Seafield, Route de St Aubin St Lawrence
Seafield, or Seafield House, is a fine Regency villa that was built in 1808-1809 for François Giffard. It is with a certain amount of trepidation that we suggest that it the subject of one of the few significant errors in Joan Stevens' two books on Old Jersey Houses, because she states in Volume 2 that it was built by Jean Le Gros. The St Lawrence millennium book confirms our view that it was built for Francois Giffard, who sold it in 1821 to Michel Le Gros, father of Jean.
It is uncertain who designed the house, but one suggestion is David Laing, a pupil of Sir John Sloane, who had a connection with the Channel Islands. The house is one of the earliest and most ambitious examples of Regency architecture in Jersey. It has two show fronts - the entrance front facing La Route de St Aubin to the north and the south front with rotunda facing a large garden that stretches down to Victoria Avenue (it used to reach the sand dunes until the railway was built).
The north front of the house has a tall centrepiece set back between lower and advancing wings that allow the entrance portico to be partially recessed like a loggia. A full entablature is carried right around the building creating a waisted look. The Ionic columns of the portico with Grecian anthemion motif are repeated on the tripartite windows of the wings. Upper storeys are plain with simple cornices. The south front is dominated by a rotunda that projects a full story above the parapet. There are rusticated arches at the base of the rotunda with a veranda above with Ionic columns. The rotunda is flanked by wings and embellished with cast iron balconies. The interior is of quality - the most elaborate of the rooms being the entrance hall with acanthus pattern coved cornice, pilasters bent around the corners and 4-panelled doors within arched doorways. The double drawing room to the right of the hall has large windows at either end and retains the original marble chimneypieces. On the other side of hall is the dining room complete with niches containing elegant mahogany cupboards. There are elaborate ceiling roses and cornices throughout.
François Giffard acquired the land from George Philips of Waterloo Farm in 1805. In 1808 he sold a half share to Jean Dobel but repurchased Dobel’s interest the following year with a house called Beaumur that the two had built. Baron de Frenilly , a Bourbon supporter who passed through Jersey in 1815 fleeing France, described Giffard as “the leading banker, merchant and smuggler of Jersey, gallant presyterian, pious, loyal, austere, sober….”. François Giffard’s son inherited the property on his death in 1817 and it was sold twice in the space of four years, being purchased in 1821 by Michel Le Gros.
When the house changed name to Seafield is not known but it was during the ownership of the Le Gros family. On Michel’s death the house passed to his son Jean and then to his grandson Gervaise. Gervaise Le Gros (1832-1922) was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge, he became an advocate in 1853 and subsequently served as Greffier, Viscount and finally Jurat (1895-1911). In 1869 he purchased the fief de Meleches and also owned the fief du Prieur de Mont Cochon. He married Louisa Le Quesne daughter of Jurat Nicolas.
In September 1887, Seafield was let for a month to Princess Stephanie of Austria, wife of Archduke Rudolph and daughter of King Leopold of the Belgians. She travelled with a retinue of 16, some of whom had to be accommodated in the village. On her arrival the Le Gros carriage was put at her disposal.
After Gervaise Le Gros’ death in 1922 the house was sold to Maxwell Blacker-Douglas (?-1929). His widow, Alice was in the house when it was requisitioned during the German Occupation.
A letter of requisition survives in the house which the Germans called 3 Soldatenheim, staging military concerts in the garden. When the house was handed back at the end of the war all the rooms had German signs over the doors and there was a large map of Jersey with gun emplacements marked on it.