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A Brief History (continued)

Crown Colony and beyond

A wise man does not try to hurry history. Many wars have been avoided by patience and many have been precipitated by reckless haste.{a}

The highlights of what happened on St Helena in its -year recorded history (part two)

A Brief History (continued)

Continued from our page A Brief History.

St Helena is Britain’s second oldest colony (after Bermuda). There are quite a few places in the world called St Helena (or some variation thereof), but our island has the distinction of being the original! Our St Helena was discovered and named in 1502. The places in America and Australia now called St Helena were all not named such until the 19th Century, at least 300 years after we were given the name…

If this history isn’t brief enough for you, we have an even briefer one!

Crown Colony

Crown Colony Proclamation, 1836
Crown Colony Proclamation, 1836
The ‘Rollers’ of 1846
The ‘Rollers’ of 1846
The Wharf, 1850
The Wharf, 1850

Flag of The United KingdomThe UK Parliament passed the India Act in 1833, a provision of which transferred control of St Helena from The East India Company to the Crown with effect from 22nd April 1834 (), at a price of £100,000.

The island of St Helena, and all forts, factories, public edifices, and hereditaments whatsoever in the said island, and all stores and property thereon fit or used for the service of the government thereof, shall be vested in his Majesty, and the said island shall be governed by such orders as his Majesty in council shall from time to time issue in that behalf.

Governor Middlemore, the first governor appointed by the British government, arrived in 1836 with 91st Regiment troops.

After 1836 The Chinese Labourers were no longer required but many were allowed to stay on and their descendants became integrated into the population. The surname ‘Yon’ probably dates from this, and ‘China Lane’ in upper Jamestown is so-named because it is on the site where the majority of the Chinese resided.

In February 1837 Dr. James Barry arrived at St Helena to serve as medical officer. Leaving the island within the year, Barry continued to served as a doctor until dying in 1865, whereupon it was discovered that ‘he’ was actually a woman.

You can read a description of St Helena from The Saturday Magazine (Sold by all Booksellers and News-vendors in the Kingdom.) of 26th October 1839.

The British Government deployed a naval station on St Helena in 1840 to suppress the African Slave Trade. A Vice-Admiralty Court was based at Jamestown to try the crews of the Slavers. Between 1840 and 1849, 15,076 ‘Liberated Africans’ were landed on the island at Ruperts Bay, of which number over 5,000 were dead or died there. The final number up to the 1870s when the depot was finally closed has been estimated at over 25,000. Survivors lived at Lemon Valley, Ruperts and High Knoll Fort, and only when numbers became too great were many sent to Cape Town and the British West Indies as labourers. About 500 remained on St Helena, where they were employed. In later years, some were sent to Sierra Leone; the rest became part of the indigenous population.

The Great Comet of 1843 was studied from St Helena from 6th to 23rd March and many astronomical measurements made. In 1845 St Helena Coffee was sold in London at 1d per pound, making it the most expensive and exclusive in the world at that time{4}.

The Wharf in 1877
The Wharf in 1877
Scenes of St Helena in 1880
Scenes of St Helena in 1880
Celebrating Queen Victoria ’s Golden Jubilee, 1887
Celebrating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, 1887{3}
1890 Rockfall Memorial Fountain
1890 Rockfall Memorial Fountain

Exceptional seas hit the island in 1846 (The ‘Rollers’ of 1846), causing much damage to ships anchored in James Bay. In seven hours thirteen vessels were sunk within a few yards of the shore, eleven of which were captured Slavers. The crane and lower wharf with the commissariat coalyard and one of the reservoirs containing water for shipping were completely destroyed. The island had never before, and has not since, encountered such heavy seas.

Governor Gore Brown built a new prison at Ruperts in 1853. This was a model prison designed by Colonel Jebb, constructed mainly of timber and sent out from England in kit form. But the Ruperts Prison was short lived - in 1867 a military prisoner who was confined there burnt it to the ground. The prisoners were returned to the old prison.

In 1854 Rev. James Bertram came to St Helena and founded a Baptist Church{5}. He attacked the established Anglican church{6} who did not welcome him. Hudson Janisch (later Governor Janisch) became one of his congregation.

The lands forming the sites of Napoleon’s burial and of his home at Longwood House were transferred in Napoleon III and his heirs in 1858, and a French representative or consul has lived on the island ever since, the French flag now flying over these areas. The title deeds of the Briars Pavilion, where Napoleon lived during his earliest period of exile, were given to the French Government in 1959.

By the 1860s it had become apparent that wood sourced from some condemned Slavers from the 1840s had been infested by White Ants. Eating their way through house timbers and also documents the termites caused the collapse of a number of buildings and considerable economic damage over several decades. Extensive reconstruction made use of iron rails and termite-proof timbers. The termite problem persists to the present day.

In April 1862 a meeting in Jamestown decided to convey to Queen Victoria the islanders’ wish that St Helena be renamed ‘Prince Albert Island’ in honour of Queen Victoria‘s recently deceased husband. Their wish never reached The Queen as objections from members of the clergy caused it to be withdrawn.

