Le Havre des Pas

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This article by Philip Ahier was first published in the 1968 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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Some years ago, in a slim brochure entitled Stories of Jersey's Seas, of Jersey's Coast and of Jersey Seamen, I wrote an account of Le Havre des Pas and the former Chapelle des Pas. Since that was written, some further information concerning the locality has been discovered.

For the benefit of those readers who may not have read the previous account, it might be necessary to state that the name Havre des Pas originates from this mediaeval Chapel. Regarding the element "des Pas" I am inclined to think that the correct designation of the Chapel was La Notre Dame de Pace - Our Lady of the Peace. The Blessed Virgin Mary, so my good Catholic friends assure me, is sometimes styled "Our Lady of the Peace", while there are many churches on the Continent so called. The chapel was demolished in 1814 after Fort Regent had been built in 1807.

The French word havre means "a haven, an inlet of the sea where ships can get good and safe anchorage". The first documentary reference to Le Havre des Pas is an Acte of the States dated 14 May 1585, when it, with two others, came under the oversight of Servais le Vavasseur de Bois, who was the collector of the Taxes on Wines and Spirits imported into the Island.

Civil War

This haven is associated with two events during the period of the Civil War in Jersey:

  • The hurried departure of the Parliamentarian Governor, Leonard Lydcot, after the arrival of Sir George Carteret in November, 1643
  • The scene of the arrival of the coffin of Sir Henry Killigrew.

Contemporary accounts of these two happenings are interesting:

In the Poingdestre manuscript in the British Museum appears an account by an anonymous chronicler:

"20 November 1643: General Lydcot, as soon as he heard of Sir George's arrival, dreaded arrest so that on the Tuesday evening, he departed without partaking of supper (the table was left untouched) and embarked at Le Havre des Pas with his gentlemen, namely, his father-in-law and their ladies."
"Sir Henry Killigrew was a prominent Royalist who had defended Pendennis Castle in Cornwall. Here he had been wounded in the head by the bursting of a pistol he was discharging. The wound was dressed by a surgeon and was nearly healed when he left Pendennis. He took charge of some soldiers who had surrendered and were leaving for St Malo; at this town he contracted a fever from which he died on Saturday, 27 September 1646. Before he died he expressed a desire to be buried in St Helier's Parish Church. His embalmed body was transported to Le havre des pas, thence to St Helier. He received a military funeral on Saturday, 3 October."

In the 1967 Bulletin there appeared "Col Legge's Accompt of Jersey, 1679" in which a description of Havre du Pas is given. In the collection of maps, plans and sketches to be found in the "beautifully bound book", there is a sketch of "Haure du Pas". In the Account, it is stated that "the Peare is in length 5 chains and 24 links", approximately 115 yds.

It is very difficult to visualise at the present moment where this "peare" stood. Did it comprise the area formed by the rocks known as the Five Sisters and the Mullet Rock opposite? Charles II, while in Jersey, had noted the lack of a good harbour and had promised 500 pistoles (£165 approximately) towards its construction, but did not fulfil his obligations. In 1675, a harbour at St Aubin was commenced from the Fort by Sir Thomas Morgan.

Where should the harbour be built?

There was no such harbour for St Helier, in late Stuart days. There were differences of opinion as to where the proposed harbour should be erected. St Aubin seemed to be the favoured spot and already a site was in view, but the proprietor thereof, M de la Haule, declined to cede it. Hence one at St Helier was put forward, either to extend the existing Havre des Pas or to build a new one. One Elie Pipon had acquired the land from Le Moulin a Foulon (which stood somewhere either in Bond Street or Conway Street) to the foot of La Montagne de la Ville (where Fort Regent now stands) from Sir Edward de Carteret, but Elie Pipon also declined to cede the land so bought.

There were two objections to the building or extending the harbour at Le Havre des Pas:

  • It would have made this harbour at the south of La Montagne de la Ville, while the Town would have been at its north. Actually a scheme had been put forward to purchase Le Montagne in 1685 in order to pay for the harbour at St Helier.

But in the meantime Philip Dumaresq in his "Survey of Jersey" put a damper on the whole scheme.

  • "About half a mile from the town, there was once a Peer designed, and begun at the water front of the Town Hall, called Havre Neuf - aforementioned but found inconvenient, and so laid aside, as since another at the south point of the said hill, called Havres de Pas, was intended for greater vessels than those it is now fit for, which use the St Malo's trade; but its entrance is also so narrow, and full of rocks that it discourages the bestowing any charges about it".

Elie Pipon died in 1697, and, notwithstanding that further land had been purchased by Elie Dumaresq, any scheme to enlarge Le Havre des Pas fell through while Le Havre Neuf was commenced in 1700.

The States of Jersey during the years 1872-1875 attempted to construct a huge harbour from La Collette Point and a southern arm commencing from Elizabeth Castle. But after the works had been despoiled by the terrible gales of 1873, 1874 and 1875, the scheme was abandoned after £160,000 had been spent upon it.

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