Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Alhambra Hotel: a research note

James Mclaren from the Family History Society has been looking at the history of the Quakers in Jersey which I've recently put on my blog, and commented:

A fascinating series of articles, which I may have something to add to...

I did a piece of research for the current owners of the Alhambra Hotel in Roseville Street last year. In the course of this I discovered that the house was built around 1895 for one John Renouf and his ten children: the more I probed, the more obvious it became that he had to be a Quaker.

One of the things it also shows is that the contention about the first Quaker marriage in 1905 is wrong. The process of marriage by Acte de l'Etat was specific to Jews and Quakers, and assuredly John Renouf was not a Jew. John Renouf's marriage to Annie Stokes took place in 1898, which gives it a prior claim, but I'm not sure that there are not event earlier marriages. The relevant portion is the first six or seven pages.

With his permission, here is his article:

by James McLaren


The road we know as Roseville Street has existed for some considerable time: it is present on the 1849 Godfray map of Jersey. However, at that point it was for the most part a rural lane. The most significant building on it was at the corner of Havre des Pas on the west side: this was the Fort D’Auvergne, built in 1756 to provide a guardhouse for the local shipyards.[1]

As St Helier expanded during the 19th Century, properties were gradually built along the road. Development spread down the road from the Colomberie end, such that by 1870 the stretch from Colomberie to a little above where Route du Fort now runs was urbanised, but the remainder was still largely undeveloped.[2]

The houses on the east side of Roseville Street at the south end were large houses – looking at the 1911 Census they typically have between 7 and 12 rooms (most ordinary families lived in three rooms). What is now the Alhambra Hotel is the largest of all of them: the 1911 Census records that there were no fewer than 18 rooms.

The first owner

We have a clear trail in the Jersey Land Registry back to the purchase of the land. The key contract was signed on 15 June 1895[3], whereby John Renouf, a hardware merchant then living further up the road at 35 Roseville Street, bought a piece of land bordering Roseville Street and had a house constructed upon it. This house – now the Alhambra Hotel – was originally known as Auckland House.

The description of the plot is as follows: on the west side (length 112 feet) was Roseville Street: on the north (119 feet) and east (78 feet) were 20-foot private roadways[4], to which the owner of the land had right of access, and on the south side (103 feet) at that time was Roseville Terrace. The boundaries belonged to the landowner on the west, north and east: the south wall was a party wall. The importance of this was that there had been a restrictive covenant placed on the land (one of the residents of Roseville Terrace had previously been the land owner), which forbade the owner from building any sort of retail or business premises on the site.

John Renouf purchased the land for £500 from Francis Edward Hyne. John Hyne and his family came originally from Plymouth, arriving in the late 1830s when Francis was a small boy, and setting up in business as wine merchants. They prospered and evidently decided that they liked the newly developing area north of Havre des Pas, as they seem to be linked to a number of addresses in the immediate area.

We can be reasonably sure that the house went up rapidly. The evidence is found in the Listes du Rât for 1895 and 1896. The foncier (ie owner’s) rates paid by John Renouf in the latter year are double what they were in the former – this leads to the inference that the house was constructed in this period, adding value to the land.

John Renouf most certainly needed the houseroom! In 1895 he was recently widowed, and had no fewer than ten children from his first marriage to Delahay Woods aged between fifteen and one (the photo below was taken in 1892, and shows nine of the children).

Delahay Woods was born in Auckland, New Zealand, which suggest the reason for the name of the house.

One very curious thing can be observed both from John Renouf’s purchase of the land and his sale of the house. Normal practice in the Royal Court is for both parties in a contract to swear an oath committing them to abide by the terms of the contract. However, both in 1895 and 1925 John recorded that he was unable to swear the oath by reason of his religion - he was a Quaker.

A number of facts lead to this conclusion. His obituary[5] records that he was a man of very decided opinions, had the courage of his convictions, and never faltered, despite the fact that he was often in the minority. It further records that he was strongly anti-Militia, and that he was one of the most regular attenders at Parish Assemblies. The combination of a strong business ethos, pacifism and a willingness to speak truth to power all fit with the Quaker way of life. His funeral notice on the following page requested no flowers, no mourning, and a private funeral, and again that would seem to fit the Quaker ethos.

