More on St Helier Harbour from Jersey Archive website note

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1545 map

A map thought to date from the time of Henry VIII (c1545) shows what appears to be a jetty and sea wall at St Helier, which is labeled le havre, although this does not necessarily mean it was a man-made port. It shelters a few small vessels, but the larger vessels were to be found seeking shelter in St Aubin's Bay between the Islet of St Helier and St Aubin's Tower.

Rolls of Court from September 1552 show that one Matthew Le Geyt was condemned to pay 18 livres tournois towards the building of the harbour at St Helier. A century later, Dumaresq's Survey of 1685 mentions a pier called Havre Neuf about half a mile from the town, at the western point of Town Hill. This pier he states to be inconvenient and laid aside in favour of another pier at the south side of Town Hill called Havre des Pas. However the entrance to this pier was narrow and full of rocks.

A small shelter for boats under the churchyard of St Helier was referred to as having the potential to be fitted out for larger vessels.

In 1700 the States, through the Lieutenant Governor, Colonel Collier, asked to be permitted to apply the money raised on the sale of wines and spirits to the building of a small pier, and plans were also drawn up for a quay to extend out to sea from the cemetery wall of the Town Church. However, St Helier lost out to St Aubin, which still remained the favoured anchoring area, and until 1786 there was little more then a broken down jetty at La Folie.


In this year the Chamber of Commerce urged the States to provide a proper harbour, and in 1790 a foundation stone was laid. The old jetty was rebuilt and lengthened, and a breakwater 200 yards long (Old South Pier) constructed to shelter two coves known as the French and English harbours. After the Napoleonic wars, the merchants themselves built Quai des Marchands in front of what is now known as Commercial Buildings, this was widened in 1887-97 and now incorporates the new North Quay. Between 1829-32 a sea wall and the Esplanade was built, where previously there had been sand dunes, to give western parishes access to the harbour.

The demands of a thriving shipping industry required further extensions, and in 1837 the States commissioned James Walker to draw up plans for a new harbour. The Victoria Harbour, or Pier, was started in 1841 and opened by the Queen herself in 1846. The Albert Pier was started in 1847 and completed in 1853 - it was renamed for the Prince Consort in 1859.

The increasing sea traffic and the inability to enter the harbour at low tide led the States in 1872 to embark on an ambitious project presented by Sir John Coode; to build a breakwater out from Elizabeth Castle, with another pier three-quarters of a mile long running out from La Collette to meet it. Strong southwesterly winds destroyed and damaged the eastern pier on three successive winters from 1874, and the States were forced to give up the plan and instead concentrate on dredging. This failure cost the States £160,000.

The Elizabeth Castle breakwater was completed in 1877 and largely extended in granite in 1887. The remnants of the eastern pier remained till 1970 when it was decided to reclaim the adjoining area to build accommodation for storage tanks. The marina in the Albert Harbour was opened in 1981, and provides permanent berths for 180 local craft and 200 berths for visitors. Further extensions included a fish quay (1988) and the Elizabeth Quay (1989), the latter improved car ferry access. In 2000 Prince Andrew opened the New Marina that forms part of the Waterfront land development scheme.


Sources: Brett, C E B, Buildings in the Town and Parish of St Helier (National Trust for Jersey, 1977) Syvret, M and Stevens, J, Balleine's History of Jersey (Phillimore,1998)

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