St. Helena timeline: 1840

Sources are provided [within square brackets] at the end of each timeline entry, except for those sources which repeat. Recurring sources are (indicated by round parentheses), with the source citation abbreviated as shown in the following key:

  • BNA: The British Newspaper Archive, (accessed 2015-05-16, 2015-06-27ff, by subscription); transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick.
  • Emigration: Great Britain. House of Commons. Accounts and Papers: Twenty Volumes. (6.) Emigration. Session 3 February – 12 August 1842. Vol. XXXI (1842). House of Commons, United Kingdom.
  • Jackson: St. Helena: The Historic Island, by E.L. Jackson (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1905).
  • Lords 1849: Great Britain. House of Lords. Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords, appointed to consider the best Means which Great Britain can adopt for the Final Extinction of the African Slave Trade, Session 1849, ordered by the House of Commons to be Printed, 15 February 1850.
  • Mellis: St. Helena: A Physical, Historical, and Topographical Description of the Island, by John Charles Mellis (London: L. Reeve & Co., 1875).
  • SHII: Saint Helena Island Info (accessed 2015-06-28ff).

Please cite your sources.

   H.M. Government established a Vice-Admiralty Court at the Island for the trial of vessels engaged in the slave trade on the western coast of Africa. Many of these vessels were taken to the Island during the following ten years, condemned, sold, and broken up; while their human cargoes were fed, clothed, and retained at a depôt formed for the purpose in Rupert's Valley, until they were sufficiently recovered from their emaciated condition to bear a voyage to the British West Indian possessions, where a demand existed for their labour. (Mellis, pg. 30)
    It was in the year 1840 that the slaves captured by H.M. Cruisers were first brough to St. Helena. Depôts were formed at Rupert's Valley, Lemon Valley, and High Knoll, at which places the poor wretches were domiciled, until they gradually regained health and strength. When well and fit to travel, they were conveyed to the West Indies, where they engaged to work for various employers, as labour was there greatly in demand. The merchants and farmers in St. Helena, when requiring servants, went to the depôts and made their choice, engaging to clothe and feed the chosen. A number of these slaves became so fond of their St. Helena masters and mistresses, that they elected to remain on the island instead of seeking their fortunes elsewhere. In many cases they took the names of their masters. (Jackson, pg. 260)
    15,076 freed slaves, known as 'Liberated Africans' were landed on the island at Rupert's Bay, of which number over 5,000 were dead on arrival or died soon afterwards. The final number up to the 1870s when the depot was finally closed has been estimated at over 25,000. (SHII: Slavery on St. Helena)

Horrid barbarities of the Slave Trade.——We have been shewn a letter just received from St. Helena, stating that a Court of Admiralty having been recently established there, H.M. Brig Water Witch had brought in a captured slave ship with 255 slaves. The small-pox being on board she was placed under quarantine. In the chase, 70 slaves were thrown overboard, 40 of whom were picked up by the Water Witch, but in so dreadful a state of exhaustion, that nearly all of them  died soon afterwards; they were placed in barrels, or on rafts, and consigned to the waves with the view of inducing the pursuers to slacken or desist from their pursuit of the slave ship, an expedient which happily did not answer in the present case, although in the eagerness of the chase no doubt many of the unfortunate creatures were necessarily passed by, and their rescue deferred until the accomplishment of the chief object in view. The small-pox was fatally raging among many of the slaves on board, and the inhabitants of St. Helena, where that frightful disorder has not been known for the last forty years, were in some agitation, lest by any accident it should be communicated to them. A surgeon from a passing ship has been engaged to attend the Negroes, and afford them every other humane treatment. How much longer are these abominations to be permitted to offend the God of Mercy, and outrage the feelings of humanity?
(BNA: Taunton Courier, 3 March 1841)

1840-03-14: Capture of the Cabaca, 15 tons, with two slaves on board; vessel condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Helena. (Lords 1849, pg. 361)


Proclamation issued by His Excellency
Major General George Middlemore, C.B., Governor, &c..
Source: Saint Helena Island Info, (accessed 2015-06-28).

