St James Collegiate

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St James' Collegiate


S18VincentThompson.jpg

Vincent Thompson, photographed by Ernest Baudoux


St James Collegiate School, founded by Vincent Thompson, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, was one of the most important and successful island schools in the second half of the 19th century.


St James Collegiate was in existence from at least 1841 (probably founded in the mid-to-late 1830s) to 1911, or later.

The school moved at least three times. Exactly where it was first located is uncertain, and although the name would suggest that it was in St James' Street, that is not necessarily the case. The 1841 census, which is renowned for being somewhat vague on property locations, suggests that it was in nearby Clarence Road; the 1851 census shows it in James Street; and a history of Jersey education in Jerripedia shows it at Royal Crescent, Don Road, although this was probably an error. All three locations are close to each other, and St James Street was known, certainly in 1833, as plain James Street.

The school's rugby team in 1883, probably with headmaster the Rev James Cardwell, photographed by Ernest Baudoux. It is extraordinary, given that the school was in existence for at least 70 years, that this is the only surviving photograph we have so far been able to locate

Victoria Crescent

The 1861 census, however, shows the school at Victoria Crescent, which is on the other side of St Helier, off Upper Midvale Road. It occupied Nos 1 and 2, and Nos 3 and 4 were home to a girls' school run by Dr Thompson's daughters Amelia, Clara and Anna Rose.

Their school had first opened at 1 Clarence Terrace by 1850, and Amelia and Charlotte were offering a 'select school for young ladies', both boarders and day pupils. They had five boarding pupils on census night in 1851, and their younger sister Anna Rose was also a resident pupil.

Ten years later the census shows the school still at Victoria Crescent. By then Vincent Thompson was 73 and he had retired. His son Guy (39) is shown as a schoolmaster, but it is not known whether he was in charge of the school. Vincent died in 1872. In an 1874 street directory he is still shown as the occupant of 1-4 Victoria Terrace, and in 1880 he is listed as the occupant of 1-4 and 7 Victoria Crescent, suggesting that the school may still have been in existence there, run by his son. However, there are no records for Guy Thompson or his sister Amelia after 1871.

By 1886, however, all properties at Victoria Crescent are shown as private residential. An advertisement dated that year (below) shows the principal of St James' Collegiate to have been the Rev James Cardwell, with the address given as Highlands. This is known to have been Mr Cardwell's home in the 1870s, some 700 metres to the east of Victoria Crescent. It now houses Jersey's Education Department and gave its name to the adjoining Highlands College, Jersey's further education college.

St James' Collegiate certainly continued to operate successfully after the death of its founder, and between 1871 and 1891 it was noted for many achievements, not least its success on the rugby field. The school had a playing field large enough to contain a full-size rugby pitch in the 1860s and '70s, which may have been on land in front of Victoria Crescent, or possibly some way distant from the school. The Collegiate was active in inter-school rugby in these years against Victoria College, Adelaide House School, Oxenford House Academy, Beaumont Academy and St Aubin's School. It also played matches on its own ground against an island XV.

The exact period during which Mr Cardwell was principal has not been established, but by 1991 the census shows that the school had returned to Victoria Crescent with George William Parlett as its principal.

George Parlett

George Parlett was born in 1844, from a Huguenot family in West Walton, Norfolk. He came to Jersey in the early 1860s, initially working as an assistant master at a school in Beaumont Village, before setting up his own school at Coie House in St Saviour’s Road. Renamed Parlett’s Academy, it moved to Janvrin Road, St Helier, in about 1874. The school may have later become Parlett’s Collegiate School, according to an article in the 2008 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise. But this article, albeit not specifically about George Parlett's schools, but his family, contains a number of inaccuracies.

It fails to mention that his first school in Jersey was at Goodwood, a small house in Princes Tower Road (near La Hougue Bie), and was known first as Goodwood's Academy and then Parlett's Academy. It is likely that the school moved from there to Coie House.

The 1881 census shows George Parlett living in Green Street, where he had two boarders, but this may have been his home, rather than the location of his school at the time.

