1857 harbour plan

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The 1857 plan which was not proceeded with for over a century

After the construction of the main outer harbour walls, named Albert and Victoria Piers in honour of Queen Victoria and her husband, Jersey's first official Royal visitors in 1846, it did not take long to realise that the upper ends of the harbour between the New North Quay and the Albert Pier on one side and Commercial Buildings on the other, were dry and muddy for much of the day and no use for vessels which wanted to enter and leave the harbour at will.

Harbour on dry land

St Helier Harbour had been built on dry land, as Prince Albert was quick to remark when he set foot on Jersey soil with Queen Victoria. The enormous tidal range in Jersey, the second highest in the world at over 12 metres, meant that there were no suitable places around its coast where a harbour could be built which was accessible to large vessels at any state of the tide.

This remains true to this day. Although the harbour has been extended further into deeper water, schedules for passenger ferries are still governed by the availability of sufficient depth of water for them to dock safely.

In 1857 a plan was put forward to make better use of the upper end of the harbour on either side of the New North Quay, which was to be an important passenger quay for several decades and became the main harbour quay devoted to conventional cargo vessels. As the diagram from the time shows, the proposal was to construct a retaining wall between the Albert Pier, at the top and the New North Quay, with a lock to lift vessels from the Victoria Harbour to this inner harbour at all states of tide.

Two dry docks, one accessible from the outer harbour and one from the inner basin, were also to be created. A further wall would be built across the section of harbour between the New North Quay and Commercial Buildings, and access to the permanently flooded basin so created would be through a passage cut through the New North Quay.

The whole plan would have provided deep water moorings for commercial and leisure craft accessible through the main lock at all states of the tide. In many respects this is similar to the design of the harbour at Saint Malo on the adjacent French coast, which suffers from the same extreme tidal range.

Plan rejected

For reasons which do not seem to have been recorded, the plan was never proceeded with. At least, that is true for over a century, because in the 1970s the basic idea was resurrected and a wall was built between the Albert Pier and New North Quay. There is no lock, but a sill retains a minimum water level in an inner basin, which is used as a yacht marina, accessible during the limited hours when the water level in the outer harbour rises to a height which allows leisure craft to pass over this sill.

At the time this development was under consideration, various plans were again put forward to create a similar basin between the New North Quay and Commercial Buildings, but none has every been proceeded with. This area of the harbour is now devoted exclusively to leisure craft which have to cope with the fact that their mooring dries out twice in every 24 hours.

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