Bermuda: Down at the Docks

Around the time of the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, pictorial stamp designs were introduced across the British Caribbean territories. Jamaica saw the introduction of the ‘Arms of Jamaica’ issue (1903) and the Bahamas ‘Queen’s Staircase’ issue (1901). This was a break from the traditional young portrait image of Queen Victoria that had graced many stamp issues to date; noting a few exceptions such as the ‘Llandovery Falls’ issue of Jamaica in 1900. Whilst not strictly speaking in the Caribbean, Bermuda followed suit with it’s iconic ‘Wet / Dry Dock’ pictorial issue which was first released in November 1902 and remained in circulation until 1910.

There is some debate as to whether the image is of a Wet or Dry Dock. The original badge, based on a seal approved by the Admiralty in 1817, clearly depicts a Wet Dock and it is this image that was used as the basis for the image on the stamp design by De La Rue. The design shows an empty dock in the foreground with three sailing ships in open water beyond. The scene alludes to the fact that the islands were a stopover base for the sailing ships of the period.

Bermuda 1903 Dry Dock Definitive 3d stamp
Bermuda 1903 Dry Dock Definitive 3d

Three denominated stamps were issued between 1902 and 1903 – ½d Black & Green (first issued December 1903), 1d Brown & Carmine (first issued November 1902) and 3d Magenta and Sage-Green (first issued September 1903). The issue was printing by typography on paper watermarked with Crown CA and perforated 14.

Bermuda 1908 Dry Dock Definitive ¼d stamp
Bermuda 1908 Dry Dock Definitive ¼d
Bermuda 1908 Dry Dock Definitive ½d stamp
Bermuda 1909 Dry Dock Definitive ½d

From 1906, the design was reused with four new denominations – ¼d Brown & Violet (first issued September 1908), 2d Grey & Orange (first issued October 1907), 2½d Brown & Ultramarine (first issued December 1906) and 4d Blue & Chocolate (1909, featured image) – and a watermark change to Multiple Crown CA. Subsequently, to comply with Universal Postal Union standards, the 1d was reissued in Red (1908), the ½d in Green (1909) and the 2½d in Blue (1910). The design was used for all the definitive stamps of Bermuda during the reign of Edward VII.

To view postal issues of Bermuda, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Published by nigelmandsphilatelycom

Nigel Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 30 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the Caribbean including associated British Commonwealth countries (incl. Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Monserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos) as well as Cuba, Danish West Indies, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles and Puerto Rico.

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