It is generally said that the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 resulted in a decline in ship-calls at St Helena, leading in turn to economic decline. The data, however, do not support this and suggest it was the switch to using steamships - which could travel further without calling at a port - that caused the decline (we explore this on our page Myths Debunked!). Either way, the number of ships calling at the island fell from a peak of 1,458 in 1845 to only 211 in 1890.

In 1871 the Royal Engineers constructed Jacob’s Ladder up the steep side of the valley from Jamestown to Ladder Hill Fort, originally with 700 steps. The same year, large floods caused several people to be made homeless and much damage to property, particularly in Sandy Bay and Jamestown where The Run has dead animals flowing along it. An experiment in 1874 to industrially produce flax failed. An attempt in 1879 by Mr Deason to breed Ostriches also failed. Jonathan, possibly the world’s oldest animal, is thought to have arrived on the island in 1882. Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee was celebrated in 1887 (photo, below) and in 1888 the streetlights of Jamestown were lit for the first time{7}. Economic decline continued and the population had fallen from its peak of 6,150 in 1817 to 3,877 by April 1891, also reporting that 219 families lived in only one room, and two such families totalled 13 persons.

On 17th April 1890 a large rock fall occurred in Jamestown. 1,500 tons of rock demolished 14 houses and killed nine. Many were injured. The place on the hillside from which the rocks fell is known as ‘Pierie’s Revenge’. A fountain was erected in 1891 in Main Street, Jamestown, to commemorate the incident.

Extraordinary weather hit the island in Spring 1897. In September 40mph winds were recorded, and then in October a thunderstorm lasted two days and produced hail stones a ½inch in diameter. Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was celebrated the same year.

In December 1899 St Helena was connected to London by undersea cable, and for the first time it became possible to send telegraph messages directly to and from the UK.

20th Century

Below: Early YearsWorld War 1Between the warsWorld War 2Post-warCitizenship

The Early Years

You can read a more detailed article about 1900-1912 by Ian Bruce, originally published in ‘Wirebird’, the magazine of Friends of St Helena{8}, September 2016{9}

Boers outside High Knoll Fort
Boers outside High Knoll Fort

From 1900-1902 over six thousand Boer PoWs were held at Deadwood and Broad Bottom. The population reached its all-time record of 9,850 in 1901. Eucalyptus trees, now out of favour because of their high water consumption, were introduced in 1900 because of their quick growth - fuel was urgently needed for the Boer PoWs. Possibly because of their departure, in The ‘Blue Book’ for 1903 Governor Gallwey noted The number of prostitutes in Jamestown appears to be on the decrease.

On 11th January 1905 Richard and Louis Crowie were found guilty of the murder of Robert Samuel Gunnell on 2nd November 1904 at Prosperous Bay Signal Station, and were sentenced to death by hanging. The execution, the last on St Helena, took place at 7am on 2nd February 1905 in the Old Power House, now the Museum of St Helena.

The Garrison was withdrawn in 1906, saving the British War Office £20,000 per annum and leaving the island with no income. Only a few military personnel remained.

Twenty five Zulu Poll Tax Prisoners were exiled here from 1907-1910. The Flax Industry was re-started in 1907 (after a failed attempt in 1874), but still not entirely successfully. Lace Making was encouraged as an island industry from 1890 and in 1908 a lace-making school was opened. Handmade lace remains one of the island’s tourist attractions. A fish-curing industry was started in February 1910; there followed a period of unprecedentedly small fish catches, such that it failed later the same year.

Bats were released onto the island in 1910, aiming to control pests (probably mosquitoes). Only three survived the journey from England and they were not sexed before release so could all three have been of the same gender; the introduction failed. During his term Governor Gallwey arranged the planting of many trees, to replace those cut down for fuel during the Boer PoWs stay, but most were eaten by wild goats.

SS Papanui on fire
SS Papanui on fire
German visitors, 1914
German visitors, 1914{b}

The SS Papanui, en route from Britain to Australia, arrived in James Bay on 11th September 1911 on fire, and on 12th, while still moored here, burned out and sank. Its 364 passengers and crew were rescued and looked after on the island. You can read an account by one of the passengers on our page Memories of St Helena.

A census in 1911 showed the population had fallen to only 3,520 inhabitants. Some 4,800 rat tails were presented to the Government in 1913, who paid a penny per tail. The same year the Guardian requested that Suffragettes be exiled here, but none were (and neither were the ‘Egyptian undesirable persons’ in 1915).

In February 1914 German super-dreadnoughts Kaiser, Koenig Albert and Strasbourg visited and 2,400 crew posted 5,000 postcards (photo, left{10}). It was later thought they might have been checking out St Helena’s defences prior to the start of World War 1.

St Helena in World War 1

World War 1 memorial
World War 1 memorial
Cenotaph plaque
Cenotaph plaque
RFA Darkdale, sunk October 1941
RFA Darkdale, sunk October 1941
SS Umtali carried The 100 Men in 1949
SS Umtali carried The 100 Men in 1949

4th August 1914 - 11th November 1918

When on 5th August 1914 news reached Governor Cordeaux that war had broken out, martial law was immediately declared on St Helena. Any threat was expected by sea or from German-held Namibia, there being concern because the island’s defences had been run down pre-war with the total withdrawal of the Garrison. The Volunteer Corps was re-formed as a 60-man force, though with only minimal armaments, and the Garrison was recalled, arriving on 25th August. In the following weeks 165 St Helenians enlisted.

