6th September 1956

The melon king died… long live the melon king

Think of Guernsey agriculture and tomatoes will almost certainly come to mind. However, one man – William Corbet – who died aged 90 on 6 September 1956 turned his hand to fruit instead. He was so successful in his endeavours that he earned himself the nickname, The Melon King.

Born in Vale in 1866, Corbet had started out cultivating tomatoes, like his peers. He planted his first vine in his early 20s but switched to melons, despite the success he was having with tomatoes. He shipped his fruit to the mainland for sale in London.

Royal recognition

He established the Heaman Vineries, which became so notable that they were visited by Mary, the Princess Royal, on 11 July 1921. She wanted to see how the melons that the royal family ate at Buckingham Palace were grown.

Somehow, Corbet still found time to preach at the Methodist church and serve as a deputy, constable and douzenier. He remained on the island throughout the occupation. However, he gave up farming at the end of the war, when food was no longer in quite such short supply. He is reputed to have done all he could to ensure that his crops were distributed to locals, rather than Germans, during the Second World War.

His son escaped to the mainland early in the occupation by sailing his small boat across the Channel. He had saved up tiny amounts of fuel until he had sufficient to power the vessel the whole way.


FREE Guernsey history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Guernsey's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want. We'll also keep you up to date with our latest book releases and early-bird discounts.


Other events that occured in September

Channel Television took to the air 1st
A Guernseyman cycled to Herm 2nd
Brecqhou was put up for sale 3rd
Renoir arrived on Guernsey to paint 4th
Ship sinks in St Sampson harbour 5th
The melon king died… long live the melon king 6th
Coronavirus returns to Guernsey 7th
HD Ferries makes its last crossing
6th Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment fought at the Somme 8th
Guernsey number plate sold for £240,000 9th
Guernsey hosted the second Island Games 10th
Major Guernsey employer Tektronix went public 11th
Guernsey was struck by a hurricane 12th
Schoolboys and teacher went missing off Sark 13th
Guernsey holidaymakers head home itching 14th
The title Baron de Saumarez was created 15th
Missing girl, Jetta, was found on Guernsey 16th
Archaeologists found a porpoise grave 17th
An Islander aircraft crashed in Guernsey 18th
Guernsey commando Hubert Nicolle died 19th
Guernsey and Jersey considered merging 20th
Occupation resister Winifred Green was deported 21st
The Devil’s Rock had its opening night 22nd
The Duke of Connaught visited Guernsey 23rd
Former bailiff Daniel de Lisle Brock died 24th
Occupation president Ambrose Sherwill died 25th
Trudy, Guernsey’s biggest ever import, was installed 26th
“Let em starve,” said Churchill 27th
A Guernsey planning dispute headed to Europe 28th
Herm tenant Major Peter Wood died 29th
Spotlight was broadcast for the first time 30th