David de Quetteville

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David de Quetteville


Commercial Buildings, commissioned by merchant David de Quetteville, is the row of warehouses running diagonally from the top centre of this photograph. The Quai des Marchants in front of it was previously used extensively by cargo vessels but what is known as the Old Harbour is now used exclusively by leisure craft. De Quetteville Corner, which commemorates the developer, is on the far right, level with the last two rows of boats

Merchant David de Quetteville (1755-1822) founded by 1790 the firm that became David de Quetteville and Company, initially on the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland but afterwards at Blanc Sablon, Labrador

This article was written for Jerripedia in 2023, by Guy Dixon

Born in 1755, David de Quetteville was the son of Philippe de Quetteville and his wife, Elizabeth, nee Noel, who were of St Helier, albeit of St Martin origin.

The Almanach Historique.. et Curieux, (Jersey, 1790) contains a Liste de Navires: Pour Terre-Neuve (Newfoundland), including David de Quetteville: Le Swift, 126 tons, P Le Rossignol, master; and Le Success, 93 tons, Simon du Bois, master.

This suggests that de Quetteville was already well established in business, rather than having founded his business in 1792, as John Jean, the author of Jersey Sailing Ships believed. [1].

Privateer attacks

As a result of attacks by American privateers on British settlements on the southern coast of Newfoundland, de Quetteville moved his business from the Avalon Peninsula to the Labrador coast, operating from the Strait of Belle Isle. [2] This move appears to have taken place in about 1812.

It was not a very auspicious time to start a business in North America. The French Revolutionary War that became the Napoleonic War and the 'War of 1812' in North America, saw a trade depression and frequent attacks on British interests in Newfoundland and Canada by American privateers. Many Jersey firms trading in these waters were bankrupted, including that of Clement, of Harbour Grace.

A G Jamieson [3] wrote that in 1816 'David de Quetteville had almost the same tonnage of shipping ..as in 1792'.

His fleet had varied, throughout that time, between one vessel and two, which is not uncommon in the first two or three decades of such a business. Cod were caught, often by fishermen operating from fishing stations owned and set up by merchants. The cod was then dried on 'flakes', wooden platforms above the high water mark, then salted and packed, ready for the merchant`s trading vessel to transport it to market. The homeward voyage usually saw cargoes of sugar, coffee, wines and spirits.

Public offices

David de Quetteville was Procureur de La Ville [4], 1794-1802, and Treasurer of the Hospital, 1794-1800.

His holding of public office in the early years of his career demonstrates that the Island's North American fishery firms were run primarily from the Island. The business expanded considerably, in common with others in the 19th century, in this case when run by his sons in the 1830s. De Quetteville, who had been commissioned as an Ensign in 1790, perhaps in Newfoundland, before moving to the Half-Pay List, 1791-1821, [5] also bore the responsibility for the construction of Le Quai des Marchands and Commercial Buildings, St Helier, retaining for his own use numbers 2, 9 and 10, Quai des Marchands, which included "de Quetteville Corner", where the Quai adjoined St Helier`s English Harbour.

In 1791 he married Francoise Charlotte Girard (1768-1834) at St Helier. She was a native of Caen, France, whose family had settled in Jersey during the French Revolution.

Their sons, Philippe (1792-1844), Clement Jean and Jean expanded the business, known from 1822 as De Quetteville Freres. They increased the fleet, by 1842, to ten vessels, and extended the number of its fisheries. Although the size of the fleet was later reduced to an average of six vessels, the number of fisheries seems to have remained static during the next 30 years.

Philippe de Quetteville had two sons. The younger, Philippe (1821-1847), was brought up to the sea, becoming a Master Mariner, and having the command of two of the family's ships. The elder, David de Quetteville (1820-1879), ran the firm but was principally engaged in local politics, becoming a Jurat and being one of the leaders of the Island's Rose, or liberal, party. The international trade recession and ensuing bank crashes of 1873, which affected so adversely Jersey's banks, drove the firm into bankruptcy, as it did many others. During its 85 years as an employer, it provided employment for hundreds of Jerseymen and Canadians and contributed greatly to the economy of the Island during its 19th century heyday.

Notes and references

  1. Phillimore, 1982, 118
  2. A. G. Jamieson, (ed), in A People of the Sea, (London: Methuen, 1986), 250
  3. op. cit., 324
  4. This was an honorary role in the administration of the parish of St Helier. It is not clear whether he was a procureur du bien public, responsible for overseeing the activities and accounts of the Constable in the whole parish, or one of the procureurs of the Vingtaine de La Ville, a division of the parish which had been left with substantial funds of its own following the acquisition of Mont de La Ville by the British Government in 1804 to build Fort Regent. The wording 'Procureur of La Ville' suggests the latter
  5. An ensigncy conferred at that time, as did a lieutenancy, the legal title of gentleman
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