Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The 9th Earl of Jersey: An Interview

The 9th Earl of Jersey: An Interview

From 1966, and the pages of Jersey Topic, comes this interview with the 9th Earl of Jersey. He was George Francis Child Villiers, (15 February 1910 – 9 August 1998), an English peer from the Villiers family. He was the son of George Child Villiers, 8th Earl of Jersey and gave one of the family seats, Osterley Park, to the British nation in the late 1940s.

He moved to Jersey to Radier Manor, built on the site ofan old farmhouse. The shells of the original farm outbuildings still exist and the archway to the granite courtyard has a keystone with 1812 and PS on it. PS stands for Pierre Simonet and 1812 was when the original farmhouse was built.The manor as it is seen now was remodelled to the vision of the 9th Earl when he moved here in 1947. Georgian in style, it draws aspects from some of the properties that used to belong to the Jersey family, including Osterley Park House in London.

The gardens were created from what was essentially scrub land. The heavily planted borders are filled with all sorts of plants, shrubs and mature trees, including a Horse Chestnut which is thought to be at least as old as the original farm at around 200 years. The gardens reflect those at Osterley Park House which were planted in the vision of the famous Georgian socialite, Sarah Sophia, Countess of Jersey, indeed the gardens house some of the items that resided in the grounds of Osterley, including the sundial below.

His son was George Henry Child Villiers, Viscount Villiers (29 August 1948 – 19 March 1998) who tragically died of a heart attack when only 50, predeceasing his father. The 10th and current Earl of Jersey is George Francis William Child Villiers, known professionally as William Villiers and a former producer, actor and writer. He is the 1st Earl of Jersey to be born here, and is a proud patron of the Jersey Rugby Club.

In 2007, Radier Manor, the home of the Earl of Jersey, went on the market but in 2009 was withdrawn. Lord Jersey said:

“We have given careful thought to our long term needs and the future of our two young children and we feel strongly that staying in Jersey is, by far, the best option for us. We are committed to living in Jersey and to making it our mission to be good ambassadors for the island in whatever way we can,” commented Lord Jersey.

A recent Tweet by Lord Jersey is also interesting:

"Am starting The Earldom of Jersey brand. local produce made with traditional & enviromentally friendly methods"

The 9th Earl of Jersey:
An Interview from 1966 by Ted Vibert in Jersey Topic

I was late for our appointment. In a way it wasn't altogether my fault for I had set out in good time to meet Lord Jersey at Radier Manor. But it was only when I was at Longueville that I realised that I had no real idea where Radier Manor was. I decided to ask-and was directed to a farm called Radier. As drew up I felt that this wasn't the sumptuous home I had heard about. It wasn't.

I was directed to another farm called Radier and it all became rather confusing. But eventually I found Radier Manor and Lord Jersey, who accepted my apologies with an air that made me feel this had happened to him hundreds of times before.

The home of the 9th Lord Jersey is simply beautiful. It is set deep in the heart of the Jersey countryside in the parish of Grouville. From the house you look down a lovely little valley and you can see Noirmont far away in the distance. As we were climbing the stairs to his office we stopped to admire the view from a third floor window. It was then that I noticed how the new chimney at La Collette spoiled his view. I asked him how he felt about this. He sighed, shrugged. "In five years time they could probably have had a nuclear power station and done without it" he said.

And so to his office, which is part of the art gallery in which hang paintings of all his ancestors. The whole room reeked of history and at one end was his desk, the biggest one I have ever seen, covered with papers and pamphlets and magazines, many connected with breeding the Jersey cow.

Yes, it is true he said that he was the first Lord Jersey to settle in the island or even visit it. The title was created in 1697 and no one really knew the reason why Jersey had been chosen. The actual title was "Earl of the Island of Jersey in the County of Southampton". The mother of the first Lord Jersey was put in charge of the daughters of James II, the future Queens Mary and Anne, when he abdicated, and she brought them up at Richmond Palace with her own children.

"I have often wished we knew why the Jersey title was chosen" he told me. "We've delved into it and I've approached the Societe Jersiaise and all other likely sources of information but there is nothing at all in the records". He added: "The Villiers family were settled in Leicestershire soon after the Conquest. The great Duke of Buckingham, favourite of James I and Charles I, was also a member of the family".

He first came to the island in 1947 looking for a summer house. He added: "We found Radier and immediately fell in love with it. I was then living in Wimbledon having given the family home at Osterley Park to the National Trust. On my return from Jersey I found that the L.C.C. were going to take over my house by compulsory purchase so I was virtually homeless. I decided to come and live in Jersey."

It is a decision he in no way regrets. "I love living here" he says. "I feel part of the island now".

Farming and the Jersey cow is one of his big interests in life, although three years ago he sold most of his herd of 50 milking cows which were considered amongst the best head of cattle in Jersey. He has just returned to the island from a visit to New Zealand where he attended the World Jersey Cattle Bureau Conference, of which he is now President, and at which he read a Paper prepared by himself and Mr. T. Le Q. Blampied on "The Jersey Cow and its Island Home".

He is particularly saddened by the way in which other parts of the world have been allowed the lead in breeding the Jersey cow. He says "We are being left well behind by many other countries where they have adopted modern scientific methods of progeny testing and breeding. By selling our best bulls a few years ago we gave these countries the chance to overtake us. It would have been a much better idea if we had sold the semen but kept our top class bulls".

He has some strong things to say about the average Jersey farmer."Most of them adopt the attitude that what was good enough for their fathers and grandfathers is good enough for them. This is not the way to progress. This stubbornness which refuses new ideas, this inherent distrust of anything modern, could well be the end of the Jersey farmer".

He could see only one bright spot on the horizon-the fact that so many young farmers were going abroad to see how things are done overseas and are going, or had been, to agricultural colleges in England. "If they can get hold of the reins early enough they could save Jersey agriculture even at this late hour" he said.

He would like to have had some of the Jersey farmers with him in New Zealand, he said. There they would have seen a completely dynamic approach. "This would, I think, have shaken them out of their sleepiness".

Other than his interest in farming Lord Jersey is also a financier. He is a member of the board of the Jersey General Investment Trust, St. Clements Housing, Kleinwort Benson (Channel Islands) Ltd., and United Dominions Corporation. He is also chairman of the company that runs Hotel L'Horizon and the British Hotel in Broad Street.

It was time to go for we had talked well into the afternoon. Before leaving I slid in one more question. I asked "Have you ever had any political aspirations in Jersey". He smiled and shook his head. "I don't like 'I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine' sort of bargaining that happens so much in all politics-I prefer small committees to judge a question on its merits and then to get on with the action".

And as I drove back I felt that this was a pity. Men of the intelligence and calibre of Lord Jersey should be guiding our destiny.


mopinwil said...

During the WWII my great-grandmother was Head Gardener at Radier Manor.

Bob Hill said...

And my grandparents rented the land.