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Cables versus cobbles: the battle of Main Street

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Revealed, and then lost: 18th Century paving. Picture by Museum of St Helena
Revealed, and then lost: 18th Century paving. Picture by Museum of St Helena

With fibre-opting cables linking government buildings up and down Main Street in Jamestown, government staff will in future be spared from having to pop across the road to deliver documents.

And if there’s no need for people to walk anywhere, then perhaps one can see why pavements might not seem very important.

Cobbles exposed. Picture: Museum of St Helena
Cobbles exposed. Picture: Museum of St Helena

Not even pavements that were laid in when the East India Company built the fine array of Regency buildings that are so admired by visitors to St Helena’s capital.

The government and Enterprise St Helena might be pleased with this step into the digital age, but Nick Thorpe, defender of island heritage, is not.

The pavements – of carefully-laid cobbles edged with flagstones – have been hidden beneath concrete for years, but the important thing for Nick was that they were still there, intact. Their restoration remained a possibility.

The Museum of St Helena was asked to keep a watching brief on the ducting work, in the hope of discoveries – of a tunic button from the uniform of the St Helena Regiment, perhaps.

Nick mourns the loss in a letter to St Helena Online and the Independent:

“The accompanying pictures show expertly crafted and laid 18th Century paving stones in Main Street,” he writes. “These flagstones no longer exist: they have been destroyed in favour of communications ducting. It is a very sad thing when a government has too much money and no taste. The Castle courtyard is a good example of how things can be done well.”

Nick also despairs of a new pavement with “old-fashioned” bollards outside new Porteous House in Jamestown. He says it has “no historic or aesthetic value”.

(One other point raised by Nick is being clarified with St Helena Government). 

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