Staircases

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A stone staircase in a Jersey house

A tourelle containing a stone staircase was a common feature of early Jersey houses, and some still exist, as this extracty from the first volume of Old Jersey Houses by Joan Stevens, reveals.

Tourelles

In 20 or more examples the original circular stone staircase, enclosed in a tower known as a tourelle, has survived, and in many more instances there is evidence, or hints, that such a stairway did once exist.
We have reason to think that in many instances the tourelle has been removed when additional rooms have been built on to the north; but sometimes such rooms may enclose the tourelle, which is not then in any way apparent from the outside, as at La Sergente (St My) and Chestnut Grove (St J).
The granite steps are wedge-shaped and in the best examples a fine newel column is formed at their intersection, each step fitting into the previous one with a mortice and tenon.
Almost always they turned to the right. It is thought that this was

because it was easier to defend oneself from attack from below, by giving greater freedom of movement to the right arm, that is, the sword arm.

The pattern of these stairs may well have been inspired by the very old ones at Mont Orgueil.
A spiral staircase in a St Helier town house
Occasionally there is a straight stone staircase leading to the first

floor, but whereas the tourelle stairway is always enclosed, the straight one is open to the sky, with a few notable exceptions.

One of the earliest surviving wooden staircases, a 17th century specimen at The Hollies, St Aubin

18th century

There is evidence that the tourelle stairway continued to be constructed well into the 18th century, after round arches and decorated window lintels had ceased.
In trying to determine whether or not a house had such a stairway, the position of the doors in the north wall, above and below, is important.
If it had a circular stair, the doors will be as far apart as the diameter of the tourelle; if the house was served by a straight staircase, the doors leading to it on the ground floor, and from it on the first floor, will be as far apart as the length of the flight of steps.
Houses with a wooden staircase of the modern type would have no doors on the north wall, and the doors leading to the living rooms would tend to be near the front door to allow for the slope of the stairs.
In older houses, at the top of the stairs, be they circular or straight, there is a narrow corridor along the north wall, with either very small windows or none at all.
The bedrooms opened off this, southwards. Thus the back of the house, which was usually north, had few windows, and those mostly on the first floor, and of no great size.
In a few cases, notably Le Nord (St J), Old Court House Hotel (St B), and La Tourelle (St Mt), the landing is made of enormous granite blocks, and the bedrooms lead directly off this, with no corridor.
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