A strict disciplinarian, George Parlett is credited, according to the Annual Bulletin article, with having introduced the game of rugby to Jersey. On 12 December 1868 he married Eliza, the daughter of Captain Philippe Malzard, a member of an old Jersey family. Their three sons were Harold (later the diplomat Sir Harold Parlett, born at Coie House in 1869), and who also married a Malzard; Hedley and Frank. They had five daughters, Lily, who died in infancy, Leah, Maggie, another Lily and the youngest, Ruth.

Boarders

Throughout its life the school took boarders and day boys, advertising itself as providing education to university entry level and for the military academies, at half the charges of the 'metropolitan academies'. And contemporary reports suggest that its claims were fully justified by the results achieved by its pupils.

The 1841 census return shows 39 boys boarding at the school, aged from eight to 15. The 1851 census shows 18 boarders, born as far afield as England, Scotland, Ireland, India and Jamaica. There were 19 boarders in 1861 and by 1871 the number had risen again to 37. Their ages ranged from 17 down to 7, and birthplaces included the UK, Ireland, India, France and Turkey. Ten-year-old James Hamilton is shown to have been born at sea.

A letter from St James' Collegiate's headmaster George Parlett in 1901
An 1850 advert for the girls' school

Thompson family

The 1841 census shows Vincent Thompson and his wife Martha, whose maiden name is not known, and their family living at the school, wherever it was located. With them were their children Amelia (15), Clara (15), Charlotte (13), Guy (11), Fanny (7), George (5) and Anna Rosa (3). The two youngest were born in Jersey, the others in England. An eighth child, Grace Octavia, was born and died the year before the census.

Ten years later Vincent was a widower, his wife having died in 1849. He was living at the school in James Street with his children Clara, Fanny, Guy and George. Clara and Fanny were born in England, as was their father, and George was born in St Helier. As already mentioned, three more daughters were living close by in Clarence Terrace where the family's second school operated.

In 1861, at Victoria Crescent, Vincent had sons George (24) and 'Alfred Guy', aged 28, living with him and both working as schoolmasters. Guy's name and birth year seem to vary from census to census.

School of substance

The history of Jersey education referred to above, and published in the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise in 1968, quotes an unidentified Mr de Gruchy:

"Amongst the boys' schools there were half-a-dozen of real substance, conducted by graduates and giving a genuine secondary education. Much careful teaching was given in two large private Secondary Schools kept by University graduates. One, Adelaide House (in Roussel Street) was kept by Mr Carter, a scholar of St John's, Cambridge, and the other by Dr Thompson and his brother, the Rev George Thompson, both distinguished graduates of Trinity College, Dublin".

The article, whose author was also not identified, continued:

"The claim made by Dr Thompson in his advertisements for St James's Collegiate School, Royal Crescent, to be a "Preparatory Academy for the Universities and the Naval and Military Colleges" was fully justified by its results at this time. In 1867 six of its pupils had entered Sandhurst, one Woolwich and one Cambridge University; in July 1868 three more passed into Sandhurst, one into Woolwich and yet another gained direct entry into the Home Civil Service. An account of the Annual Sports at St James, in the Chronique de Jersey of 3 June 1868, is prefaced by an editorial on the value of compulsory games and in praise of Dr Thompson and his methods. Clearly these sports were a major social event, with the officers and band of the 43rd Regiment of Light Infantry present; all the ladies were wearing 'their gayest and best dresses'. The Colonel of the regiment acted as Chief Judge and the twenty or more events went on until 7 pm."
  • [All of the other records for the school and the Thompsons suggest that the reference to Royal Crescent in this article was a mistake, and should have read Victoria Crescent - Ed]

The article also refers to Vincent Thompson being assisted by his brother and fellow Trinity College graduate, the Rev George Thompson, in founding and running the school, but we have been unable to find any other references to his presence in Jersey.

Demise

When the school closed, and why, have not been established. It may be that in the early 20th century it could no longer compete with the increasingly dominant Victoria College, or it may simply have been that there was nobody to follow George Parlett as principal. He was still alive in 1924, but apparently living in Bristol. It is not clear when he closed the school and left Jersey.

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