Some details of 18th century St Helier

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18th century St Helier

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At the annual general meeting of La Société Jersiaise in 1974 historian Richard Mayne gave a talk reflecting on what the area of the town surrounding the Town Hall, where the meeting took place, was like 200 years earlier.

St Helier at the end of the 18th century

Slum area

"We have seen in the past few months the demolition of a part of our town, Dumaresq Street, Hue Street, Old Street and part of Parade Place, which we shall probably remember as a slum area but which looked very different over 200 years ago when many of the properties there were built. For a moment let us look back to the period when our prison was in Charing Cross, when Broad Street was the main street and King Street was just a narrow evil-smelling lane known as Back Street.
"For our amusement we could walk a couple of hundred yards to the Market Place to see who was in the stocks near the Cemetery gates. Was there anyone in the pillory today? If not we could gaze at the prisoners exposed in the cage awaiting trial for all to see. If was 23 June 1878 we could have followed Mr and Mrs Brouard being whipped by the public executioner from the Court house to the prison, after which David Brouard had his ear cut off and nailed to the prison door by the Vicomte as a warning to future evildoers.
"The state of the streams and brooks as a result of the complete lack of sanitation was, to say the least, offensive and you would need your vinaigrette or pomander, filled with sweet smelling herbs, as you observed the residents of this part of town trudging laboriously homeward with their buckets of water filled from La Pompe de Bas in Charing Cross.

Christmas flood

"Centenier Hamon spent New Year's Day in 1789 trying to clear some of the town's streams and brooks, probably mindful of Christmas Eve in 1777 when, at 9pm, St Helier was flooded with the torrents pouring down from Rouge Bouillon and the Town Mills; more than a hundred houses were abandoned after the water had reached the height of four feet. To alleviate the position the military were called out to dig a trench across Les Mielles; the report also states that on that night five people travelled in a boat from La Rocque Mollet (St Saviour's Hill) to the Town Mills.
"The real and vigorous growth of St Helier was tied with the development of its trade and shipping which began with the construction of a small harbour at the end of the 18th century.
"From the Prison, which was built in 1697 and demolished in 1811, one crossed over La Planque Billot, and on the left a small number of houses were dotted along the sand dunes which were to become Sand Street. A few houses were in the area of Seale Street and Mr Seaton was having his large house, La Seatonerie, built: it was later to become a barracks and give its name to Seaton Place.
Another view of St Helier in the 18th century

Sand dunes

"Looking up the Parade, known then as Les Mielles, very little was seen but sand dunes stretching to Gallows Hill. There were about nine houses on Les Mielles, of which two were bakeries and one was owned by James Hancock the chairmaker. A few vergees of rough land was given in 1764 for the building of the Hospital for which Mrs Marie Bartlet had given the money over 20 years earlier. General Don had not yet levelled the Parade for the Town Batallion of Militia to exercise on.
"Old Street, or Le Vieux Chemin: Joseph Mollet, the harbourmaster who died in 1787, had a house here with 14 perches of garden next to the large house and garden of Dr Vaumorel. Mr Chevalier had a meadow bordering on Old Street next to the field of Pierre Simonet. Mr Brackenbury's house at No15 achieved a measure of fame in August 1787 when John Wesley stayed there and, nearly 100 years later, when John Henry Leonard, better known as Frederick Lonsdale, the playwright and librettist, was born there. This narrow, old street echoed to the clatter of the hooves of horses which drew the fire engine. The engine was housed in the Town Hall but the horses were stabled at Les Hêmies, now Jack Hubbard Motors in Devonshire Place.
"Les Hêmies, which also included Dumaresq Street and Le Geyt Street, was mainly occupied by the gardens of the residents of Hue Street and Back Street. Francis Messervy owned two houses and Philip Le Gallais owned land near the Faux Bie, where many years before there stood a mill, Le Moulin de l'Hermitte, so named because it had belonged to the Abbey of St Helier. Le Geyt Street was not made public until 1822. George Hamon, the Jersey silversmith, had a house where de Gruchy's property now is; years later, but before the King Street entrance to the Arcade was built, a shoeing smith operated on that site.

Post Office

"Hue Street, or Rue de la Poste, was the location of Jersey's first Post Office, at the house of Charles William Le Geyt in 1794. This centre of the Island's commerce bordered on Mr Rowcliffe's meadow, and everyone had to come to the Post Office to collect their mail, the names of people who had mail awaiting them being regularly placed outside three inns in the town. Three members of the Fiott family owned property in Hue Street and one of their neighbours was Francis Kerby, the vendor of many long-case or grandfather clocks bearing his name. Philip Hubert, who owned the top half of the corn market (now the United Club) owned a three-story house in Hue Street.
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