A study of Mont Millais reveals a suburb of St Helier which has grown over the years, the small area being influenced by the worlds of education, tourism, military matters and religion.
The Richmond Map of 1795 shows the area of Mont Millais dominated by plentiful fields and occupied by sparse properties. As the town population expanded in the 19th century, property development started to take place and more buildings began to spring up.
There is some confusion about the names of the streets in the area. Successive maps list them with different names from those of today. Mont Millais was called Rouge Rue and also Claremont Hill.
To confuse matters, the road now known as Mont Pinel was often called Mont Millais or Rosemount. In addition, before Victoria College was built, College Hill was known as Pied de Creux as well as Claremont or Clermont Street. Because of its dangerous state, it was known colloquially as Crackankle Lane.
By the end of the 19th century the state of Mont Millais was declared as deplorable due to the narrow roads. However, progress moved slowly and it was not until a tragic accident about 20 years later that something was done.
On 24 August 1918 Marie Sainte Lousse, wife of Guillaume Francois Le Hegarat, was taking her last crop of potatoes of the season to the Harbour from Bagatelle. She lost control of her horse and cart and the animal bolted. Rounding the dangerous bend to go down the hill, she was thrown from the vehicle into the wall, killing her.
The report of the inquest was forwarded to the Committee for the Surveillance of Main Roads for their attention. Land was acquired by compulsory purchase from land owners in the area and work began in earnest. It was at this stage that the names of the roads in the area were finally confirmed.
In 1920 a petition was taken to the Parish Assembly asking that the road leading from Don Road to Hautmont should be renamed Mont Pinel in honour of the Constable John Edwin Pinel, who had presided over the improvements to the road, This was passed by a narrow margin, but the Constable chose to keep the status quo and leave the road names as they were.
Five years later the name Rouge Rue was finally changed to Mont Millais and the Constable was honoured with the naming of Mont Pinel.
A dominant landmark of the Mont Millais area is Victoria College. In 1847 the Lieut-Governor, Major General James Henry Reynett, wrote to the Bailiff, Sir Jean de Veulle, about the state of education in the Island. He pointed out that althought the island was ‘distinguished by its high state of civilisation … it does appear to me that a scholastic establishment, such as now exists in many of the more considerable towns and cities of Great Britain, would be of great permanent advantage to Jersey’.
He suggested building a school as a permanent testimonial to the loyalty of the islanders following Queen Victoria’s visit the previous year. The Public Instruction Committee asked Mr Buckler, an architect from London, to help in the choosing of a site and plans for the building. He came to the island in July 1847 and examined a number of potential sites. He suggested that Mount Pleasant, the property of William Le Breton, was by far the strongest site viewed because of its beauty, its raised position, the purity of air in the area and its proximity to town. The committee agreed with this idea and set aside £5,000 to buy the property.
Because of rising costs, Mr Buckler’s services were dispensed with in February 1849 and Mr Hayward of Exeter was asked to take over the project.
The foundation stone was laid on 24 May 1850 to coincide with the Queen’s birthday. According to newspapers of the time it was a magnificent occasion. Most of St Helier was shut by 11 am and it was estimated that 12,000 people went up to the site of the College to see the ceremony.
Other schools are now close to Mont Millais, but an educational establishment of a different sort ran from Douro Terrace in the late 1880s and early 1890s. In 1888 Edward McQueen Gray bought 1 and 5 Douro Terracefrom Edward Voisin and ran the Individual Instruction Institute from the houses to get students ready for all army examinations. It was short-lived venture, and he sold the properties in July 1891.
One of the most iconic buildings in the Mont Millais area was Bagatelle, which came to be known as Palace Hotel. The property was once owned by Philippe d’Auvergne, who sold it in 1817 to Thomas Le Breton, the Bailiff, known as ‘Handsome Tom’ because of his looks.
He in turn sold the house to Francois Godfray, a States Member and Advocate for many years, as well as a leading light in the Laurel political party. The property was then sold to Isaac Pothecary, who had run a private asylum in Hampshire before being declared bankrupt, being imprisoned and having his licence revoked. Once released he transported a number of his private patients from the UK and set about establishing himself in the Island.
In 1859 he bought Bagatelle from Godfray and converted it into a private hospital called Bagatelle Retreat. A public asylum was still not forthcoming by 1860 and a proposition was taken to the States that ‘pauper lunatics’ be placed in Pothecary’s house until a decision on a public institution was made.
Having been promised a new institution, and hearing of the reputation of Pothecary, the Lieut-Governor, Major General R P Douglas took the unusual step of vetoing the Act of the States. He demanded aht a site was chosen for a public asylum and that Mr Pothecary get no States business.
Shortly afterwards a site was choesn for an asylum in St Saviour and Pothecary was declared bankrupt. As a result Bagatelle fell back into the ownership of Francois Godfray.
It then went through a variety of owners, including religious hands when it was occupied by the FCJ Sisters, and was used as a school. By the 1920s, however, numbers were declining and the house was sold by the sisters to Robert Henry iller, who converted the property into a deluxe hotel, renaming it the Palace Hotel.
It continued very successfully until the German Occupation when it was requisitioned by the German forces. In March 1945 a fire started at the hotel which led to an explosion and the destruction of an iconic Jersey house. After the Occupation it was decided not to rebuild the property, and it was converted into a housing estate.