➥ Loading Saint Helena Island Info



Lost and almost-lost Buildings

‘In need of some work…’

Old houses mended, cost little less than new, before they’re ended.{s}

Conservation and heritage are relatively new concepts on St Helena…

SEE ALSO: This page features buildings that have been, or seemingly will be lost forever. Buildings which were thought lost but have been, or are being restored, can be found on our page Saved Buildings.

Conservation and heritage are relatively new concepts on St Helena, as can be seen by the fate of the balcony on Jackson’s Chemists. Many fine buildings were lost to the White Ants. Other buildings have been allowed to deteriorate, or have been unsympathetically replaced. Here are some examples.

‍Porteous House‍

Porteous House was a fine Georgian mansion in Jamestown, just up the street from Castle Gardens. Napoleon stayed there for his first night on St Helena, as did the Duke of Wellington some years later (in the same room, by all accounts!).

For much of its life, Porteous House served as a boarding house. Built towards the end of the 18th Century, it was the home of The East India Company’s Head Surgeon, John Charles Dunn, until 1811, when it was bought by William Balcombe, and quickly sold again to Henry Porteous, the Company’s Botanic Gardener. On his death in 1819 it remained in the Porteous Estate under its Trustee, Thomas Baker, who let it to Andrew Eyre as a boarding house until it fell, almost inevitably, into the hands of Saul Solomon as his ‘hotel’. After his death shares were offered in it, but not successfully it seems as the Colonial Treasurer, John Gabriel Doveton, bought it and sold it on to Robert Pooley, the commercial agent who later became US vice-consul (1872-76). By 1863 he had sold it to George Moss, the French vice-consul, partner in the firm Solomon, Gideon and Moss. In his history Philip Gosse gives a photograph of George and Isaac Moss taken on 10th February 1863, sitting in the garden behind the house with Baron de Rougemont. The front of the house is shown in views of St Helena published that year by JE Fowler, taken from a photograph by Barrackmaster John Isaac Lilley - the 1st image below. Two years later, on Sunday 2nd April 1865 the finest house in Main Street was reduced to a fire ravaged shell by an unknown arsonist.

It remained a burnt-out shell - 2nd photo below - until demolished in 1937{6}. In the Crallan Report of 1974 it is listed as a vacant plot - 3rd photo below.

In 2001 local businessman Rodney Buckley got planning permission to re-develop the site. It was intended that the new building would incorporate as much of the detail of the original including the coping and corner edgings{7}, including mostly Georgian-style windows but with large ‘Picture Windows’ at the front. You can judge for yourself how much the new building looks like the old - 5th photo.

On 31st March 2005 the new building was sold to SHELCO, and it is now part of Paul O’Sullivan’s Trade Winds project.

Why is this building here, and not on our page Saved Buildings? Because, in our opinion, New Porteous House is not a restoration of Mr. Porteous’ original house. It is a modern building built with modern materials which happens to occupy the same space, and share the same name as the original, but has nothing of the elegance of the building it replaced.

‍American Consulate Building‍

We have chosen to call this the ‘American Consulate Building’. The building in question does not, as far as we know, have a proper name, and as it no longer exists it never will, but it did house the American Consulate from 1836 until 1908 so we have named it from that.{t}

This building seems to have had two versions (rather like Jackson’s Chemists). In the first and second images (below), from 1863, it can be seen between (old) Porteous House and Broadway House{8}, apparently with an upstairs balcony, a door lower right and a window lower left. We assume it was originally a private house. We don’t know when it was built, though it was probably around the same time as (old) Porteous House - towards the end of the 18th Century. Neither do we know by whom it was built or who originally owned it.

US flag In 1836 it was taken over as the American Consulate. The balcony may have been removed at this time. At some time a flagpole was installed to the front and the window converted to a door. The third image (below) is from 1895, taken by the then Consul Mr Coffin, and shows it in use as the Consulate. The roundel featuring the American Eagle can be seen above the (new) door.

The American Consulate itself is interesting. It was founded on 4th February 1831 (clearly located elsewhere), the first Consul being Mr William Carrol, who served until 1847{9}. It dealt with any matter relating to American ships or citizens, and with the Whaling Industry in full swing and many American whalers in the area, it seems it was quite busy; from 1866 it also had a Vice-Consul. But with the decline in whaling at the end of the 19th Century, the Consulate was closed on 30th June 1908 (requiring an Act of Congress passed 11th May 1908).

The fourth image (below) is an enlargement from one of the Porteous House images, from 1900 taken to record the arrival of the Boer PoWs. A person can be seen standing on the steps watching the parade, and we assume this to be the Consul. The fifth image was taken in 1903, from the top of Jacob’s Ladder, and the sixth in 1914, after the Consulate closed.

