The Duke of Wellington


The Island of Saint Helena










THE Author of this Publication trusts that a residence of eight months on the Island of St. Helena may have enabled him to gain the local knowledge essential to his subject ; and that the accuracy of the landscapes which he drew during that time, and now presents to the public, will justify the undertaking ; and he hopes that at the present period it will be the more interesting, when this singularly romantic Island is the appointed residence of one of the most extraordinary men recorded in the annals of History.

St. Helena is situated in the South Atlantic Ocean, within the torrid zone, latitude 15 55' south, and longitude 5 49' west ; about 1000 miles from the coast of Africa, and nearly double that distance from South America. It was discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, on St. Helena's Day, whence it derives its name. The interior was found an entire forest, and they stocked it with different kinds of useful animals : but whether they settled a colony there, or not, is very uncertain. The Dutch afterwards became its masters, and kept possession until 1600, when they were driven out by the English. In 1673 the Dutch again took it, by surprise ; and in a short time after, it was retaken by Captain Munden, and has since continued in the possession of the Honourable East India Company, in virtue of a charter granted by King Charles the Second.

The greatest length of St. Helena is ten miles and a half, its breadth seven, its circumference about twenty-eight miles, and the area thirty thousand acres. There are many high mountains, particularly one called Diana's Peak, which is more than half a mile above the level of the sea. The Island is divided by a lofty chain of hills running nearly east and west, in a curved direction, and bending to the south at each extremity ; and alternate ridges and valleys branch off in various directions. The number of inhabitants may be about 4000, who are supplied with all kinds of manufactures by the East India Company's ships, in return for provisions and refreshments. Clear and wholesome springs issue from the sides of almost every hill, and the valleys abound with yams, potatoes, and water-cresses, which are grateful to mariners ; and here it is worthy of remark, that four crops may be produced in the year, the climate being a perpetual spring. Walks arched over with vines, and peach trees loaded with fruit of the richest flavor, are very common ; but gooseberry and currant bushes produce no fruit. Venomous reptiles are not met with here, but rats and caterpillars are very troublesome. The hills of the interior are mostly covered with a rich verdure, and the valleys are fertile, supporting numerous herds of black cattle, besides a small breed of horses, with sheep, goats, &c. ; and game is found in great abundance. The voyage from St. Helena to England is generally performed in about two months ; the distance is little more than 4500 miles from the Land's End. The Island has only one harbour or roadstead, which is difficult of access.

St Helena, taken from Sea.


View No. I. is taken from the north-west side of the Island, about eight miles from the land. At this distance it appears entirely without trees, shrubs, or even verdure, and is like a huge castle, its heights towering to the clouds, and the stupendous cliffs of the fore-ground overhanging the ocean.

The Roads, St Helena.


View No. II. was taken on the north-east side of the Island, in the Roads, where the shore is very bold and majestic. Before ships enter, a boat is dispatched to give notice to the Governor, reporting their nation and business. During this time every ship must lie-to until a signal is made to advance, and cannot pass Munden's Battery before leave be granted to proceed. On anchoring, ships salute the fort, and the battery on Ladder Hill returns it, when the reverberation of the echo from the surrounding mountains is truly grand. The distant hill, with a fort on the summit, called High Knoll, is about 1900 feet from the level of the sea. The principal landing is immediately under Munden's Battery, a dark huge rock on the left, under Rupert's Hill. The road leading from the Pier to the Government House is over a draw-bridge, on the right of which is a battery of heavy guns. At the extremity of an avenue of trees is a strong gateway, which leads to the Parade in St. James's Valley. Near the opening between the two mountains, Ladder Hill on the right, and Rupert's Hill on the left, is a small knoll, or conical hill, at the foot of which is a house called the Briars, marked in this View, though not seen from the Roads ; this situation is the more interesting, as it is said to be the place intended for the residence of Buonaparte.

Scene taken from the Castle Terrace.


