Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Maldivia House and the Rather Confusing Bennetts of St Helena

Maldivia 1 st. 3 bay x 2 house with verandahs, Early timber gable infill under deeply C.19 projecting eaves, North, back additions and 2 st. cottage. Tall windows sashed. Front doorcase and verandahs later. All in extensive garden. - St Helena Govt. Report

This beautiful house is situated in what was once Maldivia Gardens, from which it takes its name. Blundens and Villa le Breton also lie within the boundaries of the original gardens.

An earlier house stood on this site, originally named Concord, but changed in 1735, presumably when the Maldivians arrived.

The present house was built in the early nineteenth century, and during the occupation of Napoleon was the home of Major Hodson, nicknamed "Hercules" by Napoleon, and son in law of Sir William Doveton.

On the arrival of Napoleon members of the Council of St Helena adjourned from Jamestown to Maldivia House to consider the implications of the takeover of the island from the East India Company by the British Crown.

Napoleon himself visited the house in November 1815. Major Hodson was present at the funeral and the exhumation of Napoleon. He died in Bath in 1858.

Later in the nineteenth century Maldivia was the home of Lady Ross (nee Eliza Bennett), widow of the former Governor of St Helena, Sir Patrick Ross. Lady Ross died at Maldivia in 1890.

Some time thereafter it was bought by Eliza LLoyd (nee Eliza Mary Bennett), no relation to the aforesaid Eliza Bennett.

Eliza Mary Bennett was born in St Helena in 1857, the daughter of a clergyman on the island, the Rev George Bennett. This Bennett family returned to the UK in 1881 and at the age of 28 Eliza married 65 year old Thomas Edward LLoyd. She was widowed in 1909, and sometime thereafter purchased Maldivia House, and used to spend the English winters there until the second world war.

She died in 1947 and left the house to the Government of St Helena, in whose hands it has remained. In accordance with her wishes it is now used to house the chief medical officer on the island.

My thanks to James Phillips Evans for supplying information about the Bennett connection.


Anonymous said...

If you are intersted in this house you might like to look at my book, 'The Bennett Letters' which has further references to it as well as a contemporary picture of the house as it was in 1826. It also contains a photo of Lady Ross and her sister Ellen taken about 1886.
Lady Ross's father Captain James Bennett purchasd the house from Col Hodson in 1826 (Hodson also owned Oakbank). It may be recalled that James Bennett was reputed to have donated a leaf from his mahogany dining table to help make Napoleon's coffin - a story I go into in some detail in my book.
Colin Fox

John Tyrrell said...

Many thanks Colin for providing additional information.
I will get a copy of your book.