History of La Motte Street

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What's her street's story? - La Motte Street


La Motte Street livery stables were on the corner of La Motte Street and Ann Street. By 1948 the building housed Nu-Way Paint Works, specialists in car body repairs

This article is based on a Jersey Archive Street Story presentation in March 2019, by Roland Quintaine, highlighting female islanders who had a prominent role in the history of Jersey locations. See another history based on a 2016 Jersey Archive presentation

La Motte Street, running from the end of Queen Street to the junction of St Saviour's Road, St James Street and Grosvenor Street, is considered to be one of the oldest streets in St Helier.

The area was also the birthplace of two women who would go on to make their mark in the worlds of literature and acting.

A plaque on the wall of Grosvenor House Apartments[1] shows the birthplace of romantic novelist Elinor Glyn, born in October 1864, the second daughter of civil engineer Douglas Sutherland and Elinor Saunders, a Canadian whose family had links to the French aristocracy.

After a time living in Canada with aristocratic relatives, the family returned to Jersey. [2] Elinor Sutherland lived in the island until she was 18, when she moved to London to experience her first season in high society.

In April 1892 she married Clayton Glyn, a wealthy barrister and landowner. Although the couple had two daughters, the marriage was not a happy one and Mrs Glyn had several affairs, with many of her experiences seemingly the basis for her future writing.

She became globally recognised in 1907 when her novel, Three Weeks was published. Although it was not popular with critics, the book became a best-seller.

Elinor Glyn

Mrs Glyn has since come to be viewed as a pioneer of writing romantic and sometimes racy novels, intended for a female audience; an unusual idea at the time.

During the Great War she worked as a war correspondent in France, and is believed to have been one of only two women present at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Through the 1920s she worked in Hollywood, writing film scripts and magazine articles, and became one of the most female screenwriters of the time. It was during this period that she wrote the screenplay for the 1927 Paramount movie It. Mrs Glyn invented the term 'It Girl' to describe leading actress Clara Bow, a phrase still in use today.

She returned to England and returned in 1929 to Jersey, where she was feted as a celebrity. Although she noted in her diary that standards had declined since her youth, she also wrote: 'They were very proud of me as one of their own.'

During the Second World War she insisted on staying in London, but her health was failing and she died in September 1943, aged 78.

Old properties

Considering how much the La Motte Street area has been redeveloped, it is easy to forget how many older properties once stood there and how different the street might have looked as recently as the early 20th century.

At the time of Peter meade's Town Survey of 1737, only a few buildings existed at the end of the street closest to town. By the time the Le Gros map was published in 1834, properties had been built along the whole length of the street. The map shows a number of prominent properties with large gardens.

'La Motte Manor'

One such property was Manoir de la Motte, or La Motte Manor [3], which sat at the end of the street on the junction of Grosvenor and St James Streets.[4]

An exact date of orgin for the manor is hard to pinpoint. It was certainly established before the early 16th century, as rent rolls from this period indicate that it was had fallen into disrepair by that time, with much of the stone and timber removed for use at Mont Orgueil Castle.[5]

A painting by J Heath in 1758 shows the manor with its square colombier, or dovecote. Following the purchase of the property in 1958 it was demolished and a block of apartments built in its place, bearing the plaque which recalls the property's history.

This highlights the manor's connection with the Battle of Jersey as the residence of Moyse Corbet, Lieut-Governor at the time. [6]

Ivy St Helier

Hemery Row

Hemery Row is a rows of buildings in La Motte street, which ran from No 37 to No 49 on the north side of the street. In 1798 Jacques Hemery purchased from Jean Brohier a property known as Manoir de Tehi, previously called Maison de Colombier. He demolished the house and replaced it with a row of seven houses, with a stable, washhouse and coach house.

While the frontage of the five houses which remain have been restored to their former glory, the two at the eastern end disappeared through redevelopment. One of these, No 49, under the ownership of William Gregory, housed the Royal Livery Stables, which supplied carriages for Queen Victoria's visits in 1846 and 1859.

This property was bought by General Services Garages in 1948, and in 1959 they also bought No 47 next door. They then demolished the two houses and redeveloped the site into Varney's Garage, which later became St Helier Garage. That, too, has gone, replaced by a modern office building.

Just before the junction with Hilary Street can be found another office building that was once the location of 19, 21 and 23 La Motte Street.

Ivy St Helier

In 1886 David and Matilda Aitchison were living a No 19 and their daughter Ivy was born. Under the stage name Ivy St Helier she was to become a prominent stage and film actress, and also a composer and lyricist.

In 1929, at the height of her fame, she was in the cast of Noel Coward's operetta Bitter Sweet. As well as appearing in the West End and on Broadway, she performed Shakespeare at the Old Vic alongside Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Alec Guinness.

With the rising popularity of the silver screen, she later reprised one of her Shakespearian roles in Olivier's film production of Henry V in 1944. As her popularity faltered, she fell on hard times, eventually dying at St George's Hospital in London on 8 November 1971.

Government offices

On the opposite side of La Motte Street is the Government of Jersey's Customer Services building, previously the home of the Social Security Department, built on the site of Nos 30 and 32 and opened in 1977.

No 30 was previously Cory's Master Cleaners, established in 1874 by Robert Cory. The property was purchased by his father James two years later. The 1881 census showed Robert as a qualified dyer employing two men and two boys.

Notes and references

  1. Not actually in La Motte Street, but the other side of the junction with St Saviour's Road
  2. Her father died when she was only two months old and her mother took her, and her elder sister, to Canada. It is not recorded when they returned to Jersey
  3. This is not a true manor house, there being no fief de La Motte. It was originally known as Manoir de St Helier, equally misleading, and in the 29th century came to be known more accurately as Maison de La Motte
  4. This is misleading: The manor was not at the end of La Motte Street, but on the other side of the junction; as stated, on the corner of Grosvenor Street and St James Street
  5. The manor was built much earlier than suggested. It is believed that the original building was in ruins by the middle of the 15th century, and that it may first have been constructed as early as the 14th century. A plaque erected by La Societe Jersiaise when the property was finally demolished in 1958 carried the dates 1400-1958, although the Vingtaine de la Ville plaque which is there today refers only to 'the 14th century'
  6. The original article refers to him as 'Major Francis Corbet' confusing the Lieut-Governor's name with that of Major Francis Peirson, the hero of the day, who led the island's defending troops into battle after Corbet was captured at home by the French invaders
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