Friday, 26 February 2016

Guide Book: St. Helier's and its Various Institutions – Part 3

More from the 1834 Guide Book on St Helier and its surrounds. A few notes:


There were a large number of local newspapers,  For those interested, a detailed account of the situation between 1856 and 1862 and a few more radical papers can be read here:


St Aubin is described as “studded with Martello Towers. The name is a popular misnomer, as they were not constructed on the same lines as Martello Towers but to designs laid out by General Conway.

First Tower, despite its name, was not the first coastal tower to be built. It was designated St Aubin No 1, but has always been known as First Tower, the name adopted for the surrounding district, which was the first main extension of housing to the west of the town of St Helier in the early 19th century.

Also known as St Aubin No 2, Bel Royal Tower was built before 1787 and demolished by the occupying German forces on 7 January 1943 to make way for a concrete bunker. By then the sea had eroded much of the sandy bank which stood between the tower and the high water mark when it was built.

The westernmost of three towers built to defend St Aubin's Bay, Beaumont Tower, also known as St Aubin No 3, was cruicial to protect the approach to St Aubin, the island's main harbour at the time. It was built before 1787 and is now owned by the States.

It can be seen that the three towers, spaced out along the coast which was mostly not built upon at that time, would give that impression of “studs” in a collar, but the destruction of Bel Royal, and the encroachment of housing, has removed that aspect seen by the visitor of 1834.

Elizabeth Castle

The British government withdrew the garrison on Elizabeth Castle and relinquished the castle in 1923 to the States of Jersey but it can be seen from the description in this guidebook that it was already in decay in 1834: “Not more than a solitary sentinel is to be seen pacing on the ramparts. The Barracks appear desolate ; the cannon are dismounted, and the grass has sprung up and flourishes in the courts, among the shot and shells and other implements of destruction.”

That’s quite useful, because most of the history of the 19th century just mentions the abandoned plan to link the castle to the mainland as part of an ambitious harbour project.

In 1834, of course, there was no breakwater, and St Helier’s Hermitage Rock was only accessible at low tide. The breakwater is described in Alban Ragg’s Popular History of Jersey

“The plans for it were passed by the States in 1871, and the cost of the whole estimated at about .£240,000. The breakwater (on paper) ran along the west side of the Small Roads, starting at the westernmost corner of Elizabeth Castle, with the landing stage starting on the east from La Collette cliff, running at first in a direction nearly due south for 1760 feet, then bearing east to west for 1840 feet, a length in all of nearly three-quarters of a mile. The convenience, comfort and maritime importance of such a scheme could not be doubted, and it is only a pitiable task to have to record its entire collapse.”

More of what Reverend Ragg had to say can be read on my website here:

It seems likely that the failure of the scheme was in part due to a severe economic depression which hit the Island in 1873. Ragg speaks of  a "commercial depression which wrought such havoc in 1873" including the collapse of Jersey Mercantile Bank, and a Jurat involved with embezzlement at the bank. The Jersey Coins website notes:

"The closing of the doors, on February 1st, 1873, of the Jersey Mercantile Bank was a very sad time for the Island of Jersey. News later followed that one of the Judges of the Royal Court, Jurat Le Bailly, had been charged with embezzlement in connection with the Bank's failure, a crime for which he was, on May 13th, sentenced to five years' penal servitude."

On the legend of the storm bells, I make us of that in my book "Jersey Wonders":

Guide Book: St. Helier's and its Various Institutions – Part 3

Newspapers.—The inhabitants of Jersey have the advantage of no less than nine weekly Journals, conducted with considerable ability ; their names and days of publication are beneath :—

