When island prospered with busy shipyards

24th September 2021

Memories of an old resident. From The Star, Guernsey, Thursday June 29, 1944

As a result of the reference, in 'The Star,' to the shipyard which occupied the lower half of what is now St Julian’s Avenue, memory has been stirred in another reader who, though now in her 80th year, remembers distinctly the closing days of this island’s prosperity as a ship-building centre.

‘I do not recall Stickland’s yard,’ she confided to me, ‘although I often heard it mentioned as a child. But in those days it was a long journey to Town for children born at the north of the island, and by the time I made that trip at last that yard had disappeared.

My associations were principally with the Longstore and that neighbourhood. Here, there was a very busy shipyard situated where Dredge’s yard now is, and I have seen many ships dragged across the road and launched down the slipway which then existed opposite.

A long job

Sometimes it would take several days to get a vessel across to the water, and during that time the road would be completely blocked and traffic would have to make the round of St John’s to get to and from Town. The ships would be conveyed on rollers and had to be brought to the beach at exactly the right time for the tide to be suitable for their launching.

There was another shipyard further along the Esplanade, on the spot where Marine Terrace now stands, but this was burned down and never reopened for business.

At St Sampson’s, too, was Mr Ogier’s yard, where. I believe, some of Guernsey ‘s famous clippers were built, though I cannot recall any of them. But I did see the last ship to be launched off these stocks, and I believe the last from Guernsey was called the Sarnia, a fitting name with which to close an era in this island’s history.

Running the gauntlet

Yes, I have seen the passing of a distinct phase of life, and with it many of the places I knew as a child; as well as those friends of other days, many of whom would not recognise their old haunts if they could see them now.

For instance, on the sea-side of the Longstore, where the railway track now runs, there were three  houses with their backs abutting the beach. They stood until demolished to make way for the tram-lines to St Sampson’s. Two of these houses were occupied by well-known Guernsey families, while the third was a bake-house.

The baker used to bake dinners for those in the neighbourhood, and I remember that often on stormy Sunday mornings a man in sea-boots used to wade from the bake-house to the waiting customers on the other side of the road with their ‘joint and veg.' The sea rushed up the slipway and swirled around his legs, threatening every minute to carry him and his precious cargoes away out into the bay. But I do not remember this catastrophe ever overtaking him.

Not a house

Of course, there were no water works then, and all water had to be carried from the nearest public pump. The one we patronised stood at the top of Bouillon Lane, which in those days led up to a large private garden.

In fact, the whole of the district in the rear of the sea-shore was laid out in gardens and fields, and when I first knew it there was not a house in the whole length of Rouge Rue.’