A new era in education began when The Berkeley Institute opened at Samaritan’s Lodge on Court Street, Hamilton with 27 students.
The school was the realisation of a dream that began 18 years earlier when businessman Samuel David Robinson invited five men to his new home, Wantley, on Princess Street, Hamilton on October 6, 1879 to discuss the feasibility of opening a high school.
Six men joined the original five at a follow-up meeting on October 9. They established The Berkeley Educational Society, and spent the next 18 years raising funds and public support for the school.
The school was named after George Berkeley (1685-1753), an Anglo-Irish philosopher and Anglican bishop, whose plan to establish a college in Bermuda for Native Americans a century earlier had foundered.
All but one of the 27 students were black, several of them the children of Samuel David Robinson. (See our biography of Wenona Robinson.)
Five months after the school had opened, students were being prepared to take Cambridge exams in scripture, Latin, French, English language and literature.
The first headmaster was George DaCosta of Jamaica. He served in the post for 37 years.
The founders were insistent about establishing a fully integrated school, but were unsuccessful. Berkeley became the leading high school for black Bermudians during the era of segregation.
Samuel David Robinson - The Berkeley Institute was the realisation of his dream.