The fire in the powder magazine on Mont de la Ville

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The powder magazine fire
on Mont de la Ville

This article by Oliver Mourant was first published in the 1950 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

The medal presented to Edouard Touzel

The Société Jersiaise having been able through the good offices of Colonel W Marshall Frazer, of Le Blanc Muzel, Cobo, Guernsey, a member of the Societe, to obtain a replica in base metal of the gold medal presented to Edward Touzel for his gallantry and devotion to duty on 4 June 1804, it has been thought fit to reproduce a line drawing of the original medal, which is now in the possession of the British Museum, and to publish a contemporary and authoritative account of the incidents attending the fire and of the steps taken to express publicly to Touzel, and to Lys and Pentheney, who assisted him, the gratitude of the inhabitants of Saint Helier.

Constable's report

Translation of the report of Thomas Anley, Constable of Saint Helier, contained in an article published in Stead's Gazette de Jersey on Saturday 9 June 1804. The purpose of the article was to invite the public to attend a meeting to decide on the manner in which the gratitude of the public should be expressed.

Monday last being the 66th anniversary of the birthday of our beloved Sovereign, everyone was eager to celebrate the event with a display of loyalty and rejoicing. From early morning the Royal Standard was flown on the Town Hill and all the shipping in the Roadstead was beflagged. At noon a Royal Salute was fired from Elizabeth Castle to which St Aubin's Fort and the new forts on the Town Hill replied; the Regiments in Garrison in the Island fired three feux-de-joie which were followed by three "Huzzahs" in honour of His Majesty.
His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief accompanied by his staff and many of the inhabitants of the Island proceeded to the Town Hill and united in the general rejoicings. At one o'clock all the ships in the Roadstead fired a Royal Salute.
These festivities were followed by a sumptuous dinner given by the Commander-in-Chief during which several toasts were proposed, the most important being that of the King's Health, which proceedings were accompanied by discharges of artillery stationed in the public square.
The day terminated with a brillant ball. Unfortunately the rejoicings were interrupted by the threat of a terrible disaster which might have laid the whole of the Town and a large part of the Island in ruin, but for the intervention of Divine Providence, and the courage and sublime devotion displayed by two of our townsmen. We give our readers the details of the occurrence in the following report :-
Monday the 4th day of the present month of June being the anniversary of the birthday of our debonnair Sovereign, all the forts of this Island fired a Royal Salute at noon by order of His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief. The cannon of the new fortifications on the Town Hill also joined in the salute.
After the firing had ceased, a corporal of the reserve company of artillery took charge of the slow match and put it away in the bombproof powder-magazine on the Town Hill in which were stored 209 barrels of gun-powder, grenades, boxes full of cartridges of all sorts, besides combustibles of sundry kinds. Thereupon the magazine was locked up and the keys were taken away from the fort.

Smoke spotted

About 6 pm, when the Orderly Officer was dining in the usual way in the mess with his fellow-officers, the soldiers on guard noticed smoke issuing from a ventilator at one of the extremities of the magazine and thereupon they left the fort at once.
Mr Philip Lys, the Signals Officer on the Town Hill, noticed from his lookout the movement of the soldiers and heard them talking about fire; he went out of his hut before they had all retired and approaching the powder magazine he saw smoke issuing from the ventilators at both ends of the magazine; at the same time he joined Thomas Touzel and Edouard Touzel, two brothers who were carpenters employed by him, who had come to assist in lowering a flagstaff which they had erected during the morning in connection with the day's celebrations.
Mr Lys sent Thomas Touzel to report to the Commander-in-Chief the danger of the magazine blowing up, and to ask Captain Salmon of the Artillery for the keys.
Before Thomas Touzel left he did his best to induce his brother to get away, pointing out the danger if he remained. Edouard Touzel replied that one had to die sooner or later and that he was quite willing to die at once in an effort to save the powder magazine and the Town, and seeing a soldier who was running away he asked him to remain and help him to break down the door of the maga-zine, but the soldier refused.
Edouard Touzel made the same request to another soldier named William Ponteney (In other accounts the name is given as Pentheney, which is probably more correct) of the light company of the 31st Regiment (now the East Surreys), who agreed to join him saying that he was ready to die with him and they shook hands upon it.
Edouard Touzel immediately picked up a block of timber with which he broke down the fence surrounding the magazine, and having found an axe he smashed the padlock and, reaching the door of the magazine he broke two more padlocks, opened the door and entered the magazine. He then shouted to Lys who had remained outside: "The magazine is well alight and is going to blow up. We will lose our lives but that does not matter. Huzzah for the King. We must try to save the magazine".
Thereupon Touzel seized the burning port-fires, matches and other blazing material and threw it out to Lys and to Ponteney who were outside, near a cask standing at the end of the magazine and nearly full of water; the only vessel available being a small earthen pot. Lys and Pontenay made use of this pot and ofLys's helmet to bring water to Edouard Touzel, who had remained inside the magazine, where he was invisible by reason of the thick smoke which enveloped him.