The building was demolished sometime between 1908 and 1941 (see the right hand side of the 1941 image below). We do not know when, but it was probably 1937, with (old) Porteous House. Where it stood became access to what then became the Paramount Cinema and is now a Thorpes warehouse.

Was the American Consulate ever located in The Consulate Hotel?

No! We explore this on our page Historic Buildings, Jamestown.

‍Longwood New House‍

We have seen this building referred to as ‘Longwood Mansion’ in late 19th Century books.

When Napoleon was moved to Longwood House in December 1815 he instantly disliked the building. It was, let’s be fair, rather less grand than the palaces with which he was familiar.

A new house was planned to be built for him, the necessary materials arriving on 17th May 1816, but due to many delays building of the new house only began in October 1818 with the foundation being laid in 1819. It was completed in February 1821; before Napoleon’s death but he never occupied it. Built of yellow sandstone, it was located some hundred metres to the northwest from the old house. Interestingly, from the Records:

For some years one of its rooms was used as a Church and quarters were provided for the Chaplain. It was also used as a place of recuperation for invalids from India. But a proposal to use it as a ‘Young Ladies Boarding Seminary’ came to nothing.

Governor Dallas moved to Longwood New House in 1832 because of the smell from the drains under Plantation House (his family contracted what was probably typhoid), and remained there for the rest of his term. The incoming Crown Governor, Maj-Gen George Middlemore appears to have re-occupied Plantation House so presumably by then the drains had been fixed.

In 1858 the Napoleonic properties, Longwood House and Napoleon’s Tomb were sold to the French Government{10}, though Longwood New House as not included in the sale and remained Crown property. Major Nicolas Martial Gauthier de Rougemont, the first Curator of the Properties with the title of Commander of the Imperial Residences of St Helena, rented Longwood New House from the Crown and spent a lot of (French) money in the late 1850s trying to turn Longwood New House into a suitably palatial home for himself on the island, devoting to it 90% of the appropriations allocated to the maintenance of the whole of the properties. However in 1861 he informed Paris that cracks had already appeared in the walls built without foundation. On 23rd January 1867 the commander gave the keys of Longwood New House to the vice-consul of France, George Moss and, after a stay of almost nine years, departed for France.

Nobody else seems to have occupied Longwood New House, despite its wonderful view over Deadwood Plain. In 1934 it was declared too large to maintain and it was demolished in 1949, being replaced the same year by a Dairy{11}.

Here are some 1914 photos from the National Archives{u}:

A detailed description of Longwood New House and its construction can be found in ‘St Helena, The Historic Island, From Its Discovery To The Present Date’, by E. L. Jackson, published in 1905, starting on page 223.

‍The Longwood Windmill‍

Little is known about the Longwood Windmill. Indeed this is one rare instance where we have more photographic evidence than written.

We know the windmill was built by Thomas Deason in or around 1858. It is reported in ‘St Helena, The Historic Island, From Its Discovery To The Present Date’, by E. L. Jackson, published in 1905 that it was made, at least partly, of locally-made bricks:

Mr. Thomas Deason, of Longwood, manufactured bricks of good quality with which he built a windmill tower. This, although more than twenty years old, still is in excellent condition, the bricks showing no signs of deterioration.

The same book later reports:

Longwood is farmed by Messrs. Deason and is in an excellent state of cultivation. The late Mr. Thomas Deason was very keen on introducing modern improvements and implements. Here are to be seen silos for storage of fodder and a windmill for which he had bricks made on the island, and which he fitted with machinery of various kinds.

Most European windmills feature a moving top with a rudder, such that the blades are always pointed into the wind, but with the prevailing wind on St Helena so consistent this was clearly considered unnecessary.

And that’s it! We don’t know exactly where it was, though one photograph is annotated 1st Tee, Golf Course, and appears to show Longwood House in the background, locating it perhaps where the former Longwood First School is today.

We also don’t know what was milled, though we can assume it was locally-grown wheat for flour. And we don’t know when the windmill ceased to be used (clearly sometime after 1914, from the photograph, below) and whether it was dismantled or just left to fall down.

A note on the internal view claims that the threshing machine shown had previously been located in Longwood House after Napoleon’s death.

‍Horse Ridge farmhouse‍

We have the photograph (below) and the location (right) but sadly that’s all we know. We assume this to be another old house that fell victim to the White Ants. If you can provide more please contact us.

‘‍The Taxi Building‍’

Building identified

There is a small building just to the right of Broadway House that mostly goes unremarked unless you wish to shop at Serena’s Gift Shop or are resident in one of the apartments above. It is a modern building, completed in the early 21st Century, but an original building formerly stood on the site about which we can find almost nothing!

