Maps of St Helier
This is a new page bringing together maps which show how the town of St Helier grew over the centuries, and including some 18th century maps of the town which have never previously been published
Growth over the centuries
These small maps (click on any of them to see a larger version) are mostly part of a set which show the outline of the town's built-up area in the late 17th century, 1750, 1780, 1810, 1830, 1870, 1910 and 2003. We have added three more maps from our collection. It will be seen that there was virtually no change in the town from 1691 to the 1750s. From that point onwards the town began to spread into meadows to the north and dunes to the west, with further development allowed by land reclamation to the south. Reclamation is a strange term because it implies that land which used to exist is once more being reclaimed from the sea. In fact, although in prehistoric times the level of the sea around the island varied significantly - at times much higher than it is today, at times much lower - land areas were created from the 19th century onwards by the construction of sea walls and infilling behind to the south of the Town Church, which had been covered by the sea for centuries.
The most dramatic growth in the size of the town occurred between 1800 and 1840 as immigration caused the island population to grow exponentially, and most of the newcomers wanted to live in St Helier.
These three maps, drawn by Peter Meade, show St Helier and St Aubin's Bay in 1737. They indicate that there was virtually no change in the town centre over the next two decades, before the next map below was drawn
It is worthy of note that the first of these three maps shows that no development of a harbour at St Aubin has started. The town just has a small jetty attached to the fort. St Helier already has a larger L-shaped pier at its most southern extremity, where South Pier is today.
1756 - still a very small town with large houses and gardens
This is part of a larger map was drawn by James Bramham in 1756 to show the proposed fortifications to be built on Mont de La Ville - what would eventually become Fort Regent. But it is the section showing the centre of the small town of St Helier which is most interesting. It is probably the most detailed showing the centre of the town in the middle of the 18th century.
- 1 Charing Cross, with the start of Rue de Derriere, which would eventually become King Street, to the right, and the prison straddling the road to the left. This was recognised at the time as the western gateway to the town.
- 2 The Muraille de La Ville was a tall, thick granite wall to the south of Broad Street, built not as a sea wall but to keep sand from drifting into the town.
- 3 Beyond the town wall this map clearly shows what appears to be a quay area with a number of jetties. This may have been a place where small vessels could moor but is unlikely to have been accessible except on the highest tides. It is interesting that these structures are not shown on the later maps at the bottom of the page, where a 'Quay' is shown much closer to the town church. Further to the south The Pier is shown on the full map below the Mont de La Ville, where South Pier is today.
- 4 The buildings on the north of Broad Street are shown largely as they are today, but on the opposite side of Rue de Derriere to the north there is no row of commercial buildings. Here there were large houses with gardens behind, and open meadowland beyong
- 5 This is the beginning of what today is called New Street. It was started as a private road in 1718 and the map shows buildings only a short distance back from Rue de Derriere, after which there is only a track heading north
- 6 There are more houses with gardens behind along the full length of Rue de Derriere. Don Street and Halkett Place did not exist
- 7 Royal Square
- 8 The block on the south side of the square, housing the Royal Court, or Cohue, was mostly privately owned
- 9 Queen Street, then known as Rue du Milieu, was much more developed on both sides than Rue de Derriere
- 10 Although Halkett Place had yet to be started there was a gap between buildings at the junction of Rue de Derriere and Rue du Milieu, leading to Hilgrove Street. At its eastern end there was a cut through to Queen Street, which is today the beginning of Halkett Street. Beyond this was all open countryside
- 11 Snow Hill was the eastern gateway to the town
- 12 La Motte Street gave way to open countryside a very short distance from Snow Hill
- 13 On the other side, Colomberie had also only progressed a short distance
- 14 This is the field in open countryside where Victoria College would be built a century later
- 15 The proposed walls of the fortification which became Fort Regent are marked here
- 16 The Town Church
- 17 The brook which carried water from the meadows and swamps to the north of the town divided into three as it passed the gardens on its way to the sea
- 18 The three points where the brook empties into the sea
The 1795 map above shows that very little changed over the next four decades.
Town centre and old street names
The three large maps show the centre of St Helier in more detail towards the end of the 18th century.
On the right is a plan drawn around 1780, showing the Royal Square and naming the streets around it. There are so many similarities with the town centre section of the map below that it seems almost certain that one was based on the other, although which came first it has not been possible to determine. Both are now in a collection in the United States and we believe that this is the first time they have ever been published.
The map at the bottom of the page (in full, and with the centre section enlarged) shows the whole of the developed area of the town in 1781, the year the Battle of Jersey was fought in the Square. It is from an American collection and we believe that it was drawn some time after the 1781 date shown on it, because it includes the name Peirson Place (wrongly spelt Pierson, as were most references to the hero of the Battle for many years afterwards).
The renaming of what can be seen on the larger scale plan below to have previously been called Route aux Couchons, did not happen until some time after Major Francis Peirson was killed a few metres from this lane linking the Square to King Street.
