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3 May 2012
Honeymoon Chair update - 1 week on
Honeymoon Chair on St Helena Island, picture copyright SHBC
The scene the day after the Honeymoon Chair frame was toppled

Sherrilee Phillips, SHBC

Wednesday 25th April saw the island's Honeymoon Chair surround structure, regarded with warm affection by Saints young and old, tumble to the tarmac on the seafront.

Based on eye witness accounts, ANRD were using a hydraulic claw/grabber to prune the bougainvillea that adorned the structure. During ANRD's operation the top heavy Honeymoon Chair toppled over. Bystanders reported no evidence of 'no-parking' signs. An eye witness recounts what he saw. "It surprised me, the sea front was busy, all the parks were full with vehicles. I thought it was quite strange because there were no signs up to say what was going on. It wasn't cordoned off so vehicles were all around the place and people were passing by."

I spoke to Councillor Mervyn Yon who said: "As chairman of the highway authorities a request was made by Crown Estates for four parks to be cordoned off next to the Honeymoon Chair (two either side). Approval was given, if that did not happen it isn't our responsibility."

Police Inspector Rod Pattinson was happy to give a statement. "Normally people dealing with the thing put up the signs themselves. We do it if we are specifically requested. For example, tourism normally asks that we go to cordon off spaces for taxis when a cruise ship is in the harbour."

Since the incident occurred we have been in touch with Barry Hubbard, Acting Director of Infrastructure and Utilities who confirmed an investigation is being carried out by Glynis Fowler, Lands & Buildings department, which should be concluded this week. Mr Hubbard also told us on inspecting the metal reinforcement rods inside the broken pillars they were badly corroded. When the structure toppled it damaged the door of a Landrover alongside. Compensation for the owner has already been agreed, a door has been identified locally. Mr Hubbard said there is no issue in erecting the structure again.

The chair has been a feature of the wharf for a long time and has long been shaded by bougainvillea. Information on the origins of the chair is sketchy. Local historian and Magma Tours operator, Basil George, says "social history on the island is poorly documented." Speaking to locals the Honeymoon Chair was probably built in the late 1940s after the 2nd World War. A picture in the museum taken in 1980 shows the woody climber as quite a matured plant.

Dr Rebecca Cairns-Wicks of the National Trust commented, "I suspect it is early 20th Century. It certainly wasn't there in the old photos of Lilly, 1890. It's probably around 100 years old, it might be a similar age to the one outside of the Castle. The structure that has collapsed is reinforced concrete with a metal rod running through it. The structure itself is not historic but what it represents is symbolic."

Clean up of the Honeymoon Chair was done the same day. The grey chair now stands with a 6 foot outcrop of intertwined tree trunk behind it.

Rebecca says "It looks drastic at the moment and it looks bare. But it will re-grow and the important thing is to make sure it re-grows well. If a new structure can be reconstructed quickly the bougainvillea can be trained to grow into it. With regular maintenance and aftercare there is an opportunity to create a nice feature again that's perhaps better than we had before. It's a pity it has happened but it's not a disaster and there is an opportunity for enhancement."



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