Mineral exploration took place in Sark in early 1830. Copper, silver and lead and other minerals were found, but it was not until 1836 that a mine was sunk here at Port Gorey on Little Sark. Over 200 Cornish miners were brought in, a 120 HP steam engine was installed and a narrow gauge railway was constructed.
Four shafts; Sark’s Hope, Le Pelley’s, Prince’s and Vivian’s, were sunk down to a depth of 180 metres and galleries run out, some under the sea bed. Initially the mine promised good returns but as time went on, the quality of the ore declined and the seam became narrow. Overheads to run the mine were high; coal had to be imported to run the steam engine, and once mined the ore had to be sent by sea to be smelted. At the final audit, £34,000 had been spent to raise £4,000 of ore from the ground
One of the worse people affected by this was Sark’s Seigneur, Ernest Le Pelley who had become Seigneur on the death of his brother Pierre, who was drowned off the north of L’Epecquerie Common in 1839. Like his brother, Ernest Le Pelley had also invested heavily in the mining company. Eventually he went bankrupt, and was forced to mortgage the Fief to Jean Allaire, an ex-privateer and reputedly the richest man in Guernsey, to raise £4000.
Ernest Le Pelley died in 1849, and the debt passed on to his 19 year-old son and heir, Peter Carey Le Pelley. Unable to meet the interest payments, young Le Pelley was forced to hand over the Fief to Jean Allaire’s daughter, Marie Collings, who called in the debt when her father died in 1852.
And it’s from this beginning that the present line of Seigneurs is descended.
© Arthur Lamy