The commercial life of the Royal Square

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The commercial life

of the Royal Square


F18VierMarchiSullivan.jpg

Artist John Sullivan's depiction of the Royal Square on market day. It is not known when what was previously known as the marketplace became the Royal Square, but Sullivan's painting, dedicated to Queen Victoria, is believed to be an interpretation of what the market looked like some considerable time before


The Royal Square has always been very much at the centre of St Helier. Although not the geographical centre of the town, and certainly not of the parish, it is the place from which distances to other parts of the island have been measured for many years.

And it was once the retail centre, because this was where the island's only market - known as Le Vier Marchi (the old market) - was held on a weekly basis, probably for several centuries.

Today there is but one retail outlet in the square, and that is only a back door for a ladies' clothing accessory shop which has its frontage on King Street.



Numbers

Tracing the history of the commercial life of the square is complicated by the numbering system adopted in the early 19th century, or possibly earlier. Today the whole of the south side of the square is taken up by what is known collectively as the States Building, comprising States Chamber, Royal Court and administrative offices, notably for the Bailiff.

But less than a century has passed since this line of buildings was completed, and in the early part of the 19th century, when our history of the square's commercial activity commences, the government buildings were hemmed in at either end by residential and retail premises.

A numbering system which once extended from 1 to 28, started from the south-west corner of the States buildings - then the courthouse - and continued in a clockwise direction to the north-east corner, where the States Chamber had yet to be built.

This numbering system is still in place today, with the lower and higher numbers extinguished through the expansion of the States Buildings. Some errors have been made over the years in Almanac street directories and census returns, but it is possible to trace the history of properties deemed to form part of the Square, and some on its periphery which are associated with adjacent streets.

South-east corner

A commercial directory for 1837 is the only listing we have found which shows the properties in this corner of the square. The States started acquiring them in 1843, no doubt with a major expansion of the government buildings in mind. Typically, however, it was to be some time before these plans were put into effect, and the rebuilding of the Royal Court was first accomplished in three stages, in 1866, 1879, and 1885/6. The building of the States Chamber at the eastern end of the block was part of the third phase, and it was opened in 1887.

Medical Hall was clearly on the north side of the square in this undated photograph

In October 1843 the Public acquired a former house, directly to the east of the Royal Court, from Francois Godfray. Three years later the Public bought a neighbouring house from Pierre Le Brun and another from Nathaneal Westaway. Property acquisitions did not continue until 1859 when a house to the east of the Royal Court was acquired from Jane De La Taste, daughter of Edouard De La Taste, followed by two houses further east from Jeanne and Henriette Martin. This land is now part of Halkett Place (formerly Morier Lane).

The business trading in this corner in 1837 were John Le Ber's Sun Life Insurance agency; Medical Hall; and Macquire's ironmongers.

At least, the first assumption is that these numbered properties were in the corner of the square, but further evidence suggests otherwise, and points to a substantial degree of renumbering in the middle of the 19th century. The 1851 census and an 1852 commercial directory show John Gallichan's watch and clock-making business at No 25 and the Peirson hotel at No 26. However, the numbering system in use from 1871 onwards lists these properties as No 16½ and 17, with the Cock and Bottle public houses as 18 and what would be Perrot's printing works and newspaper publishing business occupying the highest numbered property, No 19, on the corner with the opening to Halkett Place.

This is how things have settled down ever since.

We have not been able to date a photograph which shows Medical Hall on the north side of the Square, to the left J Gallichan's, but we doubt that it was ever in the south-east corner.

Extremities

Our approach to these commercial histories of town streets so far has been to trace the history of individual properties, one by one. But the complications of Royal Square numbering demand a different approach, so we are starting by pinpointing the location of some of the larger establishments and tracing their history. This is immediately complicated by the discovery that some buildings associated with the Royal Square have been listed in adjoining streets in some commercial directories, census returns and almanacs.

York Hotel, Royal Square, advertised in 1922 - or should that be Vine Street?

The States Building itself is a case in point. Although it is sometimes listed as part of the Royal Square, and undeniably should be, it is either ignored for census purposes, because nobody lived there, or shown as part of Hill Street, which passes its back doors. Piquet House, the old building protruding into the north-west corner, which used to house troops following the Battle of Jersey, is shown as 11 Royal Square in the 2018 Almanac, and as Nos 11 and 13 in the 1915 almanac. That is definitely a mistake, because it is actually part of Vine Street. The boundary between Vine Street, which runs from Brook Street (crossing from King Street through to Library Place, into the Square, has changed from record to record over the decades. It actually ends at the east wall of Piquet House, which means that the back entrance of what is now part of HSBC bank at 15-17 King Street, and for many years was York Hotel, is/was strictly in Vine Street, whatever the hotel's adverts may have suggested.

