A history of St Ouen's Village

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What's your street's story? - St Ouen's Village


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St Ouen's Church, La Caroline and the parish drill sheds


This article is based on an August 2015 presentation in the Jersey Archive 'Street Story' series


At the centre of the largest parish in the island, St Ouen's Village reveals many fascinating stories giving insights into village life and the politics of a country school.

Although the name St Ouen's Village appears in archive records, it is difficult to define the boundaries of the area. The parish hall and old parochial school were together in the centre of the village, but other buildings, such as the parish church, manor and the original post office, were some distance away.

Parish school

A key element of any village is its school. St Ouen's Parochial School, while not the only school in the parish, was next door to the parish hall in the village centre.

A meeting took place on 26 January 1861 at which a school trustees committee was formed. It was agreed to raise funds through a bazaar for both the land acquisition and construction of a school. A field was purchased from the Rev George Clement on 1 February 1862. William Rowland Peane and his wife, Sarah, were appointed as the first master and mistress of the new school on a salary of £95 a year with a house and coals.

The school logbooks provide fascinating insights into the daily life of the school during the 19th and early 20th centuries. A particularly controversial period comes to light when George Cooper and his wife were the master and mistress, during the 1870s. There was a falling out between them, the Rector, parishioners and students. Cooper's descriptive style of writing provides numerous colourful anecdotes, such as the entry of October 1872: "This week has been nothing but a week of tale bearing of both master and mistress by the badly disposed children, much to the mortified and wounded feelings of said teachers".

Continuing problems culminated with them handing in their resignation to the Rector. Clement accused them of lax discipline at the school during their notice period, to which Cooper wrote: "I repudiate this with scorn: a teacher's conscientious feelings may be more easily imagined than described - I protest against such treatment'.

George Cooper's descriptive and detailed notes paint a vivid picture of daily life at the school as well as providing numerous accounts of the naughtier students. Thomas Le Cornu is one who features regularly, including an instance of throwing a stone at Charles Brideaux and injuring his head, as well as stealing apples.

The school was ultimately transferred to the States of Jersey in 1913 following the 1912 Education Act. This was to prove short-lived as sufficient capacity in other parish schools led to the parochial school closing in 1922, when the building was handed back to the trustees. It was eventually to become the St Ouen Youth and Community Centre, opening as such in 1978.

The drag hunt meets outside the Farmers Inn in 1946 - one of the earliest post-war meetings

War memorial

The parish hall was built in 1882 to a design by architects Hayward and Son, of Exeter, who also designed St Lawrence Parish Hall. At the front of the building stands the parish memorial, which includes the names of those involved in many both interesting and tragic stories. Two of those who lost their lives in the First World War were Sapper Philip John Luce and Corporal Edward Luce, sons of Philip and Jane Luce, of Oxford Cottage, now Le Carrefour, on Rue de la Forge.

Sapper Philip Luce was killed in action aged 32 while serving in the Royal Engineers, and was buried in the Guards Cemetery in France. An Evening Post notice stated that he 'was a most efficient soldier held in highest respect by all'. The Luce family suffered a double blow when his brother Edward was killed within two months. A memorial service for Edward and rifleman J F Carre of La Villaize, St Ouen, was conducted by the Rev John Pepin at the parish church.

Aged only 21, Edward was a popular member of the Jersey Company of the Royal Irish Rifles, one of the first to enlist from the island at the outbreak of war. He died during the heavy fighting at the Battle of Guillemont in France in 1916. His memorial service was attended by large numbers of the St Ouen's Troop of Scouts of which he had been a prominent member, as well as the Seigneur of St Ouen and other senior parishioners.

Although situated outside the village, the parish church is an integral part of village life. Located on Ville de l'Eglise, its origins go back to before 1066, confirmed by a reference to the church in a charter signed by Duke William of Normandy. Across the centuries there have been numerous additions to the architectural features of the church, with a major restoration in 1865 instigated by Canon George Clement.

There was an interesting discovery at the church which was recorded in the Guernsey Star in August 1869. During building work labourers were levelling ground inside when they came across a leaden coffin in an unrecorded spot.

Detailed investigation revealed this to be prominent 17th century figure Sir Philippe de Carteret, who died during the English Civil War in 1643. His coffin was opened on 29 July 1869 in the presence of the Seigneur, E C Malet de Carteret, and inside was found his mummified body with hair and teeth relatively unchanged. The coffin was ultimately replaced and this time marked with a tomb.

The 'secret potter', Tony Bouchet

Farmer's Inn

An iconic building in the village is the Farmer's Inn. The building was constructed in the 1840s after Jean Langlois bought a field from Francois Pirouet. The building was later inherited by Jean's don Philippe, who passed it to his brother Charles. In 1901 John Syvret bought the property. At that time John Le Montais Prouings had been the proprietor of the establishment for over ten years.

Prouings eventually raised the capital to purchase the premises from Syvret in 1903 and he ran it until his death five years later. His second wife Ellen Burrell Witt owned the pub until 1951 when she sold it to Ann Street Brewery.

Pottery

For many years St Ouen's Village received international recognition through Bouchet Agateware Pottery, based at Haut du Marais Forge in Rue des Marettes. This business rose to fame through the work of Tony Bouchet, a potter who developed the difficult techniques of agateware, a form of pottery that mixes clays and colours to produce a marbled agate effect.

His reputation was such that even Sir John Wedgewood, of the famous Stoke-on-Trent pottery, visited the island to seek advice on the technique. When he retired after 44 years he destroyed all his the recipes, records, moulds, clay and equipment, earning him the nickname the 'Secret Potter'.
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