1840-05-28: Capture of the Andorinha, 39 tons, with two slaves on board; vessel condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Helena.
(Lords 1849, pg. 361)

1840-06-10: Capture of the Dictador, 113 tons; vessel condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Helena; — slaves captured. (Lords 1849, pg. 361)

1840-06-12: Capture of the Coringa, 119 tons; vessel condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Helena; — slaves captured. (Lords 1849, pg. 361)

1840-06-14: Capture of boat, unknown, with two slaves on board; vessel condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Helena. (Lords 1849, pg. 361)

1840-06-14: Capture of the Maria Rita, 72 tons; vessel condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Helena; — slaves captured. (Lords 1849, pg. 361)

1840-06-15: Capture of the Andorhina, 66 tons, with one slave on board; vessel condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Helena. (Lords 1849, pg. 361)

1840-09-25: Capture of boat, unknown, with 16 slaves on board; vessel condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Helena. (Lords 1849, pg. 361)

1840-10-10: Letter written by R. Gordon, Secretary to the Treasury, to the Commissioners of Customs:
    Treasury Chambers, 10 October 1840.
        The attention of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury has been called to the arrangements it may be proper to make for the reception and disposal of Africans captured under instructions which have been issued in regard to the Portuguese slave trade, or under circumstances which may render it necessary that they should be landed in the nearest British colony, or where no court competent to adjudicate on the capture may exist, and that immediate provision should be made for their temporary maintenance. With reference to this subject, as it appears to my Lords that certain instructions which have been conveyed to the Governors of colonies, have tended to interfere with the regulations by which the charge of Africans, landed from captured slave vessels, would devolve upon the officers of your department at the place of debarkation, they have signified to Her Majesty's Secretary of State their opinion that the collector of Customs is the fittest person for that charge, especially in cases in which the expense of maintaining the people landed is to fall on the funds of this country; but that when employment has been found for Africans thus landed, and they have become denizened in the colony, the duties of the collector of the Customs, as regards them, terminate. The Secretary of State having concurred in these views, instructions in conformity therewith will be conveyed to the officers in charge of colonial governments. I am further to acquaint you, that steps will be taken for ascertaining what colonies will be prepared to make provision from colonial funds for defraying the expense of the reception and temporary maintenance of captured Africans, and for preventing as far as may be practicable the landing of Africans where that provision has not been made; but if necessity should, nevertheless, occasion their being so landed, the expense must be defrayed as heretofore, by bills on this Board, which the Governors will draw under the existing regulations in favour of the collector of Customs; and, in this case, it would be the duty of the collector to take immediate measures, under the directions of the officers in charge of the local governments, for the transfer of the people to the colony in which provision for receiving them has been made. I am likewise to desire you will cause the officers of your department in the colonies to be apprised of the intention of this Board and the Secretary of State, in the several aspects above adverted to, for their guidance.
    I am, &c.
    (signed) R. Gordon.
Commissioners of Customs.

(Emigration, pg. 475)

1840-10-15: The body of Napoleon, who was buried in a tomb on the island on the 8th May 1821, was "removed to a handsome sarcophagus in the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris, to lie, in accordance with his express wish, on the banks of the Seine." (Mellis, pg. 40)

napoleons remains oct 1840

Source: The London Illustrated News,
Vol. LXXV, July to December 1879,
No. 2094 (2 August 1879), pg. 114.

1840-11-13: Capture of brig, unknown, supposed Dous d'Outubro, 200 tons; vessel condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Helena; — slaves captured. (Lords 1849, pg. 361)

1840-12-02: Capture of brigantine schooner, unknown, 124 tons, with 245 slaves on board; vessel condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Helena.
(Lords 1849, pg. 361)

1840-12-26: Capture of launch, unknown, with three slaves on board; vessel condemned by the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Helena. (Lords 1849, pg. 361)

1840-1845 or 1849:* Three magnetometers—a declinometer instrument and telescope, a bifilar magnetometer and telescope, and a vertical force magnetometer—were erected in the observatory at St. Helena. They were manufactured "by Grubb, of Dublin, and formed one set of those used in the Colonial Magnetic Observatories, founded by the Government in 1840." Meteorological observations were taken constantly until 1849. (1)
* Note: The Committee of Council on Education (1) cited a ten-year period, whereas Jackson (2) stated five years.
    The observatory was established at Napoleon's old residence, Longwood, on the windward side of the island, 1,760 feet above sea level. (2) Meteorological observations were observed and recorded "by a detachment of Royal Artillery, under the direction of General Sir Edward Sabine, R.A., F.R.S., and subsequently published." (3)
Sources: (1) Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education. Catalogue of the Special Loan Collection of Scientific Apparatus at the South Kensington Museum, 2nd ed. (London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswood, 1876), pg. 253; (2) Jackson, pg. 77; (3) Mellis, pp. 386-7.

Please cite your sources.

Previous: Timeline for the years 1807-1839 (preliminary notes).
Next: Timeline for the year 1841.

This page was first published on the 7th July 2015; subsequently edited, on the 21st July 2015.

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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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