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Alarm Forest

The place to live

To sound the alarm is not to panic but to seek action from an aroused public.{c}

St Helena’s newest district, and now a sought-after place to live‍‍

About Alarm Forest

SEE ALSO: For the other districts of St Helena see the map (below) or our page Districts of St Helena.

Alarm Forest seems to have been so-named because, some time prior to 1692, two guns were stationed in the area which were fired to raise the alarm whenever unknown ships were sighted in James Bay. Alarm House, a prominent building on the hillside built by Deputy Governor Thomas Goodwin in 1707(see picture) seems to have been built near the site of the guns. Apart from these facts the area seems to have no history, it being merely a stage on the route between Jamestown and Longwood.

The Alarm Forest electoral area was created with the electoral reforms approved by Governor Stimson in October 1988. Parts of the districts of Jamestown and Longwood were cut off to create this new district in between, thus giving the area its first identity. In the 1998 Population Census it had a population of 279 (5.9%) - it is now around 9%{1}.

Much of the original forest has been cleared to make way for housing plots; the area is desirable because it is higher than Jamestown, and thus cooler in summer while remaining warm in winter, has easy access to Jamestown, and is much less crowded than Half Tree Hollow. Communications are good from Alarm Forest to all other districts, giving a range of employment and leisure opportunities. As a result of the increasing population the area’s water supply was significantly upgraded in 2011 and again in 2012.

Apart from Alarm House (which is now a private residence) the only historical sites in the district are The Briars Pavilion in The Briars and Napoleon’s Tomb at Sane Valley. Both of these are owned by the French Government, which means that a notable part of the district is actually French property.

The district contains the Heart Shaped Waterfall and has a number of settlements, including The Briars (often incorrectly considered to be a ‘suburb’ of Jamestown), Seaview, Two Gun Saddle, Hunts Vale and Alarm Hill, in which Alarm House is situated. The district lacks a community centre or a school, and has only a few small shops, though the number of these is growing as the population increases. The nearest there is to a ‘Town Centre’ is a decorated bus shelter (below).

Apart from Sure’s headquarters there is little employment in the district. Most residents go to Jamestown to work. The St Helena Distillery relocated to Alarm Forest in 2012, from its former home in Jamestown, and now has a visitor centre for those interested in the production of ‘Tungi’ (a spirit made from local prickly pear fruit).

Alarm Forest is the only district of St Helena with no coastline.

The road through Alarm Forest was constructed in the 1680s to service the guns at Alarm House. The link to Whitegate in St Pauls (Plantation House/St. Paul’s Cathedral) via the ‘W Road’ came in the middle of the 18th Century.

The Briars

Sure and Heart Shaped Waterfall
Sure and Heart Shaped Waterfall{e}

The Briars from within
The Briars from within

Although actually part of Alarm Forest, many people assume The Briars to be part of Jamestown. It is, after all, situated in the upper reaches of James Valley.

In 1678 the area was known as Parsley Bed Hill. It was considered unproductive and sold to The East India Company in 1739 for £94. The area was re-named The Bryers due to the heavy covering by the plant in the area (possibly due to an earlier failed attempt to grow fruit bushes there). William Balcombe took over the property in 1811 and established a brewery on the property.

Napoleon was housed here (in the Briars Pavilion) while Longwood House was being prepared. The building is now owned by the French Government, but is sometimes let as accommodation.

The area was purchased for £6,000 in mid-1827 for use by the Silk industry.

The area is considered attractive by people who work in Jamestown, being cooler than Town-proper while retaining good access to work and other ameneties. Some quite large houses have been built here since 2000.

Sure’s headquarters, including the satellite dishes that are the island’s link to the outside world, are at the Briars.

The future

New Fire Station under construction, October 2014
New Fire Station under construction, October 2014

In early 2014 it was announced that the island’s new Fire Station would be built in Alarm Forest. The location was chosen because of the good communications links to all parts of the island, especially Jamestown (where most office and shops can be found), Ruperts Valley (designated for industrial development), and of course, the Airport. Construction began in 2015 but stopped after the site had been cleared. Nobody seems to know when or if it will resume.

It can be assumed that the population will continue to increase. Whether Alarm Forest will become as populous as Half Tree Hollow is not known.

There are currently no plans to open a community centre in the district. Most residents go to Jamestown or Longwood for their leisure activities.

The image below from Google Earth™{f} shows the whole of Jamestown, The Briars, Ruperts and (most of) Half Tree Hollow. Only a satellite or a very high-flying aircraft can capture this view! A clickable version of this image appears on our page Maps of St Helena.

Stay here?

From our page Where To Stay:

Alarm Forest is the area you pass through if you head east out of Jamestown towards Longwood and the Napoleonic Sites. It has no hotels or guest houses but self-catering and bed-and-breakfast are available. Communications to the rest of the island are good.

Population by district:{d}

Read More

ExCo Report, 20th January 2014

SHG crest

… The second item was the request for removal of land from the National Forest to facilitate the relocation of the Fire Station to an area that will meet the specified response times for the Airport. In this regard, a preferred site has been identified in the Alarm Forest area, near the bus stop. The area required will be up to two acres and at present this area is classed as National Forest. There is a detailed process before a Fire Station can be built and this is the first step in identifying a suitable piece of land.

Following Executive Council approval, the next stage is for a six week period in which the public can make comments on the use of the land for the proposed Fire Station. These comments will then be taken into consideration by ExCo, which will decide if the land can be used for the Fire Station. Planning permission will still be required before the Fire Station can be built.

ExCo gave approval in principle for the land to be used for a Fire Station and for the public to be invited to submit comments.

As at the time of writing the selected area was cleared but no building has begun. The Fire Station is still operating from the former Secondary Selective School Building in the Ladder Hill Fort. The Airport opened in mid-2016.


{a} Ed Thorpe{b} Google Earth™{c} John F. Kennedy{d} 2021 Census, taken 7th February 2021.{e} Tourist Information Office{f} Kindly supplied by Ian Bruce, September 2018


{1} 394 from a total population of 4,439{d}.