Although St. Helena was frequently visited by ships on their way to and from India and the East via the Cape of Good Hope, letters prior to 1815 bear no external indication of having come from or passed through the island. Such letters would not carry any St. Helena marking, as there was no post office on the island at that time. Letters were either handed to ship’s captains to be carried or were left at the Government Secretary's office in the Castle to await the next ship. Prior to that, letters were left under large stones, one of which can still be seen at the entrance of the Castle.
By a proclamation of the Governor dated 20th February 1815 the first Post Office was established on the island. The Proclamation (which is reproduced in full in Appendix 1) provided for a “regular Post Office” to be fitted up on the Wharf in Jamestown under Mr. William Brabazon as the first Post Master. Letters would no longer be received for transmission at the Secretary’s office but at the Post Office. All letters carried by mail packet had to have an official Post Office mark or stamp and anyone sending a letter from the island otherwise than through the Post Office was liable to a fine of 5/-.
The Post Office was opened on 23rd February 1815. Later that year the decision was taken to send Napoleon to St. Helena and he arrived on the island on 17th October 1815. With Napoleon arrived staff, servants, officials, and more and more troops to guard him, with the result that the population of under 4,000 was rapidly doubled. The post office was no doubt kept busy, but most of the letters of the period which have survived have, in view of their historical interest, been kept in official archives or private collections.