Founded in 1659, but largely built in the 18th century, Jamestown could almost have been plucked from a Jane Austen novel.
For more than 500 years, Jamestown – indeed, St Helena as a whole – has been approached exclusively from the sea, a sight that has variously instilled awe, inspiration and a deep sense of foreboding. Such is the unique nature of the island that it has been submitted for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, largely because of its extraordinary biodiversity, landscape and geological features.
The view over Jamestown from Briars Village © Tricia Hayne
Enclosed on three sides by forbidding walls of rock some 500ft (150m) high, Jamestown is St Helena’s first – indeed only – port of call. For centuries, ships have dropped anchor in its sheltered bay, their passengers ferried ashore on small boats. But with the coming of the airport – and a new wharf in Rupert’s Bay – all this is about to change; few will be the visitors of the future whose first experience of the island will be the capital.
Founded in 1659, but largely built in the 18th century, Jamestown could almost have been plucked from a Jane Austen novel. The little town stretches up a narrow valley, accessible only along two improbably narrow roads that slope down the hillside from on high. Its wide central street that once reverberated to the march of soldiers is lined with graceful houses. Its people are used to a slow, measured way of life, where it’s normal to greet a passing stranger. Some visitors spend just a few hours here; others a week or more. However long you have, you’re likely to discover that Jamestown is central to a real understanding of St Helena.