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Rupert’s

So near, and yet so far

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I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted…
Martin Luther King, Jr. (from the ‘I have a dream’ speech, 1963)

Rupert’s is the valley next to James Valley, yet by tourists it is rarely visited.

This page is in indexes: Island Place, Island Activity, Island Detail

Rupert’s [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

Below: Why ‘Rupert’s’What’s in Rupert’sThe New WharfAlways a place for leisure…Rupert’s and the slaves“I’ve got a lovely bunch…”And our (other) railwayRead More

Why ‘Rupert’s’

It is commonly told that the valley is so named because Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619-1682) landed there when he visited St Helena on a voyage home from India (probably on or around May 1734). Only one historical document seems to exist to support this claim. And it would be strange for Prince Rupert to have landed in this valley, when the main settlement (such as it was) was in Chapel Valley (now James Valley) just next door. Rupert’s Valley was then Seine Valley and was uninhabited. The Wikipedia seems to accept this explanation, but we have uncovered an alternative.

In the 1650s, Prince Rupert, after an outstanding military career on the side of the King in the English Civil War, upon defeat is said to have turned to piracy, operating on the South Atlantic Trade Route. Dutch captain Jan Riebeck, travelling up from the Cape in February 1652, writes about his ship being equpiied with numerous guns “for the fear of Prince Rupert”. It is said Rupert used St Helena as a base, preferring the less populated valley to the east of James (then Chappelle) Bay - and hence it is now known as Rupert’s Valley.

Believe whichever explanation you prefer; we lean towards the latter.

What’s in Rupert’s

Starting at the sea (the northern end) there is an area usually referred to as ‘Rupert’s Beach’, but don’t expect golden sands littered with deckchairs. The sea meets the land in a number of rocky outcrops, though a little sand is in evidence. Swimming is possible as the bay is relatively sheltered and there are no undercurrents. People often meet for barbecues in the area just above the beach; a real family occasion.

Rupert’s beach area [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

The rest of the valley is mainly industrial, with just a few houses. A gantry sticks out from the beach into the sea, which is used when a fuel tanker is offloading (the beach is always closed to the public at this time). Further along, a temporary wharf was built to allow Basil Read’s ship to offload materials needed for the construction of our airport. After this had finished use a permanent wharf replaced it, it being planned that all goods and cargo will be unloaded in Rupert’s leaving Jamestown for passengers: cruise ships and yachts{1}.

Further up the valley are a few small industrial units; the island’s Power Station, where the diesel-powered generators produce much of the island’s electricity (though some is produced from renewable sources; and the Bulk Fuel Installation (BFI), where the island’s fuel stocks are stored. This latter facility was recently expanded for the storage of aviation fuel in conjunction with the new airport.

Beyond this the valley rises steeply to Deadwood, and is largely uninhabited.

A Bellstone has been discovered in scrub above the valley, but it is not as readily accessible as its larger and more famous cousin in Levelwood.

Worthy of mention is the Haul Road, which starts in Rupert’s Valley and climbs sharply up the hillside heading for the Airport Site. Built for the conveyance of materials for airport construction it is envisaged that, when construction is complete it will be re-made into a permanent route for public vehicular traffic between Rupert’s and Longwood. A map of its route can be seen on the Building St Helena Airport page.

The fuel gantry overlooking Rupert’s beach area [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
The fuel gantry overlooking Rupert’s beach area

The Haul Road, under construction [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
The Haul Road, under construction

Fish Landing Stage [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
Fish Landing Stage

1961 view [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
1961 view

The New Wharf

For five centuries, ships arriving at St Helena had to moor in either James Bay or Rupert’s and offload or take on people and supplies using small boats (‘Tenders’) which shuttled back and forth. Kings and Queens and other dignitaries, tourists, Saints and other visitors all landed and departed this way. Cruise Ships often failed to land passengers because alighting from a tender by jumping onto the Wharf, with the swell carring the tender continuously up and down, was considered by some Captains to be too risky for their passengers (or, maybe, for their insurers.)

