A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FALKLAND ISLANDS

Part 4 - The British Colonial Era

British Colonisation

In 1839 a British merchant adventurer, G.T. Whittington, formed the Falkland Islands Commercial Fishery and Agricultural Association and tried to put pressure on the British government to proceed with the colonisation of the Falkland Islands.  He published a leaflet entitled 'The Falkland Islands' containing material acquired indirectly from Vernet, and then presented to the government a petition signed by owner a hundred London merchants, shipowners and traders demanding that a public meeting be held to discuss the future of the Falkland Islands.  In April 1840 he wrote to the Colonial Secretary, Lord Russell, proposing that the Islands be colonised by his Association.  In May the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners decided that the Falkland Islands were suitable for colonisation.  

In October 1840, having heard nothing from the government, Whittington despatched his brother J.B. Whittington with two vessels, settlers and stores to Port Louis where they arrived in January 1841 with the purpose of forming a colony.  J.B. Whittington demanded upon his arrival to be put in possession of land his brother had allegedly acquired from Vernet.  The British Resident Lt. Tyssen had not been advised of the party's proposed arrival, and said he had no authority to put Whittington into possession of any lands, but he was unable to prevent the party from landing.  Whittington established himself at Port Louis, built a nine-room house for his party, and set up a fish-salting business in the building Vernet had erected for that purpose.  With Whittington's party was a young clerk, J. Markham Dean, who was rapidly to establish himself as a merchant of repute in the Islands.

The Establishment of Stanley

The first Governor of the Islands, Lt. Richard Moody, arrived in October 1841 aboard 'Hebe' together with twelve Sappers and Miners with their families.  By now the Anson's Harbour colony numbered some 50 persons.  In 1842 Lord Stanley, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, instructed Governor Moody to investigate the potential of the Port William area as the site of a new town.  Governor Moody tasked Captain Ross, leader of the Antarctic Expedition, with carrying out the survey work.  In 1843 Captain Ross concluded that Port William would make a good deep-water anchorage for naval vessels, and that the shores of 'Port Jackson' to the south would be a suitable place to build a settlement as it had shelter, fresh water, a plentiful supply of peat and a natural harbour.  

Building work commenced in July 1843 and on 18 July 1845 at Governor Moody's suggestion the new capital was officially named Port Stanley after the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Edward Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby.  In 1845 the structure of Colonial government was created with the establishment of Legislative Council and Executive Council, and in 1846 office holders were appointed to those posts. 

By 1846 30 residences for 164 residents had been built, together with the sea wall and 3 jetties.  Some of the houses were timber prefabs originally intended for The Crimea.  The Government Dockyard had been laid-out and a slipway, large store shed, carpenter's shop and blacksmith's shop completed.  Work on Government House commenced in 1845; in 1847 it was opened as offices and in 1859 Governor Moore became the first Governor to reside there.  The Exchange Building was opened in 1854, and in 1856 part of the building became Trinity Church.  1854 also saw the building of Marmont Row (incorporating the Eagle Inn, today known as the Upland Goose Hotel) by Jacob Napoleon Goss. 

Most of the colonists moved from Anson's Harbour to Stanley, and the population grew rapidly to 200 in 1849.  That year 30 married Chelsea Pensioners arrived with their wives, families and 30 kit houses to form the permanent garrison and police force.  They took over from the Royal Sappers and Miners Regiment who had garrisoned the early colony from 1842 to 1849.  In 1857 civilian police constables were recruited.  In 1858 35 Marines arrived to form the Falkland Islands Garrison Company, which continued with successive detachments of Marines until 1892 when the Falklands Volunteer Corps was established.

Samuel Lafone and The Falkland Islands Company

A century of colonisation and economic development followed.  In January 1846 a contract was concluded between the British government and Samuel Fisher Lafone, a British merchant operating from Montevideo, giving him proprietary rights to all the wild cattle.  Lafone had been interested in the Falkland Islands for some years, and had acquired from Vernet much valuable information and even a map of East Falkland.  The contract dismayed Moody as it prevented him from allotting wild cattle to new settlers, and made Stanley dependent on Lafone for the supply of beef.

Most of the cattle were situated in the large southern area of East Falkland which became known as Lafonia, and to which Lafone soon obtained a grant.  Lafone became the first absentee landlord, never visiting the Islands.  No check was placed upon his activities, and far from introducing British settlers as he had claimed he would do, he sent large gangs of Spanish and Indian gauchos to hunt the cattle.  In 1846 they established a settlement at Hope Place on the southern shores of Brenton Loch, and in 1849 they built a sod wall across the isthmus at Darwin to help control stock movements.

