John Luce 1758-1827 Sunday, Oct 13 2013 

John Luce was born in St Helier, Jersey on the 3rd of November 1758 to John Luce a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and Elizabeth Matthews. John Luce senior had a distinguished career having been been involved in the land forces at the “Plains of Abraham” 1759, at Quebec, and the attack of Belle Isle in 1761.

He used his contacts to obtain a place for his son at Greenwich School which was of great repute in this period. He left there to enter the mercantile service again with contacts of his father Captain Collas and Clement Durell trading in West Indies and the Bay of Honduras,  with British settlements in the area it was a new and lucrative place for enterprise. He was received well in Belize with his family having connections with the settlers, especially Major Joshua Gabourel  of the royal local artillery, whose wife settled and resided in Jersey for some years when she became a widow.

Luce on his return to Jersey after a long absence was advised by his  godfather John Thomas Durell 1733-1800 the King’s Solicitor General of Jersey, to continue his career at sea and join the King’s navy, and within a few weeks he was serving in the small squadron then protecting the Channel Islands. He afterwards found his way to the West Indies, his favourite station, and served in the fleet opposing the Comte de Grasse;- he also served in the naval battalions conquest of Martinique, on the 22nd March 1793, and St Lucia;- he was further employed in several arduous situations in the transportation of Caribs from St Vincent to the island of Ruatan, but who subsequently deserted from that delightful and advantageous spot to Trujillo, on the Spanish Main.

Returning to Europe, Mr Luce joined the “Crescent” a frigate of 36 guns, the crew of which were mostly fellow islanders from Guernsey and Jersey, who were delighted to serve under that able commander Captain Saumarez.

After passing through the subordinate departments of the service, and having distinguished himself in the capacity as master’s mate on various occasions, that demanded considerable skill and intrepidity, when at Spithead, in the beginning of 1793, he got permission from his chief to visit London, and was favoured by Captain Saumarez with a strong recommendatory letter to Paul Le Mesurier, then MP for the borough of Southwark, and afterwards chief magistrate for that city.

Proficiently educated, Mr Luce soon passed the necessary examinations for the post of Lieutenant, being one of only seven out of the fifteen to pass.

"Crescent" capturing the Réunion off Barfleur

“Crescent” capturing the Réunion off Barfleur

He rejoined his ship in good time to share in the glory of the action fought with the Réunion, which was recaptured off Barfleur, in which conflict his distinguished conduct was particularly noted by his chief, and was rewarded with the rank to which he had for so long aspired to. Sir James Saumarez retained Lieutenant Luce for many cogent reasons. Familiar with the French language, he was a great acquisition to the service on the expedition on the aid of the Royalists at Quiberon Bay, and was frequently employed on the shore, not without imminent danger of falling into the hands of the Revolutionists, who never failed to slaughter their captives, without trial or mercy.

"Crescent" "Druid" & "Eurydice" engaging the French

“Crescent” “Druid” & “Eurydice” engaging the French

On the 7th of June, 1791, the “Cresent”, “Druid” 32 guns, and “Eurydice” 20 guns, fell in with the French fleet off Jersey. The vast superiority of the enemy prevented their coming to close action, but they occasionally engaged the French ships until they got off, into Guernsey roads, which was witnessed by a large crowd of islanders, and so bold and masterly a manoeuvre was displayed, that the then Governor issued a general complimentary order of the day, conveying the public approbation of the distinguished and consummate professional skill displayed on the occasion by British seamanship, most flattering indeed to the feelings of the crews attached to the small squadron.

Lieutenant Luce continued serving with Sir James Saumarez on board the “Orion” as first Lieutenant. The vessel was to take a prominent and distinguished role in the the Battle of L’Orient, being one of the first into action; this took place on the 23rd of June, 1795, for which Lord Bridport expressed his acknowledgements to the officers and seamen, for their intrepidity, courage, and skill during the battle.

The “Orion” continued cruising in different parts of the Channel. Whilst attached to the fleet off Brest: in the Bay of Biscay she made several captures of the enemy’s Privateers, that were sent into the nearest English ports; meanwhile in the early part of February, 1797. An order was received from the Lords of the Admiralty, directing the ship to proceed, and reinforce the squadron of Sir John Jervis, which they joined only a few days before the Battle of St Vincent against Admiral Jose Cordova took place on the 14th.

