The following is a continuation of my essay on an anonymous, unpublished journal, which began with Excursion to Scotland. For the previous parts, please see the earlier entries from 10th and 14th August 2015.
Accompanying the Excursion to Scotland, there follow two further excursions, in the subsequent two years. The next is an Excursion to Ireland, 1833, although the text sadly is so faint as to be almost entirely illegible. The final of the three tours that make up the journal is Excursion to Guernsey and Jersey, 1834.
The writer of these journals rarely mentions his family, but for this excursion his ‘mother Hoppia was accompanying on the visit’ (Hoppia is a name derived from a flowering plant). Presumably he had a wife as well, as he makes occasional mention of the ‘ladies’. They began their trip travelling by steamboat along the Thames to Deal in Kent. At Walmer they visited the St Mary’s Church, a beautiful, tiny church, which dates back to around 1120.
Sunday 24th August. We went to Walmer Church. The Duke of Wellington was there.
Unfortunately the writer does not expand on that observation at all. This would not have been a one-off occurrence. Wellington was a regular visitor to the church, and rumour has it that he would often fall asleep during the services. For more information about Wellington during this period, take a look at the third part of my essay on Men and Manners by Grant Thorburn, posted on 9th July 2015, a journal which coincides with the date of Excursion to Guernsey and Jersey almost exactly.
Next on the journey was Dover, and then Folkestone, which the writer described as ‘a heavy, dull town, though new.’ Folkestone had been a small fishing town until the building of the harbour in 1820. From this point onwards the town began to develop, hence the ‘new’ description. From there the next stop was Romney Marsh.
Romney: the steeple of the church has a most irregular appearance, not being where you would almost expect to find it (at the top of the tower) but all alone in the churchyard.
This must refer to St Augustine Church, Brookland. The steeple in the churchyard is in fact a detached octagonal bell tower, built in such a manner because of the marshy ground. Had the bell tower been attached to the church, there were concerns that the whole structure might subside into the ground. The misconception of a steeple being ‘all alone in the churchyard’ is understandable, as the conical roof of the bell tower extends upwards from very low to the ground, just above the doorway.
Wednesday 27th August. Took a walk before breakfast to St. Leonards, which is a splendid town, much in the style of the best part of Brighton. The rock has been extensively cut into and a fine terrace formed in front of the houses, which is secured by a strong sea wall.
St Leonards-on-Sea was another very young town at the time, with many of the buildings, and the terrace and wall as described, created by the architect James Burton, who had founded the town just eight years before. Burton also designed the houses around Regent’s Park in London. His pyramid-shaped tomb stands on a cliff at St Leonards.
The departure from mainland Britain was from Southampton. Wet weather prevented the author from seeing much of the town before boarding the Lord Beresford Steam Packet for Guernsey. The Lord Beresford was a paddlewheel schooner, built by Bristol-based William Scott & Son in 1824. The writer did not find the vessel particularly comfortable.
I got into my birth early in the evening, but could not get a wink of sleep for the terrible creaking of the timbers of the cabin, as if the ship was coming to pieces.
First impressions of Guernsey were favourable, with a skyline dominated by Elizabeth College and the Town Church, both in St Peter Port.
The appearance of Guernsey from the sea is very fine: the town rising like Ryde in the Isle of Wight from the shore, and the church and college towering conspicuously above the houses. The high street is something like Gravesend by the waterside, narrow and indifferently paved, but there are excellent shops, and some of the linen drapers would vie with those at the West End of London. The market is remarkably handsome. The fish market is a distinct building in which there are about 60 stands, 30 on each side, all marble with a pipe of water laid on to each. It is paved and kept extremely clean.
An obvious landmark worth visiting was Fort Grey, which had been built in 1804 for defence during the Napoleonic Wars. It now houses a shipwreck museum.
Sunday 31st August. Took a walk before breakfast to the fort, which protects the harbour and stands upon a rock, from which you have a delightful view of the town, harbour and open sea. The Rifle Brigade is doing duty here. One of the soldiers told me provision here is so cheap that their rations are more than they can consume, as their pay is the same as in England, and they do not choose to let them have too much money to prevent their getting intoxicated. As it is, however, they have about fourpence a day to spend.
The official Governor’s residence on Guernsey was built in 1796, but in 1858 was converted to a hotel.
