The Cantells of Gorey

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Cantell's Hotel, photographed after it was sold to George Lestang in 1905

The Cantell family moved to Jersey early in the late 1830s – 1840s, mostly from Itchen Ferry near Southampton. Some family members remained in Jersey well into the 20th Century, while other branches of the family moved back to other ports in the South of England, starting from the 1860s onwards.

Their principal occupations appear to be marine-related such as fishermen, master mariners and shipwrights. It is most probable that the demise of the Gorey Oyster fishery was responsible for the start of the exodus from Jersey. By the late 1860's many of the vessels involved in Oyster dredging at Gorey had relocated to Shoreham, including Mark Cantell and his cutter Wisdom. Other Cantells relocated to different mainland locations, the choice most probably dictated by the home ports of the ship owners they happened to be working for, eg Cardiff for the collier trades.

Family

A church record shows that 'John Cantle' married Hannah Purkins at St Mary’s, Southampton, on 1 April 1804. This liaison produced one son – John (1805-1855). Hannah died shortly after the birth in October 1805 aged just 24. John remarried a year later to Ann Diaper producing five offspring, Ann (1808) Charles (1811) and Mark (1814) a further 2 children died in infancy, all born in England. Ann died in 1823. John then married Mary Fauvel in Southampton on 17 August 1824 and they produced nine further children, most of whom were born in the island.

From census and birth records it appears the whole family moved to the island at around 1836. Prior to this it is highly likely that their occupations would have been Itchen Ferrymen. In 1834 a petition was submitted to the House of Commons by the Itchen Ferrymen, objecting to the construction of a 'floating bridge' (or chain ferry) across the Itchen between Southampton and what is now known as Woolston. There are five Cantell signatures on this petition, including John, William and Mark.

Their efforts were to no avail, the chain ferry commenced operations in 1836, causing mass unemployment among the inhabitants of Itchen Ferry. It is probable that John Cantell and various members of his extended family would have left Itchen Ferry to take up oyster dredging at Gorey, an occupation for which they would already possess the required skills and equipment. Mark P Cantell married Jane Triggs in St Helier on 14 November 1837, and their children were Mark Philip (1839- ), Rubina (1844- ), and Jane (1846- ).

The Cantells (or Cantels, as the name appears in some island records) were heavily involved in the Jersey shipping industry, both as builders and owners of vessels.

John Jean’s Jersey Sailing Ships records that Mark Cantel built either two or four ships (the number varies from one list to another) at Gorey in 1862-63. This was probably Mark Philip Cantell, who is known to have become a very proficient shipwright by 1861, the year before he married Sarah Taylor from Ipswich.

Sarah and her mother came to Jersey to find work as domestic servants after Mr Taylor died and Sarah worked for a retired ship’s captain in Gorey.

Family vessels

The Jersey Maritime Museum has a record of a 44-ton cutter Sarah Jane built by Cantell and Fauvel in 1862. John Fauvel is listed as having worked at Gorey Pier, building four ships from 1842-1858. Perhaps he helped his younger colleague with the first of his vessels, because there is no record of a partnership between the two.

Eight vessels were built for members of the Cantell by other builders at Gorey between 1858 and 1874. Six were for Cantell and Co, one for B J Cantell, and one for Cantell and Kent.

It has been difficult to identify which family members were involved, but one was almost certainly Francis John Cantell (1834-1905), one of John Cantell’s children by his second marriage to Mary Fauvel. He was a master mariner who had spent a number of profitable years fishing in the Gaspé, before returning to Jersey to run the British Hotel on Gorey Pier, which had been left to his wife Ann Messervy by her uncle Philip Payn in his will of 1875.

The eight vessels built for the Cantells were:

  • 1858 – Willing, a 100-ton schooner built for B J Cantell by Philip Bellot
  • 1858 - Isabel, a 42-ton cutter built for Cantell and Co by John Messervy
  • 1861 - Morning Star, a 47-ton cutter built for Cantell and Co by John Messervy
  • 1864 - Lily of the Valley, a 52-ton dandy built for Cantell and Co by John Messervy
  • 1871 - Agricola, a 50-ton ketch built for Cantell and Co by Philip Bellot
  • 1871 - Pallas, a 62-ton ketch built for Cantell and Co by Francis Picot
  • 1873 - Silver Cloud, a 82-ton schooner built for Cantell and Kent by Francis Picot
  • 1874 - Charlotte. a 108-ton schooner built for Cantell and Co by Philip Bellot
Family gravestone at Trinity Church

Hotel

When Francis John Cantell left the sea for the hotel trade, he went into his new business in a big way. Between 1882 and 1892 he and his wife purchased six further properties on the pier, some of which were adjacent to the British Hotel, which became known as Cantell's British Hotel.

When George Lestang purchased the hotel in 1905 it became Lestang's British Hotel, but as can be seen in the photograph at the top of the page, which must have been taken soon after the property changed hands, to begin with he simply added a sign with his name on above the large letters of Cantell's British Hotel.

The premises were to change hands a number of times before becoming the Moorings Hotel in the 1950s.

Departure

There are no Cantells left in Jersey today, and it appears that there was something of a mass exodus when the shipbuilding industry went into rapid decline at Gorey. Mark and Sarah's first two children, Sarah and Lilian, were born in Jersey, but the third, Alice, was born in Newhaven, Sussex, as were the remainder of their family.

Mark established a boatbuilding and repair business in Newhaven. His fifth son Ernest inherited this business, and he in turn passed the business onto his son Reginald. The business still exists today, but with no family involvement.

How many of the extended Cantell family left at the same time is not documented, although clearly others, such as Francis John, who ran the British Hotel, remained.

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