17th October 1834

The first mines were dug on Sark

British mining engineer John Hunt first came to Sark in 1833. There were already rumours of rich mineral deposits on the island. These proved to be accurate when he discovered veins of both copper and silver running through its rocks.

On 17 October the following year, he signed a contract with the Seigneur of the time, Peter Le Pelley, which gave him the rights to mine the ore for the next 31 years. The licence was to cost hunt £1 a year, plus 6% of all the proceeds earned from the mines.

Hunt transferred the concession to the Guernsey and Sark Mining company, in which he held 30 shares, the Seigneur held 10, and a further 200 were sold at £5 apiece to raise the necessary capital to fund the mining activities.

A poor investment

Unfortunately for Hunt and his investors, the initial mines, around Le Pot on Little Sark, were largely unproductive. It seemed for a while that Hunt had been mistaken about Sark’s mineral wealth.

However, all that changed in 1836 when a hunter discovered rocks close to Port Gorey bearing high quantities of cassiterite ore. This was enough to convince the mining company’s shareholders to invest more money so that it could exploit the find.

Hunt brought in 250 experienced miners. They worked alongside local labourers to dig four mines that collectively became known as Sark’s Hope.

Initially, everything looked rosy, but several disasters were on the horizon. Peter Le Pelley drowned and his brother Ernest inherited his title. The mines weren’t proving as productive as expected, either, and the mining company was running at a considerable loss.

Another rich vein of silver was discovered and Ernest mortgaged his fief to raise enough funds to buy pumps to drain the excavations. However, a cave-in flooded one of the chambers entirely, so he and Hunt had no choice but to put an end to the operation.

When Ernest Le Pelley died, the fief passed to his son, Pierre Carey Le Pelley. However, he was unable to meet the mortgage payments and lost his claim on the fief. The Seigneur’s Rights to Sark then passed to Marie Collings after been in the Le Pelley family for more than 130 years.

 

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 October

Guernsey Post Office was established 1st
Guernsey switched to Reichsmarks 2nd
Sark was the target of Operation Basalt 3rd
Sark voted for democracy 4th
Guernsey lifeboat saved a Swedish schooner 5th
Jeeves actor died in Guernsey 6th
Sarnia Theatre celebrated its most successful year 7th
The Story of Adele H opened in cinemas 8th
Howards’ Way came to Guernsey 9th
Guernsey Ladies’ College opened 10th
A Trislander ate itself between Jersey and Guernsey 11th
The Channel Islands’ king set sail for England 12th
Major General Sir Isaac Brock died 13th
Footballer Matt Le Tissier was born 14th
Island FM brings commercial radio to Guernsey 15th
Channel Television saw off a rival broadcaster 16th
The first mines were dug on Sark 17th
Sark’s Stocks Hotel was damaged by fire 18th
Elizabeth College’s foundation stone was laid 19th
Hitler ordered the Channel Islands’ fortification 20th
Guernsey’s stone crackers demanded a pay rise 21st
The desalination plant opened 22nd
Sir Charles Hayward buys Jethou for £91,000 23rd
Guernsey Monopoly board game went on sale 24th
Dame Sibyl Hathaway chose her Desert Island Discs 25th
GUNS founder Charles Machon died 26th
Bailiff Sir Peter de Havilland was born 27th
A man “disappeared” from a Guernsey ferry 28th
Express & Star bought Guernsey Press 29th
The first lighthouses were built on the Casquets 30th
States of Guernsey voted to lower the voting age 31st