We know from photographs taken in the late 19th Century (below) that the site was occupied by a three storey building, three windows wide to the front with a substantial entrance way, in a plot that runs all the way to the hillside. There are no indications that it was anything other than a house but we do not know the details of any owners.

Sometime in the late 19th Century it became disused. The photograph from 1902, showing the Boer PoWs arriving, shows it (partial, far right) apparently boarded up. We do not know why it was abandoned but infer from what happened later that it might have suffered, like so much of Jamestown, from attack by White Ants. Sometime at the beginning of the 20th Century the top storey was demolished (or maybe even fell in). The photograph from 1911 shows it (partial, far left) minus the third storey.

The lower parts of the building must have remained functional, or perhaps were repaired, because we next see it in 1939, still with only two stories but now we think serving as a taxi office (we think that’s what the sign says). As this is its only known use we call it ‘The Taxi Building’. The upper windows, however, still seem to be boarded up, so clearly the whole building was no longer in use. Indeed it is not obvious that it actually had a roof!

By the 1960s the original building had clearly been demolished, and a start had been made on constructing a modern block-built structure. And that is exactly how it remained for the rest of the 20th Century! Only in the early 21st Century was the current structure completed.

If you know anything about the original building - its proper name; who owned it; what it was used for; etc. - please contact us.

Behind The Cannister

Most of Jamestown remains largely unaltered from its Georgian splendour, but not the area around The Cannister. To identify the area in question please look at the highlighted area in the 1839 map (below):

This area contained lower-status buildings and therefore has undergone many changes over the years. Look at the pink blocks on the map, representing buildings standing in 1839 (the numbered boxes represent ownership). The original Cannister building (#463) was much larger than the present one. And sharing its frontage onto Main Street, and running up the bottom of Napoleon Street is #462, a building which is no longer there, with only remnants left. #464 remains (now known as ‘Henry’s’) and all the buildings in #465 were re-engineered when the original Greenlands Supermarket was created in the 1970s. Inside #463, building ‘a’ remained standing and operated as a shop until it was incorporated into the expanded Greenlands in the 1980s. Building ‘b’ was demolished, probably in the late-1900s; perhaps when The Cannister was re-built. Where it stood is now the Taxi Rank.

Some drawings and photographs illustrate the transition:

What we think happened

The following is largely deduction, based on the images and general knowledge. These were largely low-status buildings so their changes do not seem to be recorded anywhere. Researches continue and if you can help please contact us.

You can learn a little more about building #462 from contemporary photographs of the (few) remains. In the first photograph (below), if you look to the right behind the steps (leading to the passage behind The Cannister) you can see a blocked-up doorway. Referring to the original Melliss 1839 map the building seems to have had a solid frontage, so was this an internal doorway within the building? It certainly doesn’t look like it - look at the brickwork and particulaly the arched top. This would be unusual on an internal door. The clue may be in the 2nd photograph, taken from the opposite end of the passageway behind The Cannister: the butress. This is clearly tied into the structure to the right but has been capped off on the left hand side with blocks and cement, possibly when The Cannister was built. So our theory to explain both of these is that the frontage onto Napoleon Street had a sort-of ‘Tradesman Entrance’ to the lower storey (which at the southern end would have been mostly below street level); an inset from the street with a small vestibule and a door to the left (and maybe one to the right too). The diagram (3rd image) illustrates. Of course, all of this is just theory… what we really need is a photograph of the building’s Napoleon Street frontage, but as yet we have been unable to locate one. If you can help

What Was This?

We came across the image below on social media. It isn’t dated, but it shows St. James’ Church with a tower so must be before 1843. Most of the buildings are recognisable and remain today, albeit somewhat altered in many cases, but one has definitely been removed - the small structure in the foreground to the left, between the artist and what is now the Post Office. Whatever it was, it certainly isn’t there now - The Cannister stands roughly where it stood.

It is too small to be a house, but appears to be made of stone with a solid roof, so would not have been a temporary construction. Closer inspection of the image, however, provides a clue. There appears to be a group of people clustered round the Northern (Seaside) end, perhaps obtaining something from the building? We think it may have been a water supply point for the citizens of lower Jamestown and the people are collecting water from it.

We know The Run passes further to the west but it would not have been beyond the capabilities of 19th Century engineering to run a pipe from there, though actually as The Run was, in those days, practically an open sewer, it is more likely any supply pipe would have come all the way from Chubb’s Spring, as Jamestown’s water does today. Or could it even have been a small bath-house?

John Thornton, c1700
John Thornton, c1700{5}

One suggustion we have heard is that this is actually the building depicted as ‘the Spring House’ on the c.1700 map by John Thornton (right). This might make sense if Thornton’s map were drawn to scale, which it manifestly isn’t. It would also be necessary to assume that there was a spring located at the top of Main Street which has long since dried up, for which we can find no evidence. But it’s a theory…

Please contact us if you know the answer or have your own theory.

