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St Peter Port, Guernsey

Historical Description

Peter Port, St, the capital of Guernsey. The town stands on the E coast, 2½ miles N of Jerbourg Point, and 28 NW of St Helier; is situated partly in a glen, partly on slanting ground, partly on hills; and, as seen in the approach from the sea, rises street above street, and exhibits towers and spires in mixture with trees on the hills. It dates from very early times, yet does not appear in record till the year before the Norman conquest of England, and it figures as a place of importance in the time of Edward I., when the town consisted of 213 houses. A wall was built around it, for protection against hostile incursion, in the time of Edward III., and remains of the wall have been discovered, both toward the sea and beneath houses in High Street. The older parts of the town occupy the lower grounds, and consist chiefly of narrow, crooked, and uninviting streets; but the newer parts ascend the hills, spread, in all directions, contain very many excellent houses, with fine roads, and terminate in outskirts similar to those of Tunbridge Wells.

Castle Comet stands on an insular rock about half a mile E of the town, dates from the 12th century, and was once the official residence of the governors of Jersey. Fort George stands on the coast, about a mile S of the centre of the town, possesses important strength, and is connected with two signal stations, and with artillery barracks and a spacious parade-ground, but has no guns. The militia arsenal stands at the W outskirts of the town; was constructed for the safe-keeping of the arms and accoutrements of the Guernsey militia, both artillery and infantry, and for the drilling of raw recruits; and is a handsome granite edifice in the Gothic style. The Victoria Tower stands on high ground, confronting the militia arsenal; was erected, at a cost of more than £2000, to commemorate a visit of the Queen in 1846; and is a square structure in the Gothic style, surmounted by a battlemented gallery, with square turrets at the angles. The Royal Court-house stands in an open space at the top of Smith Street; was erected in 1799 and improved in 1822; is an edifice of hewn granite, and contains the rooms and offices of the states and court. The Government offices fitand in the same open space, fronting the Court-house. The Jail stands a short distance behind the Court-house, was built in 1811, and has been altered to meet modern requirements. The Post Office is in Smith Street, and is a large and well-arranged building. It bears the name of Guernsey, and has letter boxes in the suburbs and receiving houses in the distant parishes, and is connected by telegraph with all the rural post offices. St Julian's Hall serves as a theatre and assembly room.

St Peter's Church stands close to the harbour, was built in 1312, is believed to occupy the site of a previous church, is cruciform and in the flamboyant Gothic style, with particularly fine stained-glass windows, and is the largest and finest church in the Channel Islands. It has recently been restored. St James' Church was built in 1818, St John's Church in 1836, Trinity Church in 1846, and St Stephen's Church, at the Rocquettes, in 1865. There are a Free Church of Scotland chapel, two Congregational, three Wes-leyan, Methodist New Connexion, Primitive Methodist, Bible Christian, Plymouth Brethren, Bethel Union, and Roman Catholic chapels, and a Friends' meeting-house. The new cemetery is entered near the Victoria Tower, the Foulon Cemetery is about 1¼ mile from the town, and both are beautifully laid out, while the latter has a small Gothic chapel on a lofty site, commanding an extensive view. Elizabeth College stands at the commencement of the Grange Road; dates as an institution from 1563, as a building from 1825; is an oblong structure, in the Tudor style, with a central tower, and with corner turrets; a large detached gymnasium was erected in 1883; serves as a grammar school; sad. has three fellowships and five scholarships at Oxford. The Ladies' College, designed to give as good an education to girls as can be obtained by boys at Elizabeth College, was opened in 1872, and the present building erected in 1880. It stands in the Grange Road, and in addition to the usual class-rooms contains a noble hall and a large gymnasium. There are several commercial schools, several good boarding-schools, and three circulating libraries. There is also a States secondary school for boys of middle class in Brockrood. The town also publishes five newspapers in English and two in French. There are three clubs and two excellent public libraries-one free, called the Candie Library, containing many rare books and manuscripts, presented to the island in 1889; and the other, the Guille-Alles Library, located in the old assembly rooms, and comprising a noble library, reading-rooms, museums, and institute, which was opened in 1882. It has a circulating library of 45,000 volumes, and a reference library of 25,000 volumes. The reading-room contains 40 newspapers, daily and weekly, 150 reviews and magazines, and A full service of telegrams received daily. An hospital stands near the government offices, and serves the same purpose as an English workhouse.

Marketing is carried on in meat, fish, vegetables, and poultry, and special marketing is done on Saturdays. The principal trade of the island is in fruit and granite. There are over 300 miles of greenhouses, growing principally tomatoes and grapes; beer is made in three breweries; and soap, candles, tobacco, snuff, and cordage are manufactured. Steam communication is maintained regularly with Jersey, Alderney, and Weymouth. The communication between Guernsey and Southampton is maintained by a daily service of fast and powerful steamships, and constant communication is maintained also with the French coast. Formerly a large trade was done with the colonies and England, and a large sailing fleet existed, but the improvements in steam has caused this carrying industry to cease, so that now the only sailing craft that belong to the island are employed in conveying coal for the island consumption. The old harbour had capacity for about 100 vessels, received ships of 700 tons and upwards, and was strongly constructed, yet became inadequate to meet the requirements of the commerce. A new harbour, in extension of the old, was formed in 1853 and following years, and comprises a noble causeway connecting the mainland with the castle. A fine arm, some 980 yards long, extends to the end of White Rock, with excellent berths available for steamers of 1000 tons at all times of tide, besides extensive quays, two patent slips for repairs, and esplanades fitted with every convenience for landing either cargo or passengers.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5