blank [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

Shopping: What to buy

A bit of St Helena to take home

blank [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

We travel because, no matter how comfortable we are at home, there’s a part of us that wants - that needs - to see new vistas, take new tours, obtain new traveler’s checks, buy new souvenirs, order new entrees, introduce new bacteria into our intestinal tracts, learn new words for ‘transfusion’, and have all the other travel adventures that make us want to french-kiss our doormats when we finally get home
Dave Barry in ‘The Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need’

Apart from photographs, what else will you take back with you after your visit? You can find a few suggestions for your shopping below…

This page is in indexes: Island Activity, Island Detail

Shopping: What to buy [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

Like everywhere else in the world, St Helena offers the visitor a wide variety of souvenirs to take home as a reminder of the visit. Some, although they may carry the name St Helena and possibly some local images, are actually manufactured elsewhere and imported for sale. On this page, for the benefit of our more discerning visitors, we concentrate on the souvenirs that are actually produced locally, often by hand and in many cases using skills that have been passed down over many generations.

Places where you can shop for quality locally-made souvenirs include:

Some things to look out for when shopping are described below.

Go to: Locally-made jewelleryLocal woodcraftHand-made laceOther items worthy of noteForeign CurrencyShopping - a different experienceRead More

Top Twenty things to do [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

Souvenir shopping is one of our Top Twenty things to do during a visit to St Helena.

Top Twenty things to do [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

Locally-made jewellery

Several people on St Helena make jewellery. Every item is hand-made, and in some cases each piece is unique. Local materials are used when possible, though we are limited by what’s available{2}.

Treasures poster [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

An example of locally-made jewellery is the Treasures range. Designer Virginia Benjamin writes:

For as long as I can remember I have always loved to do things with my hands, whether it was fiddling with VCRs or televisions or even changing plugs.

The jewellery making only came to light through my Year 11 class. We, as students, were given the challenge of becoming entrepreneurs within the school. So we had the free range of choosing anything to sell to other students for a year. There were so many choices that it actually seemed quite difficult at the time, but as jewellery has always interested me I decided to try my hand at it.

I went out and bought some simple things like black cord, some mixed bead types, rings and the findings to create my own jewellery. This took off quite well and it seemed that my amateur made jewellery was a success. I kept going with it throughout the year and became more adventurous with my designs, which paid off. Since then making jewellery had only been a hobby until more recent years. I never expected to be doing this permanently.

I started selling my jewellery under the Treasures name in May 2009 in Jaspers before it became Moonbeams and altogether I have been making my own jewellery for at least four years and I’m loving it.

It’s very exciting to see trends change and what was popular last month may not be nearly as popular this month, but it is a great challenge to try and discover new techniques and types of jewellery, especially with the stitching. I’ve also found that with making earrings and bracelets there are an unlimited amount of things that you can do. It all adds to the uniqueness of my jewellery making.

When it comes to creating my designs I get a lot of inspiration from places I’ve been or people I talk to. It might sound funny but sometimes I can look at a person and imagine a pair of earrings that I think would suit them or a necklace or even a bracelet. When I go home I then take out the colours I want and play around with them on my mat until I come up with something I’m happy with. It really makes you think.

Most of the beads I use are either glass, Swarovski or Chinese crystals, glass pearls or metal spacers or bead caps. These all last a lot longer than the plastic beads or coated metal products and give more of a high quality look.

Most of my jewellery is aimed for the younger generation but I do make other pieces with the more sophisticated in mind. I’ve even started to branch out into men’s jewellery which I hope will be a success.

I hope with the future brings more experience, techniques and development with this range.

The Treasures range is available from the • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]Moonbeams Shop. Other producs are available.

Local woodcraft

St Helena has a long tradition of woodcraft, with skills being passed down through the generations. As a result the island has several producers of hand-made wooden souvenirs, many of them made with locally-grown wood and ocasionally even with endemic species{3}, such items naturally attracting a premium price because of their rarity.

One example of a local woodcrafter is Chris Williams.

