Saint Mary’s Bell Pavilion


Port Elizabeth, Bequia
Type: Heritage, new build
Status: Completed


Instagram: @gbbdstudio

The St. Mary’s Anglican Church bell pavilion and garden design proposal have been part of an integrated design process where heritage and culture have been at the heart. The project called for a new structure to house the bell as well as a regeneration of the southwest garden quadrant. Understanding the significance and history of the Church was of paramount importance in the design of the new bell pavilion.

A rare French chart of Admiralty Bay dated March 1751 includes a depiction of a small wooden cross in the easternmost head of the bay where St. Mary’s Church now stands. This would indicate that there has been a place of worship in Bequia since the earliest days of European settlement, and over ten years before the island came under British control. The present-day St. Mary’s Anglican Church was erected in 1829, replacing the earlier wooden church that had been destroyed by a hurricane. Its church bell bears the inscription: Mears and Stainbank Foundry London 1866 (later the Whitechapel Bell Foundry). Established in 1570, this world-famous bell foundry casted bells such as Philadelphia’s original 1751 Liberty Bell and the 2012 London Olympic Games bell.

The Church had been through many architectural modifications since its early 19th century construction from ballast bricks, imported from England, and local limestone. Although some of the modifications were more sympathetic than others, the church still stands on the waterfront with its simple beauty and imposing elegance, more or less intact. Its thick, double-height masonry walls, beautifully proportioned Georgian-style arch windows with small square glass panels and large Caribbean-style majestic gable roof, give a sense of both history and importance of the church and its integration within the island community for nearly two hundred years.

For at least the last few decades, the St. Mary’s Anglican Church 1866 bell was hung under a structurally unsound low-roofed shed in the southwest garden. The new pavilion, located on the foundations of the old structure, is inspired by the graceful arches of the Church and the traditional typology of the Caribbean-style gable and shed roof. The aim of the proposal was not only to provide a structure to house the bell, but to create a pavilion that responded to a garden setting—a place for one to connect and reflect, a link between heritage and nature, between the formality of the Church and the dynamic harbour.

The roof of the pavilion is split into two sections—an open-ended gable roof at the top with a shed roof wrapping around on the lower level. Arches branch from the four corners of the pavilion to support the roofs. The bell is hung at the top under the open-ended gable roof, allowing the bell to be seen and the sound to travel. The gentler-sloped shed roof below, with its generous overhang, creates shade for the bell ringer as well as for church-goers and visitors to enjoy the garden setting. The close-boarding and rafters in the roof are painted sky blue, creating a visual link to the blue accents in the Church’s interior while drawing your eyes up to the sky.