Second World War bomb detonated
Construction workers at Fort George uncovered a bomb on their site, left over from the Second World War. All work stopped until RAF bomb disposal experts arrived from the mainland.
They diffused the weapon in place and took it off site for disposal. They detonated it in a controlled explosion so that it would not be a danger to anyone, and construction work could resume.
Plans for St Sampson power station approved
Plans for the power station at St Sampson were approved on 28 February 1903. When built, the station would be Guernsey’s second generating facility. It was desperately needed to cope with rising demand.
Guernsey’s first power station first had been constructed at Les Amballes in St Peter Port in 1900. It was an ambitious project, which had brought electric lighting to the town.
Yet within just two years, demand was already outstripping supply. It was obvious something had to be done to supplement the existing facility, so plans were put in place for a second generating site in St Sampson.
The growing need for electricity
Once St Sampson’s power station had been completed, it supplemented, rather than replaced the Les Amballes site. The two stations were linked by cable, and excess supply was stored in batteries. This allowed the generators to be switched off three days a week without subscribers losing the power they needed.
This was an importand consideration for the businesses that ran them. At the time, the electricity operators were still private concerns, so being able to shut down for half the week would help them cut costs. They could reduce the amount of oil they burned without jeopardising the supply, which in turn increased their profits.
Public ownership beckons
Naturally, Guernsey couldn’t allow private enterprise to keep control of such a vital resource as its electricity supply. So, in 1938, when slightly less than 3000 customers had been connected, the States bought them as an island resource.
The station at Les Amballes eventually closed down, and the St Sampson site extended and upgraded. Its operating capacity has grown with the addition of new generators and a whole new hall to house them in. It is supplemented by undersea cables between Guernsey and Jersey. Known as the Channel Islands Electricity Grid these link to France, and provide the majority of the electricity that Guernsey needs day to day.
Release of Reverend Harry Samuel
Reverend Harry Samuel found himself in prison after performing an illegal marriage. The young Methodist minister had married 56-year-old John Matthews and 24-year-old Louisa Carre in his living room. Neither a registrar nor a witness was present, and there couple were already related. Matthews was Carre’s uncle, and there was some question over whether he was already married.
Their marriage licence was for an Anglican union at the Church of the Holy Trinity. But the priest at that church, Rev Nassau Cathcart, had refused to proceed when he’d discovered their blood relationship.
They approached Reverend Samuel a few days later, without revealing the back story, and he’d agreed to marry them.
A terrible discovery
Harry discovered the truth of the matter the following day, and reported himself to the church authorities. Unfortunately for him, the police had also heard what had happened, and set out to arrest him and the groom.
The Committing Court heard two days of evidence against Harry and Matthews, and decided that they should stand trial. Matthews sat out the interim in prison, and Harry released on bail of £250.
The jury at their trial found against them. It jailed the groom for 12-months and Harry for six months. Harry lodged an appeal against his conviction with the Home Secretary.
Home Secretary Herbert Asquith, later Prime Minister, recommended Harry’s release in Parliament on 25 February. He had received a report from Guernsey on the case, which influenced his decision.
Rev Harry won his freedom at 11am on 27 February 1895, and was met at the prison gate by his wife.
Guernsey’s first banker dies
Thomas Priaulx was born in 1762 and on 26 February 1844, aged 82. We can thank him for bringing Guernsey much of its wealth – for he set up the first bank on the island. If his name is familiar, that’s probably because his nephew, Osmond de Beauvoir Priaulx, later went on to establish the Priaulx Library.
From privateering to banking
Thomas owned a small fleet of merchant vessels. These allowed him to carry on the family privateering business, along with his brother. They worked together from a house on Cornet Street.
Privateering was effectively acting as an army for hire. A privateer would maintain an armed boat and accept commissions from governments to patrol certain areas. Sometimes they would be tasked with warding off pirates so that a nation’s merchant shipping was kept safe, and sometimes they’d be asked to go to war, effectively bolstering the nation’s retained navy. It was a cost-effective means of defence for the country in question and a profitable business for the privateer.
Indeed, the privateering business was successful enough that it financed the founding of Priaulx, Le Marchant, Rougier & Co. Becoming Guernsey’s first bank, it was established with capital of £40,000. Its official name was a bit of a mouthful, but it was also known as the much more manageable Guernsey Banking Company. Once other banks set up rival businesses on the island, it became the Guernsey Old Bank.
Expansion and amalgamation
Over time, the Guernsey Old Bank moved to larger premises at 19 High Street, St Peter Port. It opened branches in St Pierre du Bois, St Sampson and Alderney, and by 1827 was issuing its own bank notes.
It was acquired by the National Provincial and Union Bank of England in 1924. This became National Westminster Bank in 1970 following its 1968 merger with Westminster Bank. In March 2000, Nat West was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Thus, a direct link runs from Guernsey’s very first bank to the multinational banking organisation that is RBS today.