View No. III. represents St. James's Town, situated in the valley between Ladder Hill and Rupert's Hill. This View is taken from the Castle Terrace, the grand promenade for company during the parades. Near the centre is the Church, on the right of which is the Theatre, and also the Tavern ; and on the left, a row of houses forming the principal street. The roofs are, in general, of boards, and covered with puzzolana, a kind of volcanic cement. At the head of the valley is shown the Briars, the intended residence of Buonaparte, as stated in No. II. The Main-Guard, Storehouses, and Barracks are opposite the Church, and could not be introduced in this View consistently with the rules of perspective. At the upper end of the street is the Freemason's Lodge and Hospital, where the road branches off, on the left, to Munden's Fort, Rupert's Valley, and LongWood, the residence of the Lieutenant-Governor, near to which is the principal Alarm-House, 1960 feet high, on the south side of the Island. The road on the right of the Lodge winds up Ladder Hill to Friar's Valley and the base of High Knoll, and over a dreary and barren country, till Plantation-House presents itself, together with a beautiful landscape of green pastures, woody heights, and neat dwellings, forming a most picturesque scene, as in No. IV.

Plantation House, the Country Residence of the Governor.


View No. IV. is Plantation-House, a large modern-built edifice, the country residence of the Governor, situated in the most fertile and beautiful part of the Island. It is approached through a handsome iron gate, on each side of which is a neat lodge. Adjoining is a telegraph, which communicates with all the forts and out-posts. The grounds are laid out with great taste ; a variety of oriental plants and shrubs grow intermixed with those of the more northern regions : the magnolia, minosa, myrtles thirty feet high, bamboo, gum tree, and cabbage tree, with the laurel, yew, cypress, fir, and oak ; and also aloes in successive blossom. Plantation-House is three miles and a half from the Castle in St. James's Valley.

The Friar Rock in Friar's Valley.


View No. V. Entering Friar's Valley from the east, the central object is an immense pile of rocks rising perpendicularly eight hundred feet above the level of the sea. On the right is seen a fine opening to the Atlantic Ocean ; and on the left, another, in the centre of which appears a very curious and interesting object composed of five rocks, firmly cemented by Nature, affording a fanciful resemblance of a Friar in the habit of his Order, from whence the valley takes its name. Planters' houses, verdant and naked mountains, diversify the scene, and render the whole extremely picturesque and sublime.

The Column Lot, Fairy Land, Sandy Bay.


View No. VI. is Fairy Land, on the south side of the Island, in the district of Sandy Bay. It presents a singularly romantic appearance. Here stands an erect column, (called Lot,) composed of a hard greyish rock, situated upon a hill of vitrified matter, so steep and slippery as to be wholly inaccessible. In this View, which is taken from an eminence on the north-west side, hills rise above hills ; the left, clothed with wood to the summit, displays an extraordinary contrast to the wild nakedness of the other side ; the downward View consists of a variety of ridges, eminences, and ravines, descending into the sea. The beauty of one part, the grandeur of another, and the horror of a third, cannot fail to astonish every observer. The Island, from this situation, has certainly the appearance of being forced up by subterraneous fire : the abrupt ridges and chasms into which it is split seeming strongly to indicate a volcanic origin.

Notes about this version of Bellasis:

The title page and plates were photographed from an original copy of Bellasis and the photographs were scanned (the size of the original plates is approximately 338 by 227 mm) and edited to remove minor blemishes. The JPG images on this page are at high compression (50%) to minimise file size. The text is exactly reproduced from an original copy of Bellasis.

Contributed by Barry Weaver, from whom higher resolution images of the plates and a MS WORD version of the text can be obtained.

Details of the original:
Bellasis, G.H. Views of St. Helena. Tyler, London, 1815.
Size: Oblong folio.
Text: Title (verso blank); Dedication (one leaf, verso blank); List of subscribers (two leaves, last page blank); Introduction (one leaf); one leaf of text (verso blank) to each plate.
Plates: Six coloured aquatint plates signed Drawn by George Hutchins Bellasis Esq. and Engraved by Robt Havell, 3, Chapel St. Tottenham Court Road; imprint London, Published Novr 1, 1815, by G.H. Bellasis Esqr.

British Library shelfmark: X 863
Library of Congress call number: DT671.S2 B4 and G2842.S3 B4 1815

Number 309 in Abbey.
Abbey, J.R. Travel in Aquatint and Lithography, 1770-1860, from the Library of J.R. Abbey: Vol. I, World, Europe, Africa. Curwen Press, London, 1956.

Last updated: 21 December, 2011

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