Popular History of Jersey Chapter 37

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Cholera

Outbreak commences

From the Chronique de Jersey of that period we learn that the terrible visitation of cholera morbus which broke out on the Island in 1832 commenced on Wednesday, 8 August, and had evidently been imported from France; Paris suffering severely at the same time from its deadly influence. In two days there were 21 cases, out of which 12 succumbed. During the following week a Sanitary Committee was formed, and the town and suburbs of St Helier divided into districts, with a medical superintendent over each; whilst by order of the States the importation of all fruits and the like from France was entirely prohibited, and the old cemetery situated near the present People's Park ordered to be closed.

But notwithstanding every precaution, by 25 August, or a little over a fortnight, 434 cases were reported as a total from the commencement, out of which 197 had proved fatal. In the country parishes, where it had spread, though not to any great extent, the death rate during this period was three out of every ten attacked. Wednesday, 5 September was appointed and held as a general day of fast and humiliation throughout the Island, and by the week ending 8 September the scourge had began to diminish, although even on that date 167 new cases and 82 deaths had been reported as having occurred during the week in St Helier alone; the total since the commencement on 13 September, when the record ceases — there then being only two cases remaining, and each of them convalescent — being 784 attacked, out of which number over 43 per cent (341) had died.

During the epidemic over 24,000 francs were expended in one form or another, in fighting against the disease, 4,400 francs being spent in doctors' bills alone; though it is certainly worthy of distinct mention that one Dr Collis, of the sixth district, refused all remuneration; and his being the solitary instance of such generosity, the States unanimously accorded him a most hearty vote of thanks both for that and his most valuable assistance.

Court proposal

During the following year a proposition was made which materially concerned the civil jurisdiction of the Island, and being looked upon by a numerous section of the inhabitants as a desirable reform, received much support, a Bill even being presented to the States upon the subject on 22 May by Mr Francis Godfray, which was to the effect that the judicial and legislative authority of the Royal Court should be no longer combined as had been the case from early times, but should become separate functions, three paid jurats being established to undertake the legislative duties.

After much discussion, however, accompanied by not a little acrimony and many subsequent meetings of the States, the project was finally abandoned. This same year, it is worthy of note, saw the establishment of that most useful body, the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society, whilst towards its close another local newspaper, the Gazette du Commerce, was added to the list of literary efforts.

1834 appears to have been in no way remarkable except from an ecclesiastical point of view in consideration of the fact that All Saints, St Helier's District Church, was opened on 3 September, though the few years immediately following are full of matter of local and other interest.

New bank

To commence with, the Jersey Savings Bank (actually established, according to Le Quesne, in the preceding August) first opened its doors on 31 January 1835, the bank being first held in a room of the house of Mr Durell, one of its founders, who then resided in Broad Street. On 22 April in that year a new Lieut-Governor, Major-General Archibald Campbell, was sworn in, just about a month after which (23 May) there was witnessed one of the last cases in Jersey of criminals being pilloried for forgery, three Jews being on that date exposed for an hour in the Royal Square to public execration for the commission of that crime.

By an order dated 15 July 1835, an entire change was made in the electoral powers of the inhabitants, the requirements of the charter of King John, confirmed by the different charters of subsequent sovereigns, that the election of jurats should be in the hands of the optimates patria (elders of families and the like) being entirely done away with, and the franchise extended to the ratepayers of the whole Island.

English currency

In this same month, too, another essential boon was conferred upon Jersey in the establishment by law of the English currency, the change being effected by a declaration of the relative value which it bore in circulation to livres tournois: 26 livres tournois (old French currency) being declared equal to £1 sterling. 1835 was notable as well for the fact that during the latter part of it there was at last carried into effect one of the desires of General Don in the building of a Town Arsenal, centrally situated, for the use of the Militia. Another newspaper, too, the Jersey Argus, the second English one to be printed in Jersey, was founded during the year.

The year 1836 opens out, on 6 January, with the running of the first steamship of the South-Western Company in connection with the Jersey route, the communication being inaugurated by the ss Lady de Saumarez, after strenuous opposition on the part of the "South of England Company".

Shortly after this the death of another celebrity of world-wide fame, a native of Jersey, has to be recorded, in the person of Dr Richard Valpy, Headmaster of Reading Grammar School (renowned both for his classical attainments and his publications), which event occurred on 28 March.

And from a local point of view, though concerning other matters altogether different, it is interesting to note that on 11 August 1836, the Jersey races, which for some years had been held on the sands at St Aubin, were transferred to Greve d'Azette, in the parish of St Clement, and were then for the first time run under Royal patronage, William IV instituting the King's Cup on that day.

Harbour plan

The autumn of 1836 also saw the initiation of one of the most important works in connection with the prosperity of the Island, so far as its maritime interests were concerned, in the efforts put forth by the Chamber of Commerce for the improvement of St Helier's harbour, which that body, in their appeal to the States, set forth as being totally inadequate for the purpose of the shipping that would frequent it if proper provisions were made, its utility at the time being limited to ships of no greater draught than about 10 feet. Nothing, however, seems to have been finally settled at that period, though the project was proceeded with so far as to be lodged au Greffe on 18 October, and a Committee was appointed to discuss the various plans that were afterwards proposed.

Following on this episode comes the herald of a much-needed reform in matters connected with the prison, one Dr Bisset Hawkins, whose commission was to report upon the state and discipline thereof; such report, summed up, briefly amounted to the fact that everything was defective both as regards interior arrangements and discipline. With this the States appear to have entirely concurred, though the difficulty of amending matters according to their showing arose in no way from want of desire, but from the fact that the expenses of maintenance, repairs, etc in connection with it had always been defrayed out of the Crown revenues of which the Governor was in receipt, whilst His Excellency was not disposed to go to what he considered unnecessary expense. At the same time, in a letter addressed to Lord John Russell, then Home Secretary, the States expressed great satisfaction that the matter had been brought before the English Government, and there the business practically ended, so far, at least, as the year 1836 was concerned.

For other matters, the year 1836 concluded with the abolition of one old institution in the form of the pillory, which was put into operation for the last time in Jersey on 11 November; and the establishment of an exceedingly useful and much appreciated apparatus, the public weighbridge, then situated in close proximity to the site of the present Weighbridge Gardens.

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