Tuesday, 19 January 2010

St Helena Sites Associated with the Captivity of Napoleon

Hutts Gate - somewhere opposite this building apparently lie the ruins of a house in which the Bertrands lived before their cottage at Longwood was complete.

The childrens' nurse, Mrs Dickson, later kept a store at Hutts Gate and was there to greet Arthur Bertrand in 1840.

It was here that Napoleon, ill and exhausted, got into his carriage after his final outing to see Sir William Doveton at Sandy Bay.

I believe Napoleon first discovered Sane Valley (where he was to be buried at his own request), when visiting the Bertrands here.

Obviously anyone whose interest in Napoleon takes them to St Helena will focus on the three French properties. There are however other sites such as Hutts Gate which such visitors will probably wish to explore.

Two years ago I intended to produce a comprehensive list of these, but found that I had not visited all of them, had few worthwhile images to share, and also realised that my knowledge was fragmentary at best. So it was never published.

I would have found this useful when planning my visit to St Helena and so, imperfect as it is, I shall now publish it. Michel Martineau's own blog contains a number of excellent photographs of these sites, but you have to search a little to find them. The visit of the Friends of Malmaison in 2003 is also worth a look. It contains a picture of a bearded Honorary French Consul looking rather older I think than he does now!

Maldivia House, home of Major Hodson, son in law of William Doveton. Napoleon visited this house whilst staying at the Briars. This has been covered in a number of previous posts.

Rosemary Plain/Rosemary Hall - This house was occupied by the Austrian and Russian Commissioners, Stürmer and Balmain. I never managed to identify this building. Montchenu the French Commissioner, the butt of everyone's jokes, lived in cheaper accommodation in Jamestown opposite Porteous House.

Fishers Valley/Valley of the Nymph The Nymph, Mary Anne Robinson, was the daughter of a farmer who lived in the valley and was spotted by Napoleon on one of his rides and given this name. (1) I believe that ruins of the farm house are still there.

Teutonic Hall Previously known as Mason's Stock House. The property of wealthy landowner Miss Mason, who always treated Napoleon effusively. Apparently she used to ride an oxen. She was still alive when the party came to recover the Emperor's body in the Belle Poule in 1840.

Porteous House The lodging house in Jamestown close to the castle in which Napoleon spent his first night. The building was destroyed by fire in the late nineteenth century.

Farm Lodge Apparently Hudson Lowe considered moving Napoleon there in 1818; but Gourgaud, in the period when he was cooperating with Lowe and trying to engineer a direct passage back to Europe, suggested that Longwood was easier to guard. (2) It is now a pleasant hotel.

Mount Pleasant - Sandy Bay, home of Sir William Doveton, to which Napoleon made his last outing on 4th October 1820. This has been covered in a number of posts.

Rock Rose - The house in which Count las Cases and his son, and later Gourgaud were housed by the Governor prior to their leaving the island.

Bertrand's Cottage - across the road from Longwood; now in the hands of the St Helena National trust; here Napoleon used to watch with his telescope the horse races that took place on Deadwood Plain. This has been covered in a number of posts.

Longwood New House - the house built for Napoleon close to Bertrands Cottage - as it may have looked in the nineteenth century! The house was demolished after the war. The modern visitor will just have to try to imagine it. It is virtually impossible to do so. Agricultural buildings now occupy its site.

The house itself was pre-fabricated, sent over from England and, after much delay, virtually completed in December 1820. Napoleon had always said he would not live there, and shortly before his death had been upset by the iron railings that Lowe had had installed. In the last hours of Napoleon's illness Lowe and his assistant Major Gideon Gorrequer waited there anxiously for news. Lowe had refused to believe that Napoleon was seriously ill until almost the end.

1. Miss Robinson may have visited Longwood a few times; she certainly brought her newly married husband to say goodbye to Napoleon in July 1817. He was a sea captain named John Ives Edwards. Captain Edwards called on the Bertrands in 1821 just before Napoleon's death. Apparently he told them that the English people had no wish to keep Napoleon at St. Helena, and they felt that the ignoble way in which the Emperor was being treated was a slur on them. So at least Bertrand recorded in his secret diary.

2. The Las Cases had been sent to Cape Town, and had not had a very pleasant experience there before getting back to Europe. Gourgaud apparently wished to avoid this at almost any cost.

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