23rd February 1866

Death of Thomas Fiott de Havilland

Thomas Fiott de Havilland (10 April 1775 to 23 February 1866), was an engineer and architect who built some of the most notable buildings in Madras. In later life he became a politician after returning to Guernsey.

He left Guernsey for Madras, via England, and arrived in August 1792. The following year, he joined the engineer corps. That assignment determined the course of the rest of his life.

De Havilland the traveller

Although India was his base, he went on expeditions to Ceylon and Egypt. On the latter, he was ordered to find a source of water for the British troops as they marched between Cairo and Suez and, having done so, rewarded with a trip home. He sailed back to Guernsey via Malta, but didn’t stay long before he returned to India. On the journey back, he was captured by the French, but soon freed and allowed to continue to Calcutta.

He was later court martialed for mutiny after being accused of passing a message between two Lieutenant-Colonels. Although he maintained his innocence, he saw that he would lose, so resigned and appealed to a higher authority. That authority, the Honourable Court of Directors, was more open to his plea, and returned him to service without punishment.

De Havilland the architect

While in India, he built the Scottish National Church at Madras, and the Madras Bulwark. The church cost around £20,000, which would be equivalent to £1.3m today, and featured a dome 51ft in diameter.

He was also particularly proud of the Madras Bulwark, a massive sea defence  designed to protect the city from some of the most fierce waves in the world. He recorded in his autobiography that the Indian government described it as “the greatest… work ever executed by any individual under this presidency”.

He stayed in India for 30 years, and in the forces for another three, finally retiring aged 50 in April 1925. Two years later, he bought an estate on Guernsey and built Havilland Hall, which he let to the Lieutenant-Governor. He became the political representative for St Andrew’s parish.


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Other events that occured in February

Mail ship wrecked on Black Rock 1st
Oil rig stranded at Grandes Rocques
Birth of Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann 2nd
Death of Sir Charles Hayward 3rd
St Martin’s parish church consecrated 4th
Guernsey suffers its worst storm in 35 years 5th
Guernsey watchmaker helps Stone of Scone manhunt 6th
Guernsey Language Commission formed 7th
Queen Mary executed while wearing Guernsey stockings 8th
Guernsey gets its first postbox
Guernsey Society celebrates its 70th anniversary 9th
Guernsey’s last execution didn’t go according to plan 10th
The last issue of GUNS was distributed 11th
Alderney gets its first full-time radio station 12th
Guernsey’s last duel 13th
Specsavers’ Mary Perkins was born 14th
Blue Islands takes to the skies
Guernsey gets its own flag 15th
Birth of concrete poet Dom Sylvester Houedard 16th
HMS Guernsey launched in Aberdeen 17th
Guernsey’s first Methodist minister arrives 18th
Aurigny Air Services founded 19th
Guernsey Railway Company runs its first services 20th
The Channel Islands were cut off from the outside world 21st
St Sampson was ordained a bishop 22nd
Death of Thomas Fiott de Havilland 23rd
Murder inquiry ends with suicide 24th
Death of occupation resister Marie Ozanne 25th
Guernsey’s first banker dies 26th
Release of Reverend Harry Samuel 27th
Plans for St Sampson power station approved 28th
Second World War bomb detonated 29th