27th October 1747
Bailiff Sir Peter de Havilland was born
Sir Peter de Havilland, one of thirteen children, was born in St Peter Port on 27 October 1747. Sixty-three years later he was made Bailiff of Guernsey – a role that he fulfilled until his death in 1821 at the age of 73.
France and French
De Havilland was a native French speaker who spent three years in the coastal French town of Sete. There, he learned about the wine trade, but he chose not to settle upon this as his life-long career.
Instead, upon his return to Guernsey he trained as a lawyer and was sworn in at the age of 23. Unfortunately, by the time he’d turned 30 this, too, had come to an end. He was forced to resign from the law in order to sidestep the challenge of a duel.
It was now 1777 and he needed to find something else to do with his life.
Profiting from privateering
Like many of his wealthier contemporaries, he turned to privateering. Effectively waging warfare on behalf of the crown, a privateer would sink or capture enemy shipping on commission. Any ships that they captured would be sold, along with the contents, and the privateer would take a profit from the proceeds.
De Havilland himself didn’t head out to sea. Instead he invested in other privateers’ ships, thus earning himself an income without risking anything more than a little currency.
This was seen as a perfectly respectable profession at the time and it certainly didn’t harm his chances of election as a Jurat, which happened in 1785.
He invested his money in property, constructing Havilland Street, Allez Street, Sausmarez Street, Union Street and St John Street on his own land and selling plots along them to builders.
Finally, in 1810, he was appointed Bailiff and, in this position, worked with John Doyle to make sure Doyle’s proposals for building new roads to Rocquaine and Vazon were approved. As these were military roads, his support of them helped earn him a knighthood in 1817.
The de Havilland name is perhaps best known for its association with aviation. That’s because Peter’s great, great grandson was Geoffrey de Havilland, designer of the Comet and Mosquito aircraft.