Excavated remains being transported from the Pipe Store
Excavated remains being transported from the Pipe Store, Jamestown to No. 1 Building, Rupert’s Valley
The Liberated African Advisory Committee (LAAC) would like to inform the community that on Friday, 18 March 2022 the excavated human remains currently housed in the Pipe Store, Jamestown will be transported to No. 1 Building, Rupert’s Valley. This directly follows the January announcement that reburial of the ‘liberated African’ remains was finally imminent, with funding having been secured.
The transportation will follow the protocols developed as part of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Memorial – St Helena: Master Plan. Archeologist Dr Andy Pearson (who was part of the 2008 excavation team and has been involved with the project ever since) has recently reviewed the protocols to ensure they are appropriate. It is anticipated that transportation will begin around 9am and may last throughout the day. The Highways Authority has been informed that activity outside the Pipe Store, at Church Lane, is expected to cause traffic congestion on and off throughout the day.
Someone will be posted at the area to direct traffic. Those involved in the transportation – which includes LAAC members, community volunteers and Human Rights Office representatives – will be operating between the Museum, the Pipe Store and No. 1 Building.
Media has been invited for respectful coverage of this historic day.
The interior of No. 1 has been cleaned and areas have been designated for the different numbered groups of remains.
Additionally, since January, 80 coffins have been completed by the secondary school’s Vocational Education Programme students; these have also been placed in No. 1 Building, with the remaining coffins to follow. The windows of No. 1 Building will be covered in order to provide protection from sunlight and respectful housing of the remains, which will reside in No. 1 until the date of reburial, expected to occur within the next few months.
Background In 2008, 325 human remains and disarticulated scatter were exhumed from Rupert’s Valley as part of development works for the St Helena Airport. The remains were found to be Africans ‘liberated’ from slaver ships and housed within the Rupert’s Valley Liberated African Establishment. The Liberated African Establishment was where the majority of Africans brought ashore to St Helena from slavers were housed during Britain’s attempt to abolish the transatlantic slave trade.
In total, more than 25,000 ‘liberated’ Africans were offloaded at St Helena between 1840 and 1872. A small number settled on the island; most were later shipped back to Africa or on to other countries; and a large number died whilst on-island, being ill and frail from their perilous voyages or from the poor living conditions at Rupert’s Valley: More than 8,000 men, women and children were buried along the hillsides and valley. The Rupert’s burial grounds are now known as the only place in the world that contain solely the remains of people taken straight from slaver ships only days or weeks out of Africa – the burial grounds are therefore considered the most significant physical remaining trace of the transatlantic slave trade on Earth.
St Helena has had responsibility for respectful reburial of the 325 human remains ever since they were exhumed in 2008. In late 2017, the current LAAC was formed in order to “provide a peaceful and respectful final resting place for the disturbed Remains currently housed in the former Pipe Store in Jamestown.”
In 2020 the LAAC’s Master Plan for reburial and memorialization was approved. In January 2022, the LAAC announced that funding for reburial had finally been secured and coffin production was being actioned. The transportation of the remains is the next step in moving forward with imminent reburial.
The LAAC is a committee comprised primarily of St Helenians wishing to respectfully lay to rest the excavated remains, to honour their story and their part in St Helena’s story. The No.1 Building is the only surviving structure of the Liberated African Establishment. Completed in 1865, historical records indicate that it was an accommodation block built nearly at the end of the establishment’s life.
The long-term plan for No. 1 Building is for it to become an interpretation centre that commemorates this period of history and provides opportunities for further knowledge transfer. To contact the LAAC, and to find out how you can contribute to the memorialization of the globally important site, contact LAAC Chairperson Helena Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Liberated African Advisory Committee 16 March 2022