British Press—Proprietors—Philip Payn and Co., Royal Square, published on Tuesday and Friday ; Chronique de Jersey—Proprietor—P. Perrot, Royal Square, published on Saturday; English and Foreign News—Proprietor—Abraham Jones Le Cras, published on Friday, Office 5, Hope-street; Gazette de Jersey—Proprietor—Philip Mourant, Royal Square, published on Saturday ; Jersey Times—Proprietors—Messrs. Kay and Co., Office on the South Pier, published on Tuesday and Friday; Le Constitutionnel—Proprietor—Chadwick Le Lievre, 5, Halkett-place, published on Saturday; Impartial —Proprietor—Francis Romeril, 7, Parade place, published on Wednesday ; Patriot—Proprietor—A. J. Le Cras, 5, Hope street, published on Tuesday, and L'Observateur Chretien— published on Saturday by J. Le Ber, 18, Royal Square. It will be distinguished by their names, the English from the French Papers.

Boarding Houses.—Blanchard's family and commercial Boarding House, Halkett-place; Mrs. Date's, 28, Don-street; Mrs. Farrell's, Mulcaster-street, and Wilkinson's family Board and Lodging House, Don-street.

Hotels.—There are in the Town of St. Helier's, several respectable hotels, where the following lines are not inapposite :—

I fly from pomp, I fly from state
I fly from falsehood's specious grin,
Freedom I love, and form I hate.
And choose my lodgings at an Inn.

British Hotel, Almond, Broad-street; Old London Hotel, Mrs. Collins, North Pier; New London Hotel, South Pier; Union Hotel, Le Veslet, Royal Square; York Hotel, Mrs. Le Gros, Royal Square; Mrs. Paton's Commercial Hotel, Don street ; Deal's Hotel, Pier Road; Gregory's Hotel, Pier Road; Market Inn, Brabin, Halkett-street, and several others of respectability.

Oft the traveller lists
The roar of that wild torrent, headlong dash'd
O'er the rude precipice.

Elizabeth Castle.—The bay of St. Aubin's is embraced by a crescent of smiling eminences, thickly sprinkled with villas and orchards. St. Helier's crouches at the bane of a lofty rock, which forms the Eastern cape; St. Aubin's is similarly placed, near Noirmont point, the West-ward promontory; and between the two stretches a sandy shelving beach, studded with Martello towers.

The centre of the bay is occupied by Elizabeth Castle, a fortress erected on a lofty insulated rock, the jagged pinnacles of which shoot up in grotesque array round the battlements. The Harbour is artificial, but capacious and safe, and so completely commanded by the Castle as to be nearly inaccessible to an enemy.

The rock on which this fortress is built, is nearly a mile in circuit. In time of war with France it was of great importance, and strongly garrisoned; but now, not more than a solitary sentinel is to be seen pacing on the ramparts. The Barracks appear desolate ; the cannon are dismounted, and the grass has sprung up and flourishes in the courts, among the shot and shells and other implements of destruction. Esto perpetua. May this be the state of all such fortresses till time shall be no more.

An Abbey, dedicated to St. Elericus, once stood on the site of Elizabeth Castle; the fortress was founded on the ruin of this edifice in 1551, in the reign of Edward the Sixth. There is a tradition that all the bells in the Island, except one to each church, were seized by authority, and ordered to be sold to defray in part the expense of its erection. The confiscated metal was shipped for St. Malo; but the vessel was lost in leaving the harbour, to the triumph of every good catholic, who regarded the circumstance as a special manifestation of Divine displeasure.

If thou wouldst view this castle right,
Or visit it by the pale moon-light,
For the gay beams of lightsome day,
Gild but to flout the ruins grey."

The Hermitage of the Saint, from whom St Helier's has its name, is an insulated peak quite detached from the fortifications. A small arched building of rude masonry, commanding a noble view of the bay, having the resemblance of a watch tower, covers an excavation in the rock, which was the abode of this ascetic.

Here indeed he was shut out from the world; for little could be seen but the blue firmament and the expansive ocean; or heard, besides the dashing of the mighty waters. The sea retires so low that it leaves a free passage to the Castle, which is called the bridge: but it is by no means pleasantly accessible on foot.

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