On 8th December 1914 a British naval force defeated a German squadron comprising two armoured cruisers, three light cruisers and three auxiliaries in the Battle of the Falkland Islands, and probably thereby saved St Helena from shelling by the Germans.

In fact the island was never challenged and the biggest difficulty faced by the inhabitants was in 1917. Ship calls from South Africa had dwindled, bringing fewer imports, and supplies direct from the UK were unreliable. For ten days in November 1917 the island was close to starvation, alleviated only after negotiations between the Governor and the Government of Mauritius.

Around 46 islanders served. Those who died in service were: Percy John Broadway, died 19th July 1915, Gallipoli; James Basset Graham, died 20th November 1916, Colincamp; Cavalla Isaac Grey, died 12th August 1916, Somme; James Edwin Nathaniel Joshua, died 27th November 1917, SS Camellia; James Robert Moyce, died 4th May 1915, St Helena Volunteer Rifles; John Joseph Riley, death details not found; George Edward Scipio, MM, died 20th August 1917, Ypres; Henry Seale, died 6th February 1921, HMS Birmingham. Note that details on the Cenotaph plaque (right) are incomplete. Later the clock tower next to the Market in Jamestown was dedicated to the memory of those who fell in the war.

SEE ALSO: Learn more on our page World War 1.

Between the wars

St Helena apparently escaped the global pandemic ‘Spanish Flu’, with no cases being reported in 1918 or 1919. An Ordinance of 1919 prohibited all motorised transport on St Helena. (It was repealed in October 1927 and the first car arrived soon afterwards.)

You can read a more detailed article about the Cordeaux period (1912-1920) by Ian Bruce, serialised in The Sentinel, September/October 2017{9}

Read an article written in 1925
Read an article written in 1925

On 28th September 1920 the Norwegian ship SV Spangereid (previously known as the Fairport), a large steel-hulled three-masted sailing barque, appeared off Jamestown with a fire in her cargo of coal. Unlike the SS Papanui, the fire did not get out of control, but the ship was still lost. Much of her cargo and fittings were salvaged, including the Captain’s boat, which was almost completely rebuilt and served as the harbour launch until recent years. Significant quantities of coal were deposited on the shore below The Wharf and provided the island with a source of cheap fuel.

The first islanders left to work at Ascension Island in 1921, which was made a dependency of St Helena in October 1922. Islanders continue to work on Ascension to this day. A plan to hold Irish political prisoners here was abandoned because of the cost.

The first car, an Austin 7, was imported into the island in 1929. A count in 1931 showed a goat population of nearly 1,500. In May 1932 The Run burst its banks, sweeping away bridges and causing widespread flooding.

St Helena in World War 2

3rd September 1939 - 7th May [VE]/15th August [VJ] 1945

Some six islanders were killed in military service during World War 2; none of them on St Helena: Richard Charles Lawrence, Joseph Nathaniel Maggott, Michael Walker Henry, Sydney Samuel Leo, Mervyn Mainwaring and Bertram Charles Benjamin (Cenotaph plaque, right). The Nazi plan for Britain following a successful invasion envisaged that, once Britain had been subdued, King George VI and Winston Churchill would be removed from power and exiled to St Helena.

With effect from 22nd July 1941 all the island’s schools came under Government control and school attendance became compulsory from 5 to 15 years. In August 1941 St Helena time was made the same as Greenwich Mean Time; previously the clocks were set 23 minutes earlier than GMT. The British oil tanker Darkdale was torpedoed off James Bay in October 1941 by U-68, a German U-Boat which also sank the SS City of Cairo 770Km south of St Helena the following year.

America built Wideawake airport on Ascension Island in 1942, employing many Saints and with the side effect of introducing Country Music to St Helena.

As in the previous war, the island enjoyed increased revenues through the sale of flax for rope.

SEE ALSO: Learn more on our page World War 2.


On 29th April 1946 the island’s first secondary school, the ‘Secondary Selective’, opened to pupils. In June that year the St Helena Coast Battery was disbanded and the breech mechanisms of the guns and other spare parts were dumped in deep water off Jamestown. The British personnel of the battery then returned to Britain for demobilization and once again there were no British military stationed on St Helena.

The October 1946 census recorded 2,181 males and 2,567 females, 4,748 in total. 20 people were recorded as having no religion but following the Sect known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. 21 were Inmates of the Poor House, 8 were in the Asylum and 4 in the Leper Hospital. There were 177 male flax mill workers and 77 female.

In 1949 the SS Umtali left St Helena with 136 passengers bound for the port of Dover in England. The passengers included the 100 men, economic migrants who were contracted to work as agricultural labourers in Britain. The story of the ‘100 Men’ and their experience of rural England is told in a 2008 DVD film.

