28th July 1875

The British government offers St Catherine’s Breakwater to Jersey

The Jersey Weekly Press and Independent of 28 February 1876 reported that the States of Jersey had finally accepted a ‘gift’ of St Catherine’s Breakwater from the British government. This had originally been offered on 28 July 1875 but the matter had required a lot of discussion and thought.

Indeed, how much of a ‘gift’ it would turn out to be had, at that point, not been ascertained, as evidenced by the lengthy correspondence, published in the same issue, between the States and the British Treasury.

A cost to bear

The States was mindful of the fact that the breakwater would need maintaining, at considerable expense, and it was only prepared to accept the government’s offer on condition that, should it choose, it could knock it down entirely. The government agreed, being keen to free itself the burden of maintaining a structure so far from the mainland and it sweetened the deal by offering a parcel of land that had the potential to bring in £100 a year – enough to offset the expense of maintaining the light at the end of the breakwater arm.

Disagreement in the States

The matter had to be put to a vote before any decision could be made and, although the British government had agreed to the States’ terms, not all members were in favour. Jurat de Quetteville was against, and the rector of St Mary’s was cautious. The rector pointed out that the terms and conditions agreed should be included in a contract, but the attorney-general dismissed this, saying that would be an “affront to the English Government”. In the end, only two members voted against accepting the gift, and the motion was passed.

The breakwater had originally been built as part of a larger harbour scheme that was abandoned when it became clear that, at the rate ships were growing, the bay would not be large enough to accommodate them. Nonetheless, the breakwater was used to stage a navigation light, which remained in use until 1950.


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Other events that occured in July