March 1820

Guernsey newspapers of 1820. Cemeteries, magicians, orang-utans and hot baths.

Gazette de l'Ile de Guernesey, Saturday 4 March 1820



Signor B. Molia, an Italian, is honoured to inform the people of this island, that a live Menagerie of rare and strange animals has just arrived, consisting of: an Asian Dromedary; a great Polish bear, of an amazingly sweet nature, performing various tricks upon his master's command; a small capuchin monkey from the Ile de France, a curious, very sweet and loving animal; two female chimpanzees from Brazil; the Great Barbarian ['le grand Barbaro'],1 or the Man of the Woods, who walks with a stick like a human being; a green monkey, or vervet; a clever little Arab horse, who can count and perform other feats of knowledge, can tell the time from a watch, the value of coins, and plays dead; as well as other strange and rare animals.

These animals are at present to be found behind the Shakespeare Tavern, near the Court, where they can be seen, from 10 am until 8 pm. Price;—6d for adults, children half-price. [From the French]

The Star, Tuesday, March 7, 1820

The atrocious calumny lately circulated against an honest and respectable inhabitant of this Island, has prompted him to solicit from the Court a public reparation for the injury which some daring and detestable slanderer has attempted to fix on his character. Mr John Caire has received the most flattering testimony of the approbation and esteem of the Royal Court, and we are happy to inform the Public that he has completely triumphed over the malignant efforts of his unprincipled slanderer. ... Here follows a translation of the act from the Royal Court on that subject, which has been sent to us.

February 29th 1820 - before Sir Peter De Havilland, Bailiff, and in the presence of Daniel De Lisle Brock, John La Serre, Josias Le Marchant, John De Lisle, John Guille, John Le Mesurier, and Hillary Carre, Esq. Jurats of the Royal Court.

Rumours have been spread accusing Mr John Caire of St Peter Port, of the crime of incest, and claiming his sister became pregnant in consequence of having committed the said crime. The Royal Court examined on oath Thomas Guerin Collings, Esq., one of the high constables of the said Parish, likewise two respectable surgeons, as well as other respectable witnesses, and it appears, in the opinion of the King's Officers, that the said high constable, having properly made every possible inquiry respecting such a report, concluded that it was unfounded and totally false, and, therefore, had not thought it proper to lay the matter before the King's Officers, nor the Royal Court. - But Mr John Caire, indignant at such monstrous calumny against him, had brought it forward in his own name, in order that the truth might be publicly known. The Court have, this day, proceeded by way of an inquiry to obtain every information which an imputation of such a nature required; but if the Court on the one hand would severely punish those who would be guilty of such a crime, on the other hand, the Court cannot refuse to give the utmost reparation to those who are proved to be innocent.

That is what the Court have this day done, having heard the most undeniable and respectable evidence, by certifying that Mr Caire's sister was not pregnant, that the excellent character she bears ought to have screened her from so foul a suspicion, that not a shadow of doubt exists as to the propriety of her conduct, that her morals are good, and her character unimpeachable, and that the scandalous report spread against her, far from being prejudicial to her, ought, on the contrary, to raise her character in the public estimation, since it has caused an enquiry to be made, which has cleared her honour from the least imputation. - With regard to Mr Caire himself, it has equally appeared that he has acted a father's part towards his sisters, that his conduct in that respect is deserving of the hightest praise, and that there remains not a shadow of suspicion against his character. (Signed) Wm. SOLBE SHEPPARD. King's Deputy Greffier.

Mercure de Guernesey, Saturday 11 March 1820


COMPRISING Hot, Cold, Vapour, and Shower Baths, are now open for the accommodation of the Public. A book is open for Subscribers, and Tickets ready for delivery, at £1 15 0 for twenty Tickets to the Hot, and £1 5 0 to the Cold Baths, napkins included, with every expence for attendance, &c. Non-Subscribers will pay 2s 3d each Hot Bath, and 1s 9d the Cold. N.B. Tickets to be paid for on delivery. Guernsey, 7th March 1820

Gazette de L'Ile de Guernesey, Saturday 18 March 1820

Monsieur Castelli,2 Italian Physician, Professor of Prestidigitation and Conjurer, on his way to London via Guernsey, is at present in Jersey, where he has demonstrated his talents with the greatest success in fifteen consecutive shows, both before the public and in those private homes where he has had the honour to be asked to perform.

