On a Mission to protect Cayman’s heritage

For many, Bodden Town is little more than a change of scenery on the drive between Seven Mile Beach and Rum Point. But the historic capital of the Cayman Islands has a rich history, much of which can be experienced just off the main road at the Mission House.

The property, which is owned by the National Trust, was already known to early settlers who made used of the pond on the property. However, it became an important site in the 1800s which is when it came to be known as the Mission House as it served as the site of the Presbyterian ministry and school in Bodden Town.

Tours at the Mission House are conducted by Denise Bodden, the historical programmes manager at the National Trust. She will passionately explain that although the house did play host to missionaries who worked in Cayman, religion was only one aspect of the work the missionaries did in the Cayman Islands. One of the most important contributions was helping to bring education to the Cayman Islands, which was to prove vital to the development of the country into what it is today.

The house is also one of an ever dwindling number of historic properties that remain intact in the Cayman Islands.

According to Denise, understanding the history of Cayman is a vital part of the island experience, and she believes more visitors should make the historical properties in Cayman part of their itinerary. However even more important is that Cayman’s youth receive some grounding in where they came from and how hard earlier generations had to work to bring about the Cayman that is today.

The interior of the house still plays host to many of the artefacts that belonged to the Watler family who lived in the house for 77 years. In addition to lending greater authenticity to the home, it also helps to illustrate the challenges faced by early missionaries and teachers who lived there, including Reverend Redpath and the Lyons family.

The grounds of the house are also of interest, featuring a combination of wetland and dry thicket which play host to a great variety of local plant species, water fowl and even freshwater turtles.
The gardens also feature a range of indigenous plants and trees.

The house offers a rare glimpse of a Cayman that was. However, it is not all about the past, with the Trust looking to promote the Mission House as a venue for events as well.

Over the years it has played host to receptions, tea parties and even Gimmistory, but the property is still underutilised.

“The grounds are the perfect venue for a Caymanian Christmas party,” says Denise, while she says the house itself can also host small dinner parties for those who would like a unique venue. The grounds have also played host to weddings in the past, with the house and gardens providing a great backdrop for photographs.

The property was repainted recently, literally floor to ceiling, to ensure that the house remains an attraction for years to come.

The operating hours at the Mission House are from 9am to 1pm, Monday to Friday, with reservations recommended.

For more information, call 749-1132.

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