The History of Bermuda - Timeline of major events

We won’t bore you with a long rambling narration of the island’s past (after all you are going on vacation). Instead we’ll just list some of the key events in Bermuda’s history:

Date
Event
1505Spanish captain Juan de Bermudez sights the uninhabited island. It's eventually named after him.
1543Portuguese sailors possibly shipwrecked on Bermuda. Rock at Spittal Pond inscribed with ‘RP 1543’. RP is believed to stand for Rex Portugaliae (King of Portugal).
1603Spanish galleon captained by Diego Ramirez runs aground on Bermuda’s reefs. Ramirez and his crew spend 3 weeks on the island while carrying out repairs to the ship. Ramirez reports the island to King Philip III of Spain but the monarch shows little interest. The crew are thought to have camped in an area of Pembroke Parish now known as Spanish Point.
1609The Virginia Company of London send a fleet of 9 ships from Plymouth to the British settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. The fleet is carrying fresh supplies and additional colonists and is commanded by Admiral Sir George Somers. The flagship Sea Venture is caught in storm and is wrecked on Bermuda’s reefs. Somers lands all 150 crew and colonists near St Catherine's Beach.
1610Using salvage from the Sea Venture and wood from native cedar trees, Somers and his crew build two ships, the Deliverance and the Patience. The ships set sail for Virginia to fulfil their original mission. Two men convicted of criminal offences, Christopher Carter and Edward Waters, escape and hideout until the ships depart.

On arrival at Jamestown, Somers finds the settlement decimated by illness, starvation, and attacks by Indians. The supplies save the colonists at Jamestown.

Somers returns to Bermuda on the Patience to collect more supplies, but dies. His heart is buried in Somers Garden in St George. Somers’ nephew, Matthew, takes his body back to England on the Patience instead of returning to Virginia.

Before the Patience leaves, Christopher Carter and Edward Waters persuade crew member Edward Chard to remain on the island with them. The ‘Three Kings of Bermuda’ reign over the island until 1612.

You can see a replica of the Deliverance at Ordnance Island in St George. There’s also a statue of Admiral Sir George Somers here. The Hall of History mural at the National Museum of Bermuda depicts numerous scenes from the island’s history, including the story of its founding.
1612The Virginia Company send a party of 60 colonists to Bermuda on the Plough. They are commanded by Richard Moore. Moore claims the island for the Virginia Company, ending the reign of the ‘Three Kings of Bermuda’.

Moore and the colonists start to build a settlement; New London (subsequently renamed St George).
1613Richard Norwood arrives on the island. He would later survey the island and divide it into 9 parishes.
1616Slaves are brought to Bermuda.
1620The first Bermuda Parliament convenes St Peter's Church. The State House is built as its permanent home.
1662The island’s first school, Warwick Academy, is founded.
1684The British Government takes control from the Bermuda Company (the successor of the Virginia Company) and the island becomes a British colony.
1775The American War of Independence begins and the Continental Congress places an embargo on trade with Britain and its loyal colonies. Bermuda, dependent on America for its food, receives an offer of exemption on condition that British gunpowder stored at St George is stolen and handed over. A group of Bermudians steal the gunpowder and transport it to Tobacco Bay where it is transported to American sloops waiting offshore. The embargo is lifted and Bermuda receives its food supplies.
1783Treaty of Paris signed between Britain and the United States, ending the American War of Independence. Britain recognises the United States as an independent nation and loses its east coast ports.
1784First edition of Bermuda’s first newspaper, the Bermuda Gazette & Weekly Advertiser, is published.
1804Irish poet Thomas Moore visits Bermuda.
1809Britain begins to build the Royal Naval Dockyard to replace North American ports lost in the American War of Independence. The British plan to transform Bermuda into a heavily fortified naval base, the ‘Gibraltar of the West’.
1815Bermuda’s capital moves from St George to Hamilton.
1834Slavery is abolished on August 1. The day is celebrated with the Cup Match holiday.
1835American slave ship the Enterprise forced to dock in Bermuda. Slaves are landed at Barr's Bay Park and freed.
1844Gibb Hill Lighthouse built.
1849The first Portuguese immigrants arrive from Madeira to work in the island's agricultural sector. They help Bermuda onions become a major export.
1861US Civil War begins and Bermudians make their fortune ferrying supplies and munitions to the Confederates. An exhibit at the Bermuda National Trust Museum in St George explores the role of the island in the war.
1883Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, comes to Bermuda. Her visit helps to promote the island as a tourist destination.
1885The Princess Hotel opens (now called the Fairmont Hamilton Princess).
1905Carl Gibbons and Edgar Hollis discover the Crystal Caves.
1908The Bermuda Electric Light, Power & Traction Company (now BELCO) begins supplying electricity.
1931The Bermuda Railway opens. It runs from St George to Somerset in Sandys Parish.
1937Imperial Airways (later to become British Airways) and Pan American Airways begin a joint service from the US to Bermuda. Ed Trippe, son of Pan Am founder Juan Trippe, would later open the Rosewood Tucker's Point hotel.
1940The British government closes the Hamilton Princess to tourists and uses it as an intelligence centre until the end of WWII. Mail between the US and Europe is intercepted and analysed here.
1941The United States lease a large part of the island for 99 years and begins construction of military installations.
1946Public bus service launched.

Motor cars legalised for Bermudians and residents. Event today, rental cars for tourists are still not allowed.
1948The Bermuda Railway closes. The Railway Trail is now popular with walkers and cyclists.
1958The British Royal Navy pulls out of Royal Naval Dockyard and sells it to the government.
1959Blacks boycott movie theatres; forcing the owners to end segregation.
1963The Progressive Labour Party (PLP), Bermuda’s first political party, is formed out of the black labour movement.
1964United Bermuda Party (UBP) is formed to represent whites and businesses.
1968First election under a new constitution giving universal adult suffrage is held. The United Bermuda Party wins.
1971Sir Edward Trenton Richards of the United Bermuda Party becomes Bermuda’s first black Premier.
1973Governor Richard Sharples and his aide are assassinated. His body lies in St Peter’s Church.
1975Queen Elizabeth II visits Bermuda and opens the Bermuda Maritime Museum (now the National Museum of Bermuda).
1977Buck Burrows is convicted for the Governor’s murder and is hanged, sparking widespread riots. British Army brought in to restore order.
1979First Bermuda Day celebrations are held. Lord Pitt investigated the causes of the 1977 riots and recommended an annual event to improve race relations.
1995US Navy closes its bases in Bermuda.
1998The Progressive Labour Party wins its first general election.
2000Town of St George added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
2009Bermuda celebrates its 400th anniversary and is visited by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Bermuda Democratic Alliance (BDA) formed by members of the United Bermuda Party that believed it had become unelectable.
2011One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) party formed from merger of Bermuda Democratic Alliance and the United Bermuda Party.
2012One Bermuda Alliance contests and wins its first general election, ending 14 years of PLP government.