There are also elements in John’s will[6] that are of significance: one is that the whole estate, mobile and immobile, be divided equally between the children (with grandchildren receiving equal parts of their parent’s share). However the first codicil specifically excluded any child who joined the Church of Rome from this distribution. And the final paragraph of the original will reads as follows:

I charge my children or … their issue to show a conciliatory spirit unto one another so that my last wishes may be respected and feelings of affection and mutual regard may be fostered and maintained between them.

Finally and conclusively, John remarried in 1898 to Annie Stokes, who was 14 years his junior. According to his will[7], the marriage took place on 11 March 1898 and was registered in the Public Register of the island by an Acte of the Royal Court dated the following day[8]. The record of the Superintendent Registrar states that John and Annie were married by certificate on 5 April 1898. The only provision made for marriage by certificate was to Jews and Quakers.[9] (There were no children from this second marriage)

John Renouf died in 1933 (by this time he was living in a house called Te Whare - the New Zealand influence again - in Mont Millais) and was buried at Almorah cemetery. Annie outlived him by nearly thirty years, finally dying in 1962.

John Renouf’s Family

All ten of John and Delahay’s children survived to adulthood, and their histories suggest both that there was money in the bank and that John had forward-looking views on the value of education which rubbed off on them. We know that five of the six boys attended Victoria College[10], and it is possible the sixth did so too, although the record is not conclusive.

The eldest son, always known as Fred, became a chemist. From shipping records[11] we know that he emigrated to Canada, visiting his father in 1929, and also visiting Jersey in 1935. Records suggest he married a Florence Le Blond, and there were children – the 1935 trip has Fred travelling with his 13 year-old son Philip. However, it appears that Fred subsequently returned to live in the UK, dying in Forest Hill in south-east London in July 1954[12].

His eldest daughters were twins – Lucy and Nora – and also had an interest in chemistry: both were listed as pharmaceutical students in the 1901 Census. We know that Nora attended the Pharmaceutical Society School of Pharmacy in London, and she has the notable claim of being the first pharmacist and the first woman awarded the Salters’ Research Scholarship in 1905.[13]

Nora was a career woman, but her sister Lucy gave up her career for family life. However, on the basis that like attracts like, it is of note that Lucy went on to marry Herbert Du Parcq (later Baron Du Parcq of Grouville) in 1911. While at Oxford Herbert (who would become a High Court judge and member of the Privy Council in later life) spent time in the university settlement at Toynbee Hall in London’s East End, alongside figures such as Clement Attlee and RH Tawney. He also chaired the Channel Islands Refugees Committee in the UK during the Second World War.

Mark, Arthur and Ralph were all recorded working in the family ironmongery business. In 1901 Mark and Arthur were both warehouse clerks; by 1911 Mark was a partner in the business and Ralph was a clerk. (Although it is of interest that the Victoria College register states that Ralph studied wireless telegraphy and went to America.)

Mark went to Yorkshire for his first marriage, marrying Elsie Denby at Ilkley in 1912. By 1927 Kelly’s Directory lists him living next to his father at Ben Rhydding, but John’s 1926 will already states that Mark was the proprietor of that land.

Ralph went on in the 1930s to found a left-leaning local newspaper, the Jersey Leader, with Ned Le Quesne.[14] He first married Florence Luce, who died in 1937; his second marriage to Winifred Devlin (originally from Skipton, up the valley from Ilkley and Bradford) took place in London in the spring of 1939. They lived through the war in London and were living at 191 Huntingfield Road in Putney in 1946, but Ralph subsequently returned to live at Beach Road in St Saviour where he died in June 1954.

The next son, Dennis, decided that there was more to life than Jersey. Trained as a mining engineer he spent much of his life between 1910 and 1950 working in mines in West Africa, although shipping records show periodic visits to Jersey. He retired back to Jersey in 1950, living first in David Place and later at Villa Koritza in Gorey, where he died in 1957.

Keith Renouf is an enigma. It appears that he left home as a very young man, and it is possible that he travelled to Canada and Hawaii before finally leaving for Australia and settling there in 1910; thereafter the details are sketchy. We know that there was more than one Keith Renouf in Australia, so the two major stories in Australian newspapers of the time may or may not relate him. These are that on New Year’s Day 1923, a Keith Renouf, formerly a member of the Australian Infantry Force, set out with a friend from Cooktown, Queensland and walked some 1600 miles across northern Australia to visit a friend[15]. The second story relates to the murder of a Keith Renouf on 3 January 1928, a case which was never solved[16]. Online family trees consistently claim that Keith Renouf son of John died in 1934, but there is no source material to back up that claim, and the government notice states that the murdered Keith Renouf was born in Jersey.