Pigs and cattle
At this time all the streets of St Helier - and there were not many of them - had French names, and the two detailed plans reveal some which have not, as far as we are aware, been previously published. One of these is Route aux Couchons. The other is also in the top left corner of the square: the short cut between the Peirson and Cock and Bottle public houses, which does not appear to have any name now, was originally known as Rue es Vacques. Translating as 'pig' and 'cattle' roads or streets, these name would seem to indicate the routes followed by the different farm animals when the square was the island's main marketplace.
Other original French names are more familiar. King Street, now the island's main shopping precinct, was Rue de Derriere (or La Rue d'drière in Jèrriais). This translates as 'the road at the back' which is exactly what it was, behind the Royal Square, with buildings on its south side and open meadowland to the north. The map dated 1781 suggests that there was a continuous row of buildings on both sides of the full length of Rue de Derriere, but this was far from the case. This was not a commercial street at the time - the concept of shopping areas in the town centre had not arrived - and there were only a handful of grand town houses, with large gardens, to the north.
Development of streets
The main history books are strangely silent on when St Helier's streets began to develop. Even Edmund Toulmin Nicolle's The Town of St Helier gives very few dates. It will be apparent from the maps below that the only routes out of the centre of town to the north were Hue Street and New Street, both of which led to open countryside. Hue Street and the surrounding area was the first part of the town to be developed with houses for the working classes, who had previously lived almost exclusively in the country parishes. New Street was certainly not lined with buildings on both sides as shown on these plans. As mentioned above, it was laid out as a private road in 1718, and was just a track for most of its length. It was not until 1811 that it was acquired by the public.
The map is rather crudely drawn. Broad Street at the bottom, then close to the shoreline, was not narrow along its full length with a wedge-shaped block above it. The layout was actually the reverse of this, with a narrower block of buildings between Rue de Derriere and what was known either as Grande Rue because it was the town's largest street, or Rue d'Egypte, because it was frequently covered in sand. It was the street which was wedge shaped, narrowing from the eastern end to the point where it met Rue de Derriere at Charing Cross, where the island's prison crossed the street.
It will be seen that there was no street cutting through the buildings of Rue de Derriere and Grande Rue. What was first known as Coin es Anes and later New Cut, was not created until well into the 19th century. Earlier, such traffic that did pass down New Street would turn left into Rue de Derriere, right into Rue du Douet, which was eventually anglicised to Brook Street, and then into Library Place, originally Coin es Cochons to reach Grande Rue. Conway Street did not exist. The town ended at Bond Street, built as a private development south of the church.
Below it was a quay which can only have functioned as a mooring on the highest of tides. Most cargo carrying vessels would be loaded and unloaded on the beach and the horse-drawn carts used for the purpose may have discharged their loads at the quay for distribution to the various warehouses to the seaward side of Grande Rue.
The brook, which ran on the surface through the swampy meadows to the north of the town, divided into three and one arm crossed Rue de Derriere and then ran through what became Brook Street and Library Place, before reaching the shoreline next to the quay. It frequently overflowed, making the road between the church and the Royal Square very muddy. This was not Coin es Anes as suggested on one of these maps. The French name for this short stretch of road between Hill Street and Library Place, now known as Church Street, was Rue Trousse Cotillons, which translates as 'pick up petticoats', which is what ladies leaving church on wet days were obliged to do to prevent them getting soiled on the muddy road surface.
What became Mulcaster Street, named after another of the heroes of the Battle of Jersey, was much shorter than now, with no development of the Weighbridge area having started. It was then Rue des Froids Vents. Beyond it Hill Street was Rue es Trais Pigeons. . It is described rather quaintly on the middle map as Rue des Trois Pig Street.
Halkett Place did not exist. Hilgrove Street ran east from Rue de Derriere, parallel with Queen Street, which was not an extension of Rue de Derriere but known as Rue du Milieu or Rue ès Porcqs. What is now an extension of Halkett Place from the King Street junction to Hill Street was, at the end of the 18th century, a very narrow lane known as Morier Lane. It is interesting to see on the middle map that where the States Chamber would eventually be built was Lys's Hotel. We have not been able to find any other mention of this establishment. Was it the only hotel bordering the Royal Square at the time? There have been several since.
This map is not dated, but appears to be earlier than the others. It cannot be earlier than 1751, because that is when the statue of George II was erected. The reference to La Pyramide is interesting. There are two schools of thought as to why this name is associated with the statue. One is that the top of the granite base on which the statue stands is somewhat pyramid-shaped. The other is that it was originally intended to erect a stone obelisk shaped like a pyramid, but plans were changed to allow for the statue which is still there today.
Notes and references
- ↑ Also known at various periods as Rue de Haut, Rue des Forges, Rue du Pied de la Montagne and Les Calvin