatmen lived at Springfield. One of the outbuildings has been identified as a “slave quarter” and archaeology is being used to study materials from this structure alongside those from the main house. “
Artefacts extracted from the grounds include some as far back as the seventeenth century while many others, disappointingly, have been as recent as the 1950s and 60s, which the digging team had hope to be of far greater age. The site is being systematically excavated and every dig points to new information and suggests where to concentrate efforts next.
In the yard of the house alone, over 80 large bags of artefacts have been recovered alone. One of the setbacks of the project is that the so-called ‘slave quarters’ of the house – a dwelling that the name inexplicably denotes – have been ‘disturbed’ during an attempted renovation in the fifties and, therefore, is tainted in terms of its artefacts.
Work on uncovering the history of this national landmark continues and some of the land is off-limits to the general public. However there are many parts of the building including the library that can be visited.
Springfield Library in Bermuda
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Springfield Library in Bermuda – Part of Elbow Beach Cycles’ Things To Do in Bermuda series!