Doris married Harold Phillips in London in 1916, while Kathleen, the youngest, married a Yorkshireman called William Johnson Darnbrough, an engine fitter by profession. The Darnbroughs were very much a Bradford family, and there is a record that William married Hannah at Tong in December 1911. Hannah appears to have lived until 1974, so this might have been a bigamous marriage. There is no record of their being in Jersey during the Occupation, but like Dennis they subsequently lived in Gorey.

The House becomes a Hotel 

John Renouf sold Auckland House on 10 October 1925 to Blanche Louise Hebert[17], who was then 44 years old: subsequently in March 1928 Blanche sold an indivisible half-share in the hotel to 42 year-old Esther Maddock.[18] John Renouf had become a Deputy for St Helier District No 1 in July 1924 (he took over the seat of Deputy JT Ferguson when the latter became Constable)[19], and it is possible that the house was by then an encumbrance (the youngest of his children would by then have been thirty).

To understand a little about the purchasers we need to look at the second of them first. Esther Maddock came originally from a village outside Northwich in Cheshire. Born into modest circumstances, she rose from being a laundry maid at home in 1901 to becoming the resident cook for Charles Behrens, a son of the wealthy Anglo-German textile merchant Sir Jacob Behrens[20] by the time of the 1911 Census.

Blanche Hebert was also in service in that household as a lady’s maid. She was born in St Martin in 1881, the first of her family to be born in Jersey (her parents and two elder sisters were born at Gouville, north of Agon-Coutainville on the French coast). Charles Hebert was a general labourer, so it is unsurprising to see that by 1901 she was in service at Thornton Hall, Upper King’s Cliff in St Helier. Though the question does arise: what took her from Jersey to Cheshire?

The timing of the sale is possibly very significant. Charles Behrens died on 25 September 1925. Probate on the will (which was valued at £177,047 6s 10d) was not granted until November[21], but I think it highly likely that two loyal servants both knew that gifts would be made to them, either from his estate or that of his wife Lady Emily, who died (of a broken heart?) on 8 October 1925, leaving £7700 of her own money. It is also of note that Blanche was represented in the transaction by her sister Angelina, a procuration having been made in Jersey on 22 August 1925. This might suggest that Blanche and Esther were making preparations in anticipation that the legacy would come soon.

It is therefore my guess that Auckland House was purchased on the strength of a promised legacy from the Behrens. That suggestion is strengthened by the way in which the purchase was made: the first instalment of £2000 was a cash payment to be made by 31 December 1925. There was also a conventional mortgage for £1600, which was paid off in September 1930[22], and a commutation of a rente for £16 payable to Walter Francis Renouf, payable at £25 per £1 of rente, the total price of the house coming to £4000.

Inspection of almanacs[23] shows that the 1926 almanac listed John Renouf at Auckland; however the 1927 issue shows both Blanche and Esther as the owners of a hotel. My understanding is that while the restrictive covenant barred the owner from building a hotel on the site, it did not prevent the conversion of an existing building into a hotel.

By reference to Listes du Rât it appears that Blanche and Esther ran the premises themselves and lived on the premises. It is interesting to see the rateable value steadily increasing up to 1940, then falling to about one-third of its pre-war value. We also know that they were resident there during the Second World War[24], and it appears that they were the only local residents. I have found no reference to German forces requisitioning the hotel, but it is hard to imagine that the occupiers would have allowed two elderly ladies to live alone in an 18-room premises.

After the occupation

The end of the war left many people exhausted and impoverished: however, some people did remarkably well out of it. It is a fact that black marketeers operated in Jersey, and rumour had it[25] that one of the biggest was a butcher by the name of Alfred Thomas Cornish[26].

Cornish bought the Auckland on 20 October 1945 from Blanche and Esther[27], and he owned it for exactly a fortnight before selling it on at a profit of £800[28]. The subsequent owner was a man by the name of Balthasar Serrano. Serrano was Spanish: born in 1906, he came to Jersey before the Occupation (his registration card[29] has him living at 6 Colomberie with two Italian men, which suggests that they may have been employed in a hotel or similar establishment). I think that as a neutral he may have made a significant amount of money during the Occupation years: he purchased a house for £1175 cash in June 1943[30].

