The idea of turning part of The Castle in Jamestown into a hotel takes an unreal turn in The Column. Did island philosopher Nick Thorpe really mean to suggest that inside The Castle is “a surreal world in which all your control patterns… begin to fall to pieces?” Plus: another idea for a potential new hotel (tortoises included), and St Helena’s ultimate Christmas getaway – from the in-laws. Read it here.
The Castle in Jamestown, the seat of power on St Helena for centuries, may soon be seating 50 for breakfast.
And the grand council chamber could become a chamber of a different kind under a proposal put forward by visiting real estate executives: to turn the headquarters of St Helena Government into an iconic hotel.
They have also suggested converting the island’s prison into rather more top-end accommodation, along with the police office next door. Conditions in the gaol have been severely criticised, and a replacement is planned.
However, the favoured plan for the first phase of any new hotel in Jamestown is to take over numbers one to three Main Street, which were built for the East India Company.
According to one Saint who attended a public presentation (11 October 2012), the aim is to have 80 hotel beds established in Lower Jamestown by 2015.
The possibilities were set out at the session in Jamestown by Joop Demes and asset manager Kamil Abdul-Karrim, of Pam Golding Hospitality.
The South African property company has 304 offices throughout Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands, and specialises in tourist developments.
Stuart Planner, of Enterprise St Helena, said: “The visiting consultants have mooted the idea of The Castle housing a hotel.
“This is a possibility, amongst a number of possibilities. In fact The Castle as a hotel has been talked of over a number of years.”
He cited the example of the Spanish Paradores – hotels extablished by the state to preserve ancient castles, palaces and monasteries throughout Spain.
He said various factors had to be looked at, including space for government offices and an appropriate debating chamber, and “the need to look after the heritage of the island, and the need to make tourism work through providing appropriate and fantastic hotel bedrooms.”
He said: “The Castle complex could provide for a number of these, producing revenue from, say, hotel rooms to help fund the maintenance upkeep and running of the other functions.
“We do not have all of the answers yet, and in any case The Castle would be an option further down the line, as was pointed out in the presentation.”
There would be full public debate as master plans were drawn up, he said.
Innovative ways were being explored to retain ownership of historic buildings taken over for tourism, with the possibility of Saints becoming part-owners.
“Obviously we are at an early stage on this, but discussions on island have been very positive on this initiative.”
The Castle benefits from having grand reception rooms, a private courtyard and a rich history, recalling St Helena’s colonial past.
Jamestown also enjoys consistently more sunshine than higher parts of the island – including Broad Bottom, proposed site of “the world’s greenest hotel”, which has high rainfall.
With talk of a new central junior school for the whole island, it’s been suggested that government staff could move into the Pilling School building in Upper Jamestown.
St Helena has been governed from buildings on the site of the present-day Castle since the island was formally settled by the East India Company in 1659. The current building may retain traces of the original James Fort.