27th June 1863

Guernsey coffee trader William Le Lacheur died

William Le Lacheur was born in Forest in 1802. Were it not for his endeavours, the coffee market – and, with it, the whole economy of Costa Rica – may be worth only a fraction of what it is today.

One of five children, Le Lacheur had first been employed as a worker on the family farm. However, the family had links to the sea. It was perhaps therefore inevitable that he would end up making his fortune away from dry land eventually.

Le Lacheur at sea

He found work captaining cargo ships between England and the Mediterranean. With several years’ experience under his belt, he founded his own company in 1836, in the same trade. Called Le Lacheur & Co, it grew considerably over the years. It eventually had a fleet of 11 ships sailing around the world, of which at least nine had been built in St Peter Port.

William Le Lacheur wasn’t content to sit in a Guernsey office and send others off to source goods. He captained his own vessels to South America and by the early 1840s he was bringing back coffee. This was paid for in London with silver sixpences. Once received, these were either converted to local currency after being repatriated to Costa Rica, or used to buy consumer goods in Britain that were taken to Costa Rica for local use.

Coffee beans

Interests beyond coffee

As well as being a canny businessman, Le Lacheur was a committed non-conformist protestant. In that respect, he worked hard to convert many in Costa Rica from Roman Catholicism. Thus, on many of his voyages he also transported protestant bibles to the country, which he sold at cost.

Le Lacheur moved to the mainland so he could be closer to the coffee trade, and died in London in 1863. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery, among the likes of Douglas Adams, George Elliot and Karl Marx.


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