Flax prices continued to rise after the war, rising to their zenith in 1951; the only year in the history of St Helena where the value of exports exceeded that of imports. However this industry soon fell into decline because of competition from synthetic fibres and also because the delivered price of the island’s flax was substantially higher than world prices. The decision by a major buyer, the British Post Office, to use synthetic fibres for their mailbags was a major blow, all of which contributed in the closure of the island’s flax mills in 1965, resulting in considerable unemployment and also leaving the island covered with flax plants that were no longer useful. They remain an environmental issue to this day. More on our page The Flax Industry.

Income Tax was introduced on 1st January 1954 at 9d in the £ (3.75%), with a personal allowance of £300 (⅓-off for married couples). Mains electricity became available in September 1954, but only in Jamestown. The General Hospital was rebuilt, opening again in June 1956. The first known public radio broadcast occurred in 1958 when Percy Teale made a one-time broadcast of a public meeting, and in July of the same year the island’s first trade union, the General Workers’ Union was founded (it no longer exists).

The island’s Tercentenary - 300 years since Governor John Dutton settled the island - was celebrated in 1959 with an exhibition at The Cannister in Jamestown and sports on Francis Plain including a Donkey Derby. Inexplicably the event took place on 3rd November, 7 months after the actual anniversary (5th May). There is a plaque on the entrance to The Castle.

Following protests (photo, above) the 1966 constitution introduced democracy for the first time on St Helena; an elected Legislative Council was put in place. The island’s first (and, for 38 years, only) radio station, Radio St Helena launched on Christmas Day 1967.

From 1958 the Union Castle Line had been gradually reducing their shipping calls to the island, ceasing calls entirely in 1977. The island’s only communications link became the RMS St Helena (1978-1990).


UK Government

The 1981 British Nationality Act (enacted 1st January 1983) reclassified St Helena and the other crown colonies as British Dependent Territories. Islanders lost their status as ‘Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies’ and hence were stripped of their right to live and work in Britain. Thus only low-paid work with the island government was available for most, the alternative being employment overseas on Ascension Island or, later, the Falkland Islands.

Commission on Citizenship

The Commission on Citizenship was established in 1992 with the aim of restoring full citizenship to the islanders, and especially their right of abode in the UK{11}. This aim was reached in 1997 when the British government published a review of the Dependent Territories which included a commitment to restore the pre-1981 status for citizenship; effected by the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, which restored full passports to the islanders, and renamed the Dependent Territories the Overseas Territories.

News Review 24 July 1981
Crown 150th anniversary
Crown 150th anniversary

The wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer was celebrated with sports on Francis Plain. For the first time ever a St Helena newspaper, the St Helena News Review, colour-printed the front page of its 24th July 1981 wedding commemorative edition (right).

The British Nationality Act 1981 denied Saints the right to live and work in the UK, as explained in the text box (right). The same year the road between Jamestown and Ruperts via Mundens Point was closed due to undercutting by the sea (and has never been repaired, though it is passable - with caution - on foot).

St Helena notes and coins began circulation on 3rd January 1984 and on 31st January St Helena’s flag and Coat of Arms became official, by Royal Warrant. In April the same year celebrations marking the 150th Anniversary of the Crown taking on responsibility for St Helena (photos, right) were accompanied by a visit from Prince Andrew.

The first islanders set off to work on the Falkland Islands in April 1986. An expedition from London Zoo arrived on 29th March 1988 to search for the Giant Earwig; they failed to find it. On 31st October 1989 the RMS St Helena (1990-2018) was launched in Aberdeen by Prince Andrew.

In October 1990 the first ever Shortwave broadcast to the world was made by Radio St Helena - inaugurating ‘Radio St Helena Day’. On Christmas Eve the same year Dutch Captain Willem Merk arrived at St Helena in his yacht MV Frontier, which was discovered to contain Cannabis resin worth around £15,000,000. Merk was arrested and sentenced to nine years imprisonment, but escaped the island before completing his sentence. See the full story on our page Escape!.

The crab-fishing vessel MV Oman Sea One sank off St Helena on 31st August 1991 with the loss of four. A time capsule was buried at The Seaside on St Helena’s Day 1993, to be opened 200 years later - a plaque, currently in the Museum of St Helena, records this{12}. The photo (below) shows the burial ceremony (the Governor in the hat is Governor Hoole, 1991-1995).

A TV service was introduced in 1995, sourced from Southern Africa by means of a satellite receiver with local re-transmission, initially with only one channel (the American cable news channel, CNN) but quickly expanded to three channels. The first Governor’s Cup Yacht Race took place in 1996, from Cape Town to St Helena. The same year a protest about benefit levels turned into what a UK newspaper described as ‘a riot’.

21st Century

Millennium celebrationsMillennium celebrations programme

The Millennium was celebrated on St Helena with a 24-hour party that began at 12:00h on 31st December on the Grand Parade. A parade and march past was followed by a church service. In the afternoon there were races in the Grand Parade, Tug-o-War and water sports at the swimming pool, boat rides and other events. Exhibitions were organised at the Courthouse and St. James’ Church. There was, of course, a Street Carnival and a procession of floats accompanied with dancing. A fireworks display took place at the Sea Front with Procession of Light, followed by live music and a disco until midnight. In the (late) morning there was a Big Breakfast. Governor Hollamby read the Queen’s speech and at noon the bells of St. James’ Church rung in celebration and thousands of balloons were released{13}.