So we mark the north-west corner of the square with York Hotel's eastern extremity; the north-east corner with the Peirson Hotel (No 17 for most of its life); the south-east corner with the gap between Perrot's (No 19 - the Chamber of Commerce headquarters for the second half of the 20th century) and the States Chamber; and the south-west corner with the gap into Church Street, between what was the Grand Hotel du Calvados (listed as part of Church Street before it burnt down) and the old Corn Market, now the Registry Office at ground floor level, with the United Club above.

The previous paragraph has identified two establishments, not strictly commercial, which were previously located in different places within the square. The Chamber of Commerce had offices at No 6, now redeveloped in the western end of the States Building, and the Registry Office has been located at No 4, at No 21, at the opposite end, before the States Chamber was built, and in the basement of the extended States Building, facing Church Street.

This photograph is very interesting because it shows the south-east corner of the square before the States Chamber was built. The picture has been dated 1875, but it was probably taken at least a decade earlier. The States acquired the buildings to the left of the Royal Court from 1843 to 1859, but did not build the States Chamber until the 1870s. It can be seen that the road (now known as Royal Court Road) turned right towards Hill Street and that the upper part of Halkett Place did not exist. This area was known as Morier Lane at the time, and the turning to the left has the appearance of being a very narrow lane. No sooner had the States acquired the last buildings in this row than it was decided to widen the street, and the properties were offered for sale, with the condition that the buyer demolished them
The Peirson and Cosy Corner in the 1970s

Pubs

Establishments which may have been renumbered, but never moved, are the adjacent public houses in the north-east corner. The Peirson is on the north and across a small gap on the east side is the Cock and Bottle, which rejoiced in the alternative name Cosy Corner for many years, before reverting to the original. It also had a spell as the Central Hotel in the 1870s and '80s. Both establishments have often displayed their landlords' names on the front, helping with dating photographs.

Edward Gallichan is named as mine host at the Peirson in the 1841 census, and again in 1851, 1852 and 1861. By 1871 he had handed over to George Brett, who was still there in 1874, 1880 (mis-spelt Bree), and 1881; followed by T Parris in 1886, 1891, 1895, 1896, 1900, 1905 and 1915; and R Parris from 1920 to 1970. As far as we can establish, this was the same Robert Parris throughout 50-plus years, born in 1895 and died in 1976. He was the son of another Robert Parris, and Sarah Emily Murphy, and appears to have taken over the Peirson from his grandfather Tom, who was married to Elizabeth Randall Davey.

Francis Belford was the landlord of the Cock and Bottle in 1841, followed by George in 1852. It is possible that they were brothers, sons of son of John and Francoise Vardon, born in 1814 and 1819, respectively.

Ownership of the business, if not the property, began to change after that. By 1861 the proprietor was shown as George Larbalestier; in 1871 it was William James; and only three years after that it was F Weymouth. J Cooms was in charge in 1880, and the following year's census lists John Cook. Things then settled down and in 1886, 1890, 1891 and 1896 the occupant is shown as F Vincent.

There were then further changes, to W Hall in 1900, A A Porree in 1905, and than J C Green took over, and remained in charge until 1935, followed by G F Grandin from 1940 to 1965. This was Gladwyn Frederick Grandin, born in 1894, the son of Frederick Grandin and Bertha Drouet, and married to Doris Grace.

Having established the locations of the York Hotel, Peirson, Cock and Bottle/Central/Cosy Corner, there remain the Union Hotel, the Grand Hotel du Calvados, and the United Club. The Union Hotel appeared in 1837, '50, '52, '74 and '80 almanac listings, and in the 1841, '61 and '71 censuses, either at No 1 or with neighbours which would suggest that it was immediately to the right of the Royal Court, where the former public library was built in the mid-1880s. Property transactions confirm that the hotel, also known as Hotel de l'Union, was to the west of the Courthouse, and that it was acquired by the Public on 23 April 1881 from James Swain Gurney.