By 1849 Lafone was negotiating with his London creditors the launching of a joint stock company.  In 1850 the company was named in advertisements 'The Royal Falkland Land, Cattle, Seal and Fishery Company' but by 1851 when it was incorporated under Royal Charter it had become known as 'The Falkland Islands Company Limited'.  Lafone became a director, and his brother-in-law J.P. Dale, the Company's first manager in the Islands.  By now most of the wild cattle had been hunted to extinction by Lafone's gauchos, and the company turned its attention to sheep farming.  In 1857 the company's operations were moved from Hope Place, which proved to be a poor farming location, to Darwin.  

In 1860 the Lafone contract, which the Company had taken over, was terminated and the Company given an absolute grant of the area of Lafonia and sole rights to the cattle it contained.  Ownership of the remaining cattle outside Lafonia reverted to Government which issued a Public Notice announcing that any person hunting, wounding, capturing or destroying any wild cattle outside Lafonia without the Governor's written permission would be fined.  Lessees of Government land were required to make a return every six months of all cattle taken and to brand and register them.

The Introduction of Farming

Meanwhile in 1847 Governor Moody had introduced a grazing scheme whereby settlers, on payment of a yearly licence fee, were given permission to graze cattle on 120-320 acre plots along the coast and 320-640 acre plots inland.  This scheme was intended to encourage small-scale farming.  It was extended two years later by Moody's successor Governor George Rennie to give settlers the right, provided they purchased not less than 160 acres, to obtain a licence to graze cattle on the surrounding 6,000 acres.  

Under a Land Proclamation issued in 1861, settlers were able to obtain a one-year grazing licence of a 6,000 acre 'section'.  Provided they erected a house and stocked the land with a certain number of cattle, horses or sheep, they were then permitted to rent the 6,000 acre section on a renewable ten year lease.  They also had the right to take the wild cattle on the leased land provided they paid the prescribed royalty.  The Proclamation paved the way for the ranching style of farming which was to become the norm.  Over time wool from imported sheep replaced cattle as the main economic activity.  

Colonisation of West Falkland began in 1867, and by 1869 the entire land of West Falkland and outlying islands had been leased to eight settlers, who each arrived with their shepherds, servants, horses, cows, rams, ewes, farming implements, houses, and a year's supply of stores.  The gauchos were replaced by shepherds from Scotland.

Robert Christopher Packe was from a Norfolk family and took up a farming lease on East Falkland in 1850.  His brother Edward Packe later joined him and together they established several farms on West Falkland, including Dunnose Head and Fox Bay East.  The family left the Islands after the First World War but, as a company, Packe Brothers continued to own land on West Falkland until subdivision in the 1980s.

Robert Blake first came to the Falklands in 1873.  In 1874 he went into partnership with Ernest Holmestead at Shallow Bay.  He established his own settlement at Hill Cove in 1881.  The Blake family continued to farm at Hill Cove until 1998.  Diaries and farm records from 1908 until the sale of the farm by the company of Holmestead & Blake to the Falkland Islands Government for subdivision in 1987 are now held by the Falkland Islands Government Archives.

Whaling, Sealing and Penguin Oil

By the 1770s the Falkland Islands were being used as a base for whaling ships, mostly from North America but also from Europe, hunting southern right whale and sperm whale.  Whaling continued for some 50 years until British authority was established over the Islands and their surrounding seas.  Whaling saw a brief revival in the Islands with the establishment of a whaling station on New Island from 1909 to 1917, when whaling operations were moved further south to South Georgia.  The hunting of fur seals for their pelt began in the 1770s but as fur seal numbers declined in the early 1800s the trade tailed-off although it continued on a small scale for another century.  In 1881 a ban was placed on the hunting of fur seals during summer months in an attempt to preserve their numbers, but only in 1921 did Government finally ban the slaughter of fur seals.  In the early part of the nineteenth century elephant seals were exploited for oil.  As numbers fell mid-century, the sealers turned their attention to southern sea lions, until their decline at the end of the century made sealing uneconomical.  Various attempts to revive the sealing industry in the early twentieth century, including the establishment of a sealing station at Albemarle, proved uneconomic.  From the 1860s until the 1880s penguins were rendered down in trypots to produce oil for export.  Both rockhopper and gentoo penguins were exploited in this way.  

