Stairway to Heaven – Jacob’s Ladder

Not many people know a lot about St Helena and of those who know something not many know that it had its own railway company.

From Harbour to Garrison

The St Helena Railway Company owned one piece of track of around 900ft or 300m in length linking Jamestown harbour to the artillery garrison on top of Ladder Hill via an almost vertical cliff face.

This track (an inclined plane cableway), built in 1829, had little buggy’s on it which were used to haul manure and other supplies to the garrison and send down goods and ammunition.

The buggies have long since gone and been replaced by steps (1871) – hence my reference to a stairway to heaven – especially so when you look up at it at night (my first rather poor quality picture).

In total there are 699 steps – Jacob’s Ladder – and naturally people have to urge to walk up it. The views as you do so are stunning. Apparently it is not unknown for local kids to ride down the bannister!

Given the heat in Jamestown and the incline itself this is no walk in the park but certainly something you should do. I suggest you do as I did – climb it at daybreak when it’s much cooler. I do not recommend it if you suffer from vertigo – especially coming down. I was rather astounded to see some very elderly people from a cruise ship clamber to the summit at midday looking like they were about to draw their last breath. On the lighter side they reminded me of Noel Coward’s song about mad dogs and English men – on the more serious side they were fools but of course the cruise ship was leaving at 3pm so it was a case of then or never. My point here is, if you’re not up to it just hop in a car and you will be at the top in less than five minutes for the same stunning views.

Those who have climbed (and indeed those who haven’t) can get (for a small fee) a souvenir certificate of their climb in the excellent Jamestown Museum at the bottom of the steps.

This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on my trip to St Helena.  I suggest you continue with my next entry – Ladder Hill Fort – Soon to be Hotel – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my St Helena Introduction entry.


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