Governor’s House, St. Helena
About the work
This view is the fourth in a series of six plates titled ‘Views of St Helena’, published in 1815. George Hutchins Bellasis both drew the views and wrote the accompanying text. The plates were engraved by Robert Havell senior. The text accompanying this plate includess:
‘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...’
This aquatint of the building in Jamestown, St Helena, known as the Governor’s Residence or Plantation House is the earliest image of an existing Government building in the Government Art Collection. Behind the impressive frontage of the Georgian building, two wings enclose a courtyard. Plantation House was constructed in 1791–92, as the country residence for the Governor of the East India Company.
About the artist
Soldier and amateur artist George Hutchins Bellasis was born in Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria; the eldest son of Major-General John Bellasis, Commander of the Forces and Colonel of Artillery at Bombay. He studied at Queen’s College, Oxford, before travelling to India to join the 19th Light Dragoons, with which three of his brothers also served. After suffering illness he departed for England in August 1804, disembarking at St. Helena, where he remained for eight months. After retiring from the army he built Holly Hill, a villa in Bowness-on-Windermere. In 1812 he briefly returned to St. Helena, before publishing a portfolio of six ‘Views of St. Helena’ in 1815. He died at Holly Hill, aged 44 and was survived by his wife and six children.
Robert Havell senior, son of artist and publisher Daniel Havell, was born in Reading but moved to London as a child. After Robert launched his career, father and son collaborated on illustrations for Henry Salt’s ‘Twenty Four Views Taken in St. Helena’ (1809–10). However, the partnership was short-lived and Robert later established himself at premises in Fitzrovia. He married Lydia Miller Phillips and had a son, Robert junior. Robert junior and his father formed the firm of R. Havell & Son, working on numerous projects including ‘Birds of America’ for John James Audubon. The scale of this project led them to employ 50 additional staff and move to larger premises in Oxford Street. Robert senior died a year after the company expansion.