Guernsey Press

Blue plaque for Lt-Governor who ‘shaped the island we love’

Former Lt-Governor Sir John Doyle is to be honoured with a blue plaque in memory of how he shaped the island in the early part of the 19th century.

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A blue plaque commemorating former Lt-Governor Sir John Doyle will be unveiled at the Old Government House Hotel.

Sir John served as Lt-Governor between 1803 and 1816, and is perhaps best known for his ambitious engineering project to reclaim the Braye du Valle area from the sea, connecting the island, which was formerly in two parts.

Deputy Sue Aldwell, who nominated Sir John for the plaque and is sponsoring it, along with the OGH Hotel, said that he shaped the island enjoyed by people today in many ways.

‘The blue plaque scheme is all about recognising people crucial to Guernsey’s history, and Sir John Doyle is certainly one of those,’ she said.

‘In many ways, he shaped the island we live on and love today.

‘As well as filling in the Braye du Valle, Sir John also built new roads, gun batteries and forts as part of a major defence plan.

‘His projects were not without opposition either, with a huge public meeting held in the Town Church where he managed to charm the crowd into voting in favour of his plans.’

The plaque will be unveiled by Bailiff Sir Richard McMahon during a short public ceremony on Friday 15 March at 11am outside the Old Government House Hotel.

The OGH was originally a merchant’s house, which was bought in 1796 to provide a permanent residence for the Lt-Governor.

For 46 years, successive Lt-Governors lived there until it opened for the first time as a hotel in 1857.

The plaque will be the latest addition to the ways in which Guernsey commemorates Sir John.

Previous dedications include the Doyle Monument at Jerbourg Point, Doyle Road and Fort Doyle.

The life of Sir John Doyle and his legacy to the island

Born in Dublin in 1756, he joined the Army in March 1771 and served with distinction in the American War of Independence, before entering Irish politics and becoming a Member of Parliament in 1783.

When France declared war on Great Britain in September 1793, Sir John raised his own regiment, the 87th Regiment of Foot – later the Royal Irish Fusiliers – in while he also served in countries including France, the Netherlands, Gibraltar and Egypt.

He was appointed Lt-Governor of Guernsey in 1803 after the resignation of his predecessor Sir Hew Dalrymple, having already been stationed in Guernsey at the time.

Thanks to his military background, he understood the potential threat of French invasion to the island and immediately declared a state of emergency, which remained in force until Napoleon’s defeat in 1815.

As part of his efforts to defend Guernsey, he identified the Braye du Valle tidal estuary – which would fill and isolate the northern part of the island at high tide – as a weak point in its defences.

This was because a French landing on the isolated northern part would provide the invaders with a readily defendable position from which to strike at the rest of the island.

As well as filling in the Braye du Valle, Sir John also built new roads, gun batteries and forts as part of a major defence plan.

While he often faced opposition, when it came time for him to leave in 1816 there were protests and local petitions for him to stay.

He never married, and did not have any children.

He died at his London home in Somerset Street, Portman Square, in 1834.