Popular History of Jersey Chapter 35

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1816, an eventful year

The year 1816 seems to have been rather an eventful one so far as concerns local events in Jersey, and these not a1together pleasant ones, though good and evil were not entirely unmixed.

Quarrel over prison

The opening of it, for instance, saw a very big quarrel amongst that august body composing the States of Jersey concerning the great expense incurred, and the proceedings which governed the building of the prison in Gloucester Street, eventuating in a lawsuit before His Majesty Council, and only being settled on 23 May. The primary cause of this was that the majority of the States as then composed would not ratify the previous decisions of that body owing to alleged irregularities in the former proceedings. In this, however, they were overruled by the Prince Regent, afterwards George IV, in Council (George III having at this time become hopelessly insane) on the ground that whatever irregularities might have occurred, they were Acts issuing from the Legislative Body of the Island, against which no protest had been made by the minority, and no appeal had been forwarded to His Majesty to disallow them.

About a fortnight after this decision Major-General H M Gordon was sworn in as Lieut-Governor; and on 4 July of the same year confirmation was obtained of the laws of Banon, which brings very prominently to the fore a matter that does not redound to the wisdom or credit of Jersey farmers in their treatment of what sheep there were then upon the Island. To put it in the words of Mr Quayle: "The treatment of this most useful animal is the disgrace of Jersey agriculture. In other countries they are considered the mainstay of the farm; here they are treated like a species of vermin". The largest flock noticed by the same writer was at St Brelade, "and might," he says, "have amounted to about 40 in number." The commonable lands at St Ouen, St Peter, and St Brelade, too, he says, were sheep-fed, though the herbage found there was very scanty.

Shackled in pairs

"Those poor animals", to again quote his words, were "shackled, sometimes in pairs, each pair having also a stone of about 3 lbs weight attached to a rope, which they drag about; whilst, if in its attempts to escape from the unproductive and oftentimes burning sands, the animal breaks its bands when thus at banon, a penalty is incurred by the proprietor of it, even if no trespass has been committed. And in case of actual trespass, the owner of the land so trespassed upon is entitled to 12 sous for each sheep, and 6 sous for their keep each day, besides reimbursement for damage done, to be ascertained by three neighbours named by the Constable or Centeniers.

"Stray sheep at the same time became the lawful property of the captor if not owned after publication of their being found on two successive Sundays at the close of divine service, unless, perchance, the Seigneur of the fief put in a claim for them, when they became his property upon paying what expenses had accrued. Or, on the other hand, sheep trespassing were liable legally, or at any rate according to the right of custom and unwritten law, to be shot, and their carcasses left to rot. All sheep were ordered to be marked and registered by the Constable, under the penalty, in case of neglect, of becoming waifs and strays confiscable to the King or Seigneurs and "under this treatment", as a whole, Quayle quaintly concludes "that portion which escapes being shot, starved to death or worried by dogs, and which passes into the hands of the butcher, makes very bad mutton." And, at the same time, it affords a sufficient answer to the question so frequently asked by strangers of the present day: "How is it there are so few sheep upon the Island?"

Suicide

Then, closely following on the appointment (7 October 1816) of Sir Thomas Le Breton as Lieut-Bailiff, vice Sir John Dumaresq, resigned, Jersey was startled with the news that Admiral D'Auvergne, to whom there had not long before been made the presentation afore alluded to, had committed suicide in London, the exciting cause of which is generally supposed to have been his being deprived of the Duchy of Bouillon by the Congress of Vienna after the restoration of Louis XVIII of France — the title and estates being given to Prince Charles de Rohan, a descendant of the former Duke in the female line.

From the Ecclesiastical point of view, the year 1816 is interesting as having seen the completion of the building of the first district church in Jersey, St. Paul's, which was commenced in 1815, whilst the following year is chiefly remarkable for the fact that a visit was paid to the Island, on 20 September, by H R H William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester, nephew of George III, and for the death and burial of Major Corbet, Lieut-Governor of Jersey at the time of the celebrated battle, 6 January 1781.

In 1818 an event took place which forms an Ecclesiastical epoch in Jersey so far as the Church of England is concerned, there having, on 24 July, been held the first Confirmation service that had taken place since the Reformation, Dr Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury, officiating for the Lord Bishop of Winchester on the occasion, he being the first Bishop of the Established Church to pay the Island a visit. And the important events of 1820 may be summarised in the facts that, as regards imperial affairs, on 20 January George III died, after a reign of 60 years, being succeeded by George IV (1820 to 1830), and locally, in the laying, on 16 May, of the foundation stone of the South Pier, and the first appearance of another newspaper, Le Constitutionnel.

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