What Happened in December …

1600   Queen Elizabeth I grants a Royal Charter establishing ‘The Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies’ – the forerunner to the English East India Company.  Another Charter formed the East India Company in 1657, this time granted by Oliver Cromwell.

1658  The East India Company’s Court of Directors decide it would be to their advantage to occupy St Helena, fortify it and establish plantations.  Captain John Dutton is appointed to lead a company of forty men and establish the East India Company’s first overseas settlement.

1672  Four Dutch ships arrive off St Helena from the Cape carrying 180 soldiers and 150 sailors.  A landing party came ashore at Lemon Valley but was repelled by English planters hurling rocks from above.  A discontented settler named William Coxe led the Dutch to a more remote and safer landing place – Swanley Valley.  From there the Dutch made their way to High Peak and then Jamestown.  Governor Beale embarked with most of his men on the Humphrey & Elizabeth and made for Brazil.  The English retook St Helena in May the following year.

1678  Two soldiers killed on duty at the Crane Battery by falling rocks.  A stout timber shelter was then provided.

1690  Governor Blackmore, when returning from a journey to the country, lost his footing near Putty Hill and fell to his death.

1696  The body of Mary Tewsdale, who must have been accused of being a witch, was found washed up on Sandy Bay Beach.  It was ordered she be buried at Half Way Tree with a stake driven through her body and covered with stones.

1707  Because the East India Company has a large herd of cattle on St Helena – and plenty to spare to sell to passing ships – civilians are forbidden to sell meat to the passing ships.

1714  The largest plantation owners are Powell – 255 acres, Carne – 111 acres and Doveton – 151 acres.  3,089 acres of plantation and pastures are in private hands.

1732  Heavy rollers on Christmas Eve destroy a crane a Lemon Valley.  At least 27 tons of rock, up to 14 feet long and 6 feet thick are carried into the sea by the force of the gigantic waves.

1745  Governor Dunbar locks up a Mr Dixon as a way to resolve an argument between them.  Exactly 12 months later the East India Company’s Court of Directors order Dunbar to resign in favour of Charles Hutchinson.

1783  Christmas cheer is absent in the garrison.  A mutinous protest on the 29th resulted in 200 soldiers, with bayonets fixed, marching on the Governor.  The cause of the discontent was changes to licensing laws meaning soldiers could not obtain arrack from the Punch Houses.  After meeting the soldiers the governor withdrew the new regulations.

1792  Captain Bligh [of the Bounty] visits St Helena en route to England after his 2nd South Seas voyage.

1811  Another Christmas mutiny on the 24th due to liquor being rationed again.  It involved 250 soldiers.  Order was not restored until the 25th.  By the 26th six ringleaders had been hung.

1827   Brigadier General Dallas retired from the Madras army and then appointed governor of St Helena.

1829  The Inclined Plane [Jacobs Ladder] is completed.  Dallas proposed Jacobs Ladder in September of the previous year.  One of the few major projects to get from conception to completion quickly.

1840  Lemon Valley used as a small pox quarantine area for slaves liberated from ships by the Royal Navy.

1844  Decision made to erect a monument to the crew of the Brig Waterwitch, sunk in service liberating slaves.

1845  Both the Agricultural and Horticultural Society and St Helena Volunteer Rifle Corps established.

1859  The Fire Association is formed and St Paul’s church becomes a cathedral.

1867  The gaol in Rupert’s Valley is burnt down by a prisoner.  Manganese Ore discovered on the island.

1871  Ancient Order of Foresters is formed.  Jacob’s Ladder reconstructed at a cost of £846.  It was bought by the East India Co. for £882 from the St Helena Railway Co. in 1832.

1884  Frederick Henry Baker is appointed vicar of St Paul’s and is the first islander to take this office.

1897  Chief Dinizulu and family leave for South Africa and freedom on theUmbilo.

1900  First issue of the Boer newspaper Kamp Kruimels is published.

1907  Government Flax Mill starts production at Longwood.

1917  One Hundred and seventy five men and forty-two women employed in the flax industry.

1948  Two hundred islanders, mostly women, emigrate to South Africa

1956  Ovenstone’s fish factory is opened.  In November 1957 it is closed.

1979  Formation of the Fisheries Corporation.


Acknowledgments to St Helena Heritage Society’s ‘St Helena 500’ compiled by Robin Gill & Percy Teale