A photograph taken by Thomas Cutch of Southampton. The Union Hotel is immediately to the right of the statue and the Grand Hotel du Calvados was the final building on the right, disappearing out of the edge of the frame.

The Grand Hotel du Calvados was at the western end of this row of buildings, opposite the Town Church, until a disastrous fire in 1885 forced it to close and move to premises stretching between Queen Street and Hill Street. The hotel was always listed in censuses and commercial directories as being in Church Street rather than the Royal Square.

The United Club, a gentlemens' club, was established at the western end of the square in the former corn market in 1848, and it still there today. The ground floor, which was once a billiards and snooker room for members and guests, is now sub-let to the Office of the Superintendent Registrar.

Lawyers' offices

Having located the various hotels and public houses in the Square, or on its periphery, we can now turn our attention to other businesses which traded in the Square. It has to be said that there were not many of them, and many of the properties, either demolished to make was for the expansion of the States Building, or still existing today, were either residential on all floors, or shared accommodation with lawyers who practised in the Court, and Court officials.

Among them were Moses Gibaut and his son James, who were at No 14 (previously 22) on the north side of the square from the 1850s through to the 1880s. Other solicitors and advocates whose offices were in the Square during the 19th century included P J Bree, P Le Brun, Philip Ahier, T Dorey, F Godfray, H E Durell, Charles Laurens, F Hawksford, Thomas Godfray, George Vickery, Philip Beaugie, P J Huelin, T Le Gallais, John Syvret.

Retail

A remarkable variety of retail businesses operated in the Square over the decades. In 1837 baker T Webb; boot and shoe maker J Baptist; a hatter named Cotton; ironmongers de la Taste and Macguire; drapers de La Taste and Wright; and silversmith E Kerby were all included in the commercial directory, along with the circulating libraries run by E Bond and Philip Payn, and the music sales and circulating library of W Davies.

In the 19th century the Square was home to several insurance agencies, wine and spirits outlets, auctioneers, booksellers, silversmiths, several tobacconists, a chemist, more boot and shoe makers, watch and clock makers, grocers and tea dealers, the Jersey Savings Bank, a saddler, a leather merchant, Susannah Street's fancy shop, stationers and a hairdresser. Many of these occupied the properties on either side of Royal Court and as they were acquired by the States the number and variety of retail businesses went into steady decline.

The old corn market building, rebuilt in 1823, and occupied from 1848 by the United Club, which eventually purchased the building in the 20th century. The Nouvelle Chronique de Jersey newspaper also operated from here from 1855

Miscellany

Commercial directories and almanac listings also record the presence of a variety of unusual occupants. In 1852 George Syvret would redeem paper money issued by Le Clercq and Averty of St Clement and Le Sauteur and Sohier; Edward de La Taste was honorary Brazilian consul; the Jersey Gallery of Art and Science was presided over by John Hammond at No 3, next to the Union Hotel; and the War Office Department's Pensioners Office was run by Major J F du Vernet. Constable Pierre Le Sueur was president of the Political Reform Club.

In 1874 Mrs Street, the same lady whose business was sometimes described as a fancy shop, was listed as running a 'shell repository'. In 1880 the Uruguay vice-consul was at No 13, and the Eton Toilet CLub next door. It is not clear whether blacksmith Philip Falle was trading at No 7 in 1881, or simply living there. In 1905 the Electric Company had set up in business at No 16, next door to the American Consul.

Newspapers

It remains to mention two further businesses, among the most important occupants of Royal Square properties during the 19th century. At what eventually settle down as No 19, next door to the Cock and Bottle, 'Peter Perrot' was listed in the 1837 commercial directory as a printer. This was Pierre Perrot, who had founded Les Chroniques de Jersey in 1814, at the age of 25, having earlier been a privateer and spent six years in a French prison. He was a highly controversial newspaper editor who subsequently attained respectability as a States Member. When a vacancy occurred on the bench of Jurats in 1839, he was unanimously elected. On becoming a Judge he entirely withdrew from party politics, and handed over Les Chroniques to Philippe Huelin. In the States he became one of the most influential members.

Perrot and Huelin's printing business and the offices of Les Chroniques remained at No 19, passing to Pierre's son George after his death in 1843. The rival Nouvelle Chronique de Jersey was established in 1855 and had its offices at the opposite end of the Square, at No 11. This number has been applied to a number of properties over the years, but it seems most likely that the newspaper shared the old corn market with the United Club.
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