Popular History of Jersey Chapter 38

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Victorian times

Queen Victoria

In May 1837, William IV "was taken ill of an affection of the chest arising from a disease of the heart", and died on 20 June, being succeeded by our present and ever-to-be-beloved Monarch, Queen Victoria, who was publicly proclaimed in Jersey, in the Royal Square, St Helier, 26 June; this, so far as Imperial matters were concerned, being the chief event of the year, though it was by no means an insignificant period with respect to the real progress gained, and other matters deeply affecting the welfare of the Island.

For one thing, a great step was made towards bringing to a head the all-important discussions that had taken place in connection with the proposed St Helier's harbour works; and it having been definitely reported by the Committee appointed for the purpose that the various plans submitted were, for one reason or another, all defective, the States, on 29 May, authorised the engagement of an eminent English civil engineer to undertake the work; which resulted in the selection of a Mr Walker, who at once visited the Island with a view to taking a survey and making a report concerning the whole project.

Prison Board

Then, again, the work of Dr Bisset Hawkins came to a practical and valuable conclusion. The States, after a considerable amount of correspondence with Lord Russell, agreed to an Order in Council, dated 11 December, and proceeded to the definite establishment of the long-needed Prison Board. The said Board was to consist, in all, of six members, three to be chosen by the States — of whom one was to be the Bailiff of the Island — the other three consisting of the Lieut-Governor, the Viscount, and one of Her Majesty's Receivers, who should each hold the position of ex-officio members. Of such, as a whole, one was to act as treasurer, and the several members were to receive no emolument for their services. On these lines the first Prison Board the Island ever possessed was constituted by an Order in Council, 27 December, such Board having under its direction the alterations, repairs, and the discipline of the gaol and house of correction; the remuneration, dismissal of officers; the collection and distribution of its funds, and the arrangements for the transportation of convicts.

Then, with regard to financial matters, the States undertook to provide £2,000 towards the erection of a house of correction (which was accordingly built) and to annually provide the sum of £300 towards the prison expenses; Her Majesty's Receivers paying a like annual sum, with the understanding that should the expenses exceed the combined £600 per annum, the States would be bound to make up the deficiency. By the same Order in Council, too, of 27 December, the office of public executioner was abolished.

In another matter, also, Jersey was undoubtedly benefited during the year 1837, by the publication of the Rev Edward Durell's edition of Falle's History of Jersey, brought up to date with full notes and references, though in the meantime the said Rector of St Saviour’s had been the cause for some little period of no little commotion upon the Island, the rights and wrongs of which it is scarcely worth while to enter into, more especially as the case eventually died a natural death.

Dean's powers

The main interest in this matter, from an historical point of view, is that once more the Ecclesiastical and Royal Courts and the public were each brought into conflict, the former, according to Barrister's opinion, utterly exceeding the limits of their jurisdiction by suspending the Rev Edward Durell from his office as Rector of St Saviour's before a conviction for the offence alleged to have been committed had been obtained in the Civil Court, whilst the Civil Court does not appear to have pressed the matter home to a final conclusion, for though an agreement was evidently come to between all parties concerned, in which a penalty was incurred — which was to have gone to the use of the poor — it was set forth that such agreement could not legally be enforced.

At the same time it came out that, according to the English interpretation of the patent held by the Dean of Jersey, that official, whilst he possessed the exclusive right of determining all ordinary cases, could not proceed to deprive or suspend any of the clergy under him without the consent of the ministers mentioned in the canons of the Church: the Ecclesiastical Court itself having only like jurisdiction whatever might be the gravity of the case. In other words, whilst the Dean of Jersey held a somewhat unique position in the Church, he had not conferred upon him by any means the powers of a Bishop, nor had the Court over which he ruled any magisterial capacity. The Rev Corbet Hue, who held the office of Dean during this cause celebre, died 12 December 1837, being succeeded by the Reverend Francis Jeune (also a native of Jersey, afterwards Bishop of Peterborough) on 17 March 1838.

Harbour plan approved

During this same month the States received Mr Walker's report concerning the proposed harbour works, and entirely approved of the plan which accompanied it, the estimated cost of carrying out of which was £110,000, It was therefore adopted, though a decision was come to that the whole of the work should not he carried out at once, it being ordered that the finishing of the south pier should be the first to he undertaken of the new plan, for which purpose a sum of £62,000 was voted, whilst the tonnage dues were raised on all vessels entering the harbour.

Meantime a storm had been brewing among the oyster fishermen at Gorey, which appeared at first sight as though it would result in very dangerous if not fatal consequence and which did, indirectly, cause the death of the Lieut-Governor.

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