Charles William Le Geyt

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Charles William Le Geyt, who fought at the Battle of Minden

Charles William Le Geyt (1733-1827) was Jersey's first official postmaster. His appointment in February 1793 came as a complete surprise.

Le Geyt's letter of thanks

There is some confusion over exactly when Jersey's first official postal service was established. The date is usually given as 1794, and that is the year that an Act of Parliament was passed allowing the service to be set up. But the letter of thanks from the new Postmaster to Even Nepean, who had recommended him for the position, is dated 19 February 1793, according to the 1934 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise.

Sir,

Last night, at the same moment that I (was) acquainted with my appointment of Post Master of this Island, I entered upon it. Having had no previous notice of your intended goodness, I was agreeably surprised at the arrival of a mail at my house, accompanied by Mr Saverland, Surveyor of the General Post Office, who was pleased to show me my name written by you, with the addition of Post Master. Accept, my Dear Sir, my most grateful acknowledgements for this mark of your friendship and kindness to me. It was most fortunate for me that Mr Saverland came to this island, he having very obligingly assisted me in the distribution of the letters and in showing me how to make up the mail this evening; and has been pleased to give me the clearest instructions possible for my future going on. It was also happy for me that he saw how greatly the Exchange is against me in all remittances to the General Post Office. The Par settled by Mr Pitt in the treaty of Commerce with France is 24 livres for a pound sterlg. I receive the postage here at that Par, and I remit it in bills at 25 livres - one livre in a pound sterlg against me; and if in silver, as I have done this evening, 17 shillings, to the Postmaster at Weymouth, one penny in a shillg, receiving but 24 sous and I pay 26 sous pro shillg. To these money transactions he was witness. I must therefore take the liberty to beg of you, once more to interest your self for me with the Postmasters General, that my salary may be made adequate to the above and to the great trouble I have here, and further to represent to their Lordships, that the Mail coming here is attended with more expense to me than those sent by the Mail Coaches to Country Towns, as I must be civil in entertaining, now and then, the Captns of the Packetts with a dinner &c. But all this I leave to your better Judgement - only that a word from you would influence their Lordships in my favor. I conclude in the greatest haste as the Mail is gone on board, but Mr Saverland has been pleased to promise me he'll take care you shall receive this. Accept once more my best thanks, and believe me to be with the greatest respect to yourself and Lady.

Chas Wm Le Geyt Jersey Feby 19th 1793. Evan Nepean, Esqre

Family

Charles William Le Geyt was the son of Charles Le Geyt, Constable of St Helier (1726-33), Colonel of the South Regiment of Militia and Commissioner for Prizes, and Marthe de la Haye. His grandfather was Philippe Le Geyt, Lieut-Bailiff and noted 17th century expert on Jersey law.

Charles William joined the Army and at the age of 26 in 1759 he commanded a company of Grenadiers at the Battle of Minden. When the Seven Years War ended in 1763 he was placed on half pay as a Captain in the 63rd Regiment of Foot.

On 7 April 1763 he married Elizabeth Shebbeare, daughter of pamphleteer Dr John, in St Anne's. Soho. He returned to Jersey and became actively involved in party politics on the anti-Lempriere side. He put his father-in-law in touch with Nicolas Fiott, a merchant who was embroiled in a long-standing dispute with Lempriere. Shebbeare stayed with Le Geyt in St Saviour to collect material for his Oppressions of the Islands of Jersey. Meanwhile Le Geyt was collecting signatures for a large petition demanding a Royal Commission to investigate complaints from Jersey, which he took to London in 1772.

Postmaster

Little is then heard of him until his appointment as the first Postmaster by his friend from Army days, Evan Nepean. It was clear from his letter of thanks that Le Geyt had doubts that the work was worth the reward, but he was in office for 20 years until, at the age of 82, he handed over to his son.

It had not always been an easy undertaking and as people began to demand a more efficient postal service after the initial honeymoon period had passed, he attracted criticism. But he responded by writing to the States:

"I breakfast at eight to be ready to open at nine. I take one hour for dinner, which I hope will not be thought too much; and nine in the evening is surely not too early to shut the Post Office, when having no assistant except on mail days. I have been from nine in the morning on my legs, and of course exhausted with fatigue".

Children

Le Geyt had two sons by Elizabeth Shebbeare, Charles William (1768- ), a Major in the 45th Regiment, and George John (1770- ). Twenty years he had a second family with Marie Nicolle. George William, who succeeded him as Postmaster, was born about 1790, Pleydell Dawney in 1791, and Charlotte Ann in 1794. He did not marry Marie until 1795, when the children were presented for baptism, but their entries were apparently postdated to their years of birth in the parish register.

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