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Courier passes the Casquets

There were three ships named Courier which operated in Channel Island waters. The first was a paddle steamer, built specially for island services, in 1847. She was scrapped in 1876, the same year that a new vessel was built to serve Alderney. She became known as Courier I, and later Little Courier, when followed in 1883 by another vessel also called Courier, and known as Courier II, or Big Courier

Courier from an Ouless painting

Paddle steamer

In 1847 the New South Western Steam Navigation Company was formed. It bought out the South Western Steam Packet Company's ships and property for £56,623 also the South of England Steam Packet's ships and property for £29,000 and in part cost of three new ships Express, Dispatch and Courier, £42,870. This company was loaned £50,000 by the London and South Western Railway Company.

This new company renewed the 5-year mail contract for £4,000 in April, 1848. 1851 saw the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company sued by the South Eastern Railway Company for owning ships contrary to law, so afterwards the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company chartered ships from a Mr Maples who had a cargo service operating from Littlehampton to the Channel Islands and from Newhaven to Dieppe. These ships were chartered for eleven years until the Act of Parliament, of 1862, allowing the railway companies to own and operate ships.

A new paddle steamer (iron) built specially for the Channel Islands traffic was the Courier, built by Ditchburn and Mare of Blackwall for the South Western Steam Packet Company, of 314 tons and engined by Maudsley. Henry Maudsley accompanied her on her maiden voyage to Jersey on 12 November 1847.

She had two funnels and a clipper bow and was commanded by Captain James Goodridge, who was previously in command of the Monarch. Courier was withdrawn from service in 1875.

Major refit

9 July 1852: [1]

The South Western Steam Packet Company vessel Courier returned to the Islands this week following a major refit. This included new boilers, funnels, ventilators and deck gear.

This popular vessel was forever immortalised by the Philip Ouless painting of 1853 of her arrival in St Helier, Jersey (above).

Disastrous gale

4 June 1860: [2]

Both Courier and Brighton left Guernsey for Jersey in a fresh breeze, but by Corbiere they were facing the severest of gales. On board the Courier the female passengers were screaming in terror as she rounded Corbiere. She made it to the roads, then ran for the harbour to land her passengers and goods.

Brighton was not so lucky. The wind increased soon after her departure from St Peter Port, and she found it impossible to get round Corbiere. She turned back and chose the north-eastern passage, but rounding Grosnez huge waves smashed the skylights and flooded the saloons.

Once calmer waters were reached to the east of the Island she finally made the safety of St Helier Harbour.

Courier I

Abridged from

Built by Day, Summers and Company at Northam for T N Barbenson and Company in 1876

In 1875 Alderney found itself without a steamer service to Guernsey, and some residents joined together and decided to built a ship for the route. The vessel was named Courier and launched on 26 February 1876, arriving in Guernsey following a call at Alderney on 11 April that year. The ship was owned by six shareholders and operated by T N Barbenson. The vessel proved too small for the trade, and a larger vessel was built in 1883 and given the same name, but as Courier I was not sold the two ships became known in the islands as Little Courier and Big Courier. [3]

In 1897 the shareholders formed the Alderney Steam Packet Company to own the two vessels, and the registration passed to the company.

Courier I was used as relief vessel when required and operated excursions during the summer, and was based in Jersey for 1901 1902, 1903, 1905, 1910 and 1911.

In January 1913 the ship sold to Italian buyers for use in and around Constantinople.

Courier II

Abridged from

Built to provide a better service in the conditions experienced in the area, the ship underwent trials in Southampton Water on 28 June 1883, and arrived in Guernsey on 5 July.

Courier II vessel was a well-loved ship, but operating in an area of fast tidal runs and narrow passages she suffered a number of incidents.

On 16 November 1893, in thick mist, she struck the Flat Rock off Herm when inward bound to Guernsey but managed to reach St Peter Port. On 26 August 1901, when taking the Perchee Passage off Herm, the ship struck rocks and had to be beached at Herm, and following patching and refloating, she proceeded to Southampton on 6 September 6, where repairs took a month.

The most serious incident took place on 30 April 1906, when she was again off Herm and struck rocks, sinking with the loss of one life. The vessel was uninsured at the time, but her owners salvaged her. She was raised on 13 July 1906 and towed to Southampton for repairs, arriving back in Guernsey on 16 December 1906, with the steering position having been raised by three feet.

The ship maintained her lifeline service during the first World War, later undergoing several changes of owner, until leaving island waters before the German Occupation and serving in the Clyde as HMS Caracole.

The ship was bought on 6 June 1947 by Sark Projects Ltd, with Albert Edward Hussey of Sark as manager. She returned to Guernsey on 11 July and commenced services to Sark and Alderney, but there were too many operators on the routes, and a coal fired steamer was not an economic venture, and Courier II slipped out of St Peter Port on 25 November 1947 never to return.

Notes and references

  1. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
  2. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
  3. The two vessels were known as Courier I and Courier II for convenience, but although they were both owned by the same company and operated at the same time, officially both were just Courier
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