1st January 1884
Jersey’s first weather observation is made
Jersey’s primary weather station is the Maison St Louis Observatory, established by Father Marc Dechevrens in November 1894. However, the Jesuit priest, a Swiss national who arrived in Jersey after working in China, didn’t wait until then to start recording the island’s weather. He took his first measurements on 1 January 1884, when the observatory was still some months away from completion. The building cost £531, and the 50m tall observation tower with which it was paired cost a further £1260, which was a considerable amount for the time.
It’s likely that the driving force behind the tower’s construction was Father Dechevrens himself, for he’d had a 70ft tower built at the observatory he’d managed in Shanghai before arriving in Jersey.
The tower was expensive not only to build, but also to maintain, and when it collapsed in 1929 the decision was made to sell off its parts.
A change of ownership
The observatory remained under the ownership of the Jesuits until the States of Jersey bought it in 1974. The last Jesuit priest in charge, Father Rey, stayed on until the end of that decade.
The value of Father Dechevrens’ work was obvious to the residents of an island that relied so much on the sea – and thus on accurate forecasts – for its trade and livelihood. He was known at one point as the island’s Clerk of Weather, and the Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph wrote, on 23 February 1895, “we have… said enough to prove what a debt of gratitude, past and present as well as prospective, the Island owes not only to Père Dechevrens personally for his painstaking researches but to the Jesuit brotherhood for erecting so complete an observatory in our midst”.
He died on 6 December 1923 in St Saviour.
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