A delightful walk leads down from the Governor’s house to the town, but when I had reached the bottom I found the door locked. By advice of a soldier, to avoid going back up again, I attempted a path down the rocks, through the brambles, but being too precipitous I reached the bottom sooner than I intended, with luckily no other mischief than spoiling my Sunday coat, and having half an hour’s work to brush up again; these short cuts I have often found are the longest and worst in the end.
Although this was the worst example of difficulties walking around the island, the writer expressed disappointment in the general state of the streets, which were ‘badly paved for pedestrians’. The ‘squally’ weather probably did not put him in a positive frame of mind when he was making his assessment.
The town rises to a very considerable height from the bay and the houses are seen towering above me, and then it is rather fatiguing therefore getting into the country, as it is a long uphill walk for a considerable way.
The writer had a more positive view of Torteval, the smallest parish on Guernsey, that boasts a church with the tallest steeple on the island. He was especially impressed with the gardening skills of the locals, with hydrangeas ‘the most beautiful I ever saw, exceedingly large and full of a deep blue or purple flower’ and ‘wall above wall rising from the bottom of the valley to the top of the hill, all covered with fruit trees or vines.’
The island narrowing to the back, you have a distinct view of the sea on both sides, and upon some elevated spots can see nearly all around. It appears extremely well fortified and almost every prominent rock on the coast mounts a battery, whilst other parts are defended by a strong sea wall with openings for cannons. At present, of course, except at the fort and a few other parts there are no military, and the cannons are laid in the ground.
Some of the villages appeared to house a more wealthy class of residents than others.
The villages of St. Andrew and St. Matthew appear to attract what we should call our West End Folks, the houses being of the very first rate class, stuccoed and painted and with fine gardens.
But not everybody was wealthy on the island, with some residents too poor to be able to afford the imported coal, instead improvising by burning ‘a great deal of furze and seaweed, and the smell is not unpleasant.’ Furze has the benefit of being extremely flammable, and seaweed has often been mooted as a potential biofuel, with only the difficulties of farming or collecting it proving a barrier to success.
Next on the itinerary was the harbour of Saint Sampson, a relatively new settlement in 1834, which is now the second biggest port on Guernsey.
Port Sampson is protected by a castle upon a rock. Cows are severally tethered here so that the feed is equally grazed. I observed three or four men upon a rock, blowing a sort of shepherd’s horn, a signal to get out of the way as the rock was about to be blasted with gunpowder.
Sailing to Jersey was a more enjoyable trip than the crossing from Southampton to Guernsey, with a pleasant view of Sark on the way, and helped by better weather. However, the arrival on the island was not straightforward.
The coast is exceedingly rocky, and the tide being out we had to boat it for nearly a mile, for which we were charged 1d a head. On arrival the boats did not put us on shore, the water being very low and on the sands, but several carts backed into the sea and some six or eight of us got into each cart and were jolted on shore for 6d a piece.
The writer made friends on the island with some fellow travellers from Plymouth, and decided to join them on a tour on horseback around the island.
I hired a pony and accompanied them. We went into one or two of the village churches, which are large, ancient buildings, though very plain inside. Upon a tombstone, recording the death of a beloved wife, was the following concluding passage:
“The Survivor dies.”
… under which someone had inscribed in pencil:
“and for love of another marries in less than a month.”
The inscription would likely have read in full “When such friends part, ’tis the survivor dies.”, a quote from a poem by Edward Young.
I made a survey of a very ancient castle and fort, which stands proudly towering upon a rock. It is now in an extremely dilapidated state, not having been occupied since the war. The room is shown in which King Charles resided and the staircase from which he is supposed to have made his escape.
The castle is Mont Orgueil, also known as Gorey Castle. Jersey was loyal to the monarchy, allowing Charles II to seek refuge on the island twice, firstly in 1646 and then again in 1649.
The writer was impressed with the island in general, but came to the conclusion that he prefered the town of St Peter Port on Guernsey to St Helier on Jersey. Travelling back to mainland Britain, he enjoyed the more familiar countryside, which seemed to be putting on an atmospheric show near Salisbury especially for his journey:
In the early part of the morning, before the sun had much power, the fog had a most singular effect, settling in the valleys and giving them completely the appearance of the sea, or extensive lakes. Passed through Stockbridge, Basingstoke and Bagshot, and reached town at six in the evening, after a very pleasant trip.
We will start looking at another journal in a few days. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I have had some feedback that the emails received on some devices show the entries in a less readable format than viewing in a browser, in which case bookmarking/adding to favourites is the way to go. At the moment I am adding a new entry every two days at least, and intend to continue with that schedule for the foreseeable future. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.