Quincentenary stamp
Stamps for the Quincentenary of St Helena

St Helena Airport

Airport Logo

In April 2005 the British Government announced plans to construct an airport on St Helena to bolster the Island’s economy, and reduce the dependence on ships to supply the Island, the airport to open in 2012. However in December 2008 the UK announced that there will be a pause in negotiations over the St Helena airport contract. The pause ended on 22nd July 2010 and contracts for construction of the airport were signed with Basil Read Pty on 3rd November 2011, construction commencing soon after.

On 27th March 2015 it was announced that Comair would provide the scheduled commercial air service to the new Airport, on contract to the Government of St Helena. Flights would run to Johannesburg. There would be no service to the UK and initially none to Ascension Island, though after protests a monthly link was later added. And on 15th September 2015 the first plane ever to land on St Helena touched down at the (then) partly-completed St Helena Airport, to test the airport calibration. The tests failed and were re-run, successfully, in December.

On 25th April 2016, a day after her swearing-in, new Governor Phillips had to announce an indefinite postponement to the start of the scheduled commercial air service. It had been discovered that Windshear on the runway made it too dangerous for full-size commercial airliners to land. The airport was opened for small aircraft but not for the planned air service. The RMS St Helena (1990-2018) was retained in service until a solution could be found. An investigation commenced on how the Windshear might be addressed, and also into why this problem had not been identified before the airport was built (the answer was that it had, but the study had been ignored).

In Mid-October 2016 an Avro RJ100 operated by Atlantic Star successfully landed (in both directions) at St Helena Airport, giving hope that a scheduled commercial air service could soon be established.

Details of the scheduled commercial air service for St Helena were announced by the Government of St Helena on 21st July 2017. A ‘proving flight’, using the Embraer E190-100IGW aircraft planned for the air service, landed successfully on 21st August 2017, despite relatively windy conditions. The scheduled commercial air service itself started on 14th October 2017.

The airport is now operating and the RMS St Helena (1990-2018) ceased operations early in 2018. More details on our page Building St Helena Airport. Flight information on our page Fly here. Private aviation information on our page Fly Yourself Here.

Anne, Princess Royal

St Helena celebrated its Quincentenary on 21st May 2002 and on the same day full British citizenship was restored to islanders, leading to a double celebration. Church bells rang out, and a Salvation Army brass band and the bugles and drums of the local Scouts played as Governor Hollamby represented Queen Elizabeth II at a march past. Also on this day the Museum of St Helena was officially opened by Governor Hollamby. In November the same year Anne, The Princess Royal, visited. Amongst other engagements she unveiled the dedication plaque for the island’s Community Care Centre (CCC).

The St Helena Olive nesiota elliptica was declared extinct in March 2003, described at the time as a tragic loss to St Helena and the world. The same month there was a protest march against the Government of St Helena’s decision not to allow SHELCO to invest in the island. Governor Hollamby became increasingly unpopular and his departure in September 2004 was boycotted by most of Legislative Council.

SaintFM logo

SaintFM, St Helena’s first independent radio station, which started test transmissions on 27th September 2004, officially launched on 3rd January 2005. Its sister newspaper, The Independent launched in November the same year.

In June 2008 archaeological digs started in Ruperts, excavating the graves discovered there during airport preparatory works.

St Helena’ current Constitution came into force on 1st September 2009, reference S.I. 2009 No.1751 (UK).

2011 protest
2011 protest

There was a massed protest in April 2011 over tax reforms and increases in charges for services, including electricity and water.

2012 was a year of media openings and closings. The Sentinel launched in March 2012 and The Independent closed down a week later, re-opening after a month. SaintFM closed down in December and Radio St Helena closed down on Christmas Day 2012, 45 years after it was opened.

SAMS Radio 1 opened in February 2013 and SaintFM Community Radio launched in March 2013. By February 2013 water supplies had dwindled to perilously low levels after months of hot sun and little rain so a hosepipe ban was imposed. It did not rain until August. In December that year, after 70 years of pollution leaking from the wreck of the RFA Darkdale in James Bay, Britain finally agreed to remove the remaining oil from the ship. The work took place in August 2015.

Daily Mail child-abuse story

In July 2014 the UK’s Daily Mail published a story claiming that child sexual abuse was ‘endemic’ on St Helena, citing claims made by two former social workers. Shortly afterwards the UK Government set up an Inquiry, under QC Sasha Wass, to investigate these claims. The Wass Report was published in December 2015. It concluded that, while there were instances of child sexual abuse on St Helena, the claims published by the Daily Mail were exaggerated{14}. The report severely criticised Governor Capes for his hands-off management of the island, Attorney General Nicola Moore for interfering with the Wass team’s investigations, and also the recruitment polices of the Government of St Helena which had allowed the former social workers who raised the allegations to be employed despite making false claims of their skills and experience in their applications. Governor Capes’ term was cut short and Attorney General Nicola Moore resigned. Ginny Ferson arrived in February 2016, appointed by the FCO to take charge of implementing the Wass Inquiry recommendations.

