William Venables Vernon

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Bailiff of Jersey 1899-1931
William Venables Vernon


Despite a difficult and disrupted upbringing, and originally having no intention to take up law, William Henry Venables Vernon became one of Jersey's most brilliant lawyers and was Bailiff from 1899 to 1931


Vernon's grandfather, the Hon Henry Vernon, Lieut-Col the Grenadier Guards, of Mayfield Hall, Derbyshire, died leaving his widow Grace, daughter of Edward Coke and niece of the Earl of Leicester, to bring up their only son, Edward Henry. They moved to Jersey, and in 1851 Edward married Louise Sophie Charlotte de Joux, daughter of Jean Gedeon Rene de Joux, a minister of the Swiss Church. He had run a school in Hemery Row in St Helier since 1829.

Sophie was in turn widowed soon after the birth of their son, William, a year later. She remarried and left the island, leaving William to be brought up by his grandmother, but after her death he left Jersey to live with an uncle at Nuttal Priory in Nottinghamshire.

He went to live in France to perfect his French before attending Toulouse University, where he was an outstanding student, winning several medals and other prizes. He had intended to enter the diplomatic service but when he visited Jersey to sell the family home he was persuaded by the Bailiff Jean Hammond, who had been a friend of his father, and his successor Robert Pipon Marett, who had been his mother's legal adviser, that he should take up law and join the local Bar.


Public service

He was briefly Constable of St Helier in 1875 and was then appointed Greffier. He became Solicitor-General in 1880, Attorney-General in 1885 and took over as Bailiff from George Clement Bertram in 1899. He was already an extremely popular person and the trains of Jersey Railways, of which he had been chairman, were decorated to mark his swearing in, as were ships in the harbour, and there was much bunting in the streets of the town. The bells of St Peter's Church rang throughout the day.

He was knighted by King Edward VII in 1903, and when King George V visited the island in 1921 he made the Bailiff a Knight of the British Empire in the States Chamber. Jersey artist John St Helier Lander painted the official portrait of Sir William which hangs in the Royal Court and was paid for by public subscription.

He was a keen sailor and his yacht Wyvern was the last built at St Aubin.

He retired in 1931 and died three years later.

Official correspondence

We don't know how this letter 'escaped' from the Bailiff's archives but it is of some significance. It was sent from the Home Office to Bailiff Vernon with suggested adjustments to a new piece of legislation regarding pensions for elementary school teachers

Further reading

George Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey

Sir William was a prominent, prize-winning cattle breeder
Bailiffs of Jersey
Predecessor Successor
George Clement Bertram
Sir William Venables Vernon
Charles Malet de Carteret
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