Inlaid tray featuring Jonathan the Tortoise [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]
Inlaid tray featuring St Helena’s most famous living resident, Jonathan the Tortoise

Chris first learned woodwork at school on St Helena. He studied at the Technical Training Centre in Ladder Hill, learning turning from local craftsmen and the skills of inlay from the late Harold Nichols.

His skills are now so highly regarded that he is regularly commissioned to make special presentation gifts for retiring Governors and Bishops. In 2011 he made an inlay tray which was presented to HR Highness Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge on the occasion of their wedding.

He only uses local wood from sustainable sources. Each piece is unique.

Chris lives in Blue Hill with his partner and family. His products are available exclusively from the • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]Moonbeams Shop. The coin plaque shown on our page Notes and Coins of St Helena is made by Chris.

Hand-made lace

Lace making [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

Another craft with a long tradition on St Helena is lacemaking.

As a craft this was encouraged at the end of the 19th century with the aim of creating an island industry, largely by Emily Jackson{4}. A lacemaking school was opened in 1908. Although the industry did not survive, the skills have been passed down.

Fine examples of lacework can be found for sale on St Helena; some are useful - coasters, bookmarks - and some are purely decorative. Marvel at the intricate work that went into producing them!

To read more go to our Lace Making page.

Other items worthy of note

Fluffy Wirebird [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]
Fluffy Wirebird

You can have custom-made souvenirs produced for you, printed with photographs you have taken yourself and carrying your own special messages. Printable objects include t-shirts, mugs, coasters and placemats, bookmarks, key rings and fridge magnets. For a full list go to the Moonbeams Shop website.

Seen a wirebird? You can’t take it home, but you can take home an attractive fluffy wirebird chick! Available from the St Helena National Trust and also from the • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]Moonbeams Shop.

Tortoise, made from flax [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

How about a Tortoise, made from flax?

You can also buy stamp sets and First Day Covers and presentation commemorative coins from the Post Office in Jamestown.

Foreign Currency

Most shops on St Helena will accept foreign currency for payment, but usually only Flag of The United Kingdom [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]Sterling, Flag of The United States of America [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]US Dollars, Flag of The European Union [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]Euro and Flag of South Africa [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]South African Rand. Sterling is accepted at par (i.e. 1:1) with St Helena Pounds; the rates at which the other currencies are accepted will be based on those published weekly by our local bank, Bank of St Helena. These may differ from rates advertised on websites and from other sources.

Shopping - a different experience

Cyril’s Shop [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

If you’re used to shopping in vast ‘Malls’ filled with flashy modern shops (and exactly the same range of shops as the Mall in the next town) then shopping in St Helena will be quite an experience for you.

Yes, we have some relatively-modern shops, but we also have quite a few of the old traditional ones. The photo (right) shows ‘Cyril’s Shop’, on the left of The Arch in Jamestown (as you face the Seaside). Here you don’t wander around with a basket or trolley selecting items to take to the checkout; you ask for what you want and it is fetched for you with loving care!

So don’t just shop in the more modern shops - have a bit of an explore!

Read More

Go to: Article: “No luck in London? Try Jamestown…”Article: “‘Shopping’ - the memories of Anthony Hopkins from the 1960s.”

Article: “No luck in London? Try Jamestown…

Published in the St Helena Herald, 21st August 2009{6}

We all know that St Helena is a world leader when it comes to shopping. There can be few, if any places on the planet with quite so many shops for the size of population. Perhaps someone should check with the Guinness Book of Records. Maybe it is something to do with Napoleon, who once dismissed England as a nation of shopkeepers… then got sent to Longwood, to wait his turn at the great checkout of life.

But do all those establishments actually sell anything that the discerning customer cannot buy in the world’s major commercial centres? The answer is… yes!

The elusive batteries [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

A visitor reports that he brought an unusual electrical item to the island, assuming he would be able to pick up the required batteries on his journey through three countries. He was wrong. The swanky duty-free shopping centre at Heathrow Airport, famed for its vastness, had nothing to offer in stores that boasted all the latest high-tech wonders. It was the same at Frankfurt Airport, and in Namibia’s most sophisticated tourist resort (no, not Walvis Bay… though no one sold the elusive batteries there either).

