Monday, 23 January 2012

St Helier: 1932

A dip into the past today, with some details from the 1932-33 Ward Lock and Co Guide to The Channel Islands and Parts of Normandy and Brittany.

It is interesting to see how the topography of St Helier was considered a mess even back then! There was no Howard Davis Park, and the Triangle Park where bands played on a Sunday is that strip of green land beside the Grand Hotel where Queen Victoria's Statue now resides. The site of the Howard Davis Park was only purchased by T.B. Davis in 1937.

The population was 26,314.  The population is now 97,857, and the population of St Helier at 33,522 (2011) exceeds that and even did so in 2001 when it was 28,310. So this was a very sparsely populated Island.

Some of the amenities are present today. Despite mergers and name changes, the main banks listed are still pretty much where they were in 1932. The Havre des Pas Swimming Pool is still open, although it doesn't make admission charges any more except for use of lockers, showers etc. The West Park pool having recently been closed, doesn't look as if it will re-open in the near future, but the site is still visible.

The main library existed, but only as a reference library. It's amusing to see the precision of the number of books held - exactly 20,000!

For other libraries, people would take a subscription. The best known (but not mentioned in this guide) was probably the Boots Lending Library. The first library was started in 1898 by Florence Boot, who was greatly interested in art & literature. My mother remembers in the 1950s having a subscription as a birthday present to the Boots Library.

By 1903, 143 of the 300 Boots shops had a library. You could pay a yearly subscription of 10/6 for one book at a time or 42/- for 6 & 7/- for each extra volume. Alternatively you could pay as you read , leaving a deposit of 2/6 & paying per day that you borrowed the book - the price depending on the category of book; the most popular being the more expensive. The cleanliness of the books was a key point in advertising - makes you wonder what state the books were in from other commercial libraries. The major city branches had desks & chairs as well as notepaper & flowers. The extra services available included reservations, much like today, & also the ability to leave a wish list & the books to be reserved when they came in. There were all sorts of additional memberships for holiday periods only, juniors & arrangements for those in the country. Boots also had library sales to sell off the older & less popular books. The shield on the front cover was crossed through when the books were sold. (1)

There was a lot more diversity of local newspapers available to Islanders which is amazing considering the smaller population. But then we must remember that newspapers were one of the main outlets for news and stories to read, without the myriad magazines and other forms of media available today from abroad. One newspaper catered for the French speaking population; we forget how large that was in comparison to the whole population.

There was a French consulate, and perhaps more surprisingly one for the United States!

A good sales gimmick was the discount available to travellers from England on day trips to St Malo, thus generating extra passengers for that service. It would be interesting to know if it would be viable today for Condor to bring in.

With regard to the boats, the early boats left in the morning, and that's when honeymooners would depart. It also became a stock phrase when I was growing up at people from the UK who grumbled about the Island - "there's always the early boat in the morning."  That is, alas, no longer the case, and nowadays day trips to Guernsey - like those I used to enjoy as a boy -often leave very little time to explore St Peter Port.

Until the demise of Sealink, the railway and boat links were run by the same management, which was very good for matching up as the timetables would be arranged to facilitate the visitor, or the traveller to the UK. In 1932, the railways had not been nationalised, and there were two lines both touting for passengers to and from the UK.

And when you arrived, there was a porter available, something we do not have now. I love the idea of a porter taking your luggage "to any part of St Helier"!

Cab fares are also interesting - by horse! While motorized buses were making headway on the Island's roads, the principal other form of transport available to hire was literally "horse power"! I wonder what state the roads around St Helier were in, and who cleaned up the horse droppings.

