If you could see forever over Earth’s curves as you gaze south from this most remote of islands, the next land to meet your eye across the blue swell of the vast South Atlantic would be Antarctica. But as you can’t, let’s continue our lazy day by turning back from the waterfront, crossing the bridge over the dry moat, and passing through the town gate again.
Gazing out from Jamestown waterfront
Back through the town gate
To your right down a side alley and opposite the public toilets you’ll see an old cannon and the entrance to Jamestown’s fascinating museum.
It is extremely informative on St. Helena’s history, from its discovery over 500 years ago by Portuguese sailors and the subsequent centuries of skullduggery among European powers as the Brits, Dutch and Portuguese sank each other’s ships to latter-day island lifestyle.
Museum, cannon, public toilet and Jacob’s Ladder
Thus on the ground floor you can gaze at guns, uniforms, wooden crates that carted Napoleon’s belongings along with him to exile here, and an array of objects rescued from sunken vessels, while on the first floor you can wonder at more mundane exotica such as a dentist’s chair with a foot-driven drill and an old bath tub with five silver taps and a shower.
A more gruesome exhibit is a glass case on law and order with the nooses from the last island execution, in 1905, when the brothers Crowie were hanged for murdering a certain Mr. Gunnell in a robbery gone bad in his house atop a massive crag in Prosperous Bay overlooking the new airport runway.
Crime scene in the house on top of the rock
Outside the museum, to your right, is the police station, next to it Her Majesty’s Prison with its current treasure of 12 inmates, and adjoining it St. James Church, originally built in 1774. A steeple was added to its tower in the 19th century but this became unsafe and had to be removed in 1980. Plans are underway to restore it.
St. James Church
Within, the sunlight glints off golden memorial plates, including one to Saul Solomon, begetter of St. Helena’s long-gone Jewish heritage. Napoleon may be the name most universally linked to St. Helena, but Solomon is the name you’ll see on shops and awnings.
Years before Napoleon landed on these shores, Saul Solomon, still in his teens, set sail from England for India, became sick on board, and was dropped off in Jamestown to die, according to the generally accepted story.
Her Majesty’s prison
Nursed back to health by an army officer’s family, he had already established himself as the island’s ‘merchant king’ by the time the former French Emperor dropped by. By 1790 he already had a store and boarding house, charging the ‘exorbitant’ price of 30 shillings a night, according to local complaints.
Business soared and he brought over his brothers, Benjamin, Joseph, Lewis, and Charles to help run business on an island that at that time was visited by 1,000 ships a year. A Jewish community thus set…