Friday, 17 February 2017

Gorey in 1953

Today is a brief extract from Stuart Petre Brodie "SPB" Mais's account of a trip to Jersey in 1953. Stuart Petre Brodie "SPB" Mais (1885–1975) was a prolific British author, journalist and broadcaster, and wrote many travel books. Here is a glimpse of Jersey, just post-war, as the tourism industry was starting to take off well, but before the rise of finance.

MONDAY Gorey-La Hougue Bie Eastern Coastline – Part 1

The beds in this hotel are comfortable, there is central heating, and our bedroom faces east so that we get the early morning sun. Owing to the fact that the solitary elderly people who abound in great numbers have large portions of butter and fruit on their tables, I conclude that they are residents who live in Jersey hotels to escape the English income tax.

These elderly people at one end of the scale, and at the other end of the scale the young folk, honeymooning or in gay-time parties, form the large proportion of the guests.

These, together with a fair sprinkling of connoisseurs of drinks of all kinds. Indeed, out of the nature of things, these islands are something of a Mecca to bar-supporters. In our peregrination of the shops yesterday one found numerous shops that combined some other vocation with bright displays of variegated types of liquor that put our more sombre-looking English off-licences to shame. Gin 16s. 6d. per bottle, whisky 19s per bottle, Cointreau 25s., Martini 12s., Dubonnet 11s. 6d., were some of the prices I noticed while Players and other popular brands of cigarettes were 1s.6d. for twenty, with Balkan Sobranies likewise much cheaper.

I have found myself the subject of adverse criticism in some of my books in my eagerness to impart useful information of this character. However, on this occasion I would feel myself guilty of dereliction of duty towards numbers of my readers had I omitted this now. Bass and Worthington incidentally are 8d., and whisky or gin and vermouth 1s. 6d. -first-class hotel prices, at which the profit must be quite considerable. I was glad to find that 1s. and 1s. 3d. was the more usual run of prices for spirits in the average pub.

Licensing hours for sale of alcoholic drink, under the Licensing Jersey Law of 190o are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in winter and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. in summer on weekdays, with later opening in the morning and a closing break between 1 p.m. and 3.30 P.M. on Sundays. Off-licence sales are from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays.

The advantages of these liberal arrangements in adding to the enjoyment of the average temperate holiday-maker far outweighs any deleterious atmosphere that may be created by the small minority of all-day sozzlers. Indeed, exhilarated as I was during the succeeding days to find that I could, if I wished, obtain whatever I wished to drink at any hour at reasonable cost, I found our national English custom of afternoon abstinence still lay heavy on me. 

Inner compulsion, inbred through the years, saved me from the sacrilegious act of consuming with anything more innocuous than cups of tea during what for the majority of my active life I have been accustomed to regard as the forbidden hours. I did not take advantage of the liberty accorded to me as frequently as I had expected to. I was not to stay in the Channel Islands long enough to rid myself of this "tabu". 

Looking back over yesterday's impressions of our drive round the west part of the Island, I was most struck by the large proportion of Jersey cows grazing and the number of green fields. All these cows are tethered to stakes in the ground, so closely as only to give them room to lie down. There are very few glass-houses, not nearly as many as I was later to see in Guernsey, but there are plenty of indications of outdoor cultivation of potatoes and tomatoes. Quite large fields were devoted to these. 

I was struck by the prosperous look and dignified appearance of many of the granite farm houses. In their straight sheer outlines they resemble their French opposite numbers more closely than they do the houses of the English countryside; though the small one-storey houses in the more exposed parts convey the atmosphere of the Atlantic coasts of our own larger island.

Here and there one sees the remains of the old cider presses with their large stone wheels and long crankshaft. Cider-making was once a considerable industry, but now the apple orchards have been cut down to make way for the fields of the more profitable potatoes and tomatoes. There are few flowers about in the country districts, other than the bushes of hydrangeas which border certain stretches of the road. 

The Jersey farmer has little time or space to waste on flowers on his valuable plots of land. A curiosity that can be seen to advantage later in the year, however, is the peculiar long-stalked Jersey cabbage, which grows to a height of as much as twelve feet in a long stalk with a sparse collection of leaves on the top. In some places these stalks are hardened, polished and used as walking-sticks.

At St. Peter's we saw an ancient windmill that had been converted into an hotel, but it has not been improved by the addition of a concrete bar.

The coast scenery is everywhere magnificent. There are glorious wide, long and sandy beaches that look hard and perfect for riding which I am told is very popular in the island, though I didn't see a single rider all day.

There are several points about the Royal Court House that I forgot to mention, notably a plaque to "Messire" Walter Ralegh who was Governor of Jersey from 1600 till 1603; also the fact that the Bailiff was dressed in scarlet robes and in front of him stands a singularly magnificent silver gilt Mace that was presented by Charles II in 1663 "as proof of his royal affection towards the island of Jersey, in which he had twice been received in safety when excluded from the remainder of his Dominions".