Then in 2011 the plan to build an airport contained within it a less-noticed plan to build a proper wharf in Rupert’s - one that ships could actually tie up against for direct boarding and offloading. This was completed in June 2016 - shortly after the airport was completed (but before it opened). The irony of this - that we finally get a proper ship loading and offloading facility just when we stop really needing it - seemed to go largely unremarked.

There are pictures of the new Wharf, under construction and completed, below:

Before… [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
Before…

Permanent Wharf under construction [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
Permanent Wharf under construction

Lower Rupert’s 2016; part-completed wharf [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
Lower Rupert’s 2016; part-completed wharf

New wharf, May 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
New wharf, May 2016

New wharf finished, June 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
New wharf finished, June 2016

New access road, October 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
New access road, October 2016

… it was not trouble-free! [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
… it was not trouble-free!

New Year’s Day 2017 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
New Year’s Day 2017{a}

The first ship to offload there was Basil Read’s MV Greta, delivering supplies on 4th July 2016. It may be portentious, but the ship was due to dock the day before but was held out in the bay due to unfavourable sea conditions…

MV Greta, 4th July 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

MV Greta, 4th July 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

MV Greta, 4th July 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

MV Greta, 4th July 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

Always a place for leisure…

The photographs below are taken from a family album, dated to around 1942. They show Rupert’s beach being used as a place of leisure, much as it is today:

Ruperts beach-day, 1942 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

Ruperts beach-day, 1942 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

A busy day on the beach in 2015 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
A busy day on the beach in 2015

Rupert’s and the slaves

When St Helena was the dropping-off point for slaves found on board captured slave-ships, from 1840 until the 1870s, many of the liberated slaves were taken to Rupert’s to recover or, sadly, to die. As a result, many graves were discovered during the early stages of the airport project and construction of the Haul Road. This topic is covered in detail on our Slaves and slavery page. How many slaves lived in Rupert’s at any one time is not certain but it must have been in the low thousands, making Rupert’s then a very crowded place.

Slave grave excavations in 2011/12 [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
Slave grave excavations in 2011/12

I’ve got a lovely bunch…

… of coconuts.” And so too did Rupert’s Valley, in 1985. This from the News Review:

The RMS when it returned from Ascension Island brought an unusual consignment. This was a crate of 100 coconuts that had been flown in from Antigua in the Caribbean.

Coconuts used to grow on St Helena in Jamestown and in Sandy Bay, but gradually died out. The new batch of coconuts will be grown in Rupert’s Valley as part of the plan to landscape the valley.

The coconuts arrived as seed nuts with their husk intact. These are now planted in a seed bed on Mr Robert Maggot’s property where they can be carefully looked after and protected from pests such as white ants. Once all the nuts have sprouted and are sufficiently developed they will be transplanted to various sites down the valley.

Coconuts are slow growing trees and it will be a few years before they bear any fruit or resemble the tall swaying palms that are commonly seen along the beautiful beaches elsewhere.{b}

Apparently they survived but in 2002 the trees were reported to “require attention” and there is no report of them since. As far as we know there are now no coconuts growing on St Helena. If you know otherwise please contact us.

And our (other) railway

Last, but by no means least, mention must be made of our other railway, which served the desalination plant built in Rupert’s in 1901 to provide water for the c.5,000 Boer Prisoners housed on the island until 1902/3. More can be read on our Our (Other) Railway page.

Desalination plant in use showing railway [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
Desalination plant in use showing railway

Read More

Below: Article: “Rupert’s Valley Proposed Landscape Designs”Article: “Archaeologists find graves containing bodies of 5,000 slaves on remote island”

Article: “Rupert’s Valley Proposed Landscape Designs

Issued by the St Helena Government, published in the St Helena Independent 12th June 2015{2}

The Landscape and Ecology Mitigation Programme (LEMP) team is now seeking feedback from the community regarding proposed landscape design options for Rupert’s Valley, in those areas affected by the Airport Project construction footprint.

LEMP Conservation Team Leader, Paul Cherrett, explains:

This is an opportunity for the residents of Rupert’s and the wider community to have a real input into the landscape design of the areas impacted by Airport construction within the valley. Public feedback on the draft designs will be highly valued and will contribute to the species to be planted and the placement of these plants.