Early on the morning of that memorable day, it was known on board that the enemy’s force counted twenty seven sail of the line, exclusive of frigates and other armed vessels. At noon the fleets were closely and warmly at work, when the action became more general two hours afterwards; it was half past three when the Spanish ship “Salvador del Mundo”, of 112 guns, got desperately engaged with “Orion” of 74 guns, but was soon compelled to strike her colours, followed by hoisting of the English Jack, this was a happy omen for the English fleet, particularly for those on board the “Orion”, the ship’s cutter was then immediately lowered, and with the rapidity of lightning, First Lieutenant Luce, whose privilege it was, jumped into the boat and quickly took possession of the prize, with the formalities observed on such occasions.

The following morning the fleet anchored in Lagos Bay, when Lieutenant Luce proceeded for England in charge of the “Salvador del Mundo”, which he safely conducted to Spithead.

On the 7th of March of the same year, Lieutenant Luce was honoured with a commission of commander, as reward for his distinguished merit in the battle off Cape St Vincent, a reward which was justly entitled, after the hard earned victory for which, in common with the rest of the officers of the squadron, he received the thanks of Parliament.

In his active career for his country Captain Luce cause in many hard fought actions and skirmishes, in which he sustained variously bodily injuries; fortunately, however, for his family and friends, the most inconvenient was that which occasioned his deafness, arising from the concussion of a canon shot in his last engagement , which at the moment blew off his speaking trumpet whilst giving orders on board the “Orion”, the shock of which he never completely recovered.

He married in 1800 to Miss Scarvel, at Gosport. He had formed an attachment with her in Antigua, during his sojourn in the West Indies. The resided some time at Greenwich, whilst building a cottage of his own choice at Walworth, where he always felt a humble pride in entertaining his former shipmates and companions. Including his old captain the late Admiral Saumarez.

After a painful illness lasting three years he passed away on the 7th of May, 1827. He remains were deposited in Trinity Church in Newington, Butts, Surrey on the 14th of the same month; flowed by Colonel Waldegrave Fane, of the Royal Marines;  Lieutenant Charles B. Stockdale R.N.; Messrs Guillet, Walker, and other intimate friends.

Leaving no issue Captain Luce appointed his nephew, and heir at law, Mr Pickstock, a merchant of Honduras, the sole executor of his will, bequeathing to him the greatest portion of his property.

The above is from an article in the Guernsey and Jersey Magazine of 1837


Notes – Mr Pickstock was Thomas son of Thomas Pickstock a Privateer who died of fever in Surinam in 1800 and his mother was Elizabeth Luce. In the same Guernsey and Jersey magazine of 1837 an article states he was a magistrate and judge of the supreme courts of Honduras (also mentioned in Honduras Gazette), and resided in London in the 1830’s.


1841 census London has Thomas Pickstock 50 merchant and presumeably his wife Mary 45 both Jersey born and children Augustus and George born Honduras, and Thomas born England. (Leonora De La Taste age 20 born Jersey in household), And Leonora’s father Edward is in Jersey with a John Pickstock – merchant (foreign 15) staying with him.


Jerripedia gives us a summary of the Gabourel family stating they were involved in the slave trade, the 1851 Jersey census has John Joshua Gabourel age 54 born Honduras and his wife Harriet Benest 53 born Jersey.


We have mentions of Gabourel’s owning a plantatition at Cape Fear in North Carolina with: Joshua Gabourel with an American will registered in London 1726, died at Cape Fear, bachelor, master of the “Maxwell”. Another mention is of a Joshua Gabourel who came to the Cape Fear region from Jersey before 1734.


The “Honduras Alamanack” of 1829 mentions the following as subscribers: John Gabourel, William Gabourel, Thomas Pickstock, E Neel & Deslandes, Ph De Ste Croix, Francis Messervy of London, John Poingdestre it is known that he and James Poingdestre traded in mahagony and based themselves in London.


A search in under Pickstock and Gabourel with Honduras as country a number of British slave registers come up.


Jersey involvement in the slave trade (bottom picture link to PDF) “A respectable trade or against human diginity” by Doug Ford:


“La Pêcherie à Vraic et à Poisson” Thursday, Oct 10 2013 

This walk takes several miles over mostly shingle and the odd bit of seaweed covered rock so if your decide to go make sure you have appropriate footwear, and check the weather and tides before hand, it does not take in the low water mark so you have some lee way with the incoming tide. You can park at Seymour slip or closer La Rocque harbour.

Head towards the refuge beacon and enter a small gully on the right as you pass (the second one) and after a few metres you will come across this unusual stone which is conglomerate “pudding stone” which is usually found several miles away at St Catherine’s. You can back track or I walk back a few steps then cut across and you may seem some base clay of the land of times past, it is worth looking out for anything unusual as a mammoth tooth was found near the refuge tower several years ago.

