Popular History of Jersey Chapter 62

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The 19th century draws to a close

Pool opens

The first public civil function performed by His Excellency Major-General Hopton was the opening of the New Lady's Bathing Pool at Havre-des-Pas, under the auspices of the Jersey Swimming Club, on 23 May. And sad to record, on the 28th of that month the inhabitants, and more especially the members belonging to the Society of Oddfellows, were startled by the arrest of the Secretary of the Loyal St Aubin Lodge, for the embezzlement and misappropriation of the Society's moneys, a matter which resulted in the prisoner being condemned to nine months hard labour, and also in some rather severe official comments being made upon the laxity shown during previous years by the locally responsible officers of the Society in question.

The Act reorganising the construction of the Prison Board before alluded to was confirmed by Her Majesty in Council on 1 June, and on that day, too, the States adopted a Projet de Loi authorising a loan of not less than £20,000 for the purpose of Harbour Works, one project in connection with which — the deepening by dredging of St Helier's harbour — was shortly afterwards commenced. 5 and 6 June 1895 are memorable for the fact that Lord Rosebery passed those dates on the Island, visiting during his stay Mont Orgueil Castle, the Royal Courts, the Public Library, and other places of interest. And as concerning maritime affairs, the month of June saw the commencement of the first direct communication between Jersey and the Midland counties of England via the Manchester and Liverpool Ship Canal.

Murder trial

The St Ouen's murder case came on for trial at the July Criminal Assizes, 28 July — the evidence having been previously taken down in writing, according to an antiquated law of the Island — and upon the evidence adduced, which, whilst apparently of a very incriminating character, was wholly circumstantial, a verdict of not Guilty was returned by a majority of 19 out of the 24 of those who formed the Jury. The prisoner was therefore acquitted of the charge on 11 July, having only been imprisoned from first to last about six and a half months.

25 July in the year under consideration is sadly memorable as having witnessed the death of Dr Thorold, the Lord Bishop of the Diocese of Winchester; and the 27th will long be remembered as the day upon which one of the most extensive fires that had ever occurred on the Island caused the entire destruction of the Town Mills, but a comparatively short time before elaborately fitted up with modern appliances including the electric light, and owned by P and W Le Quesne. Another fire, too, attended with serious consequences in the way of monetary loss, broke out on 14 August, on which occasion, during a bazaar which was being held in the Government House grounds for the benefit of St Saviour's Church, a large marquee was set alight and burnt to the ground, causing the destruction of over £200 worth of fancy goods and ornamental articles.

In the same month, as another special item of interest, comes the St Helier Municipal Budget, put forth on the 20th of the month, and showing the expenditure of the parish to have been £11,783 2s 1d, with a balance of £759 13s 3d in favour of the parish — and an estimated expenditure for the years 1895-96 of £13,805.

On 7 September Baron F de Rothschild paid a flying visit to Jersey, in his yacht Rona; and much amusement was caused on the Island about the 13th of that month by the serious manner in which France had taken up the idea that the British flag had been hoisted on the outlying Minquiers Rocks, which to the time of writing seem actually to belong to "no man's land", though they are annually visited by Jersey officials of State.

Smallpox outbreak

The island, however, had its own cause for alarm before the conclusion of the month in an outbreak of smallpox, which though slight and confined to one or two isolated spots, put the inhabitants to some consternation and called into requisition again the hospital accommodation at Overdale. Only three deaths occurred, though moat unhappily amongst that number came the lamented decease of the Rev V Fick, the much-beloved Rector of St Thomas's pro-Cathedral; otherwise, according to the Registrar's report for the month, the death-rate for the period was as low as 19.5 per 1,000.

But in connection with this epidemic and sanitary affairs generally, there remains to be noted the great effort made by the Constable of St Helier and others for the appointment of a town sanitary engineer, a matter brought prominently before the St Helier parochial meeting on 22 October, on which occasion the benefit that would accrue from the appointment of such an official was almost unanimously conceded; but on the consideration that such officer should be a States official and vested with the authority of that body, and not merely the servant of a given parish without power to act in case of necessity, the appointment was negatived, and the matter left in abeyance by the parishioners in the hope that the States would eventually perform their obvious duty concerning it. It is well worthy of mention that at the same meeting a sum of £1,000 was voted for the purchase of property in La Chasse, Colomberie, St Helier, in order that much-needed improvements might be carried out in connection with communication to Regent Road and otherwise for the benefit of the eastern side of the town.

Harbour dredging

Dredging operations in St Helier's harbour commenced on 1 October, on which date the London and South-western Railway Co's steamers were berthed alongside the Albert Pier for the purpose in hand, the main object of which was, in pursuance of an Act registered by the States on 1 June preceding, to dredge the harbour to the depth of six feet in order that the mail-boats and other large steamers might be enabled to enter and leave the harbour every day in the year between four and ten o'clock, and at any state of the tide. Part of this work was accomplished at the time, though a sudden and most unexpected finale to the matter was brought to pass by the Harbour Committee placing the steam-dredger, together with the barges and other plant employed, under arrest as security for the indemnity due in lieu of the nonfulfilment of the contract. The arrest, it may be added, took place on 30 November.