The Heritage Society

Heritage Society Logo

Founded in November 1979 and operators of the Museum of St Helena, these days the St Helena Heritage Society lobbies for the preservation and protection of St Helena’s history, though with limited financial resources it can only do so much…

Almost lost, but now…

The following were previously featured on this page. They had been left to rot and seemed beyond repair. And yet in recent years both have been restored and brought back to the fine country houses they once were. As a result their entries have been transferred to our page Saved Buildings:

Read More

Article: Letter to the Editor

Published in the St Helena Herald 26th October 2001{14}

Dear Editor,

It seems a pity to lose the 100 year old wood and iron building at the Briars known as the Old Exiles Club; particularly on the eve of the Quincentenial Celebrations. There are not many buildings of this type left in the world, let alone in the Southern hemisphere, and this one has some fine details (roof trusses). As visitors to the Briars Pavilion we found the Old Exiles Club added to the interest of the area, the Pavilion itself providing but brief entertainment (sorry, Napoleon). After all, Cable & Wireless is still a power on the island: might there not be room for a display in the building informing the visitor of the fascinating communications history of this part of the world? From flags and guns to emails? Could this building really not be saved, even at this late juncture? The space might provide a community hall, recreational venue for visitors wishing to listen to island music, have tea etc.; at worst it could be dismantled and re-erected as a customs shed at the airport.

Yours Sincerely,
Max & Jo Walker

The 100 year old Exiles Club was indeed demolished by Cable & Wireless in August 2005. Many people protested but it seems nobody could (or would) prevent it happening.


{a} JE Fowler{b} Clifford Masters{c} Adam Sizeland{d} Domaines Français de Sainte Hélène{e} Attributed to John Kerr, Paymaster of the 66th Regiment, ‘Series of views in the Island of Saint Helena’, dedicated by permission to Lady Lowe, London, Colnaghi & Co. 1822{f} W R Smith{g} From ‘Views of St Helena’, by G.W. Melliss{15}, published in 1857{h} John Isaac Lilley, 1861-1866{i} Paul McCartney, Hobart, Australia{16}{j} Hugh Crallan{k} Andrew / Peter Neaum{l} J. Graham of the St Helena Artillery.{m} From ‘St Helena: A Physical, Historical and Topographical Description of the Island{17}{n} Dr. Richard Cresswell; for a time a doctor in Jamestown, 1881{o} US Consul, Mr Coffin{p} Thomas Jackson, Island Chemist{q} Neil Fantom{r} G.W. Melliss{12}{s} Colley Cibber{t} Some information herein kindly provided by John Coyle, in turn possibly sourced from ‘U.S. Consular Mail from St Helena’ (2002), by Michael D. Mueller, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society (‘SHATPS’){u} UK National Archives on Flickr™{14}{18}


{1} Easily dated because the soldiers are escorting the incoming Boer PoWs.{2} Roof only visible, centre front. Old house on hilltop, right.{3} The crack in the bathroom wall can be clearly seen.{4} Observe the appalling state of the roadway and footpaths (which get even worse further up)…{5} A higher resolution but monochrome version of this map exists.{6} It seems likely that the small building next to it (to the south), that had until 1908 housed the American Consulate, was demolished at the same time.{7} St Helena Herald, 27th July 2001.{8} Which, by the way, is so-named because it used to be the home of the Broadway family.{9} He was, apparently, also the Consul for Sweden from 1844-1873, succeeded by Charles Andrew Carrol, presumably his son, from 1873-1887; and thereafter by Saul Solomon.{10} Which actually required a change to the law, as ‘foreigners’ were not allowed to own land on St Helena.{11} Which itself closed in the 1990s and is currently being re-purposed as a business park.{12} Father of John Melliss.{13} In A Few Notes on St Helena and Descriptive Guide by Benjamin Grant (1883) we read [᠁]in front of Mr. George’s Dispensary and the Lower Bazaar are three peepul trees; under these almost every auction sale in Town is held[᠁]. We know the trees in question to be the ones in front of The Cannister on the left (as seen from the mini-roundabout), so the ‘Lower Bazaar’ would presumably have been the shops in the old Cannister (#463) and ‘Mr. George’s Dispensary’ would presumably have been the shop in the frontage of #462.{14} @@RepDis@@{15} Father of John Melliss.{16} Paul’s father was the island’s doctor in the 1960s and Paul accompanied him here. Paul visited St Helena in June 2018 and kindly gave us permission to use these family photographs.{17} …including the Geology, Fauna, Flora and Meteorology, by John Melliss, published in 1875.{18} Images are labelled ‘No known copyright restrictions’. Not to be confused with the St Helena Archives.