Popular History of Jersey Chapter 36

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Last Governor, last hanging

Halkett Place

Early in 1821, on 6 February, another new Governor, in the person of Lord Beresford (the last to hold the patent), was appointed to the Island, though it would seem that he was not sworn in until some few months had elapsed, his first appearance in Jersey being on 22 May, or a little less than a month prior to the Coronation of George IV, which event was celebrated with unusual signs of rejoicing throughout the Island, both St Helier and St Aubin being illuminated for the occasion. Then, on 10 September, Major-General Halkett was sworn in as Lieut-Governor, in succession to Major-General Gordon, the Island honouring his name by styling after him one of the principal streets of St Helier — Halkett Place — which was opened during his second year of office.

Popular rising over food prices

On the whole, this year does not seem to have been a happy one for Jersey, though the panic caused throughout the English dominions by the French Revolution was beginning to pass away; for we find that the high prices of food that had prevailed in England a few years previously were so acutely felt in Jersey at this period that a popular rising of the inhabitants took place in consequence, though not by any means so formidable a one as that which caused the flight of Philip Le Geyt in 1730.

Bailiff's relatives

A curious case, too, occurred in the April of 1822, concerning the relationship of Lieut-Bailiff Sir Thomas Le Breton, to John W Dupre and J Poingdestre, two complainants in a trial for forgery held in the Royal Court, which appears to have caused no little stir on the Island, and resulted in an appeal to higher powers, the plea being that the Bailiff, as both brother-in-law and nephew to the persons defrauded, was thereby not a fitting person to act as presiding Magistrate in the case. At least, such was the opinion expressed in Court by a Jurat named Anley, who proposed that the matter should be referred to the whole body of the Court. This was done on 22 April 1822, with the result that the full Court decided against the Bailiff. "From which extraordinary decision," says Le Quesne, "John Dumaresq, Procurator General, and Francis John Le Couteur, Advocate-General, appealed upon which it pleased His Majesty that the said order of the Royal Court be rescinded and the trial proceed with Sir Thomas Le Breton as presiding Magistrate.

Fast crossing

Subsequently to this, for some few years the Acts of the Royal Court reveal little except matters connected with the commercial interests and the monetary affairs of the inhabitants. It is noteworthy, however, that as early as 1823, in the first days of steam, Jersey was honoured by a visit from the SS Medina, which vessel, on her return journey, made the passage to Guernsey "in the astonishingly quick time of four hours", whilst in the autumn of this same year the Channel Islands, Jersey included, seem to have experienced a terrific storm, of sufficient force, indeed, to destroy the Casquet Lighthouse, which had just 30 years previously been erected on that dangerous spot.

1 February 1824, saw the death of Dr Jean Lempriere, the celebrated compiler of the widely-known classical dictionary, born in Vallee-des-Vaux, in the parish of St Helier, according to Plee's History of Jersey about the year 1765. Amongst other noteworthies who died about this period may be reckoned Henry Lord Carteret, Bailiff of Jersey, at the advanced age of 91, and the last of his name to hold the appointment, he being succeeded by Sir Thomas Le Breton, Lieut-Bailiff, since which time, with one exception, the position has been held only by Crown Officers resident on the Island.

New cemetery

Then, coming to the year 1827, another wave of improvement seems to have passed over the Island; for during it we find Green Street Cemetery, situated in St Helier, in the district of St James, opened for burials, whilst the church of St James itself was built; and the main road leading to the harbour at Bouley Bay, Trinity, constructed; and, as regards the better communication with England, it is of interest to note that it was in this year that the mail steamers Watersprite, Ivanhoe, and Meteor, first commenced to run. The building fever, it may be added, was extended into the following year, 1828, when a theatre was erected in the Royal Crescent, Don Road, St Helier. This having been destroyed by fire the "Bible Christians", a strong and influential body on the Island, erected the chapel which now stands on that ground.

Gallows Hill

The following year, on 3 October, there was witnessed, in the hanging of one Jolin, the last public execution on Mont Patibulaire, Gallows Hill, on which spot the execution of condemned criminals had taken place from time immemorial. The same year also saw the commencement of the Esplanade along the St Helier portion of St Aubin's Bay. In 1830, George IV died, and was succeeded by William IV (1830 to 1837), next predecessor to our present Gracious Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria, and coming to 1831, we find another record pretty thickly strewn with local events.

Of these, of the highest importance, and coming first on the list, is the fact that (under the Lieut-Governorship of Major-General W Thornton, sworn in 26 November of the previous year) public elections, which had beforetime been held on Sundays, after divine service, were first held on the weekdays in Jersey, 22 March 1831, the Sunday elections being abolished on account of the disturbances, "riots and profanations that often occurred during contested ones".

Gaslight

In June of the same year steam communication was opened out direct from Jersey to London by the ss Lord of the Isles, whilst in the autumn gas was introduced into the Island, the first house to be lighted being one in Charing Cross, St Helier, which, still in existence in 1895, was then a tailoring establishment held by Mr Bisson, whose landlord went to the expense of the fittings. And, once more, to "live, flutter, and die", another newspaper, L' Impartial, was founded about this period.

The year 1832 was a sad one for Jersey, commencing as it did with the news of the death of the beloved General Don (4 January) — he being buried in the Garrison Church, Gibraltar, where he died — and subsequently having cast over it the shadow of a terrible visitation in the form of cholera, the startling events of which "dark period of death" must be left until the next chapter.

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