Serrano owned the hotel for nearly thirty years, and from reference to the 1950 almanac produced by the Jersey Evening Post he had by then appointed a resident manager, a Mr Ramus, who was succeeded in 1952 by Mr GD Gay and in 1959-60 by Mr F MacDonald. The current owners say that stories circulated about the MacDonalds’ time: local taxi drivers would park up late at night and discreetly partake of a drink or two after licensing hours!

In about 1962 a new manager, Abbondio Sergio Bianchi arrived on the scene. Signor Bianchi was part of the wave of Italian immigrants who arrived in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and he soon diversified his business interests, opening the La Capannina restaurant in Halkett Place. Under his management the Auckland became the Asioli, and such it remained until the early 1990s (the Asioli name derives, I think, from the composer Bonifacio Asioli, one of the most famous sons of the small Italian town of Correggio which is between Modena and Parma). Sergio is now dead, but at least one of his sons is still in the hospitality business in Jersey. (A side note to this: the current owners redecorated the hotel when they bought it, and having stripped the wallpaper they found the heights of various Bianchi children inscribed into the wall on the staircase).

Balthasar Serrano sold the hotel to a company called Hotel Asioli Ltd, one of whose directors was Abbondio Bianchi, in September 1972[31]. Serrano was in failing health at the time; he died in January 1973, leaving his estate to his sister. The hotel later changed its name from the Asioli to the Alhambra in about 1985-86 (its telephone book listing was Hotel Asioli in the 1985 telephone directory, Hotel Alhambra between 1986 and 1987, and from 1988 it was listed as the Alhambra Hotel). The name change was made by the two gay gentlemen who were keeping the hotel at the time. It was done as a tribute to the Alhambra Picture House, then recently demolished and replaced by the Jersey Arts Centre.

The hotel was then sold to the current proprietors, Steven and Amanda Robertson, in 1989.


[1] The fort was demolished around 1900. 

[2] This information derived from St Helier Urban Character Appraisal (Willie Miller Urban Design, October 2005, pp27-62) which can be accessed at 
[3] PRIDE, Table 317, page 105

[4] What is now Croydon Road (on the north side) did not become a public highway until after 1928.

[5] Jersey Evening Post, 7 March 1933, page 4 – accessed via Jersey Library.

[6] Reference D/Y/A/94/72, available via Jersey Archive

[7] Op cit.

[8] PRIDE, Table 325, page 72

[9] Defined in Article 44 of the 1842 Loi sur l’Etat Civil.

[10] Victoria College Register, 1852-1929

[11] National Archives BT27 and BT28 series, available via Ancestry.com

[12] Obituary in The Chemist and Druggist, August 7, 1954, available via Archive.org

[13] Rayner-Canham, M & G: Chemistry Was Their Life: Pioneering British Women Chemists, 1880-1949 (Imperial College Press, London, 2008), pages 409-10

[14] Jersey Evening Post, 11 September 2008 – see Temps Passé article

[15] Northern Standard (Darwin), 27 July 1923, available via Trove (the National Library of Australia online collection).

[16] Northern Territory Times, 13 July 1928, available via Trove.

17] PRIDE Table 396, page 182.

[18] PRIDE Table 402, page 159.

[19] For an interesting take on this election see Le Brocq, NS: Jersey Looks Forward (Communist Party, London, 1946), pages 57-58

[20] Sir Jacob was the first foreign merchant to export woollen goods from Bradford in 1838, and was responsible for founding the Bradford Chamber of Commerce in 1851.

[21] England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, via Ancestry.com

[22] The mortgage was paid off in three parts – the repayments are documented in PRIDE Table 401, page 138; PRIDE Table 405, page 64; and PRIDE Table 409, page 86.

[23] Specifically the Jersey Directory and Express Almanac series published by JT Bigwood.

[24] References D/S/A/4/A5743 (Blanche Hebert’s occupation identity card) and D/S/A/4/A7407 (Esther Maddock’s card), available via Jersey Archive.

[25] See Sanders, P: The British Channel Islands under German Occupation 1940-1945 (Société Jersiaise, 2005), page 38

[26] AT Cornish was a relative by marriage of the author. His son Sidney married Rozelle Roche, whose mother was the sister of the author’s great-grandmother. Other members of that family he has spoken to tend to confirm the truth of the reference in Saunders’ book.

[27] PRIDE, Table 442/B, page 12

[28] PRIDE, Table 442/A, page 33

[29] Reference D/S/A/37/24, available via Jersey Archive

[30] PRIDE, Table 439/B, page 57

[31] PRIDE, Table 602, page 81

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