Now: The new bridge that has been built across to Hospital Island. *Photo supplied by the National Museum
Now: The new bridge that has been built across to Hospital Island. *Photo supplied by the National Museum

An integral part of Bermuda’s history dating back nearly two centuries has been brought back to life.

The old bridge across to Hospital Island in Sandys as well as the island’s crumbling convict bathhouse, had been nearly destroyed by decades of hurricanes and winter gales.

But now, thanks to a partnership between the National Museum, WEDCo and Correia Construction, the bridge has been resurrected and the bathhouse has been restored to its former state.

The major initiative, which has just been completed, has also involved cutting down all the Casuarina trees on Hospital Island.

The bridge, which was once called the Red Bridge, will now be painted red to look like it used to.

Museum Director Dr Edward Harris said: “The role of the National Museum has been to supervise the work, which began just over a month ago.

“We have effectively rebuilt the walkways and steps leading up to the wooden bridge, and we have also been able to salvage the old wooden bridge as part of the new structure.

“While the bathhouse itself has been repaiinted and consolidated so it will withstand the weather for many years to come.

“We could have lost these historic structures in the next hurricane if the work had not been done.”

Just a small number of stone convict bathhouses remain today on Ireland and Boaz Islands.

These small towers were constructed on the water’s edge so were built so that convicts brought to Bermuda in the early 1800s could be secured in a small space and washed under supervision.

Some nine thousand convicts were employed at the Bermuda dockyard and two thousand died there.

Dr Harris added: “At Boaz Island and at the southern end of Ireland Island are the remains of eight of the buildings erected by the convicts in the hard Bermuda limestone for use as bathing houses.

“These were, in effect, cells open to the sky, but walled in so as to form a room on the edge of the coast.

“They were designed to have sea water filter into them through portholes of a sort and thus contained a depth of water for bathing at all times.

“The buildings had one entry, or steps down into the water and convicts were therefore confined during their ablutions.

“This method saved the wardens the guard problems that would exist if the men were allowed to bathe directly in the sea.”

Dr Harris and his team now hope to be able to start work on restoring the other bathhouses in the West End.