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The Briars Pavilion

Napoleon’s Other House

You’ll enjoy the sun so much more with the relaxing shade of a pavilion at your disposal.{d}

Before Longwood House was ready, Napoleon stayed at the Briars Pavilion‍‍

Napoleon, and before

Before Napoleon’s arrival the Briars belonged to the Balcombe family, who came to the island from England in 1805. William Balcombe was employed by The East India Company, and was responsible for provisioning visiting ships. The Briars Pavilion was situated in his garden. It is not known if William Balcombe built it or acquired it with the land.

On 18th October 1815, the day after his arrival on St Helena, Napoleon was taken to visit Longwood, and on the return journey the party stopped at The Briars to visit the Balcombes. Napoleon spotted the Briars Pavilion, and requested he be moved there, lower Jamestown already being too hot and too full of curious spectators for his liking. William Balcombe agreed and Napoleon moved in immediately. He remained at the Briars Pavilion until he moved to Longwood House on 10th December 1815.

Having established good relations with the Emperor during his stay at the Pavilion, William Balcombe managed to manoeuvre to provide services to Napoleon and his entourage. In addition, William’s 13/4-year-old daughter Elizabeth Lucia (‘Betsy’) Balcombe was the only family member who spoke French and she became the Napoleon’s translator (the relationship between Napoleon and Betsy Balcombe has subsequently been the subject of much comment.) For all of these reasons, Governor Hudson Lowe became suspicious of the Balcombes (as he was too of Saul Solomon), and in 1818 the Balcombes were forced to leave St Helena and return to England.

While he was living at The Briars Pavilion (October - December 1815) Napoleon made a friend; and a surprising one at that. He became friendly with an enslaved gardener called Toby. Read all about it here.

By a remarkable coincidence, the Duke of Wellington had also stayed with the Balcombes, during his visit in 1805.

Later History

After the Balcombes’ departure The Briars was leased by the government and initially used as the home for the Admiral assigned to St Helena. The Pavilion subsequently had various owners, and in 1959 it was purchased by Dame Mabel Brookes, a descendant of Sir William Stoveton, one of the island’s councillors. She donated it to the French Government, which in return appointed her the following year as Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. The Briars Pavilion therefore became the third of the French Properties on St Helena.


The main house was later completely destroyed by White Ants and has now disappeared, but the Pavilion was restored by the French government and, by judicious use of memoirs written by Napoleon’s servants, now has the appearance it had when Napoleon left it in 1815. The room occupied by Napoleon has a camp-bed, a table, a chest of drawers, a sofa, an armchair and several chairs. It can be visited by appointment.

Read More

Below: Websites: Napoleon on Saint HelenaArticle: Press Release from The French ConsulAustralian Connection

French Consulate Factbox

Websites: Napoleon on Saint Helena (two sites)


There is lots more about Napoleon and his time on St Helena on these two sites, both of which happen to have the same name:

Please Note there are many, many sites about Napoleon. These are just two we have chosen to mention. If you think there is one we should include please contact us.

Article: Press Release from The French Consul

Published in the St Helena Herald 19th October 2007{2}

Briars Pavilion drawing

Today the Honorary French Consul Michel Dancoisne-Martineau (Curator of the French Properties on St Helena) received a telegram from the French Government accepting his donation of the land surrounding the Briars Pavilion. This is step three of a long process which Michel began more than eight years ago, to preserve the whole Briars area; step one being the purchase of the land and step two being the donation of the land surrounding the Heart Shaped Waterfall to the National Trust earlier this year.

The donation of this land to the French Government will allow the Briars Pavilion to be protected from any inappropriate development within its immediate surroundings. It will ease access to the premises; parking facilities can be created and it will also allow the Pavilion to be preserved with its terraced gardens which can now be developed as a whole.

The French Properties are a great tourist asset on the island; visited by a large percentage of the tourists who come to the island each year. For St Helena, this gift to the French Government means that the tourism industry will benefit greatly from the enhancements to the Pavilion which this donation will facilitate. Particularly as the additional land will allow the French Government to maintain and develop the property without the hindrance of negotiating over rights of way and other potential legal obstacles.

The Australian Connection

When the Balcombe family left St Helena they moved to Australia. William Balcombe’s son, Alexander, was one of the first settlers on the Mornington Peninsula in the State of Victoria, where he acquired an extensive estate and built a substantial brick homestead, which he called ‘The Briars’, after his St Helena home. The house, which still stands and is something of a local tourist attraction, contains an impressive collection of Napoleonic memorabilia and Georgian furniture from Longwood. Among the collection are items provided by the British Government for Napoleon’s residence at Longwood, including the dining table, a lacquer table, possibly of Chinese origin, a copy of his death mask, and a guitar that Napoleon gave to Betsy Balcombe, Alexander’s sister.


{a} John Isaac Lilley, 1861-1866{b} Copyright © 1962 Film Unit, used with permission{c} Domaines Français de Sainte Hélène{d} Sales website


{1} Note the enslaved people working the gardens.{2} @@RepDis@@