Death of occupation resister Marie Ozanne
Marie Ozanne was born on Guernsey in 1906 and trained for the Salvation Army in London in 1923. She served in France and Belgium immediately before the start of the Second World War, and returned to Guernsey in 1940. Just a few months later, the German army invaded.
Marie didn’t evacuate, despite the fact that Germany had banned the Salvation Army. She stayed on the island and preached in St Peter Port, as she believed was her calling, and spoke out against the way the Germans treated both locals and the shipped-in labourers.
She did all this while leading meetings and looking after two children, teaching music and learning German.
The occupying force confiscated her uniform, but this wasn’t enough to stop her. Ozanne redoubled her efforts, writing to the authorities to protest their behaviour. Her first letter argued against the closing down of the Salvation Army Halls, while later ones protested the German treatment of Jews.
In her diaries of 1942 and 1943, which the Island Archives acquired in 2017, she asked “Guernsey is beautiful [so] why do much war, darkness and hatred?”
Eventually, the Occupying powers had had enough. On 5 September 1942, they arrested her in the hope of shutting her up.
They were only half successful. Although imprisoned in a Guernsey policeman’s house, she kept up her campaign, despite falling ill.
Illness and death
This illness was perhaps more serious that anyone realised. Marie Ozanne died of peritonitis, an inflammation of the intestine’s fibrous membrane on 25 February 1943. She had died at home, aged 37.
Guernsey Bailiff Richard Collas unveiled a blue plaque in her honour at her former home in the Vale, close to St Sampson, on 23 February 2013. She was the first woman and first non-artist awarded a plaque on Guernsey.
She had already been posthumously awarded the Order of the Founder, the Salvation Army’s highest honour, in 1947.
Murder inquiry ends with suicide
A Scottish murder led to a Guernsey suicide. The gruesome tale behind the deaths captivated the press in February 1911.
Mr and Mrs Hutchison had invited friends to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary with a dinner at home on 3 February. They ate, and the ladies went to the drawing room while the men stayed at the table to smoke. They had coffee, but soon the guests were falling ill.
Fourteen of the eighteen guests were soon crying out in pain. Mr Hutchinson and one other – the one who had supplied the coffee from his own shop – died in the early morning. The only guests who didn’t fall ill were the three who hadn’t touched the coffee.
Murder by poisoning
Investigations soon revealed arsenic in the coffee. There was no arsenic in the coffee on sale at the shop, so it must have made it into the cups when the drinks were made.
Police questioned Mr Hutchinson’s sons, John and Herbert, both of whom said they had no idea there was any arsenic in the house. Yet, further enquiries led the police to issue a warrant for 24-year-old John’s arrest. John Hutchinson was having financial problems, and a bottle of arsenic was missing from the chemist’s shop where he worked. Police put two and two together, but by that point John had already left Scotland for London.
They sent out a description, which rang bells in Guernsey, and Guernsey police closed in on him on the morning of Monday 20 February. As they entered the room where he was sitting in a St Peter Port hotel, he fled up a staircase. There, he took a swig from a small bottle, the contents of which quickly killed him.
The later inquest, on 24th February confirmed his cause of death. According to a report in the Gloucester Citizen, he’d drunk a bottle of prussic acid. The doctor who spoke at the enquiry said that he’d consumed enough acid to kill 16 people.
Hutchinson’s movements were later traced, and he’d come to Guernsey by way of Jersey, where he’d hidden in a hotel claiming to have pneumonia. This was a ruse so he didn’t need to go outside where someone might recognise him.
A long journey and a disguide
He’d stopped in London on his way south and sent a suicide note back to his family telling them they’d find his body floating in the Thames. This was likely a ruse to put police off his scent. In reality, he’d carried the prussic acid all the way from Scotland, perhaps never intending to use it.
Although he’d grown a beard since the killings, and was using an assumed identity, his real name was on one of his bags and had a Scottish cheque book.
The Scotsman reported on 25th February that his funeral has taken place on Guernsey the previous day (24th February). The officers who had tried to arrest Hutchinson were in attendance, with around 100 others.
Death of Thomas Fiott de Havilland
Thomas Fiott de Havilland (10 April 1775 to 23 February 1866), was an engineer and architect who built some of the most notable buildings in Madras. In later life he became a politician after returning to Guernsey.
He left Guernsey for Madras, via England, and arrived in August 1792. The following year, he joined the engineer corps. That assignment determined the course of the rest of his life.
De Havilland the traveller
Although India was his base, he went on expeditions to Ceylon and Egypt. On the latter, he was ordered to find a source of water for the British troops as they marched between Cairo and Suez and, having done so, rewarded with a trip home. He sailed back to Guernsey via Malta, but didn’t stay long before he returned to India. On the journey back, he was captured by the French, but soon freed and allowed to continue to Calcutta.
He was later court martialed for mutiny after being accused of passing a message between two Lieutenant-Colonels. Although he maintained his innocence, he saw that he would lose, so resigned and appealed to a higher authority. That authority, the Honourable Court of Directors, was more open to his plea, and returned him to service without punishment.