Meanwhile, the tragic end of Mr G S Farnell, principal of the Victoria College - a man of high repute and no mean geologist, had thrilled the Island to its centre — he meeting with his accidental death on 4 November 1895 at the early age of 43, by falling from some high rocks at Plemont, which he had climbed evidently in search of specimens. At an inquest held on the body on the 6th, a verdict of accidental death was given, and the deceased was subsequently honoured with a semi-official funeral, owing to his close connection with the States and the high respect with which he had been held.

On 11 November the insanitary condition — mainly due to bad ventilation — of the Royal Court occupied the chief attention of the States, it being decided on the following day to hold the sittings of that body, pro tem, in the Town Hall, situated a short distance away at the entrance to the Parade, a plan that was at once adopted.

Deputy retires

Following this, on the 16th of the month the Lieut- Governor, Major-General E Hopton, inaugurated the Army and Navy Club at its premises, Hill Street; and on the same date, also, Advocate H E le V dit Durell issued his final address to the electors of St Helier, after having worthily held office as one of the Deputies for that town for a term of 24 years, during which period he had six consecutive times in the course of 18 years been returned at the head of the poll.

By Advocate Durell’s retirement two vacancies in the office of Deputy for St Helier had to be filled at the forthcoming election in the following month (December) — a former Deputy, Mr Bossy, having left the Island after acting for only about the space of six months, and there being no law extant enabling an interim election to take place — and at perhaps one of the most enthusiastic and unanimous electoral meetings ever held on the Island, E B Renouf, solicitor, and Duret Aubin, were returned unopposed to fill the vacancies on the 10th of the month, the significance of the affair lying in the fact that each belonged distinctly to the progressive party.

With regard to the insular legislation during the year 1895, the most important items were the Act of 14 February, extending the provisions of former laws on drainage for the purpose of constructing new drains in portions of the parishes of St Helier, St Saviour, and St Clement, with a view to improved sanitation; an Order in Council which was registered on 9 March extending the provisions of the different extradition Acts to Germany, so far as concerns the mutual surrender of criminals; the Act passed by the States on 4 February and registered on 1 June, to effect a loan of £20,000 for the reconstruction of the Albert Pier head, and for the dredging of St Helier's harbour; an Act, also registered on 1 June, fixing the dates and number of official holidays, such to be on New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August, Christmas Day; 25 March, 24 June, 29 September, the days fixed for the celebration of the Queen's birthday and for polling in public elections. The same Law also provided for holding six Criminal Assizes on the four first days of the week instead of, as was formerly the custom, on the four first days of the month, so as to enable the ordinary Court business to be transacted on Saturdays throughout the year, except in the event of holidays occurring on that day, in which case the sittings were ordered to be held on the Monday following.

Smugglers fined

On 20 July the local Criminal Law Amendment Act was modified so that certain important provisions of the English Act of 1885 might be applied to the Island. Several smuggling cases, it may be mentioned, occurred in Jersey during the year under consideration, though the case of the period was undoubtedly that of a charge preferred against one Auguste Liot (a Frenchman) and his mother, for endeavouring to smuggle into France 108 lb of tobacco, for which offence the male prisoner was fined £100, and his mother £89 2s, treble value of the tobacco, and costs, or in default condemned to six months imprisonment.

Then to give a glimpse, for future reference, of the passenger traffic in connection with the Island, it is valuable to note that in the year 1895, during the months May to September (inclusive) there arrived from various ports in England and France, in all, no less than 55,867 passengers, showing an increase of 7,299 over the corresponding months of the previous year.

Extreme weather

Then, to the meteorological world, and those interested in affairs climatic, it may prove of service to be reminded or informed that from a weather point of view 1895, in some respects, stood out almost alone. Commencing, as has been stated, with a Canadian winter season, a period of wet set in, to be followed by a late summer of excessive heat and drought — a slight rain shower being hailed with delight on 1 October; after which date, for some little time, though thunder had been but seldom heard up to then, frequent and almost daily minor thunderstorms occurred, accompanied with heavy rains, cold, sleet, and white squalls, during which hailstones of remarkable dimensions were only too fully in evidence.

Then came, after a few days moderate sunshine, a period of mild, though dull weather, mingled with copious and at times almost incessant rain, or heavy, drizzling moisture, Christmas Day being wet, and the last day of the year excessively mild for the season, though without sunshine, and ending at midnight with a dense fog.

Still, the health of the Island was eminently satisfactory. Only 71 deaths occurred during the month of December, showing the small average of 16.6 per 1,000, and of these 28 were over 60 years of age. And during the year, there was recorded 2,117.l hours of sunshine, a total which gives 203 hours above the mean for the previous 15 years.

Taking things altogether, indeed, it is a matter of congratulation to be enabled to close these records with the fact that a more quiet, peaceful and generally prosperous closing to a year has seldom been witnessed in Jersey than the close of the year 1895, when the Island was still under the most able Lieut-Governorship of Major-General E Hopton.

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