Mobile Phone

Mobile (‘Cell’) Phones were introduced on St Helena in September 2015. Details of the new shipping service, to replace the RMS St Helena (1990-2018) when she was retired, were announced in February 2016, the first service being scheduled for July 2016.

Lisa Phillips, oath-taking ceremony

Governor Phillips took the oath on 25th April 2016, our first female Governor. At the end of October that year a Thunderstorm passed over the island - a rare event, there having been only two in the preceding 100 years.

Lack of winter rain caused severe water restrictions to be imposed from 14th November 2016. Water was to be used for drinking, cooking and ‘personal washing’ only. The same day…it rained (!) but there was no other significant rain until February 2017. The restrictions were lifted on 27th February.

In December 2016 it was announced that the Wirebird had been downgraded in the IUCN’s annual Redlist of Species-at-risk, from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable. This followed a doubling of Wirebird numbers since 2006; a victory for the conservation work undertaken since then. It was announced in February 2017 that the 2017 Wirebird census had recorded 572 birds - a record.

On 10th March 2017 South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (SAMS) announced that, due to an unfavourable outcome of the Media Review undertaken by Government of St Helena, the terms of which were said to be non-negotiable, all its operations{15} would close on 31st March. On 24th March, after negotiation with Government of St Helena, the closedown was called off, but SAMS Pure Gold and the TV News service ‘Newsbite’ had to close down on 25th April.

At the end of February 2017 the RMS St Helena (1990-2018) reported an engine problem. This was later found to be serious and two scheduled voyages were disrupted. The problems were resolved and the ship came out of dry-dock and started her next journey to St Helena on 5th May. Various ships brought some stranded passengers to St Helena during the gap, and the Sea Freight ship delivered essential supplies. A plane was chartered to bring some people home.

On 27th October 2017 the Government of St Helena announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with South Atlantic Express to provide a branching spur to St Helena from the SAEx transatlantic cable, but this cable project never progressed.

RMS final voyage

In January 2018, for the first time ever, the Fisheries Corporation exported fresh fish. St Helena’s first ever Conference, ‘Diverse Island Environments’, opened on 28th January 2018. The RMS St Helena (1990-2018) commenced her final voyage for St Helena on 24th January 2018. She made her final call at Ascension Island on 3rd February, returning to James Bay on 6th. Her final departure from St Helena was on Saturday 10th February 2018, scheduled to return to Cape Town on 15th for decommissioning{16}.

First Sea Freight ship ready for unloading
First Sea Freight ship ready for unloading{f}

The first Sea Freight ship made her first official voyage for St Helena in March 2018, leaving Cape Town on 1st and arriving at St Helena on the 7th, docking at the new jetty in Ruperts. But because the infrastructure wasn’t yet ready she could not be unloaded onto the jetty - the cargo had to be lifted by the ship’s cranes onto waiting barges and carried round to the Jamestown wharf! Meanwhile in April the former-RMS St Helena (1990-2018) was sold to MNG Maritime and was renamed the MV MNG Tahiti.

Water protest, 30th June 2018
Water protest, 30th June 2018{g}

In May 2018 a site for the new Prison was announced, though the construction budget was not announced (it was rumoured to be c.£6m). The first Civil Wedding to take place outside The Castle was conducted at the Mantis Hotel in Jamestown on 7th June 2018 between Deborah Stroud and Roddy Yon. St Helena’s first ever Zebra crossing was created on 13th June 2018, across lower Market Street behind The Cannister{17}. A march was held in Jamestown on 30th June 2018 to protest against new water prices, the first organised protest since April 2011.

Wind gusting up to 80 Knots was recorded in July at St Helena Airport - equivalent to a Category 1 Hurricane. No damage was caused at the airport but there was damage to fencing at the adjacent landfill site. Similarly, August 2018 was the wettest August on record, with 106mm recorded at the Meteorological Station - that’s around 175% of the usual value; a truly ‘Scruffy August’.

On 2nd October 2018 the Government of St Helena announced that it had terminated its contract with Basil Read for operation of the Airport and other construction works. Three days later on the 5th it announced that its new company, St Helena Airport Limited, has been certified to operate the Airport, just in time for the flight on the 6th. Sadly the flight on the 6th still had to be cancelled due to poor visibility. Later that month, on the 1st anniversary of the first commercial flight (17th) it was announced that in its first year the airport had brought in 3,500 people, 27% of them tourists (an average of 18 per week). A record number of 201 containers were landed by the Sea Freight service on 25th October (the RMS St Helena (1990-2018) could only carry fewer than 100).

Lemarc & Michael
Lemarc & Michael{h}

The first same-sex wedding took place on St Helena on 31st December (right).

In January 2019 Carpe Diem, the first St Helenian yacht ever to enter the Governor’s Cup, completed the race but finished only 6th on handicap. The Cup was awarded to Indaba. The same month The Sentinel reported that Whale Sharks were at risk from micro-plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

The island’s newly discovered seamount was named ‘Charlie Boar’ in February, after a local fisherman. That month it was also announced that Wirebird numbers were down 13% on 2018, just 545 adult birds.

