Historic Buildings In Brief - Country
“Where the English settle they first build a Punch house, the Dutch a Fort and the Portuguese a Church.”
Attributed to Governor Janisch, 1885
St Helena has many historic buildings. The ones here are only introduced - to learn more, just explore them!
This page should be read in conjunction with our Historic Buildings page, which goes into more detail about our more significant historic buildings and links to pages describing many more, and our Historic Buildings In Brief - Jamestown page which introduces Jamestown buildings.
Go to: Signal House • Boer Cemetary • Quarantine Station, Lemon Valley • Bertrand’s Cottage • Three Tanks • Hay Town House • Princes Lodge • Read More
Signal House consists of the Signal Room, perched directly at the edge of the cliff, and the bungalow behind it, which was the home of the signal man. It is within the walled compound of the Ladder Hill Complex.
Photos taken by John Lilley during the 1860s show no house where Signal House now stands (left, below). They do show a small stone shed that could be the core of this house. An 1877 illustration from ‘The Graphic’, showing this same piece of land, appears to show a building very similar to Signal House. Thus, it seems that the house in its near to present form was built some time between 1863 and 1877.
From 1929 to 1933, Signal House was occupied by the Corporal of Signals, Bert Bolwell, and his wife. Her memoirs are summarised on our Memories of St Helena page.
The Union Flag is flown over Signal House whenever the RMS St Helena, a Cruise Ship or other visiting ship is in the harbour (right).
The Signal House at Ladder Hill should not be confused with the one above Prosperous Bay, more properly known as the Prosperous Bay Signal Station.
Harbour from Signal House
The Anglican Church refused to bury in consecrated ground the Boer prisoners who died in captivity, declaring them to be ‘heathens’ and ‘enemies of Her Majesty’. However the Baptist Church granted ground and the nearby church building was also put at the disposal of the prisoners for their religious services. 167 Prisoners are buried here. The two granite monuments record the grave numbers, names and ages of the dead. Knollcombes is a short walk from Plantation House. The church remains in use to this day.
Quarantine Station, Lemon Valley
The quarantine station at Lemon Valley housed some of the liberated slaves who were found to be suffering from Smallpox.
General Henri Gatien Bertrand and his family were loyal supporters of Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile on St Helena. In 1816 Bertrand and his family built a residence just across the road from Longwood House, moving in on 20th October 1816. After Napoleon’s death and the Bertrand’s departure the building became a farm house, hence its alternate name of Longwood Farmhouse. When Longwood House passed into French ownership in 1858, Bertrand’s Cottage remained in the hands of the Government of St Helena. It was used as accommodation for Government staff until recently. Some say it is haunted.
The building was recently converted by the Government of St Helena into a Government-owned restaurant with bed-and-breakfast accommodation with the title Bertrand’s Cottage Limited.
Bertrand’s Cottage, 1974
The old water storage tanks at ‘Three Tanks’, Half Tree Hollow. The image (right) shows the maker’s information in more detail.
Hay Town House
Hay Town House (the two-storey building)
In 1862, a scheme by Governor Drummond Hay to start a new housing development in Rupert’s Valley, made possible with the establishment of a reliable water supply piped into the valley from The Briars, never quite took off, and so the Hay Town area is at best a hamlet rather than an actual town. It encompasses the place where the South Atlantic Cable came ashore in 1899, and the site of the 1902 desalination plant. Hay Town House was one of the few houses actually built, together with some stone cottages, only a few of which remain. Stones on the front façades are as shown (right). The photo (left) also shows modern developments.
Hay Town House is a large square two-storey house, with three bays on the front façade, and two on the side. The interior walls are stone rather than partition, and there is a central entry hallway leading to two symmetrical reception rooms. A verandah extends along the south side of the house.
Hay Town House is on the east side of Rupert’s Valley, facing west.
Princes Lodge (from High Knoll Fort)
More properly Prince’s Lodge, but no longer ever written that way, its date of origin is uncertain and in 1814 carried the name Knoll Cottage, due to its proximity to High Knoll Fort. According to the Records the land was leased in 1814 to W Brabazon, Master Attendant (i.e. Harbour Master). It then passed to Shortis, Superintendent of Works, then Barker the farmer, and finally to one Richard Prince, a member of the firm of W & J Prince, of London. However, a plaque set in the side of the house reads: “RICHARD PRINCE, 1808”. We assume the plaque to be a later addition and the Records to be correct.
(Richard Prince himself is interesting - he came to the island in 1813 from Cape Town, to settle debts owed by Solomon, Dickson, Taylor & Company. He was ordered off the island in both 1815 and 1816, but in neither case did he actually leave and eventually acquired a number of properties, including Farm Lodge.)
Princes Lodge was the residence of Governor Harper from 1925-1932, and owned by HW Solomon (the last country residence of the Solomon family) until April 1961 when it was bought by the Bishop of St Helena and used as his residence (‘Bishopsholme’) until 1999. In 1999 ownership passed to Robin Castell. It was refurbished and some more recent additions removed, and since April 2000 has housed the Castell Collection of historic prints of St Helena (claimed to be “the largest collection of St Helena pictures in the world”).
The house is set in the upper reaches of Clay Gut, almost opposite the road up to High Knoll Fort. The house has two stories, five bay windows and has a two story back projection that runs the length of the house and projects at the sides. Following the recent refurbishment it now has 20th Century casement windows, and is surrounded by a spacious ground floor verandah and patio. The internal layout has the classic central entry hall and symmetrical reception rooms on the sides.
The building and/or grounds can be hired for special occasions.
Article: “Dear Editor”
By Julian Cairns-Wickes, published in the St Helena News 5th January 2000
I am completely mystified at what is happening to/at Plantation House. The manner in which its prime use was so recently replaced by tented occupation was bad enough but now I understand that an early and useful Toilet Fitment has been removed. This early porcelain Gentlemen’s Toilet Self Flush Urinal had been strategically and most usefully positioned within easy reach of the reception rooms and was most certainly a feature of sufficient interest to be looked upon as an integral part of the Island Heritage being held on trust by the present transitory occupants of Plantation House.
How is it that although this is a listed building, various modifications can be made apparently on the whim of some person who clearly has no regard for tradition and things of interest which should be (and would become) part of our heritage. I also would be very interested to find out who authorised this work to be carried out without that person having sought the approval of the Historical Society (or any other Island body) or showing due regard to the fact that it is a most Historic Building and should be allowed to have certain warts and blemishes as part of its genuine character.
Julian Cairns-Wicks, Market Street, Jamestown
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