Col Legge's Accompt

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This article by Philip Ahier was first published in the 1967 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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Among the many manuscripts which are deposited in the Manuscript Room in the British Museum is a beautifully bound book, designated K48, which has for its title :

The Present State of Guernsey/with a short Accompt of Jersey/And the Forts/Belonging to the said Islands/By Col George Legge/Lieutenant General of His Majesty’s Ordnance
Tho Phillips 1680
Jersey in 1651

Fort history

This interesting manuscript was sold by auction at Christie's on 17 July 1929, under the description "Survey Lot 236". It had been previously consulted by Major N V L Rybot, who refers to it in his account of St Aubin's Fort.

In this monograph Major Rybot says: "Although Legge, as senior officer, takes the credit for this achievement, Master Gunner Thomas Phillips supplied the plans and illustrations, and Captain Richard Leake was responsible for details of armaments and criticisms of their state and efficiency."

An account of Phillips's services and death will be found in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Chevalier journal

Jean Chevalier's Journal contains a number of references to the exploits of a Captain Legge, an Irishman ("Irois"), who had been sent to Jersey by Charles I to help Sir Philip Carteret. Captain Legge was placed in charge of Mont Orgueil Castle, where he distinguished himself in several gallant sorties. In 1645 he left the Island after a disagreement with Captain Carteret (afterwards Sir George), but he returned in January 1650 to offer his services to the King.

"When Captain Carteret first reduced the Island to submission to His Majesty," says Chevalier, "he retained the services of Captain Legge for three or four years, paying him a pistolle per day (about sixteen shillings) and his servant 50 sols weekly (approximately 8s 4d), so he was always well recompensed. Eventually Sir George got tired of paying Captain Legge such a high salary and wished to reduce the amount.

But the other declined, so Sir George gave him notice to leave. Both he and his servant went to France, he having said farewell to all his friends and paid all his debts. He travelled in France with a good deal of money in his pocket. Then, having returned to Jersey to find His Majesty, he hoped he would be restored to his former post at a pistolle a day.

"But", dryly added Chevalier, "he was not welcomed, and went away just as he had come, without having been appointed to any post."

It has been widely believed that Chevalier's Captain Legge was the same person as Colonel George Legge, author of the British Museum manuscript. Indeed, the editor of Chevalier's Journal takes this view in a footnote. However, he confuses the issue in another note, where he states that Captain Legge was Richard Legge who later became Lieut-Colonel of the Duke of Newcastle's Regiment.

Now if Colonel George Legge, author of the manuscript, was born in 1648, as stated in the Dictionary of National Biography, he cannot be the Captain Legge who commanded the Mont Orgueil garrison in 1643-45. The latter may possibly have been William Legge, who (according to Burke's Peerage) was brought to England from Ireland as a youth, which tallies with his description by Chevalier as "Irois", and is well known as a faithful follower of Charles I.

George Legge was the eldest son of William Legge. From 1667 to 1672 he commanded "lines of battleships" and in 1673 became Governor of Portsmouth and Master of the Horse, later Gentleman of the Bedchamber, to James, Duke of York. In 1677 he was appointed Lieut-General of the Ordnance and soon after became Master. In 1682 he was created Baron Dartmouth. He was appointed Admiral of the Fleet and deputed to intercept William, Prince of Orange (William III) but failed to do so, for which omission he was sent to the Tower of London, where he died in 1691.


The following is a transcript of the part of Colonel Legge's manuscript which contains the "short accompt of Jersey".


Some short observations upon the Island of Jersey for ye better intelligence of the Mapp of the said Island and more particularly about the Landing places.

Colonel George Legge, Baron of Dartmouth.

There are six principal landing places or bayes whereof four being flatt and sandy are more dangerous for landing, the other two are only for anchorage, of these four bayes the principal and the most frequented is

St Aubin

About 3 miles from point to point,whereon two of His Majesty’s forts are now standing. The first, Elizabeth Castle and the second the Tower of St Aubin's about one mile distance from the anchorage place, wherein att most Tydes, there is about six fathom water, but in Spring tydes there is hardly four fathom and that is about Equinocticall Tydes and though the entrance is different because shipps must come in by marks, it is speciall good anchor hold and cleare. And where severall ships may ride out all weathers without any danger to the cables. There being [a] Point called ‘’Le Bau’’ which advances something into the bay and where the Islanders used to keep two demi-culverin which are now out of repaire, which if it were improved, is the most significant to command the Road.

Though for the Landing of an Enemy there is a Shoar, about the Middle of the said Bay called St Laurence Bulwarke, where might be something done towards the preventing of it. It is in the same Bay of St Aubin that Sir Thomas Morgan did undertake to build a Pier, adjoining to the Tower of St Aubin's which is almost finished, where vessels that draws about 8 foot come in a little more than half flood.