The flag over the Bailiff's chair is the Banner of Normandy. It is, of course, the basic fact in the history of the Channel Islands that they were first linked to England at the time of the Conquest as part of the Duchy of Normandy.

When Normandy was lost by King John in 1204, they still remained attached to us, but as a direct fief of the English Crown, never subject to the legislation of Parliament.

This was a gusty day and cold but luckily the sun shone for the greater part of it. We caught the 10.30 bus from Snow Hill for Gorey by the eastern coast road, return fare 1s. 3d. each. This journey took half an hour along the coast line first by La Greve d'Azette and Le Croc Point, past a large number of comfortable bungalows overlooking the sea. Then by the broad sandy St. Clement's Bay to La Rocque Point at the south-east corner. It was here that the French landed in their raid under De Rullecourt in 1781 about which I have already said something.

It was no doubt on account of this that there are Martello Towers both here and along the whole length of the sandy Grouville Bay which we then traversed. I was much diverted by the use to which some of these towers had been put. In one case it looked as if a house had been built round it. By the jetty at La Rocque Point I admired the square granite house with its own private tower.

A mile out at sea is the tower known as the Seymour Tower on the islet of L'Avarizon. The land along the road to the landward side was low-lying and mainly occupied by potato fields. So, passing the Royal Grouville golf links between ourselves and the sea, we came within sight of Gorey and its imposing Castle of Mont Orgueil.

This is the most majestic view of the whole island, the natural beauty being set off by the granite castle on the high rock, and below this by the wharf and jetty of the small harbour with its line of a dozen or more continental type houses in their various pastel shades of brown, yellow,. pink and cream. The numerous small boats suggested that this place is a well-frequented yachtsman's paradise. Gorey is a place of enchantment. It is a bright gem set off by excellent sands and a clear blue sea.

Now a delectable small seaside resort, Gorey has, in its time, been quite a place. It is only fifteen miles across to the Cherbourg Peninsula of Normandy, and the hook formed by the castle hill made it the obvious landing-place for boats coming from France.

This gave it importance from the earliest times. This importance was enhanced by its oyster fishing which prospered considerably between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed it is said that at one time oysters were so plentiful in Jersey that they were served free with hotel meals. Many stories are told of the unruly behaviour of the visiting oyster fishermen.

However, by the latter half of the nineteen hundreds, the oyster fisheries had been ruined by over-dredging. For fifty years from 1873 Gorey was connected with St. Helier by the Jersey Eastern Railway, but this was killed by motor bus competition and closed in 1927.

We inspected Rowley's antique shop and then climbed the steep path up to Mont Orgueil Castle. To our dismay we found that it was only open from two o'clock till six and that admission cost a shilling. It stands 310 feet above the sea. 

It is believed to have been first built during the early thirteenth century when John lost Normandy and Jersey became a frontier post. In the fifteenth century it consisted of a Keep, a middle ward and an outer ward surrounded by towers and curtain walls, most of which still remain. At the entrance stands Harliston Tower, built in 1470 by Sir Richard Harliston, the Yorkist Governor of Jersey. 

There are four gateways before the middle ward is reached. The crypt of St. George's Chapel dates from the twelfth century, and in the Keep there is another twelfth-century crypt. The upper battery of the Keep is the Somerset Tower built by the Duke of Somerset between 1549 and 1584.

The castle was besieged in 1373 by Bertrand du Guesclin, Constable of France, but though he captured the outer defences and the castle's water supply he never succeeded in capturing the Keep. In 1460 Margaret of Anjou granted it to France and through the connivance of the Governor it was seized by them and held for six years. It was retaken by Admiral Sir Richard Harliston with the aid of Philip de Carteret, the Seigneur of St. Ouen, after a siege of five and a half months.

In the Civil War it was held for the King by Sir Philip de Carteret's wife, while Sir Philip defended Elizabeth Castle. It was captured in 1651 by Admiral Blake.

William Prynne, the Puritan lawyer, was imprisoned in the castle from 1637 to 1640. The instructions for his treatment as a State Prisoner were rigorous to a degree, but he became a friend of Sir Philip de Carteret who treated him as a guest. After this Cromwell frequently used the Castle as a State prison.

It was the residence of the Governors of the island for about four hundred years.

We walked round the outside of the battlements and saw clearly in front of us the sandy beaches of Normandy and Brittany. 

We then returned to Gorey Harbour and found the Fisherman's Bar of the Dolphin Hotel, an attractive rough granite, small, cosy room decorated with a ship's bell, a ships wheel, and prints of old clipper ships. 

An old man with a white beard wearing a yellow stock asked Jill whether she was wearing the Macmillan tartan and the barman told Imogen that she was wearing the Mackenzie. We all became very Scots and friendly and only just caught our return bus at twelve o'clock. I spent most of the journey back looking for the return tickets without avail and Jill lost one of her black kid gloves.

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