But soon after arriving on the island, our visitor had a chance encounter with Tara Thomas, who runs the Rose & Crown shop in downtown Jamestown, the offshore shopping Mecca of the South Atlantic. Tara owned exactly the same extremely obscure electrical item. “That’s amazing,” said our visitor. “I’ve got the same thing - but I can’t get any batteries.

No problem,” replied Tara. “We sell them in our shop.” It took a lot of rummaging around in a drawer, but the said batteries were indeed produced. Our man went away glowing… just like his electrical equipment.

What was this precious item? Well, it was a pair of plastic spheres that now glow in the dark and change colour as they are swung through the air. “I won’t say they were indispensible,” says our visitor, “but finding the batteries in Jamestown, after failing in London and Frankfurt, was an absolute joy.

Article: “‘Shopping’ - the memories of Anthony Hopkins from the 1960s.

Published in the book Speaking Saint by Creative Saint Helena, February 2015{6}{7}

Eva Benjamin’s Shop, Jamestown, 1970s [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]
Eva Benjamin’s Shop, Jamestown, 1970s

There wasn’t a lot of shops in Jamestown like it is today, we bought all the rations from Beatie and Herbie George. The shop use to open early in the morning up until eight o’clock mainly for the lovely fresh baked bread, and then it would open again at nine o’clock till half past five. Everybody trust the rations until the Saturday. Lard, margarine, peanut butter and jam were sold loose, you would take a saucer to put this in, they would weigh the saucer first and then put the margarine, or whatever you were buying, into the saucer after and a piece of grease proof paper was slap on top, and then there were separate cloth bags tied with a string for flour, sugar and rice. People couldn’t afford to buy the whole packet of biscuits so it was cut in half, and you bought a half packet and black sauce, Worchestershire, was sold so much per tot. We could never afford the whole bottle. I use to drink the sauce from the tot as I leave the shop to go back to the barracks and then fill it with water from the tap outside of Blanchie’s house, but you could never fool Muma and so often I had the lashin for doing so. The black sauce indicated that we were having porpoise curry for dinner.

We all use to pick the flesh out the bread as we were coming from the shop and then if there was a little piece of cheese or chop pork etc. on top of the big piece, that would also be eaten before going home. Rosie John use to make lovely bread sticks and ammonia cakes. If for any reason there was no bread Muma would make salt fritters plastered with jam for tea.

I use to collect all the peelings for Beatie George’s goats and she would give me a bag of sweets on a Saturday night, most of which were rancid but we shared them out and ate them, don’t ever recall getting sick. These sweets were Sunrise toffees, Cape heather marshmallows, Murray mints, reading sweets saying I love you etc.

I remember when Muma bought her first spring mattress from Kemp Corker. We were so excited it was for her and Dada’s bed, and I jump on the bed lovely and springy and having a pen in my hand it stuck up in the roof of my mouth, I had to go to the hospital. I couldn’t eat properly for a few days so was lucky to buy ice cream from Lena Marnsa. All the other children said they wish the pen would go up in their jaw then they would get ice cream too.

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]

Laugh at funny whattobuy humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]


{1} We understand that prior to Napoleon’s exile Napoleon Street was known as Cock Street. We do not know exactly when it was renamed.

{2} You can’t make much with lumps of volcanic rock!

{3} There are strict rules in place governing the use of endemic woods: the raw material must only come from a plant that has fallen naturally, or been cut down as a conservation measure (e.g. through planned thinning)

{4} Who was also one of the island’s historians.

{5} While technically this might be considered an advertisement (which Saint Helena Island Info does not carry) we actually see this more as a service to anyone wanting to learn more about our extraordinary island.
Saint Helena Island Info receives no income from any sales and takes no responsibility for any commercial arrangements into which you may enter.

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

{7} Speaking Saint is available from, inter alia, the • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Shopping: What to buy]Moonbeams Shop, and for Kindle™ via


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