And with Eastbourne trying to steal Jersey's crown, even in 1932, it was "sunny Jersey". I've not heard of the name "St Martin's Summer", for the Autumn weather, which is perhaps not surprising, because it has dropped out of common use:

There was a time when all of Europe understood the phrase: only the British, with our expansions into occident and orient, displaced it with another saying. Indian Summer has nothing to do with India. The phrase was used by European colonists in North America in the 18th century to describe the bright, still season in which native raids ceased and the warriors went home to harvest. The precise chain of inference between the season and the Native Americans is lost in etymological dispute. There are hints of treachery in it, perhaps because ''Indians'' were held to be treacherous, and the magical season was brief and unreliable.(2)


A  LARGE harbour ; a maze of streets, busy and prosperous;. a huge fort rising perpendicularly above the town ; good shops ; numerous places of worship ; a miscellaneous assortment of carriages and well-appointed motor-coaches, plus a general air of comfort and well-being, are the prominent features of St. Helier.

So irregularly is the town planned that we shall not attempt precisely to describe its topography. Suffice it to say that the chief buildings of interest are in the vicinity of Royal Square (near Fort Regent), and that the best shops will be found in Queen Street, King Street, Beresford Street and Halkett Place.

General Information.


By steamer from St. Peter Port, Guernsey, 25 miles ;from Southampton, via Guernsey, 140 miles ; from Weymouth, via Guernsey, 100 miles ; from Plymouth ; from St.Brieuc, 50 miles ; from St. Malo, 42 miles ; from Granville, 30 miles ; from Carteret, 18 miles.


Local bands play in the Triangle Park or in the neighbouring pavilion on Sundays, and occasionally during the week.

Banks (closed on Wednesday afternoon):

Lloyds, Broad Street ; Westminster, Broad Street ; Midland, Library Place and Hill Street; Barclays, Library Place; Jersey Savings Bank, New Street.

Bathing - Excellent.

Two extensive pools of sea-water-one known as Victoria Marine Lake, and controlled by the West End Bathing Co., near West Park Station ; the other at Havres des Pas  -are retained by circular walls. Bathing in the pools is safe and convenient at all states of the tide, and mixed bathing is permissible at all times. Single ticket at the Victoria Marine Lake, tickets, single ticket 6d. At Havre des Pas, single ticket, 6d.  Admission for non-bathers, 2d. 12 tickets 5s. 6d. At First Tower there is good bathing from machines.


On the western side of the Harbour, St. Aubin's Bay presents at low water an extensive stretch of sand, perfectly safe when the tide has receded. This beach is flanked by a solidly-built granite promenade and a fine broad thoroughfare called Victoria Avenue and Fort Regent the sandy bay and beach of Havre des Pas is studded with rocks. Around the various indentations of the beach is a broad stone and cement walk, with seats at intervals.


Owing to the deadly nature of the coast and the strong tides, sailing or rowing boats venturing beyond St. Aubin's Bay should be accompanied by a capable man.


At Westmount (near People's Park), 4d. per hour, and at the Recreation Ground, Greve d'Azette.

Bus Service.-See page 28.

Cab Fares.-By distance : For each mile or fraction thereof, 1s. 6d. By time : (one-horse vehicles) : Each half-hour or portion thereof, 2s. ; vehicles with two horses, each half-hour or portion thereof, 3s. For luggage outside the cab, 3d. each package.  From the boat to the town, or vice versa, 3s.

Chief Buildings of interest to visitors :

Elizabeth Castle. Open daily, Sundays included, 6d.

Royal Court House and States Chamber, Royal Square. The attendant will show visitors over these fine buildings (free).

Public Library, Royal Square. Open (free) 10 to 1 ; 2 to 9.

Town. Hall, York Street. An attendant will show visitors over the buildings, which include a picture gallery (free).

Police Court, adjoining Town Hall. Open at 10 a.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Parish Church of St. Helier can be seen daily.

Museum of the Société Jersiaise, 9 Pier Road

Markets. The buildings in Halkett Place and Beresford Street are well worth a visit.

Climate.-" Sunny" Jersey is the familiar appellation, for this is the sunniest spot in the United Kingdom. The air is equable and mild, bracing on the high ground, but less so in the valleys. A long, sunny autumn, called St. Martin's Summer, begins about October 10. Excellent water supply and drainage.

