Mystical: The sun struggles to find its way into what’s left of the ‘Single Mechanics Quarters’ on Ireland Island, which has slowly been taken over by Mother Nature. *Photo by Maureen Callanan and Richard Jackson
Mystical: The sun struggles to find its way into what’s left of the ‘Single Mechanics Quarters’ on Ireland Island, which has slowly been taken over by Mother Nature. *Photo by Maureen Callanan and Richard Jackson
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At one time these cold and creaking stone buildings would have been a hive of frantic activity.

The ‘Single Mechanics Quarters’ on Ireland Island were home to around 200 apprentices and technicians who plied their trade in the heyday of the Dockyard’s industrialization.

Today, almost 150 years after they were built, the Maria Hill barracks are riddled with Indian Laurel Vines and overgrown by casuarinas.

An eerie silence hangs over skeletal structures that are now swimming in a sea of pig and chicken waste from when the old military premises were taken over by farmers.

“The Single Mechanics Quarters were an important element in the industrialization of Dockyard with the coming of steam and iron ships,” says historian Dr Edward Harris.

“The Quarters were built on the flattened hilltop, so formed by its quarrying for soft stone in the 1850s. 

“They were built for men who had no family in Bermuda at the request of Captain JF Grant in 1866.

“Although they do not appear to have been that successful in the long run — they would have been occupied until the early 1950s, when the rooms were used to hold pigs and chickens.

“Two schools were also built on Maria Hill; one for boys and one for girls, that have since been demolished.

“The living quarters themselves are still gradually being demolished by Mother Nature.”

The farmers moved out of the barracks-abandoned buildings more than a decade ago, although there is still evidence of cages, farm equipment and even bones to this day.

And since that time the site has slowly been swamped by invasive tree species and targeted by illegal dumpers.

The future for what remains of the old Single Mechanics Quarters now seems uncertain.

Dr Harris added: “These buildings are not as significant as the great stone buildings in the Dockyard.

“Their death knell really was when they were turned over to the farmers.

“It’s a similar story to what happened with the old Royal Naval Hospital.

“And although it’s difficult to imagine what can be done, it is a shame to see part of our history crumbling before our eyes and disappearing underneath a blanket of casuarinas.”