St Catherine's harbour petition

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This petition was first published in the 1956 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

The following petition brought about the building of St Catherine's Breakwater: Extract from the Rolls of the States of Jersey. Vol. XV, page 107. 20 August 1840. To Her Most Excellent Majesty in Council.

That under the blessing of Providence, the powerful protection afforded to it on all occasions by Your Royal predecessors, and the devoted loyalty and courage displayed by the inhabitants in successfully opposing the attacks of foreign enemies, the Island of Jersey has, during many ages, been preserved to the Imperial crown, of which, at this day, it forms the most ancient appendage.
That it has been generally acknowledged that the dangerous rocks and shoals, which nearly surround the islands, as well as the difficulties which arise from the winds, tides and currents, had materially contributed to its preservation, and required such consummate prudence and local skill in that intricate navigation as could be acquired by few but native pilots; and that these several obstacles, combined with the resistance of the Royal troops and the inhabitants on shore, rendered it next to impossible for an invading army to land in such numbers as would be likely to effect the conquest of the country.
That the recent and rapid improvements in steam navigation have totally altered the plans of defence, which might be necessary for the future protection of the Island, and that rocks, tides and currents would present but very insufficient obstacles to the success of an invasion to be effected by armed steam vessels.
That though Your Majesty is now in a state of peace and alliance with France, the States, reflecting on the mutability of human affairs, have seen with considerable anxiety the gigantic efforts which have been made on the opposite coast for the enlargement and the fortification of the Ports of Cherbourg, Granville and St Malo, and on the immense means of offence which those places would possess in case of a war.
That the States, however they might be unwilling to anticipate such an event, cannot conceal from themselves that any number of armed steam vessels might be fitted out at those ports, from which invading forces, almost to any amount, might, in the course of two or three hours, be landed on different parts of the coast, at once, and that times and circumstances might be so selected that no armed sailing vessels would be able to come up to give assistance, or even to convey intelligence of the danger to England.
That there is at present no harbour about this island, where ships of the line might be stationed with sufficient security, or steam vessels be kept afloat at all times.
That the States beg humbly to suggest that the future safety of their country can only be effected by modified and corresponding means of defence, and that a time of peace is most suitable for the accomplishment of such a purpose.
That the most eligible plan would be to form a harbour somwhere on the North coast of this island, for which there are several places possessing great capabilities, one of which spots might be selected by Your Majesty's orders, where, from the elevated nature of the greatest part of that coast, it might be easily protected by fortifications to be erected on shore.
That such a harbour could moreover offer a refuge, in stress of weather, to the British squadrons of observation on the neighbouring coasts of France.
That the North coast of this island presents the further advantage of its offering the most easy and direct communication with England, which by means of steam vessels could in no case be interrupted, unless the enemy had the absolute command of the sea. That the States feel however that these projected improvements could not be carried into effect without considerable expense, which it would be impossible for them to supply from their scanty resources, but which, as they would materially involve the interests of the Empire at large by securing the command of at least one side of the British channel, would doubtless receive the countenance of a generous nation.
Your Majesty's faithful States, therefore, humbly pray that Your Majesty may be graciously pleased to issue Your Royal commands, that a convenient spot may be surveyed and selected on the North coast of this island, and that a harbour and a breakwater may there be constructed, where armed steam vessels might be constantly kept afloat; and for such other assistance and support in the premises as in Your Royal wisdom may seem meet.

From 1840 onwards Her Majesty's Government began to make plans for a harbour and fortifications in the Bays of St Catherine and Anne Port including the heights overlooking these bays. The price of land required rose and became out of all proportion, so that the States passed on 13 June 1847 a special law of expropriation to enable the Government to proceed with their plans; this was confirmed by the Privy Council on 27 February 1847 and registered in the Royal Court on 6 March 1847. The Royal Court carried out the law, the Vicomte carrying out the valuation. On 28 June 1847 the St Catherine's half mile breakwater was commenced and finished in 1852, when the construction of a further arm from Archirondel and the fortifications was abandoned. The breakwater was transferred to the States in 1872, and at the beginning of this century the Government after inspecting the land from St Catherine to Gorey decided to dispose of it, and the whole was sold to a number of purchasers.

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