Note: The water is at the same depth in the said Harbour which since the building, ships lye at distance and may there the better make use of small boats or gabarrs. There being no Rideing for any great ships in that bay, being shoale water and full of rocks and in some places, the sea goes off near three miles. Especially against a Point called La Rocque where may be a convenient fort made. It is the most dangerous for an enemy to intrench, it being a Flatt champion country and good ground to throw up towards the sea side and not commanded by any Hills for about a Mile together where there is also a little Harbour for the Islanders to keep their Fishing Boats in, and another under the Castle Orguile.

The map which illustrated Legge's report

St Ouen’s Bay

Is about 4 miles over where Shipps may Lye in some parts very secure of all Easterly Winds where over against the Principal Roade, there was Likewise a Battery, but of no great consequence, but about half a mile from the Land, which drys something below halfe ebb, which ground will afford to build a Fort, to command the cheifest part of the Roade being the cheifest way of Landing, for the Sea doth Roll soe, upon all Ordinary weather and Especially in Westerly winds in all the rest of the Bay, that there is noe setting any men ashore with Safety itt lying exposed to all the Westerly winds and Seas that come into the channel, neither doth the sea give off farre all together as at St. Aubin's. In the Roade there is about 9 Fathom Water at all Ordinary tydes, within that, no Points is without of the Roade to the Sea between the Islands, it flows South West and North West.

Mont Orgueil

This is the next great sandy bay for Landing and Lyes by the Castle which is dangerous by reason it lies nearest to the coast of France, and is about 7 Leagues very easy upon ouse.

Note: Shale[?] Southerly Winds blows into the Roade from the south east to the south west, but no great sea. There are several other places in the bay where vessels unlode goods for the town of St. Hillaree, though with no great safety according as the weather is in. There are several good brooks of good water which fall into it and makes it convenient for shipping to water. Ships may run ashore and frame a battery. And to the Sea-board of these Land what forces they please upon the dry land when the sea is low. The sea flowing and ebbing at great tides between 7-8 fathom water.

St Brelade

To the next Bay westward of Mont Orguile which though it be a Flatt bay and Sandy about one mile over while the Sea doth run half so far out, as in that of St Aubin, yet there is a deeper anchorage where there is good riding for all northerly winds, but the roade is small and is commanded by a neck of land called ‘’Le Proin’’ where formerly a battery beene when the Island was invaded by the Parliamentary forces, the ships that were in were forced to weigh anchor. At the bottom of the Bay near the Church there is a small harbour for fishing boats and other small vessels where an East or West moone makes a full sea and all high lands about that Bay.

St Katherine

The next which is a Great Bay and is called St Katherine. Where there is very good anchorage for one mile together in 10 or 12 fathom of water, very secure of all westerly winds and good anchorage hold, but out of trades way, ships passing seldom between France and that [bay] but for landing any number of Forces, it is inconvenient.

Bowle Bay

A very good roade of all Southerly winds and where ships of the greatest burthen may ride, two cables length from the shore in 12 and 15 fathom of water where the best Piere might be made all about the Islands but with very great changes, lying open to the trade on the Channel, there is a demi-culverin in out of repair but kept by the Islanders to unload ships which might be improved to secure it there being no landing any forces there, unless by surprise, being all high lands round about it and a steep beach to cone.

Havre du Pas

At the outward head marked there is a 24 foot at high water, vessels of 50, 60 or 100 tuns may lye safe.

The Peere is in length 5 chains 24 links. In the seat 25 feet, at the top 12 feet and 10 foot high.

The Haven is from the Town of St Hillary. Three quarters of a mile not commanded by the Tide and very good materials upon the place. It is marked with my general relation of the Island and relating to the map.

There are several other harbours about the Island as at Havre du Pas where the inhabitants of the Town of St Helier are very earnest to have licence from His Majestie to build something to seeing their shipping having taken a particular draught in it.

The island in general

Is an entire Hill but Flatte on the top of unequal height, but cutt into several valleys which makes it exceedingly watered and Generally well Planted and Difficult Marks for an enemy by reasons of the deep High Wayes and high Bankes Planted most part with Hedges, Rowes of Trees except about the west part of the Country where there is some wast and sandy Lands from the farthest point to the other, in breadth 6 miles, in circumference 28 miles, it is Generally from NE to NW high inaccessible Cliffs and here all the sea beats at ye foot, except in those foremen tioned Little Creekes where the Islanders with much labour and Industry Manure their Lands from the Sea: All the Southerne Coast being fiatt and Rockey, except in those Bayes above mentioned, and Generally the sea Round About the Island runs with a very swift Currant which ride it more in accessible for Shipping.

Bernard de Gomme

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