Prince's Tower

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What's your street's story? - PLa Hougue Bie


PrincesTower19c.jpg
Prince's Tower in the first half of the 19th century


This article is based on a Jersey Archive Street Story presentation


Roads

Route de la Hougue Bie commences at its namesake, La Hougue Bie, and continues east as far as St Saviour's Hospital, where it becomes Rue d’Aval. As a rule, properties to the south of the road are in the parish of Grouville, while those to the north are in St Saviour.

However, there are two major exceptions to this, as La Hougue Bie itself is in Grouville and St Saviour’s Hospital, as the name suggests, is in St Saviour. In the census records the road was sometimes called Prince’s Tower Road, or the main road to the asylum. [Note: Prince’s Tower Road runs from Five Oaks to La Hougue Bie – Editor].

Landmark tower

La Hougue Bie is now a renowned heritage site of enormous archaeological significance. Prince’s Tower, which was once a distinctive landmark located there, was one of Jersey’s first tourist attractions. Major General James d’Auvergne bought La Hougue Bie in 1759 from Jacques Filleul, and in 1792 gifted it to his nephew, Philippe d'Auvergne, the so-called Prince of Bouillon.

La Tour d’Auvergne, or Prince’s Tower, was built on top of the existing chapels and was reportedly the most flamboyant piece of Neo-Gothic architecture ever built in the island. It consisted of a ground floor and two-storey tower conutry residence, next to which was a three-stage turret containing a spiral staircase, which gave access to the top of the tower and incredible views of the surrounding landscape and to the coast of France. A signalling mast was erected over the south-west corner of the medieval chapel and the site was established as the central nerve of an island-wide signalling system. Philippe only lived in the tower occasionally, as his main residence was Mont Orgueil, where he commanded the defence of the island and ran a spy network in nearby France.

Locals and visitors were enthralled by the tower and gardens and they were soon opened to the public with the site being mentioned as a visitor attraction in many guidebooks of the island in the first half of the 19th century. As a result of this the small entrance lodge was extended to create a new two-storey building called Prince’s Tower Hotel and a bowling alley built for entertainment.

It was sold eight times between 1816, when Philippe d'Auvergne died, and in 1861, when George Phillips, a hotel keeper, purchased the property.

In the early 20th century the site had ceased to be of intrerest as a tourist attraction. The hotel was then being used almost solely as an inn and the tower was virtually derelict. Newspaper reports reveal that it was being vandalised with the graffiti of day trippers covering the walls and doors.

States reject purchase

Deputy Bailhache of Grouville proposed that the States purchase the site in April 1912 but this was rejected by 28 votes to 14. It was suggested that it would be better for the island if the Société were able to buy the historic site, which they did for £750 in 1919. Prince’s Tower was controversially demolished in 1924 and Prince’s Tower Hotel was finally closed and knocked down in the same year.

There are a number of large properties on both sides of Route de la Hougue Bie, such as La Hougue Farm, Tower Hamlet, La Vieille Davisonnerie and Carrefour-au-Clercq Farm. Some of these date from the 17th century.

Queen’s Farm, or Her Majesty’s Farm, as it was called on the 1849 Godfray Map, was a working farm in its own right prior to the building of St Saviour’s Hospital. It was owned by the crown and in the 1861 census an Irishman called Garret O’Driscoll is recorded there as a tenant farmer of 54 vergees.

Mr O’Driscoll relinquished his lease for Queen’s Farm for the payment of £140 from the States in August 1863 following the decision to build St Saviour's Hospital on the site.

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