Clubs.-The Victoria has an imposing house in Beresford Street ; United, Royal Square ; Cesarean, King Street ; Y.M.C.A., with debating and chess clubs, New Street ; Rotary; Mechanics' Institute, Halkett Place ; United Services, Queen Street ; Y.W.C. Association, Société Jersiaise, Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club, etc. Clubs for golf, cycling, archery, lawn tennis, rowing, cricket, and many other sports.

Musical. Jersey Choral Society and Jersey Musical Union.
Consulates.-French, 24 Hill Street ; United States, 15 Royal Square.
Croquet.-At Recreation Grounds, Greve d'Azette.

Cycling.-Highly popular on account of the fine roads and convenient runs. Many machines are brought over by visitors, but those who do not propose to spend a large proportion of their time a wheel will find it more convenient to hire a machine. Every cycle must bear a number plate obtainable at the police office.

Early Closing Day.-Thursday. Banks close on Wednesday afternoon.


The current attractions are advertised in the Jersey papers, and in the Visitor's Guide, weekly, gratis.

On the eastern side of the Harbour Triangle Park, (or, if wet, in the West Park Pavilion), concerts, troupes, etc.

Opera House (Gloucester Street), Alhambra (Phillips Street), the Picture House (Don Street) and West's Picture Palace (Peter Street).

Springfield Grounds and Pavilion (off St. Mark's Road), concerts, shows, sports.


Fair-not so good as formerly. Motor launches and yachts put out daily from Albert Pier at 11 a.m. Lines and
bait supplied.

Libraries.-The Public Library is in Royal Square (Reference only ; 20,000 volumes). Open 10 to 1, 2 to 9, free. There are several Subscription Libraries in the town.

Museum.-9 Pier Road, near the Parish Church. Open, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 10 to 12, 2 to 4. Admission 6d. And May to September, free, on Thursdays from 2.30 to 5, by  the main entrance, Caledonia Place.

Newspapers.-The London papers are on sale in the town shortly after the arrival of the morning boat. The local papers are Evening Post (daily), Morning News (daily). Twice weekly : Les Chroniques de Jersey (French). The Weekly Post, Jersey Critic (weekly).

Passport Office.-Office of the Lieut.-Governor and District Staff, Rouge Bouillon.

Population.-Census 1921: 26,314.


For taking luggage on or off steamer, 3d. ; when taken at the steps from the boats to the landing-place, 6d. ; to any part of St. Helier, 1s up to 100 lbs. ; one-third more up to 200 lbs.; double over 200 lbs.

Railway Stations.-The Western Railway terminus (for St. Aubin and Corbiere) is at the Harbour end of the Esplanade. The terminus of the Eastern Railway (to Gorey and Mont Orgueil Castle) is opposite Snow Hill, to the rear of Fort Regent.


Several yachts and motor launches advertise sailing excursions at moderate prices.


From about the middle of July to the end of September there is a daily service (Sundays excepted), via Guernsey, to Southampton, from the Albert Pier, at 715 a.m., and to Weymouth, from North Quay, at 7.45 a.m.
For the rest of the year, via Guernsey, to Southampton, from Albert Pier, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7.30 a.m. ; to Weymouth, from North Quay, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 7.30 a.m.
Return tickets are available by either route.

Southern Railway Office, 6 Bond Street ; G. W. Office, 9 Bond Street.

There are also frequent sailings, particulars of which are advertised locally, from St. Helier to Granville and St. Malo. Less frequently to St. Brieue (Hare Steamship Co.), and from Gorey to Carteret.

Passports must be procured before embarking for France. District Office, Rouge Bouillon.

Excursions to Sark and around the Island during the season.

Particulars will be found in the local press.

Passengers holding the return halves of Great Western Railway or Southern Railway tickets can obtain tickets for St. Malo or Granville at reduced rates.

Tennis Courts.-At the Recreation Ground, Greve d'Azette, one mile from Royal Square, two minutes from Greve d'Azette station on the Eastern Railway. Two grass and ten gravel courts. 2s. per hour. And in Victoria Avenue, at the Lower Park, and Le Chat Noir.


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