The first ever all-electric car, a Nissan Leaf, arrived at the end of March. In April Flights to St Helena began operating via Walvis Bay (airport) instead of Windhoek, increasing passenger/cargo capacity.

The South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) was formally launched on 12th November to support, promote and expand high-quality research on St Helena and to assure[sic] [ensure?] that the island receives maximum benefit from these research activities. A new tax on research (£250) was introduced at the same time.

Research is when you don’t know what you are doing.{i}

At the end of the year the Government of St Helena announced that it had signed an agreement with Google™ to land the Equiano™ submarine fibre-optic cable at St Helena, aiming to commence service in 2022.

In January 2020 it was announced that 2019 had been the island’s driest year since records at the Meteorological Station began in 1977. The same month the SHFC was closed down by the Government of St Helena due to continued losses, pending sale of the entire fishing industry to ‘an investor’ - later identified as PQ Trading STH (Pty) Ltd owned by South African interests. In February Governor Rushbrook officially opened the new jetty at Ruperts, but it could not be used because the necessary rockfall-protection works were not complete. The same month the Government of St Helena announced that work would begin on the Comprehensive Development Area in Bottom Woods, first proposed in 2014.



In the hope that Covid‑19 would be resolved by May 2021, the British Napoleonic Bicentenary Trust{18} launched its ‘Napoleon 200’ Campaign on 10th September 2020. Also in September Executive Council passed the plan to industrialise Ruperts Valley, ignoring strong objection from many islanders about losing their leisure area and the negative effect on the proposed slavery memorial. In October Executive Council endorsed the ‘Trans-Atlantic Slave-Memorial’ plan, to build a memorial in Ruperts to the ‘Liberated Africans’ formerly housed there, but did not allocate any funding to actually do the work.

In November the Government of St Helena announced that it would sell its 62.9% shareholding in Solomons (124,100 shares) by open tender. Concern was raised that the company might once again fall into foreign ownership, but actually there were few subscriptions and the sale was abandoned. In December Governor Rushbrook caused comment by publicly accusing three elected members of lying to the public, during a protest about Covid‑19 protection policies{19}.

In early 2021 the ‘inward investor’ PQ Trading was renamed the Saints Tuna Corporation and became a Limited Company - no longer a co-operative owned by its members. On 5th March, despite protests, Executive Council signed an exclusive deal with Saints Tuna Corporation, giving it complete control over fishing in St Helena’s waters. The actual ownership of Saints Tuna Corporation remained unclear.

In March the island’s Equality & Human Rights Commission published its concerns about the Governance Reform process, saying inter alia that it had been undemocratic, not in accord with the island’s Constitution, and lacked openness and transparency. Despite this a ‘Consultative Poll’ was held on 17th March. Only 17.3% of the electorate bothered to vote - the result should have been declared inconclusive but actually the Government of St Helena decided that the tiny majority of 34 votes in favour of Ministerial Government was sufficient to give a result. The first General Election under the new system was held on 13th October 2021. Julie Thomas became the island’s first Chief Minister.

The modern replica of the Rockfall Memorial Fountain was installed outside The Cannister in Jamestown in February 2022. In March, due to shifting of the magnetic North & South Poles, the runway numbers at our Airport were adjusted, becoming 19 and 01 (previously 20 and 02). The same month the final Covid‑19 charter flight left, with flights via Johannesburg (suspended since March 2020 due to Covid‑19) planned to resume at the end of the month, which they did on 26th.

Contracts were signed in April for a development to produce 148 homes at Bunkers Hill, at the head of Ruperts Valley. The same month Executive Council agreed a roadmap for returning the island to post-Covid‑19 normality. Covid‑19 Quarantine for arrivals was reduced in May to seven days.

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee badge

The Mast at Signal House, dismantled in January 2019 because it had become unsafe, was re-instated in May, in time for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations which took place on Friday 3rd June (declared as a Public Holiday for the occasion). Later that month a plaque was unveiled at the Waterwitch Monument recording the names of the African sailors who served on Waterwitch whose names were omitted from the monument when it was created. On the21st the Government of St Helena announced the abolition of Covid‑19 quarantine restrictions for all arrivals, with effect from 8th August.

On 23rd July a demonstration march took place in Jamestown, protesting about the plan to remove Covid‑19 quarantine restrictions from 8th August. Fewer than 100 took part and the island did indeed remove all Covid‑19 restrictions on 8th August. Covid‑19 arrived soon after and quickly spread through the population without causing significant harm. By October daily infection rates were below 50 and falling steadily. The Government of St Helena issued its last weekly Covid‑19 report on 18th November.

On 9th September the Government of St Helena announced that the preferred bidder to build the island’s new data and voice networks was Maestro Technologies (Maestro); work to begin in the new year.

Like everywhere else, the island was negatively affected by the rise in global food and energy prices resulting from Russia’s invasion of UkraineSupport Ukraine after the illegal Russian invasion @@E@@. Christmas 2023 was fully celebrated on St Helena for the first time since Covid‑19, with many overseas-working Saints returning home for the first time in some years.

