6th May 1862

Alderney debated in the House of Commons

Alderney was once an important component of Britain’s coastal defences. The country was frequently coming up against France, and Alderney’s outpost location meant it could warn of potential invasion.

However, the harbour was costing the country a lot of money to maintain. So much money that, when MPs were asked to vote on allowing more money to be spent on it – and on Alderney’s defences in general – questions were asked in Parliament on this day in 1862.

Alderney from the air

A divided house

Those in favour argued that in time of war, occupying Alderney would be essential to effective monitoring of shipping in the Channel. The harbour was therefore not merely a place of refuge, as it had been described until then, but a vital asset for national security.

George Bentick, MP for Norfolk Western, was having none of it. Perhaps this was because his constituency was a comfortable distance from any likely landing point of the French. He told the Commons that,

A more wasteful expenditure… had never been incurred in the annals of any other country. It was no harbour of refuge at all, for no captain would ever think of running for it, except [if] he had the finest possible weather and everything in his favour to execute so dangerous an operation; and although the right honourable [member for Droitwich] called it a work of defence, he would undertake to show that, so far as defence was concerned, the most sensible thing they could do with it would be to blow it up on the following morning.

The MPs were being asked to commit somewhere between £200,000 and £2m to its improvement. Despite the enormous margin of error in the two figures, it was seemingly impossible to produce a reference document that would give an accurate estimate before the vote could take place.

Voices against, votes in favour

In the end, the vote did proceed, on 16 May. On that day Lord Henry Lennox outlined his belief that “whilst England remained mistress of the sea, Alderney in a strategical point of view would be of no value whatever”.

Despite Lennox’s objection, the vote was carried with a majority of just eight. Disraeli, leader of the opposition at the time but shortly to become prime minister, had voted against.


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Other events that occured in May

Priaulx Library opens for the first time 1st
Horse racing returns to L’Ancresse race course 2nd
Guernsey deportee, nurse Gladys Skillett was born
“Twink” goes missing on its way to Guernsey 3rd
Role of Chief Minister of Guernsey abolished 4th
Guernsey Airport opened for business 5th
Alderney debated in the House of Commons 6th
Songs of Praise comes from Guernsey 7th
Final issue of Deutsche Guernsey-Zeitung was published 8th
Guernsey was liberated from German occupation 9th
A Guernsey retiree’s £1m offer attracts 57,000 requests 10th
A liberation celebration ended in disaster 11th
Guernsey plays Tottenham Hotspur 12th
Guernsey’s telephone wars broke out 13th
British papers reported Dame of Sark’s deportation 14th
The States of Guernsey bought Aurigny 15th
Alderney was liberated at the end of the second world war 16th
Herm goes back on the market 17th
A mainland murder with a Guernsey connection 18th
Guernsey declared a State of Emergency 19th
Wartime diplomat Wilfred Gallienne born in Guernsey 20th
Hauteville House is bequeathed to the City of Paris 21st
Guernsey poet and painter Denys Corbet was born 22nd
John Doyle was appointed Lieutenant-Governor 23rd
The Imperial Hotel opened for the first time 24th
Elizabeth College is founded in St Peter Port 25th
Game of Thrones actor Roy Dotrice was born 26th
Head of Guernsey CID is shot in St Peter Port 27th
Work started on the Victoria Tower
Guernsey’s first paid constables were hired 28th
Guernsey woman advised to leave for her safety 29th
Occupation stories occupy the mainland papers 30th
“Overdose” verdict in Guernsey farmer’s death inquiry 31st