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Satisfying our historical curiousity
By Jim Lawlor, BHS
Oct 5, 2012 - 1:13:03 PM

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Nassau, Bahamas - I have been looking for this image for a long time after finding the following letters some years ago in A SHORT HISTORY OF ST. MATTHEW'S CHURCH On the occasion of the Church's 180 Anniversary By C. SEIGHBERT RUSSELL:

On November 8th, 1850 The following letter from the HON. JOHN COOKE was laid before the Vestry:


I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday acquainting me that the Vestry of St. Matthew's Parish have received the sanction of His Excellency the Governor in Council to hire the premises "BUEN RETIRO" as a Rectory for a period of two years commencing from the 6th of June of the pre­sent year and at an annual rental of 52 pounds per annum. To prevent any mis­understandings hereafter I deem it proper and to repeat that the Vestry are only entitled to the use of the dwelling-house and kitchen, stable, stone water closet, lawn and garden, RESERVING TO MYSELF the use of the stone build­ing situated at the north-east corner of the western orchard, all the orchards, and their enclosed grounds contiguous thereto and all the enclosed land. I also stated at the time of offering the premises to the Vestry, I was not to be called upon for any repairs or alterations, nor would I consent to the latter during this period, and moreover that goats and sheep, animals very harmful amongst fruit trees must not be allowed to roam at large on the said premises.

I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient Servant, JOHN F. COOKE

On June 29th, 1852 the following letter from the Hon. John F. Cooke was laid before the Vestry.


After I had received the keys of "BUEN RETIRO" yesterday I went and inspected the premises which I regret to say I found in a very damaged condi­tion, owing, as it would appear, to the wilful negligence of the late occupant or persons employed under him. Serious injury has also been done to the orchards and the garden by the Rev. Mr. Gray's goats; and some of the servants' rooms I found in a most filthy condition, apparently as having been used as pens for their very noxious animals. A few things are missing which I suppose may be accounted for. All I would now ask is that you will have the premises put in the same condition as they were when Mr. Gray took possession. A demand, which I hope, will not be considered at all unreasonable under all the circumstances.

I have the honour to be, Gentlemen, JOHN F. COOKE

The following letter was received by the Vestry on March 28th, 1854.


The Rev. Mr. Chambers having made application to rent my premises known as "Shooters Hill" immediately opposite St. Matthew's Church - the fol­lowing are the terms on which I will agree to rent the same-say 62:10:0 per annum payable quarterly - three months notice required before the premises can be given up. No fruit trees to be cut down or fences or walls to be removed or other damage done to the premises more than the usual wear and tear.

I have the honour to be, Gentlemen,

Your Obedient Servant,


P.S. I promise to paint the dwelling house and put it in tenable order and keep the premises in tenable repairs during the term of rental.


On November 28th, 1856 the Vestry wrote to H.F. Butler, Agent for Mrs. Frances Ferguson stating that they intended to give up "Shooters Hill" as a Rectory at the expiration of the year ending May 1857.

So we have a written description of some of the land opposite St Matthew’s Anglican Church. It would be nice to see a map of that time.

COMING UP: Marion Bethel’s presentation is set for Thursday 25th October at 6pm – Women’s Suffrage in The Bahamas by Marion Bethel.

The Bahamas Historical Society (BHS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to stimulating interest in Bahamian History and to the collection and preservation of material relating thereto. Its Headquarters, the former IODE Hall, was a gift from the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE). BHS is on Shirley Street and Elizabeth Avenue in Nassau. www.bahamashistoricalsociety. com

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