The Sea Freight provider changed in January 2023, as did the ship being used. Also in January the Bridge Memorial Clock chimed again after two years waiting for spare parts.

In October 2023 St Helena was connected to ‘The Cable’ and new Internet tariffs became available with an unlimited connection at ↓20Mbps/↑1Mbps for £120 per month.

The Sea Freight provider changed again in January 2024, as again did the ship being used. HRH Edward, Duke of Edinburgh visted St Helena from 23rd to 26th January. Inter Alia he met Jonathan the tortoise, Whale Sharks, and various community groups, and officially opened the St Helena Airport.

‘What the Saints did next…’

(What’s happening inside St Helena)

The history of St Helena and its people is continuing. This website can’t provide up-to-the-minute news about what’s happening inside St Helena, and there is no need for us to do so because sources of St Helena news are readily available on the Internet:

By the time the future is easy to predict it’s history!{j}

Read More

Below: Elsewhere on this site…Visit Our MuseumDid the first flight increase world interest in St Helena?

Elsewhere on this site…

A number of pages on this site deal with aspects of St Helena’s history, in more detail than is covered above. These are indexed on our page Island History.

To learn more about the people behind our island’s histories, and download some of the documents mentioned, see our page Historians of St Helena.

Over the years St Helena has hosted a number of important visitors, some of which are mentioned briefly above. You can learn more about them on our page Famous Visitors. Then there are those who came here against their will…, also mentioned briefly above. Learn more about them on our page Exiles.

Visit Our Museum

The Museum of St Helena is in Jamestown, at the foot of Jacob’s Ladder as you walk through to the Grand Parade. The Museum is run by the St Helena Heritage Society. For more information see our Community page, Museum of St Helena.

Did the first flight increase world interest in St Helena?

To help answer this we present the monthly statistics report for October 2017 for http://sainthelenaisland.info/ (the flight landed on 14th October):{20}

Statistics for http://sainthelenaisland.info/


{a} Adlai Stevenson{b} Clifford Masters{c} Andrew / Peter Neaum{d} Daily Mail{e} Tourist Information Office{f} Andy Simpson{g} Government of St Helena{h} Copyright © South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (SAMS), used with permission.{i} Mark Bowen, in ‘Telescope in the Ice’{j} Peter de Jager


{1} Owned by Thorpes and now a modern supermarket.{2} Our first supermarket, on The Bridge in Jamestown, owned by Solomons. It was extended some years later, which involved demolishing the 18th Century building to the north, and was later closed. It was used for many years as a warehouse and in 2018 re-opened as a department store.{3} It has been suggested that this photo is the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee in 1897 or even the ending of World War 1. However, the Rockfall Memorial Fountain, erected in 1891 and not removed until 1944/5, cannot be seen, which dates it as prior to 1891.{4} 1d = £0.0042, so for 1lb that’s actually not very expensive by modern standards.{5} From his memoirs: The Island of St Helena, though hitherto unoccupied by any missionary society, presents a most interesting field for missionary labour. The population of the island amounts to between five and six thousand, of whom about two thirds are people of colour. A large proportion of this latter class is scattered over the island, and left too destitute of religious instruction; while many who are within reach of the means of grace are living in a state of irreligion and immorality, and need the labours of a zealous missionary to stir them up to a due concern for the salvation of their souls.{6} The chaplains, who alone had officiated there, were of the Church of England, and their preaching destitute of power and life, if not of godliness.{7} Though not well, it seems. In The ‘Blue Book’ for 1899 Governor Sterndale proposed the lights be replaced by electric ones worked by windmills because Lighting by kerosene oil is not only faulty but expensive, and Jamestown is almost in the dark, the lamps are so poor.{8} The four ‘Wirebird’ publications should not be confused.{9} @@RepDis@@{10} The photo shows one of the ships but we don’t know which one. Can you help?{11} You can read a 1994 article about its activities.{12} To know where the time capsule is located: take a line from the centre of the main door of The Cannister, through the centre of The Arch to the edge of the sea wall. It’s buried two metres in from the sea wall. But please don’t dig it up before 2193!{13} If you plan on attending, the next Millennium Party will be in days.{14} Subsequently, evidence has come to light which calls the Wass report’s conclusions into question and supports the claims originally made by the two former social workers.{15} SAMS Radio 1, SAMS Radio 2, SAMS Pure Gold, The Sentinel and Newsbite TV.{16} In actual fact, due to a medical emergency onboard the RMS returned to James Bay at 7am on 12th, where she dropped off the patient (for a Medevac flight) and left again just after 8am, arriving in Cape Town on 17th February.{17} Be careful as you drive off the mini-roundabout heading South (up-town) - it’s behind a blind bend.{18} A UK registered charity set up by the Government of St Helena in 2019.{19} Governors are not supposed to interfere in the democratic process and such accusations were seen as an interference.{20} Please Note at the time Saint Helena Island Info was averaging around 3,500 pages per day. Daily usage has recently reached around 7,600 pages from 3,700 visitors (131,400 ‘hits’) - 1,000GB of data per month.