Thursday, 15 March 2012

St Helier in 1932 - Royal Square to Town Hall

A few more extracts from the 1932 Guide Book to the Channel Islands...

De Rullecourt is usually spelt with a "t", but the Guide book loses that, perhaps because it was written from someone speaking De Rullecourt's name in French; the final "t" is silent. For a more detailed account of the Battle, I would refer the reader to the following Société Jersiaise pages where I have placed a transcript from "Ragg's Popular History of Jersey":

It is interesting that there are "three markets" - the Fish Market is still there, and the "New Market" is now simply called "The Market". The Vegetable Market is no longer there, the vegetable stalls having transferred to the main market. The "New Market", as the Guide Book calls it, was actually opened in 1882, so in 1932, it was already fifty years old!

The Catholic Church of St Thomas is no longer the "French Catholic Church". Services are now mostly in English, with some in Portuguese and Polish, reflecting the change in the Island's Catholic population. There are, as far as I am aware, no services in French, although the Christmas Eve Mass used to have the Gospel in French - as well as English, Portuguese, and latterly, Polish!

Weather observations commenced at Maison St. Louis Observatory on 1st January 1894 but it wasn't until later that year that the Observatory building itself was complete. The Observatory continued its programme of manual observations for 111 years until 2004. The system is now automatic, and up to date weather can be observed at:

St Helier in 1932 - Royal Square to Town Hall

In the Royal Square was fought the memorable Battle of Jersey.

Some of the hottest fighting took place against the Peirson Hotel, on one side of which imitation bullet-marks have been painted in consequence of the real shot marks having been destroyed during renovations.

On January 1, 1781, a Frenchman of no position or repute, a mere adventurer, yet with the authority of the French King, sailed from Granville, under the assumed name of Baron de Rullecour, with a following of 1,200 men. Stormy weather compelled them to seek shelter on the Chausey Isles, but before daybreak on January 6, with the aid of a traitorous pilot, they landed in La Rocque Bay, by La Platte Rocque, and marched without opposition to St. Helier. Here the guard was surprised and shot, and the Lieutenant-Governor, Major Moses Corbet, taken prisoner. Royal Square was occupied and fortified at all points. An order was prepared instructing the Governor of Elizabeth Castle to command all troops to remain quiescent, and Corbet's signature to this document was wrung from him. Rullecour compelled Corbet to precede the soldiers who carried the order to the Castle. The request was treated with contempt, and the garrison announced that they would hold the Castle at all cost.

News of the invasion quickly spread over the Island. Major Peirson, of the 95th Regiment, who was only twenty-four years old, rapidly collected a few companies of the Jersey Militia, and, aided by a detachment of regulars, proceeded in hot haste to Royal Square. Rullecour sent a flag of truce to Peirson, urging that resistance was useless, and inviting him to proceed to the Court House with his men and lay down their weapons. The gallant Major replied, "Yes, we will bring our arms to the Court House, but with bayonets fixed l "

Peirson's force entered Royal Square through the narrow street now called Peirson Place, and, notwithstanding the artillery and superior position of the French, closed with the enemy in a hand-to-hand conflict. Corbet was dragged into the fight by Rullecour to weaken and hinder the attack. The regulars and the Jersey militia stubbornly fought the ground inch by inch. The critical moment came when Peirson fell, shot through the heart.

The loss of their leader only served to increase the determination of the men to win or die, and they " drew courage from their dire distress." Urged forward by Philip Dumaresq, a subaltern of militia, who promptly assumed command, they turned what looked like certain defeat into brilliant victory.

Rullecour was killed, with twenty-six of his followers, and one hundred Frenchmen lay severely wounded. Over five hundred prisoners were taken, and the remainder fled in panic.

Rullecour was buried in the parish churchyard; Peirson's grave was dug within the church.

From the Peirson Hotel it is but a few steps to the Markets,

Halkett Place. There are markets for cattle, fish, vegetables, etc., but the New Market Buildings, covering about
10,000 square yards, take premier position. The markets held on Wednesdays and Saturdays are most interesting, and the visitor has an opportunity of hearing a babel of English, French and " Anglo-Norman," as well as of seeing a really well-supplied fruit and flower market, The beneficence of the Jersey climate is here most convincingly demonstrated. In the centre of the building an ornamental fountain makes play over a fernery and fish-pond.

On the northern side is Beresford Street, and across this is the Vegetable Market, with the Fish Market adjoining it.

Hill Street, at the back of the Court House and the adjacent public buildings, is continued by an important thoroughfare, of which parts are known as La Motte Street, Le Coie and St. Saviour's Road.

From Le Coie, a short thoroughfare goes to the right to Victoria College, a fine building, opened in 1852 to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort. There are Lower and Upper Schools, the latter being divided into Classical and Modern sides. The College is richly endowed, and numerous scholarships and exhibitions are open each year.

The buildings stand in park-like grounds, to which the public have access, and which afford fine views.

The School House, near the College, accommodates about seventy boarders.

Near Victoria College and approached by short thorough-fares from St. Saviour's Road is the Maison St. Louis, a Jesuit settlement. The fine building was formerly an hotel. In the grounds is a tower bearing some resemblance to the Eiffel Tower. It is 170 feet high and looks down on the town of St. Helier and St. Aubin's Bay from a height of 364 feet above sea-Ievel, so that it is a prominent feature in every view of St. Helier, and commands a view over nearly ,the whole of the island. It is used by the Fathers as an astronomical and meteorological observatory. In the rear of Maison St. Louis is a large College.

The appropriately named Broad Street, near the Town Church and Royal Square, becomes well known to most
visitors through being the site of the General Post Office. Opposite this building stands the massive Le Sueur Obelisk, erected in memory of Peter Le Sueur, five times Constable or Mayor of St. Helier's parish.

A few yards northward of Broad Street and having the same general direction is King Street, already mentioned as one of the chief shopping centres, as is also Queen Street, which is in a line with it towards the right. Running northward from King Street is New Street, continued by Val Plaisant, in which is the Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to St. Thomas, and generally called the French Catholic Church on account of the use of French in the services.

It is by far the most imposing of Jersey's churches. The architecture is that of the thirteenth century. The first stone was laid in 1883. The church was opened in 1887, and consecrated in 1893. The steeple is 196 feet high. A wall picture depicts the martyrdom of Jeanne d'Arc.

Both King Street and Broad Street followed towards the west lead to Chasing Cross, quite near which is The Hotel de Ville (Town Hall), a fine building containing the Municipal Offices and the Police Station. On the walls of the large hall hang numerous pictures, the nucleus of the Jersey Art Gallery.

Among the most notable are eighteen clever water-colours by Le Cappelain, a native artist who died in 1848 ; two pictures by Poingdestre: a Winter Scene and Game, a painting of the Corbiere Rocks (hanging over the door), specially interesting because it was executed before the lighthouse and causeway were built ; on the same wall The Ironing Girl, by David, a masterpiece ; and close by two canvases by W. W. Ouless. R.A., Edith and The Blind Beggar.

1 comment:

alane said...

Are all those paintings still in Town Hall? I'd like to explore the 1932 sites and streets today and note the differences.