The rare talents and astonishing dexterity of this Artist has always earned him the approbation of many large audiences, from whom he has received in addition the most generous encouragement. We have just had the pleasure of learning that Monsieur CASTELLI is on the point of arriving here, and that he intends to give several performances in this island also. We are sure that he will have as many admirers of his talents here, and that his performances will delight audiences here just as much as in Jersey. [From the French]


In consequence of an Address on the expediency of a burial-ground for dissenters, the public is now respectfully informed that a subscription is opened at Thomas Dowdney’s, Bookseller, Market-Street, for the said purpose, introduced as follows:

a proposition having been submitted, that a plot of ground be purchased for the use of dissenters, subject to such regulations as a majority of subscribers may adopt, we, the undersigned, approve of the same, and agree to contribute to the attainment of an object so desirable.

Mercure de Guernesey Saturday 4 March 1820


SIR,—Having seen it asserted in one of the Weekly Papers of this Island, that a Rector has the right of removing from the Churchyards, all the Tombstones, whenever he pleased,.... from ...the pen of the ...late celebrated Sir Edward Coke will be seen that, not only a Parson dare not lay claim to that sacred property, but that whosoever shall deface or mutilate the same, may be sued for damages in the Royal Court.

Now, the Rector of this Parish persists in letting his Horse range at large in the Burial grounds, to the great offence of the Public, whose opinion he has long been acquainted with, and was expected to pay some deference to, and refuses to unite in the respect which his Parishioners have for Holy Ground, unless he is compensated for it ... it follows that he makes himself responsible for any injury that may be done to the Tomb, or Grave-stones, by his, or any other Horse, that may (as has been frequently witnessed) pollute these Sacred Mansions, with his consent; consequently that those persons who complain that the Gravestones of their families have been broken down by his or other Cattle, may prosecute and recover damages accordingly. ...our dissenting brethren, disgusted with the profane use made of the Churchyards, in this Parish, are working to purchase a Burial ground, not to enter therein the bodies of our dissenting fellow Parishioners only, or even those of any one particular denomination, but of all dissenting Christians, of whatsoever denomination they may be, of the whole Island, and according to their respective religious rites.

... I would have been silent touching burial fees, and the price of graves, if the subject had not been entered upon in the Public Prints ... Now, as in this populous Parish, these fees form a considerable part of the incumbent’s income, I think that the diminution with which they are threatened ought to be deemed by him a matter of serious consideration, if not for himself, who, according to the course of nature, cannot be expected to enjoy them many years, at least for his successors, to whom he has expressed himself so very solicitous to leave the benefit, with all its rights and immunities unimpaired. .. if while contending for the right of saving a few shillings, which it might cost to mow the grass decently, he loses tenfold the number of pounds – his successors will not, I am sure, thank him for this kind office!

Before I close, I cannot avoid noticing a scene which I beheld on Monday morning. The preceding days had been rainy, and the sod was extremely soft – the Dean’s Horse was, as usual, in one of the Burial Grounds, called Le Cimitière des Frères; many persons were passing by at the time, and stopped to view it too, and, as if some evil spirit had excited the poor brute to exasperate still more the wounded feelings of the Public, he galloped up and down the enclosure, trod in, and rolled himself over the Graves; the sod near the gate was all broken and turned up by his hoofs, and presented a most disgusting spectacle; but this part was little worse than the rest, for in short, the entire of that Sacred Ground (if such it can still be called) was mud and filth. No wonder, said I to myself, that Christians will not be buried here, and seek an asylum where they can rest in peace!

...I conclude with begging, whosoever it doth concern, to recollect that a house divided against itself cannot stand long.

I am, Sir, Your humble Servant,

See also another letter on same subject, Mercure de Guernesey, Saturday 18 March: the writer, 'CHEF DE FAMILLE,' is horrified at a rumour that the Rector intended to build a stable in the cemetery, and from 'UN SEXAGENAIRE:' [French original]

A few weeks ago I witnessed a genuinely touching scene: a poor man who had just buried, in the Brothers' Cemetery, the remains of a beloved child, drawn to come and look at the place where they had been interred, suffered the bitter blow of finding the grave fallen and crushed by the Horse - he dissolved into the most profound grief. I can partly reassure him, however, by informing him that the Parish has been so disgusted by these and similar events that they intend to call a meeting to sort it out.

The Star, Tuesday, March 7, 1820

Sir, ...

No-one contends his right to the Grass; but to make a common pasture of of Consecrated Grounds, as was for a considerable time the case, when, with his permission, Mr Macey kept his Horses in one of them, is a proceeding calculated to excite general indignation.

