Sunday, 17 February 2008

St Helena 200 Years Ago

What happened in St. Helena in 1808?

Not much if my transcription of the Jamestown Judicial Sessions is anything to go by! (This is the work that I described in an earlier posting as Michel's form of Napoleon's Revenge, and there is much more to come when this is finished - 20 years' work according to Michel!.)

My favourite so far is the Court that met on 13th July 1808, which was presided over by 4 Magistrates (Including William Doveton). It duly swore in a Jury of 15, received the report of the Wormers of Cattle and Overseers of Highways: No worms extracted, and there being no further business, it adjourned. Doubtless all concerned collected their expenses and went for an early lunch at Anne's Place!

So what else happened in the course of 1808?

A total of 48 Worms were extracted by the Wormers of Cattle.

The longest case was one over a disputed lease brought by Saul Solomon, founder of the Company that still exists on the island. Solomon's fortune was made when the population expanded during the Captivity, and he was suspected by Hudson Lowe of helping Napoleon to communicate with Europe. He later became French Consul, and as such was able to accompany Napoleon's coffin aboard the Belle Poule in 1840.

In the course of the case another name well known to students of the Captivity, William Balcombe, briefly appeared as a witness.

In the event Saul Solomon lost the case and the disputed lease, and had to pay costs. He was also accused by the defendant of having threatened to shoot him, an accusation which was backed up by at least one witness. During the case the defendant, Samuel Perkins Ward was fined £10 by the bench for his demeanour.

Solomon was also Constable at the time, and in that capacity appeared as a witness in the next case - which involved an accusation against a free black woman for stealing some gold coins. The jury did not even bother to withdraw to discuss this case! She was found not guilty.

And that was about it for 1808.

Except that Josia Tout was fined five pounds for purchasing "garden stuff" from a slave.

It has also been interesting to observe the range of currency that appeared to be circulating on the island at the time -Porto Nova Pagodas, Dollars, Rupees and Gold Mohurs - as well as Sterling.

Finally it seems to me that most of the names of the jurors and witnesses are no longer common on the island. At some point I will produce a sample of names I have come across so far.
Note: following Susan's comments I have made changes to this blog. I am sure she is right. Very useful feedback. Thankyou.
Would be grateful for inaccuracies on any of the entries to be pointed out.


Michel Dancoisne-Martineau said...

I can see, John, you're quite in the judicial sessions mood of those days... well done and love the idea of this idea of a flashback... on live !!!

Susan said...

Hi John, I am enjoying your blog. I have also worked on the records, I think the reference is to Wormers of Cattle rather than to Horners of Cattle; the Wormers of Cattle were appointed on an annual basis at the St James Vestry meeting, were responsible for worming the Cattle and were obliged to give their reports at the opening of each Judicial Session .