Timber alight

Edouard Touzel, now noticing that some of the timber was alight, used the water which his comrades brought him to extinguish the flames. As soon as he had put the fire out he cried out to Lys that he was being suffocated and he must have a drink. Fire had scorched his hands and his face was slightly burned.
Thereupon many people came up bringing water and Lys sent for a glass of liquor which Touzel drank and revived his energy. Finally by the Mercy of God and by reason of the zeal and intrepidity of Edouard Touzel in particular, and of Lys and Ponteney the fire was completely extinguished.
Captain Leith of the 31st Regiment, as well as Mr Murphy of the same regiment, who was the Orderly Officer, and several officers of His Majesty's Army arrived with soldiers on the Town Hill as soon as they had been informed of the danger which threatened the magazine. Captain Leith, who was the Officer Commanding, and the Officers who accompanied him, manifested an extraordinary activity in causing the magazine to be completely evacuated in order to make certain that not a spark remained.
What did they find? Evidence of a marvellous interposition of Divine Providence whereby the Town of Saint Helier and its inhabitants were saved from the greatest of all disasters! They found two wooden boxes smouldering, con-taining munitions; one box which contained powder flasks, port-fires, tubes and cartridges was burnt through.
Near this box was an open barrel of gunpowder, which would undoubtedly have exploded. A rammer was almost burnt away, some of the roof beams of the magazine were beginning to burn.
Such was the state of things when Edouard Touzel, Philip Lys and William Ponteney, with a magnificent display of bravery and heroism, exposed their lives to a most imminent danger and thereby saved the Town of St Helier and its inhabitants from a very terrible disaster.
The Constable considers it his duty, and also a great pleasure to invite all persons who own property in St Helier or in the neighbourhood to meet on Wednesday next the 13th inst in the Town Church at 10 am to take into consi-deration the appropriate measures to be taken in order to show their gratitude to the three brave men who did not hesitate in a crisis to save the lives of their fellow citizens.

(Signed) THOMAS ANLEY, Constable of Saint Helier St Helier 7 June 1804

States committee's report

25 juillet 1804

Comite recompense a Ph Lys, Edo Touzel et Wm Penteney

Les Etats ayant saisi avec empressement l'occasion de leur premiere tenue, depuis le 4e Juin 1804 pour prendre en consideration le devouement et le patriotisme que deployerent Mr. phil. Lys, Mr. Edouard Touzel et William Penteney Ie sus dit jour, les deux premiers, habitans de I'ile de Jersey, et le dernier, soldat dans le 3 Ie Regiment, en eteignant le feu qui se manifesta dans le magazin a poudre, sur la montagne de St. Helier. Us ont regarde cette action heroique comme infiniment honorable aux trois particuliers sus mentionnes ; Et pour temoigner leur admiration et leur reconnoissance, et exciter leurs concitoyens a 1'imitation d' une pareille conduite dans les dangers OU la Patrie pourroit se trouver exposee, les Etats ont appointe un Comite compose de Messrs Hemery, De la Garde et Janvrin, du Corps de la Justice; Venerable Homme le Doyen, et Messrs. Le Couteur et Bertram, du Corps du Clerge, et Messieurs les Connetables de St. Helier, St. Pierre et St. Brelade, pour deliberer sur les recompenses a etre accordees aux dits Sieurs Phil. Lys, Edouard Touzel et William Penteney et en faire ensuite rapport aux Etats. Auquel Comite Messieurs les Officiers du Roi sont requis d'assister.

