Wednesday, 16 May 2012

St Helier in 1932 - Royal Parade to St Aubin's Bay

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

It's amazing how different the world of 1932 was from today, and how rapidly the Island has changed. This extract highlights in most particularly.

General Don's statue still dominates the Parade gardens, but the pub named after him, the "General Don" was recently renamed to the "Kitty O Shea". But in 1932, the pub didn't exist - it was only built around 1935. The Parade, of course was named for the militia which drilled there, and the statue of Don was built in 1885 by Robinet.

The Cenotaph - erected in 1923 from granite quarried from La Moye - is still there, but now also records the names of Jerseymen who died in both World Wars; in 1932 it only had those from the Great War. Jersey lost 862 men between 1914 and 1918, and a further 458 were killed in the second world war.

Philip Baudains, Mayor of St Helier from 1881-1896 is now largely forgotten, and his bronze bust, erected while he was still alive in 1897, is now green with oxidisation. At the time it was put up, a London newspaper asked if putting up a monument to someone still living was a particularly Jersey custom!

But the biggest changes are the location of the Lieutenant-Governor's residence - Government House is now up St Saviour's Hill, the Prison - where the Patriotic Street Car Park is now  - and the function of the hospital to act as a workhouse for the poor, orphans or destitute Islanders. The older part of the hospital still retains something of that grim Victorian atmosphere with its high ceilings, and large ceilings. The new prison at La Moye was built in the 1970s; I still have the first Perry's Guide Book from 1966, which shows the old prison.

The esplanade of course has been left partly high and dry by the land reclamation at the waterfront, and the old potato lorries have been replaced with large container lorries, and the quantity of potatoes has fallen. Now the lorries simply drive onto the ships and off in England.

It's hard to remember the large number of cranes lifting crates of potatoes and other produce, and lifting in goods for Islanders to buy. That included coal for heating. Until coal hoppers were introduced shipments of house coal would be swung on a basket using the boom of the ship after being filled by hand by the Dockers on board. With potatoes, in the 1950s, casual dockers would be taken on to boost the workforce open a daily basis, gathering to see if there was work for them at the Weighbridge.

The dockers of the 1960s and 1970s were a powerful force to be reckoned with - they controlled the freight lifeline to the UK. On the 12th and 13th May 1960 there was an unofficial strike by dockworkers, and George Troy appealed to them to return to work. And in 1970, the dockers were still flexing their muscles-  there was a state of emergency when Jersey manual workers, including local dockers, went on strike at the same time as a dock strike took place in the UK.

But the advent of containerisation, and container lorries that could simply drive on and off shipping vessels has seen a decline in dock work, and the firm George Troy and Son has recently ceased to trade, with the loss of 30 jobs.

It's amusing to see Elizabeth Castle - which of course would have lacked German fortifications - described as a "picturesque pile". I wonder what the writer of the guide book would have thought of the Radisson Hotel?!

The druidical remains, by the way, are the dolmens of  Ville es Nouaux, a Cist-in-Circle & Gallery Grave dating (respectively) as Neolithic (3250 - 2850BC)  and Chalcolithic (3250 - 2250BC) - long before the time of the druids!

St Helier in 1932 - Royal Square to Town Hall

A short distance beyond the Hotel de Ville is the Royal Parade, laid out with lawns and avenues of trees. In the centre is the fine Statue of General Don.

As Lieutenant-Governor during the Napoleonic period, General Don worked indefatigably for the welfare of the Island. Forts and batteries for coast defence were erected, and the Militia drilled and thoroughly organized. Above all, the General is remembered for his excellent roads.

At that end of the Parade which the statue faces is a Cenotaph, commemorating Jerseymen who fell in the Great War, while at the meeting-point of walks behind the statue is a granite pedestal supporting a bronze bust of P. Baudains, fifteen years Mayor of St. Helier.

From the vicinity of the statue, Gloucester Street runs towards the sea and contains entrances to the Hospital, the Prison and the Opera House. The first of these is more than its English name will signify to English visitors. It resembles a French "hospice," as it is a hospital and a workhouse combined. It was founded by a benevolent lady in 1741. The present building was erected in place of the original structure, which was destroyed by fire in 1859.

The thoroughfare at the extremity of the Parade is traversed, in part at least, by visitors and residents who have occasion to go to the Passport Office. The thoroughfare comes up from the front as Kensington Place, passes the Parade as Elizabeth Place, and then becomes Rouge Bouillon, in which is situated the Government Office-" the office of the Lieutenant-Governor and District Staff." Here passports are dealt with.

Passing through Cheapside, which runs between Kensington Place and Elizabeth Place, one comes to the People's Park. From its upper slopes, on Westmount (formerly Mont Patibulaire or Gallows Hill), lovely views of St. Aubin's Bay and Elizabeth Castle may be had. The winding walks, avenues and vistas form a welcome retreat from the thoroughfares of St. Helier. Here it was that the Jersey Militia, under Major Peirson, assembled immediately before the Battle of Jersey.

Adjoining the park is a Bowling Green, and at the lower end, at the corner of Peirson Road, is the Triangle Park, a small three-sided enclosure, with lawn and seats. Here the band plays on fine Sunday evenings. A short distance beyond these open spaces is the Lower Park, a small strip with tennis courts, facing Victoria Avenue.

By continuing in the same direction along Victoria Avenue as far as the First Tower, and then branching to the right, the New Park, presented to St. Helier by Mr. Gervaise Le Gros, a former Jurat of the Royal Court, will be seen. In the centre are some so-called Druidical remains.

During the summer the New Park is the scene of a Battle of Flowers of similar character to those held at Nice, Monte Carlo, and other places in the Riviera.

Victoria Avenue is an alternative name for the Esplanade, bordering the bay. An extension was opened in 1922, making this marine promenade, so far as size goes, one of the finest in the British Isles. Unfortunately, so severe are the south-westerly gales during winter that it has proved impossible to get young trees to withstand their devastating effects, and the promenade has consequently a rather bare appearance.

During the potato season the Esplanade presents a marvellous sight in the evening. Hundreds of wagons and carts enter it from the country, and almost block the traffic, although the road has a width of from fifty to sixty feet. And it is worth going to the Pier after dinner, to see the mountains of barrels, brought by the vehicles, being put on board the steamer by a crane which lifts sixteen tubs at a time.

The Esplanade borders St. Aubin's Bay, the inlet having been named after the small town on its western side. It is the principal bay on the southern coast, and some say the grandest in the Channel Islands. It, of course, shows to best advantage at high water. Then the scene comprises the graceful curve of the coast, the surrounding hills (green and wooded), the blue water, the fringe of yellow sand, and that picturesque pile, Elizabeth Castle.

Between St. Aubin, near the west side of the bay, and St. Helier, are several tiny villages, each pretty in its way.

Skirting the bay, along which are planted miniature stations, is the Western Railway, which runs on to Corbiere, the south-western extremity of Jersey.

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