Conglomerete "Pudding stone"

Conglomerete “Pudding stone”

We now head down towards Seymour Tower passing a ridge of shingle and sand that forms part of La Petite Avarison a bit further along we come to the first engraved “P” mark this forms the western boundary of the “La Pêcherie  à Vraic et à Poisson” established by a judgement of the Royal Court on the 28th of April 1747 which confirmed the rights to the fishery of L’Avarison to Francis Payn Seigneur of La Maletière (Les Prés Manor) which he and his forebears had long enjoyed. On the 13th May, 1747 the Député Vicomte recorded the meeting when the limits of the fishing and vraicking rights were specified, the Cour de Samedi ordered this to be ratified and for the report of the experts, which names the rocks and “P” marks specified whose engravings still exist today bar one that is presumed to have been lost to quarrying when the tower was built. The area gave the Seigneur rights to collect vraic in the marked area when he wished, this absolved him of the law that we know today as the “1894 Loi sur la coupe et la pêche des vraics”  It appears that the rights were implemented almost immediately with a case being brought to the Royal Court by Centenier of Grouville and Procureur du Roi Thomas Labey against Francis Payn who had claimed a fine against Clement Quérée and five others who had been vraicking against the orders.

 The 1894 law is currently under threat of being lost with a Projet 114 of the States of Jersey so as to allow the questionable interests of those rearing ormers to take seaweed when and where they desire which they say the 1894 law which advocates sustainable use of the seaweed hinders their activities.

West of Roche Forts or Perrots

West of Roche Forts or Perrots

Les Settes Samson

Les Settes Samson

Le Nez Courant

Le Nez Courant

Rock to left (SE of La Petit Avarison) has an engraved "P" on its east face.

Rock to left (SE of La Petite Avarison) has an engraved “P” on its east face.

"P" on the north face of La Petite Avarison

“P” on the north face of La Petite Avarison


Seymour Tower or La Grande Avarison where it is said that Saint Samson in the 6th century stayed when passing through the island and is survived in name by the rock Les Settes Samson, to the south you will see more clay remains and is one of the more significant areas to be exposed on the south east coast. The current tower replaced an earlier structure was built in 1782 after proposals from Sir Henry Seymour Conway 1721-1795 to Lord Weymouth in 1778 and received approval and funding from King George III, the States of Jersey purchased the tower in 1923 and Jersey Heritage took it over in 2006. During the occupation it was manned by German troops and when an exchange party was returning they got cut off by the tide and locals raised the alarm and requested they be allowed to go to assist which was delayed and the party were washed away. To the south you usually see several areas of exposed clay which has a similar appearance to that found at Les Ecrehous.

Exposed clay to the east of Seymour Tower

Exposed clay to the east of Seymour Tower

The area is home to a variety of marine life, commercial fishing, and aquaculture and was designated a Ramsar wetland site of international importance in 2005 noted for being one of the largest intertidal sites in Europe, unfortunately this has seen increasing human pressure and decline of species and the habitat. The area is home to a wide variety of shorebirds both local breeding and migrant birds and the Societe Jersiaise ornithology section undertake surveys of the area on a regular basis, the marine biology section has produced a report on the ecological importance of the area, and undertake regular surveys in the area especially on the big spring tides at the equinox.

Empty half of Matra glauca "Five shilling shell"

Empty half of Matra glauca “Five shilling shell”

Some species worth looking out for are the Matra glauca “Five shilling shell” which is very rare in the U.K. but likes the sand banks of the area, it obtained its common name due to the high price that the shell demanded by Victorian collectors who enthusiastically collected and recorded sea shore species, and Jersey supplied a number of scientific collections through the work of Joseph Sinel 1844-1929 and his son in law James Hornell 1865-1949

Symagittifera roscoffensis a small (2-5mm) worm that is found is pools of water or damp areas bordering ridges or sandbanks, it is widely studied by biologists because of its endosymbiotic relationship it has with the phytoplankton  Tetraselmis convolutae which it harbours in its body cavities and so gives it green “mint sauce” appearance.

Notes and references:

One possible meaning of the word Avarison is a dangerous place, there is a place of the same name in South America.

Book “Grouville, Jersey, The history of a country Parish” page 154 out of print.

Jersey Geology Trail – submerged forests:

Ice age island –

An Bollenessor

marine life in Cornwall

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