Second report

Recompense a Ph Lys, Edo Touzel et Mr Penteney, 8 september 1804

Les Etats ont eu la lecture du rapport de leur Comite, charge de deliberer sur les recompenses a accorder a Mr. phil: Lys, a Mr. Edouard Touzel fils Edouard et William Penteney, du 3 re Regiment, pour avoir eteint Ie feu qui avoit pris au magazin a poudre sur la montagne de St. Helier, le 4 Juin r804 et approuvant le dit rapport, ils ont vote qu'une somme de cinq milIe livres sera donnee, hors des fonds publics, a Mr. phil: Lys la rneme somme a Mr. Edouard Touzel fils Ed. et une annuite de deux cent quatre-vingt-huit livres a William Penteney durant sa vie; et a chacun d'iceux une rnedaille d'or, de la valeur de douze livres Sterling, qui aura, tant d'un cote que sur le revers, des legendes, et des gravures analogues a l' action memo-rable qui leur a meritee recompenses. Les Etats ont cru devoir ce tribut de reconnoissance a ces trois hommes intrepides, qui, voyant un magasin en feu, rempli de poudre, de bombes, et autres matieres combustibles, dont l' explosion ne pouvoit manquer d' embraser, et d' ecraser une partie de la ville, de faire perir plusieurs des habitans, et de rep andre dans toutes les families I'horreur et l' epouvante, se determinerent sur le champ, sans balance, sans se laisser etonner par la grandeur du danger a voler a une mort presque certaine, dans l'heroique espoir de sauver leurs concitoyens et de conserver un fort qui importait au salut de cette tie. Les Etats ont de plus ordonne que cet acte sera imprime et publie dans to utes les paroisses Dimanche prochain, non seulement pour faire honneur a des hommes qui ont si bien rnerite de la patrie, mais aussi pour exciter, dans des temps de peril, une emulation de zele et de devouement dans l' ame de leurs concitoyens; Et le Greffier est dirige d' en mettre une copie entre les mains des sus dits Mr. phil. Lys, Mr. Edouard Touzel, et William Penteney, ecrite sur du parchemin et munie du sceau de l'Ile.

22 december 1804

Letter to States

La lettre suivante de Mr Phil Lys et de Mr Edouard Touzel ayant ete presentee aux Etats, il a ete ordonne qu' elle sera enregistree dans le livre des Etats :-

St Helier, 26 Novembre 1804


"Penetres de la plus vive reconnoissance envers les Etats, tant pour les tres grandes recompenses qu'ils nous ont donnees, que pour les termes de leur acte du 8 Septembre dernier, qui nous font un si grand honneur, nous osons vous prier, Monsieur, de faire connait~e nos sentimens aux membres des Etats, quand vous trouverez l' occasion favorable.

Permettez nous d' ajouter, que si William Penteney notre compagnon dans le service qui a ete si bien accueilli, etait maintenant ici, il se joindroit, sans do ute, a la requete que nous vous presentons.

Nous avons l'honneur d' etre avec respect Monsieur Vos tres humbles et tres obeissans serviteurs

(signe) P Lys, E Touzel


Translation of one of the two contracts passed in the Royal Court of the Island of Jersey on 9 February 1805 (Book 99 folio 86) whereby certain ancient wheat rentes were purchased on behalf of Ed Touzel and his wife to remain in their family for ever.-

Charles Le Hardy Gent, son of Thomas, of the one part, and Thomas Anley Esq Constable of Saint Helier and Phil Le Montays and Phil Nicolle, Public Trustees of the said Parish of the other part, the said Officers duly authorised and acting for a large number of persons who have subscribed certain sums of money in order to reward Edward Touzel and Esther Le Cordier his wife for the inestimable services which he the said Edw Touzel rendered to this Island in general and to the Town of Saint Helier in particular on Monday 4 June 1804, being the anniversary of the birth of our beneficent and gracious Sovereign King George III,

(here follows an account of the circumstances of the fire very nearly in the words of the Constable's Report)

The said subscribers, being desirous of expressing their gratitude to the said Edwd Touzel for his zeal and heroism, and for the initiative combined with courage, which he displayed on that occasion ever memorable by reason of the great danger involved, unanimously instructed the said. Constable and Public Trustees in their official capacity to invest the monies thus subscribed with a view to rewarding the said Edward Touzel in purchasing either land or rentes in this Island of Jersey and subsequently on behalf of the said subscribers to give (en faire un don gratuit) the said land or rentes to the said Edward Touzel in order that the said land or rentes may remain in his family for ever, and belong for evermore to his legitimate descendants from eldest to eldest either in direct or collateral line.
And it is further declared that the said land or rentes shall never be divided (partages) sold, alienated, charged, hypothecated, renounced, liable to bankruptcy proceedings against the holders, seized for any debts whatsoever, or in any way either wholly or in part, removed from the possession of the said Edw Touzel or of his heirs, all transactions made in contravention of the terms and stipulation contained in the present contract being null. The said Edw Touzel and his heirs being the eldest male or female after him from line to line shall have only the enjoyment during his or her life of the said land or rentes, the freehold (la propriete) being the possession of their families following, and never subject to partition among heirs, the intention being that the said freehold should remain as a perpetual and indi-visible memorial of the noble devotion on the part of Edw Touzel for the safety of his compatriots and of their gratitude to him,

