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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

1858 England-Channel Islands Cable


Cable images courtesy of Mike Taylor

1858 Channel Islands cable marked "Channel Islands" on the brass mount at one end, and "R.S. Newall & Co.y’s Cable" on the other

In 1857 a subsidiary of the Electric and International Telegraph Company was formed as the Channel Islands Telegraph Company, and an order was placed with R.S. Newall & Company for a cable to connect Weymouth to Alderney, Guernsey and Jersey. Completed on September 7, 1858, this was at the time the longest domestic underwater cable, 123 miles overall.

The conductor was made up of seven copper wires, six around one, and insulated with gutta percha. The core was made by the Gutta-Percha Company and armoured by Newall, who also laid the cable from the chartered steamer Elba.

The superintendent of the Jersey station was James Graves, who opened the line with the transmission of a message from the Governor and the officials of the island to Her Majesty, copies of which, together with the Queen’s reply, were freely circulated upon cards, while a select few were printed upon white satin.

Printed by Le Lievre, Brothers, Printers &c., 13, Halkett Place [St. Helier]

Bill Holly Collection
Printer unknown

Graves was paid 30 shillings (£1.50) per week from the 9th of September, 1858, and on the 11th of January, 1859 he was promoted to the charge of the station at 40s. a week. Meteorological observations under Admiral Robt. Fitzroy’s storm-warning system were placed under Mr. Graves’s charge, and for this service an additional 3s. per week was added to his income in December 1860. In May 1861 he left Jersey to take up the appointment of submarine electrician to the Electric and International Telegraph Company’s cable ship Monarch; he later became the long-term Superintendent of the Valentia station of the Atlantic Telegraph Company.

The Channel Islands cable had an unfortunate life, as little attention had been given to the nature of the bottom on which it was placed. In addition to the rocky coastline of the Channel Islands, the cable had to contend with the constantly changing conditions around Portland Race and was subject to many repairs before the main section Weymouth ‑ Alderney was finally abandoned in June 1861. After the link from Jersey to Guernsey failed in February 1862 the system was closed down.

A cable from Jersey to France had been laid in 1859, but the next connection to the British mainland, from Dartmouth to Guernsey with onward links to the other islands, would not be made until 1870.

For further information, Graeme Marett has written a comprehensive account of all the Channel Islands cables (1MB PDF).

Last revised: 25 March, 2020

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