De Havilland the architect
While in India, he built the Scottish National Church at Madras, and the Madras Bulwark. The church cost around £20,000, which would be equivalent to £1.3m today, and featured a dome 51ft in diameter.
He was also particularly proud of the Madras Bulwark, a massive sea defence designed to protect the city from some of the most fierce waves in the world. He recorded in his autobiography that the Indian government described it as “the greatest… work ever executed by any individual under this presidency”.
He stayed in India for 30 years, and in the forces for another three, finally retiring aged 50 in April 1925. Two years later, he bought an estate on Guernsey and built Havilland Hall, which he let to the Lieutenant-Governor. He became the political representative for St Andrew’s parish.
St Sampson was ordained a bishop
The actual dates on which anything happened in St Sampson’s life are sketchy at best. He lived in an era where little was written down, and those that were have often been lost in the interim.
We do know one thing for certain, though. On 22 February 521, Guernsey’s patron saint was ordained a bishop by Bishop Dubricius.
Samson (note the missing “p”) had been born in Gwent, Wales, to the daughter of the king of Glamorgan and Gwent. Although technically royalty, he wasn’t one for comfort and excess. After joining the church he moved to monastery on Caldey Island, close to Tenby, off the Pembrokeshire coast. There, he could live the austere life he craved, living and eating simply and abstaining from alcohol.
From Tenby, he moved to Ireland where he either founded or revived a monastery – the details are unclear.
Sampson’s ordination as a Bishop
He was ordained a bishop at the age of 35, and then had a vision telling him to travel. He first heading for Cornwall, the Scilly Isles, and Guernsey. In Guernsey, he founded a wooden chapel close to where St Sampson‘s parish church stands now. Although not the building that Sampson himself constructed, the parish church is one of the oldest buildings in Guernsey. It was consecrated in 1111.
Guernsey adopted him as both its saint, and the name of its second town (the island of Samson in the Scilly Isles is also named after him). Yet his visit was fleeting. After stopping briefly on the island he moved on to Dol, in Brittany, France and founded another monastery. As a result, his full title is now St Samson of Dol, and after his death his remains were buried there in around 565AD.
He is Guernsey’s patron saint, and his feast day is 28 July.
The Channel Islands were cut off from the outside world
The Channel Islands have long relied on cable communications to stay in touch with the outside world. Less than four decades after Morse invented the telegraph, Guernsey was part of the global network – the Internet of its day. Many considered it an essential part of modern life, allowing them to send messages more quickly than by ship.
Guernsey was the hub of the network, with cables from the Dartmouth in Devon landing there. Operators in Guernsey routed the signal to Jersey, and took down messages from Jersey to send on to the mainland.
It all worked perfectly until in the late 1870s. Without a backup cable, a break in the sole link in February 1877 left the islands cut off.
Communication had to revert to the steam packet, the regular mail ship service. Effectively aping the broken part of the cable, it dropped off all messages for the Channel Islands at Guernsey. Any that needed forwarding on were opened and telegraphed from there. Any that the operators had received from Jersey were written out and handed to the steam packet’s captain to ferry back to the mainland.
The break was a serious blow to the speedy, efficient communication the Channel Islands had enjoyed to that point. To put it into context, it would be like going from broadband back to dial-up today.
Fixing the fault was a long, drawn-out process. The ship that had been contracted to do the work – the International – only arrived at Dartmouth on 22 March. By then, more than a month had passed since the original break.
International reached Guernsey a week later and started her survey. The crew located the break in the cable 25 miles off Guernsey’s coast, and set about repaiding it. Services were finally restored on Sunday 7 April, six weeks after the connection had first been lost.
Guernsey Railway Company runs its first services
Guernsey Railway Company was born out of an earlier incarnation, the Guernsey Steam Tramway. Its only line, which ran from St Peter Port to St Sampson and back was the second street tram in the British Isles to use overhead wires to deliver an electric current.
For its first year in operation, Guernsey Railway Company didn’t actually own the line itself. It leased it from Siemens, who had electrified it, until satisfied that it was working without any hitches. Its predecessor had operated eight engines, but the Railway Company started with two, and capacity to double that if needed. It maintained a depot at Houge a la Pierre, and the building that housed the generator and invested in its fleet over time. The third tram arrived five years after the service launched, in 1897.
A self-sufficient railway
Guernsey didn’t have public mains electricity when the service opened, so the Guernsey Railway Company generated its own. It used a steam boiler to turn a turbine at 575rpm, producing 500 volts at 85 kilowatts.
To guarantee its popularity, the Guernsey Railway Company killed the competition. It bought out the horse-drawn bus company for £4500 in 1895, but this turned out to be a short-lived fix. Motor-powered buses arrived on the island in 1909 and provided more flexible services at lower costs.
The service was hugely popular, carrying a million passengers. It took ten minutes to get from one end of the line to the other, which was quick. but it was also expensive. The 9d per mile it cost to run compared poorly with the 5 1/2d cost to run the bus. Perhaps inevitably, it didn’t survive, and the service was wound up on 9 June 1934. Work began on lifting the tracks on 11 June.