A property with many owners
In 1815, the Briars property belonged to the Balcombe family. William Balcombe was an employee of the East India Company and was a supplier for the Royal Navy. He was responsible for fuelling passing ships and established good relations with his host during his stay at the pavilion. He became Longwood’s procurer until he left the island in 1818. He was therefore in a position to provide a number of services to the French exiles.
From 1816 to 1821, the pavilion was used as the residence for the admirals of the surveillance fleet. William Balcombe later sold the property which changed hands several times until 1959 when Mabel Brookes, his great granddaughter, bought what remained of the family home to bequeath it to France.
In 1880, Empress Eugénie, Napoleon’s III widow, stopped over at Saint Helena. She was returning from a trip to South Africa to visit the place where her son died. She stayed at the Briars Pavilion before visiting Longwood and the tomb.
The restoration of the pavilion
The main house, the Balcombe residence, was entirely destroyed by termites and is no longer standing. The pavilion was entirely rebuilt and now looks like it did in 1821.
When Napoleon Bonaparte stayed in the building in 1815, this building only had one room and a cellar. One wing and several outbuildings, which are still standing today, were added to the building when the English admirals were resident there from 1816 to 1821.
Napoleon’s room has been recreated to look like it did at the time using the servants’ memoirs. The room was furnished with a camp bed (to the right of the door), a table, a bedside table, a sofa, an armchair and several chairs. Las Cases and his son slept in the cellar, the servants slept on hammock cloths laid out in front of the doors. A tent was erected on the lawn to be used as an office during the day and sleeping quarters for General Gourgaud at night.
The original furniture has been placed back in its original location to precisely recreate the decor.
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