The Fort George Brickfield, St Peter Port

6th March 2024

The history of a rather controversial piece of agricultural land. Research by D Bott & G Lenfestey, 2024. Written by G Lenfestey.

On the western side of the Fort Road, between the top of the Val de Terres and Morley Chapel, is a large field, formerly known as the Courtil Colin, divided 2/3 and 1/3, and the 1/3 is divided into equal halves.

There is a story that the fields have an embargo on them regarding building accommodation for domestic use on them, and that the larger field has always been known as The Queen's Field. The origin of this embargo, and the name 'The Queen's Field', is not known, but it has always been like that.

The embargo on building on the fields

When Fort George started to be built as a fortification against the French, in 1780, it was initially intended to build it from stone. However, the local people were not prepared to quarry stone for the Fort, so it was decided to build it in brick, because to import stone would have been too expensive.

The Fort was built on the eastern side of the road that is now known as Fort Road. The southern part of the field opposite the planned site was found to have suitable brick clay, and initially it was purchased by the British Government as part of the Fort.

At one time there would have been between 200 and 400 men, bricklayers and brick makers, on site. As the larger part of the field had the clay, and would therefore be dug up, the men were housed in temporary accommodation on the two smaller fields on the northern edge, along what is now Croute Havilland Lane.

Initially the Fort was planned to extend across what is now the Fort Road into fields to the north of Croute Havilland Lane.  However, this plan was later altered, and the Fort was kept to the eastern side of the road. There is a map in the Priaulx Library which shows a 'phantom' outline of what was originally intended. There are now large 20th-century houses in that area.

The Livre de Perchage for Fief Le Roi in St Peter Port for 1837, the last book that was produced, shows the area of the brick/clay field and the two smaller fields that had been used for accommodation as green fields. Presumably the temporary accommodation for the bricklayers was removed when no longer needed. The large field, which was now in three clearly defined fields, was owned by a Samuel Thoume, who used the fields for agricultural purposes. The Cadastre of St Peter Port dated 1867 shows that the two smaller fields still belonged to Mrs Thoume, but the larger part of the field belonged to a Mr Parker.

On checking the Receuil d'Ordonnances that covers the period in question to see if there was anything in them to sugest an 'embargo' of any kind, we find an Ordinance of 1826 which may have given rise to the idea.

Receuil d'Ordonnances, II, 1826, p. 322. 18 July 1826. Daniel de Lisle Brock, Bailiff, presiding. 

James Mauger asked for a brick kiln (briqueterie) on a field between Bailiff's Cross and the Mauxmarquis. This was refused. The field was in the middle of good land in St Andrew: it was less than 50 verges¹ in size: and it appeared to the Court that there will not be 25 verges between the briqueterie and the neighbours, to their prejudice. In order to prevent more complaints the Court decded that in similar situations and near good land, before allowing the construction of furnaces for bricks, or tiles or lime, there ought to be at last 50 verges distance between the kiln and the nearest land and this would be the rule for places where there are houses, although a greater distance would be better.

The Ordinance of 1826 conforms to the demand contained in an Act made on 28th February 1824. This Act was repealed at the Court of Chief Pleas held after Christmas 1840, and the dispositions were reaffirmed in Article 20 if the General Ordinance on the subject of Chemins, Batisées etc, passed at the same Chief Pleas. This general Ordinance is often called 'The Routes, Rues, Chemins Ordinance 1840'.

The new law says:

Receuil d'Ordonnances, II, 1840, p. 509. 20 January 1840. 

Section 29, p. 521. It is forbidden to build any brick kiln, or make a new one on the site of a previous one, anywhere on the island without prior permission of the Royal Court.

Many years later, Jean Le Patourel was given permission to have a kiln using 'Fiery Vein' Welsh Steam Coal to dry chicory. However, the kiln was placed along the road towards Havelet, and there was a condition that it must be closed down immediately if it caused a nuisance in any way.

Did the idea of a so-called 'embargo' develop as a misunderstanding of the Ordinances of 1826 and 1840, which in fact only applied to brick kilns? Perhaps the land ended up only being used for agricultural purposes because the Douzaine and Royal Court felt it was too dangerous to allow it to continue to be used as a brickworks: if the kiln were to blow up, the resulting fire might spread to nearby domestic accommodation. 

It appears that the refusal to allow a brick kiln in the field has gradually been interpreted as no building whatsoever, and the whole area had therefore remained agricultural. However, this is not really correct. Clearly the 'embargo' only applied to the former brickfield, as there are now domestic buildings on the two smaller fields, which front Croute Havilland Lane and which were originally part of the whole. Any domestic building embargo clearly did not apply to the whole field.

The only embargo was against a brick kiln. Later brickfields, such as the present Water Board site and the present estate of States Houses along the Vrangue, were created not on good agricultural land, but what at the time was waste land, with no buildings near and well away from housing.

The Queen's Field

This field may have acquired its name from the visit of Queen Victoria to the island in 1846. The visit was unexpected, and so thre was no official gathering to meet her. The grapevine must have worked overtime, and for those who could not go into St Peter Port to see her arrive, once it was known that she would be visiting Fort George many people gathered in the field originally used as brickfield for Fort George, to see her as she came out of the Fort along the lane beside what is now Morley Chapel, and turned into the road to St Martin's.

It is reasonable to assume that the name of the Queen's Field, that is the field from which you could see the Queen, was eventually applied to his field. It obviously had nothing to do with any ownership by Queen Victoria, or any other queen, as subsequent records show commoners owning it.

It has been suggested that the name Damouettes may have a connection with this field. It has been translated from the French as meaning La Dame, the Lady, which years ago usually referred to Our Lady, the mother of Christ. It could also mean a woman of wealth or standing. However, Hugh Lenfestey in his book on Guernsey place names says in this case it is likely to be a corruption of the name of a cleric, Dom Huet. The area was recorded as being called Danwuette in 1534.

¹ A verge us the French equivalent of the English rod, pole, or perch. It is a linear measure, 5 and a half yards or 5 metres in length.