A history of Broad Street

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What's your street's story? - Broad Street


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Broad Street in 1888


This article is based on a Jersey Archive Street Story presentation


Broad Street, Sand Street and Charing Cross are areas of town with which everyone is acquainted. Some walk along them every day on the way to and from work or to shop, but how much do we know about their history and the stories that lie behind some of the buildings that are so familiar we hardly notice them? These three streets have existed for many years. A 1691 plan of St Helier shows Broad Street and the prison at Charing Cross. The layout of the roads can be seen on Peter Meade's map of 1737.

Battle of Jersey

On 6 January 1781 this area had a part to play in the Battle of Jersey. Forces led by Major Peirson had gathered at Westmount to march into town. As they were going along Broad Street they were seen by the French, who placed cannon at the entrances to the Royal Square. Major Peirson, with a small band of men, quietly slipped into what is now King Street and entered the square from the other side, and a battle commenced in which both he and Baron de Rullecourt, leader of the French forces, were killed.

British Hotel

At the eastern end of Broad Street, or Rue d'Egypte, as it was once known, is the building that is now Barclays Bank. For over 150 years this was the British Hotel. On 3 November 1810 a businessman named Richard Rout advertised the business in Stead's Gazette de l'Isle de Jersey in the following terms:'R Rout most respectfully begs leave to inform the nobility, gentry, commercial gentlemen, inhabitants and the public that he has taken a large house facing the Broad Street, St Helier, and that no expense has been spared in fitting it up as an hotel ...'

It was a luxurious establishment that provided carriages to collect visitors from the Harbour and take them on sightseeing tours of the island. In 1839 it was the favoured hotel of the Bishop of Winchester. As well as lodgings, the hotel also provided entertainment, including on at least one occasion, unusual artistes, some from the circus of P T Barnum, including Baron Littlefinger, Count Rosebud and the Two Headed Nightingale.

An early neighbour of the hotel was Abraham de Gruchy, the founder of de Gruchy's shop. In 1820 he leased a shop at 33 Broad Street from Francois Le Sueur. He traded there until 1824, when he moved to premises in King Street.

Wheway's

The frontage of Wheway's Sports has been a familiar feature at 16 Broad Street for most of the past century. Frank Wheway, who was listed in the 1911 census as being in the sports and cutlery trade, was recorded as paying rates on the shop in 1915. However, he would not be there for long. 2nd Lieut Wheway, a talented Muratti footballer, died of wounds in Belgium on 14 November 1917 aged 28. The Wheway Cup is presented annually in his memory, and of all other Jersey footballers killed in the First World War.

To pay for the prison a duty of five shillings per tonne was imposed on all French vessels trading with Jersey from 1682.

Prison

Charing Cross was once the site of the Jersey Prison, or House of Correction. This is marked by the statue of the Crapaud in front of the Thomas Cook building. It was built to hold 'drunkards, vagabonds, swearers, obstreperous servants and unruly children', among others.

To pay for the prison a duty of five shillings per tonne was placed on all French vessels trading with Jersey from 1682. This stood until the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The prison building spanned the road and formed the western gate of St Helier. Access was through a narrow archway estimated to be around six feet wide.

The three cells were underground, where Aurum the jewellers stands today. They were constantly damp and infested with vermin, leading to the deaths of many inmates from diseases such as Typhus, or jail fever, as it was known. The prison was demolished in the early 19th century and replaced with a new building in Kensington Place.

Sand Street

Sand Street is probably best known today for the multi-storey car park that was built in the 1970s. A plan of the development shows that the car park replaced numbers 1 to 25 Sand Street, which were previously a mixture of cottages and shops.

16 Sand Street, opposite the entrance to the car par, has a long history. The datestone above the door is believed to commemorate the marriage in 1715 of Joseph Mollet and Sara Falle. The marriage was not to be a long one, as Sara died in 17127 and Joseph the following year, leaving four young children.

Cholera

In August 1832 cholera struck the Island, one of several epidemics during the 19th century. The first victims were recorded in Cabot's Yard, Sand Street. These overcrowded homes had no sanitation and overloaded services could not cope with a population that had almost doubled in a few years.

Dr George Symes Hooper, a member of the Board of Health, reported that a long dry spell had allowed the shallow streams which carried away waste to run dry and for rubbish to build up in the heat, a perfect breeding ground for cholera germs, which spread to the drinking water once it rained. Among the first victims were 86-year-old Eliza Cabot and her husband Jean, aged 80, who were buried on the same day.

Lipscombe's

1 Sand Street, demolished during a phase of the car park development, was for many years the premises of Lipscombe Ltd. On 7 March 1835 Henry Lipscombe acquired commercial premises to the east of Castle Street from Michel Charles ROussel for the sum of 305 livres.

By 1851 he had established a tobacconist shop and employed two men. His son Henry was recorded as a baker. By the time of the 1861 census father and son were both in the bakery trade as Lipscombes the Bakers, and this continued for over a century, with the bakery existing into the 1970s. Lipscombe's were particularly known for their vraic buns, which were heavily fruited and made with butter to sustain workers collecting seaweed.
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