Guille-Allès Library, Guernsey, Channel Islands

1945 Guille-Allès Library Reserved Book Reminder Postcard addressed to Mrs. P. De la Mare

1945 Guille-Allès Library Reserved Book Reminder Postcard addressed to Mrs. P. De la Mare (front)
1945 Guille-Allès Library Reserved Book Reminder Postcard addressed to Mrs. P. De la Mare (back)

The Guille-Allès Library

“Never shall I forget, the emotion of wonder and delight which seized me when, for the first time, I entered the library. ”

– Thomas Guille said of his first time in the Apprentice’s Library of The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen in New York City

In 1832, 14-year-old, Thomas Guille, set off from Guernsey for America to become an apprentice at a painting company owned by a family friend, Daniel Mauger. While in New York City, Guille had access to the Apprentice’s Library of The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen. Amazed by the library’s extensive collection, Guille resolved to open a similar library in Guernsey and, thus, began purchasing books with his earnings. In 1834, Frederick Mansell Allès, a school friend of Guille’s, joined him in New York and found employment at the same painting company. Several years later, when Daniel Mauger opened another business in neighboring Brooklyn, Guille and Allès took over the New York City company, beginning what would be a lifelong partnership. 

In 1851, while on a routine visit to Guernsey, Guille unveiled his proposed library plan through a series of articles in the local newspaper, La Gazette Official de Guernsey, but it took another five years for his plans to begin to unfold. In 1856, Guille established a circulating library that rotated a supply of books amongst several stations throughout the island. Then in 1867, all of the books were centralized at one location in St. Peter Port.

In 1869, after experiencing near-fatal sunstroke, Guille and his new wife, Eliza, returned permanently to Guernsey, bringing with him the books he had collected while in New York City. Guille’s recuperation was slow, but this allowed him to set about developing the library, but on August 11, 1871, Eliza fell from a cliff to her death while walking with friends. A bereaved Guille subsequently devoted himself entirely to the development of the library, along with the assistance of John Linwood Pitts. In 1881, Guille’s 30-year business partner, Frederick Allès, returned permanently to Guernsey and re-associated himself with the library venture.  The growing library was moved to the Assembly Rooms on Market Street and opened to the public on January 2, 1882.

The Star (Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, England), December 13, 1881.

While the library was public, it was not yet free. Because the English Libraries Act did not extend to the Channel Islands, there was a small annual membership fee of 10 francs. 

One year later, Guille and Allès purchased the Market Street building, which had room for 50,000 volumes, as well as newspaper and magazine rooms, reference and lending libraries, meeting rooms and classrooms, a cloakroom, and even a ladies’ lavatory. 

Frederick Mansell Allès died on February 20, 1985, and Thomas Guille on December 4, 1896.  

Late 1800’s Guille-Allès Library Book Plate (usually found on the outside cover of the book)
Late 1800’s Guille-Allès Library Book Plate
Late 1800’s Guille-Allès Library Book Stamp

World War II

On June 30, 1940, during the peak of World War II, German troops invaded the Channel Islands resulting in a five-year occupation.  Although Guernsey was occupied, the Guille-Allès Library continued operating, although hours were cut short and books were censored and many replaced with German language reading materials. German soldiers were issued permits to borrow books, but were rarely used.   

As the occupation continued and life became more difficult for the people of Guernsey, in acts of passive resistance, the librarians began to hide forbidden items such as food and wireless radio sets behind books and on dummy shelves.  In 1942, Guille-Allès librarian, Arthur Henry Davey, was arrested by German troops and sent to Biberach, an internment camp in Germany for inhabitants of the Channel Islands.  During his imprisonment, the library maintained his position and saved his pay until he returned after the war.  The Channel Islands and Guernsey remained occupied until May 9, 1945, when German forces surrendered upon the announcement of the end of the war.  

The Old Government House Hotel

The card is addressed to Mrs. P. De la Mare at Fairholme, Ann’s Place, St. Peter Port, which is the address of The Old Government House Hotel.  Built in the early eighteenth century as a home for a local merchant, the house was purchased by the Channel Islands’ government in 1797 to serve as the home of the Lieutenant Governor.  In 1857, the home was sold and began operation as the Old Government House Hotel.  During the German occupation, the hotel was used a base for German officers, and in 1941, became a soldiers’ home for the remainder of the war.  The hotel continues to operate today as a 5-star hotel.

The Old Government House Hotel, circa 1960s (no known copyright restrictions)

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