Longwood House

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Longwood House

St Helena, Ascension
and Tristan da Cunha


Longwood House le 12 janvier 2008.jpg
Longwood House
Location: -15.9501306 -5.6830722
Owned by: Government of France

Longwood House is a plantation house in the hills of St Helena, famous as the residence of Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile on the island. The Emperor resided here from 10 December 1815 until his death on 5 May 1821.

The house stands on a windswept plain some four miles from the island’s capital, Jamestown. Today the house and estate belong to the Government of France, though it is managed on behalf of the French by the St Helena National Trust; it is part of the “Domaines Français” on the island.


Longwood as Napoleon’s residence

Longwood House originally belonged to the East India Company and was the summer residence of the island’s lieutenant governor.

In 1815 Napoleon, Emperor of the French, was defeated and exiled to St Helena, and Longwood was converted for his use. The British government however recognised the inadequacy of Longwood House as a home for the former Emperor and his entourage, and by the time of his death had built a new house for him nearby, which he never occupied. In February 1818, Governor Sir Hudson Lowe proposed to Lord Bathurst to move Napoleon to Rosemary Hall, a house that became available and was located in a more hospitable part of the island, sheltered from the winds and shaded, as Napoleon had preferred.[1] However the revelations of General Gaspard Gourgaud in London brought Lord Bathurst to the opinion that it was safer to keep Napoleon at Longwood, where an escape was harder to undertake, so the building of the new house here only began in October 1818, three years after Napoleon's arrival on the island.

The Emperor fell ill at Longwood, and correctly diagnosed that he had stomach cancer. He died at Longwood on 5 May 1821.

After Napoleon

After Napoleon's death, Longwood House reverted to the East India Company and later to the Crown. It was used for agricultural purposes. Reports of its neglect reached the new Emperor, Napoleon III, who, from 1854, negotiated with the British government for the transfer of the house of his uncle’s exile and in 1858 accordingly the house it was transferred to the French government along with the Valley of the Tomb for a sum of £7,100. Since then the house and valley have been under the control of the French Foreign Ministry and a French government representative has lived on the island and has been responsible for managing both properties.

In 1959 a third property, the Briars, where Napoleon spent the first two months while Longwood was being prepared, was given to the French government by Dame Mabel Brookes.

Longwood House

As a result of the depredations of termites, in the 1940s the French government considered demolishing the building. New Longwood and the Balcombe's house at the Briars were both demolished at this time, but Longwood House was saved, and it has been restored by recent French curators. The stone steps at the front are the only part of the original fabric to survive.

In 2006 the French consul, Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, donated the valley of the Heart Shaped Waterfall to the St Helena National Trust.

Longwood House is now a museum owned by the French government. It is one of two museums on the island, the other being the Museum of St Helena.

See also

Outside links


  1. Albert Benhamou, L'autre Sainte-Hélène: la captivité, la maladie, la mort, et les médecins autour de Napoléon, 2010, p.138, extract from the Lowe Papers
  • Jean-Paul Kauffman, The Dark Room at Longwood (2000)