Ship Repairing and Provisioning

Stanley saw a dramatic increase in the number of visiting ships in the mid-1840s with the Californian Gold Rush.  In 1847 alone 777 ships visited Stanley.  This led to a boom in ship provisioning, and in ship-repair work, especially on ships battered by severe weather as they attempted to round Cape Horn.  In the latter half of the nineteenth century Stanley was one of the world's busiest ports.  Many ships were condemned at Stanley as unseaworthy, unable to sail any further, and often ended their days as floating warehouses for local merchants.  The Falkland Islands are known today as the world's greatest graveyard of nineteenth century sailing ships.   The ship-repair trade slackened off, first with the advent in 1876 of the Plimsoll Line (the maximum line to which ships could be loaded in salt water) which drove from the seas many of the older unseaworthy vessels which might have ended up in Stanley for repair, then suffered again in the mid-1890s with the use of increasingly reliable iron steamships, and finally died in 1914 with the opening of the Panama Canal.  However whaling and sealing activities in the early part of the twentieth century, the garrisoning of the Islands during the First and Second World Wars, and the fishing and cruise-ship industries in the latter half of the century, have ensured Stanley's port facilities have never remained quiet for long. 

Colonial Life

The Stanley Benefit Club was the oldest club in the Islands.  It was formed in 1859 to provide a fund for the support of its members in case of sickness or accident.  It also contributed towards funeral expenses.  It was dissolved in 1987.  The Working Men's Social Club was formed in 1907 and opened by Governor Allardyce.  In his speech he made mention of how too much alcoholic liquor was drunk in Stanley, and commended the club on its rule of no alcohol on the premises and the prohibition of bad language and gambling.  The Club organised annual sports and a children's fancy dress party, and held regular whist drives and darts matches.

Many Falklands families either emigrated to Patagonia in the late 19th or early 20th centuries to start farming there, or had business interests both in the Islands and on 'the Coast' as it was known, and commuted between the two.  Regular shipping contacts with Punta Arenas helped families to keep in touch and news items concerning Falklands emigrants often featured in the Church Magazine, a monthly periodical founded by Dean Brandon in 1889.

For 44 years until 1933 the Church Magazine provided a comprehensive record of social history in the Isalnds covering notable events and a wide range of local news such as births, deaths, marriages, bazaars, arrivals and departures in the Colony and shipping movements.  It was succeeded by The Penguin, a daily news sheet which commenced in 1929 at the same time as local radio broadcasts.  The Penguin gave notice of radio programmes and contained items of local and particularly international news.  Its demise in June 1938 coincided with the publication of the Falkland Islands News Weekly & Church Bulletin started by the Reverend G. Kenneth Lowe, chaplain of Christ Church Cathedral.  In addition to church news it covered local social events and war news.  It ceased publication in December 1943 and was followed from January 1944 to September 1949 by the Falkland Islands Weekly News, founded by the Reverend Forrest McWhan, minister of the Tabernacle United Free Church.  

The new public baths and gymnasium were opened in 1931 at a time when running water was being introduced and most houses in Stanley had no bathrooms.  The Colonial Annual Report for 1931 noted, "The baths have won immediate popularity and are proving themselves to be of inestimable benefit to the public; use is being made also of the various gymnastic appliances."  The baths were in regular use until the 1950s, by which time most houses had bathrooms added.

At the other end of the social spectrum, the Colony Club was founded in 1933 to provide a meeting place in Stanley for farm owners and managers.  The club rooms, with a bar, supper room and billiards room, were in Marmont Row, just to the west of the Ship (later Upland Goose) Hotel.  The Club was disbanded in 1994, and the rooms are now used as the offices of the British Antarctic Survey.

The Falkland Islands' Dependencies

The Falkland Islands' Dependencies, comprising South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands and Graham Land were established in 1908.  (On 3 March 1962 the latter three became part of the newly defined British Antarctic Territory and on 3 October 1985 South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands became a separate British Overseas Territory.)  In 1912 the Falkland Islands Government established a civil administration at King Edward Point, consisting of a magistrate, customs office, radio station, Met Station and Post Office, to supervise the activities at the various whaling stations around South Georgia.

The Islands at War

The Islands were to play a key role throughout the First and Second World Wars, with the establishment in each war of an army garrison in the vicinity of Stanley and frequent visits by naval ships.  An important naval battle was fought off the western shores of the Islands on 8th December 1914, in which the British under the command of Admiral Sturdee destroyed a strong German force commanded by Admiral Von Spee, thereby eliminating German naval power in the southern hemisphere.  The engagement is remembered each year by the Islands' population in a memorial service and military parade.  On 16 December 1839, following the Battle of the River Plate, the British heavy cruiser 'Exeter', which had taken 40 direct hits, limped into Stanley harbour, 60 of its 600 crew dead, 49 wounded.  The entire crew were boarded out in Stanley, as the ship was too badly damaged for them to live on.  In both wars Islanders played their part, volunteering for service with the British forces, and raising considerable sums towards the British war effort.

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