(here follows the description of the rente)

Which sum of rente the said Constable and Public Trustees of Saint Helier present or future are to invest in the purchase ofland (terre ou terrain) to be given and transferred in perpetuity to the said Edw Touzel and his heirs in the form and manner above stated in accordance with the wishes and intentions of the said subscribers here above expressed.


Other rewards were :- Not only was Touzel raised to the rank of Sergeant-Major in the Saint Helier Battalion, but he was presented with a magnificent silver-mounted sword, that he was authorized to wear (and did wear) each time the battalion was on parade.

Lloyds Patriotic Fund voted the sum of £500 to be presented to Lieut Philip Lys, having a wife and eight children; the sum of three hundred pounds to Edward Touzel and an annuity of £20 for life be settled on William Pontenay. 10 July 1804.

Lloyds minutes

Extracts from the minutes of the meeting held at Lloyd's on 10 June, 1804 :-

Read a letter from T A Lempriere, of Jersey, addressed to Mr Angerstein, relating the heroic conduct of Lieut. Philip Lys, RN Officer of the signal po … Edward Touzel, Carpenter; and William Pontenay a private in the 31st Regiment; in extinguishing a Fire which had commenced in the powder magazine near the Town of St Helier on the 4th inst.


" That the case now read, stating the very meritorious conduct of Lieut Philip Lys, RN, Edward Touzel and William Pontenay comes within the meaning of this Institution and is entitled to serious and grateful consideration.


"That a letter signed by the Chairman be written to J A Lempriere, of Jersey, requesting such further information as to the situations and prospects in life of the persons above mentioned, as may enable the Committee to determine on the most acceptable mode of conveying to them the high sense they entertain of the patriotism with which they devoted their own lives to save those of their fellow citizens".

Extract from the minutes of the meeting held at Lloyd's on 10 July 1804:

"Read a letter from T A Lempriere, of Jersey, in answer to the enquiries made of him relative to the situations and prospects in life of Lieutenant Philip Lys of the RN, Edward Touzel, a carpenter and William Pontenay, a soldier of the Island, who so eminently distinguished themselves 4 June last, as appears by the minutes of the committee of 10 June.

RESOLVED "That it be proposed at the next meeting that the sum of £500 be presented to Lieut Philip Lys, having a wife and eight children; and the sum of three hundred pounds to Edward Touzel and that an annuity of £20 for life be settled on William Pontenay.


"That the foregoing resolution be transmitted to the Constable of the Island of Jersey in a letter addressed to Mr Lempriere signed by the chairman; and that Mr Lempriere be requested to draw for the amount voted, at three days sight,

Sir Francis Baring Bart, Chairman of the Committee at Lloyds.

Extract from the minutes of the meeting held at Lloyd's on 24 July 1804:


"That the sums of money and plate, proposed to be voted on the 10th instant be and they hereby are voted accordingly".

PATRIOTIC FUND Lloyd's 11 July 1804


Sir The committee of the Patriotic Fund at its meeting yesterday, directed me as chairman to acknowledge your obliging letter and to thank you for the trouble you have taken and the very able manner in which you have seconded their intentions.

They think the parties have chosen with much discretion and to meet their wishes have this day voted to :-

Lieutenant Philip Lys the sum of £500

Edward Touzel £300

and to William Penteney they have assigned a Life Annuity of £20 as you will see by the copy of their resolutions inclosed, which you will have the goodness to deliver to the Constable of St Helier.

In thus applying so large a sum of the Fund, entrusted to their care, the committee deem that they are but acquitting the subscribers of their part of the public obligation to the three brave men who are an honor to their country and whose conduct will live in the praises and be the envied object of the emulation of posterity.

I request your acceptance of five copies of the report of the committee of the Patriotic Fund up to 1 March last and have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient Servant,

(signed) J BONAR, Chairman.

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