The proposed landscape designs are now available to view on the Air Access website{3}. Responses are particularly invited from Rupert’s residents, but all are encouraged to respond to the LEMP Project Manager, Ross Towers, by Friday, 26th June 2015.

Rupert’s Valley Proposed Landscape Designs [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
Rupert’s Valley Proposed Landscape Designs

Rupert’s Valley current view [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
Rupert’s Valley current view

 

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

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Article: “Archaeologists find graves containing bodies of 5,000 slaves on remote island

Published in The Guardian, 8th March 2012{2}

Skeletons buried in the slave graves [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

Some of the finds from the graves [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]
Some of the finds from the graves

British archaeologists have unearthed a slave burial ground containing an estimated 5,000 bodies on a remote South Atlantic island. The corpses were found on tiny St Helena, 1,900Km off the coast of south-west Africa.

Those who died were slaves taken from slave traders by the Royal Navy in the 1800s. Many of the captives died after being kept on British ships in appalling conditions or in refugee camps when they reached the island.

The dig, held in advance of the construction of a new airport on the island, revealed the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade.

The Middle Passage was the name of the route taken by ships transporting slaves from Africa to the new world. It was the second leg of a triangular journey undertaken by European ships. The first leg would involve them taking manufactured goods to Africa, which they would trade for slaves. After the Africans were delivered to the US, the ships would take raw materials back to Europe.

Experts from Bristol University led the dig. One of them, Prof Mark Horton, said: “Here we have the victims of the Middle Passage - one of the greatest crimes against humanity - not just as numbers, but as human beings. These remains are certainly some of the most moving that I have ever seen in my archaeological career.

St Helena was the landing place for many of the slaves captured by the navy during the suppression of the trade between 1840 and 1872. Earlier in the century, St Helena was where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to. He died there in 1821. About 26,000 freed slaves were brought to the island, with most being landed at a depot in Rupert’s Bay. Terrible conditions on the ships meant many did not survive their journey. Rupert’s Valley - an arid, shadeless and always windy tract - was also poorly suited for use as a hospital and refugee camp for such large numbers.

The university archaeologists have so far unearthed 325 bodies - in individual, multiple and mass graves - and expect to find about 5,000. Only five individuals were buried in coffins - one adolescent and four stillborn or newborn babies. The others had been put directly in shallow graves before being hastily covered. In some cases mothers were buried with their children.

Dr Andrew Pearson of the university said 83% of the bodies were those of children, teenagers or young adults. Youngsters were often prime material for slave traders, who sought victims with long potential working lives.

Most causes of death could not be established on the bodies as the main killers - dehydration, dysentery and Smallpox - leave no pathological trace. But experts found Scurvy was widespread on the skeletons and several showed indications of violence, including two older children who appeared to have been shot.

The team found evidence the victims were from a rich culture, with a strong sense of ethnic and personal identity. A few had managed to retain items of jewellery such as beads and bracelets, despite the physical stripping process that would have taken place after their capture. A number of metal tags were also found on the bodies that would have identified the slaves by name or number.

Pearson, the director of the project, said: “Studies of slavery usually deal with unimaginable numbers, work on an impersonal level and, in so doing, overlook the individual victims. In Rupert’s Valley, however, the archaeology brings us quite literally face-to-face with the human consequences of the slave trade.

Excavated artefacts will be transferred to Liverpool for an exhibition at the International Slavery Museum in 2013. The human remains will be re-interred on St Helena.

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

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closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]

Laugh at funny ruperts humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Rupert’s]


Credits:

{a} Johnny Clingham

{b} St Helena News Review, December 1985{2}



Footnotes:

{1} It should be noted that there is not general agreement to this. Many merchants warehouse their goods in Jamestown and do not see the logic of offloading in Rupert’s and then transporting the goods up the valley then back down into Jamestown (there being no direct road to connect the two valleys since the last road was washed away in 1981).

{2} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.

{3} Don’t bother - the consultation has ended and the document has been removed.



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