The Burial Grounds of this Parish are so crowded that not a day passes without some injury being committed by his Horse: whoever has just visited the Cimitières des Frères, during the last week, must have been shocked at its degraded state. Out of the number of new-made Graves which I saw, not less than four had been perforated to a great depth by the feet of the animal, and his dung was visible in all directions, mingled with the remains of man! What a sight in a Christian Country! ...

An intention has already been manifested by several respectable members of the Church of Englands, to join their Dissenting Brethren, to procure for themselves and their descendants, a place of rest, suited to the character of Christianity, and unshackled from pretended 'Rectorial Rights.' ...

If our Churchyards have been polluted, as is the opinion of many of the Parishioners, I shall be very gald that a visitation be demanded of the Bishop of this Diocese.

I am, Sir, Your Obedient Humble Servant,

Gazette de l'Ile de Guernesey, 11 March 1820



Almost every Saturday, I read in the island's public papers, opinions on the condemnable abuse whereby horses are allowed to graze in the Town cemeteries; as a country-dweller, I felt I ought to show my unhappiness in this matter with the Rectors of our parishes, who allow the same abuse to take place.

I expected that what has been said would have had some influence upon their Christian conscience,but on the contrary, I note that things are continuing as they were, except that our worthy Rector has indicated to me that he will in the future desist; may this be so, and may the others follow his example!

A St Peter's Man

The Star, 7 March 1820


SIR, It has been currently reported, during the last week, that a well-known tombstone was missing, which had been erected by the 73rd Highland Regiment, to the memory of Sergeant Samuel Macdonald, better known by the name of Big Sam, from his extraordinary height. Reports went so far as to conclude that it had already become a 'valuable' perquisite, destined to be newly scraped, and again erected to the memory of some other person, as in the case of the ancient sepulchral stone, which has recently appeared in the Strangers’ Burial Ground, in commemoration of Maria Butt.

I am, however, happy to have it in my power to contradict the rumour in question.

The Tombstone which has lately disappeared has been taken to the Stone-yard, for a far different purpose than that of sale. It has been removed thither for the purpose of being renewed, by the Serjeants of the 79th Highland Regt. in token of respect to the memory of their gallant comrade.

I beg the insertion of this statement in your respectable Journal, in order that the public mind may be appeased on this point.


The Star, Tuesday March 21, 1820

It is with particular pleasure we have to announce, that the Churchwardens of this parish have waited on us officially to say, that the Rector has positively expressed his intention of discontinuing the custom of grazing horses in all the Churchyards in Town. These gentlemen have requested us to state, that the report respecting the parish Register Book being in the Deanery, at the time of the last fire, is unfounded, and that it is carefully kept in the vestry room, in the Town Church, secured by two locks.

1 An orang-utan of this name was exhibited at the Palais-Royal in Paris at the end of the 18th century, and was well known enough to form the basis of a pun in a contemporary comedy between 'le Grand Barbare' (Gengis Khan or similar) and 'le Grand Barbaro' (the ape).

2 Castelli was a popular name for magicians, as an Italian bearing that name had written an important treatise on magic during the Renaissance. 

Castelli, 'Professor of Philosophical Amusements,' toured in Trinidad and Martinique in the 1820's. Among his features were: 'The Invisible Father,' 'The Pyramids of Egypt,' 'The Incomprehensible Snuff Box,' and 'The Asiatic Dove.' The Port-of-Spain Guardian reviewer was most complimentary: 'His powers are certainly extraordinary, and met with all the success and approbation such a display merited.'

Another (or the same) Castelli, perhaps coincidentally from Normandy, proved interesting to Robert Houdin, one of the first celebrity conjurers, who included him in his autobiography.

Jean Eugéne ...was at the Fair of Angers when he saw a magician named Castelli, from Normandy. This mountebank had advertised that he would eat a man alive in view of all the spectators who would attend his show. Naturally, the place was packed and young Robert had to attend such a remarkable exhibition. When Castelli asked for a volunteer, two men mounted the stage. One was rejected as being too fat, but the other seemed quite suitable for the performance. The Norman smacked his lips, sprinkled the seated man with pepper and vinegar, turned down the victim's collar, and bit him in the back of the neck. The volunteer howled, leaped up and left the stage nursing his nape. Castelli, with a great show of annoyance, impatiently called for another volunteer, but failed to obtain one. The spectators, Robert reported, were understandably disappointed.