The old town of Saint Aubin
Looking across the bulwarks from the south pier. The Old Court House is the four-storey building on the left
Will you try to visualise St Aubin as it was in the beginning of the 17th Century.
No quay, no road and a stream
There was then no quay, and no road between St Aubin and La Haule. The little town ended just below the High Street and the Rue du Moestre, or Market Hill, while the stream issuing from near St Peter's Church, which turned the mill wheel of the Moulin d'Egoutte Pluye flowed between the two and had to be crossed by planks. This stream also divided the Noirmont Fief in St Aubin from the King's Fief and the Vingtaine de Noirmont from the Vingtaine du Coin.
It was not till after 1663, when the King gave Sir Edward de Carteret, as a reward for the services done by him and his father to the Royal Family, the percages and waste land of the Island, that the waste land was bought and buildings began to be erected on the mielle or sandy shore.
Before that all the houses were on the hillsides, or up Mont les Vaux. The old mill, of which one wall is still standing, was a very important feature in those days. The mill is on the Noirmont Fief, which was granted, probably by King John, to the Abbey of Mont St Michel, and in a charter of 1269, among the dues owed to the Abbey by the men of Noirmont was the carriage of corn and repairs to the mill.
After the Reformation the Commissioners of Queen Elizabeth, in 1562, sold the mill to a Rogier Le Breton and members of that family sold it later to Edward Dumaresq, of La Haule, one of whose descendants very much later disposed of it to James Remon, Constable of St Brelade, though the Dumaresqs had left it to be entailed with the La Haule property.
James Remon's initials, with that of his wife, Ann Marett, may be seen on the house next to the present St Aubin's Church. It was a very busy mill for many years but was eventually burnt down; the railway bought the site and later the parish, who, at the instigation of Mr Arthur Balleine, put its name on the old mill wall.
The mill pond was in the meadow now partly built over opposite the schools and cut in two by the main road to St Brelade which, made in 1865, must have altered the whole appearance of the valley; but the stream still flows behind the hospital and later, by a drain pipe, makes its way underground to the Harbour.
The buildings connected with the mill have now disappeared, but an old map of St Aubin shows stables where the Institute now is, and these were probably connected with the mill. Alongside the stream was the perquage, or sanctuary way, and anyone who had committed a crime and taken refuge in St Peter's Church was safe from being captured if he could make his way along the perquage to the sea at St Aubin and escape by boat. 
An entry of 1687 in the parish books shows that there was a public washing place in St Aubin from the stream.
St Aubin owed its growth to the building of a pier at St Aubin’s Fort (Fort George). Philip Dumaresq, who made a survey of the Island in 1685, tells us that then the pier was nearly finished and in consequence all the shipping of the Island resorted there and merchants were building houses in the little town of St Aubin; there were then about four score houses but the number was daily increasing.
The pier at the Fort had been decided on by the States in 1648, but was not completely finished till 1700. The historian Falle also tells us that St Aubin was a town of merchants and masters of ships who had settled there for the sake of this port.
During the wars between England and France and Spain, the Channel Islanders were given roving commission to attack and capture any enemy ship, and they sailed the high seas with this object, and brought back many prizes, which were divided between the officers and crew, and many Jersey families owed the foundation of their fortunes to privateering.
Capt Amy (of Cornwall), on 15 June 1650 is said to have entered St Aubin's Roads with 12 captured vessels and in an entry of 25 February 1647, we read "There was brought into St Aubin's Haven a rich prize, a ship loaded with arms, cloth and provisions for the siege of Londonderry. The cellars of St Aubin were filled to overflowing with the goods."
The profits earned were so attractive that St Aubin became the chief privateering port of the kingdom. Successful captains had little difficulty in raising crews, though they were paid no wages and only got their share of the prizes. Other captains had to advertise for crews.
The captains each carried a roving commission called a 'letter of marque', authorising the capture of the ships and goods of the French, the revolted American colonists and other enemies of Great Britain. This important document alone stood between the whole crew being hanged as pirates if taken by an enemy man of war.
Privateering was eventually put down by the forces of Admiral Blake and General Heane in 1651.
In the days of wooden ships the Channel Islands were very prosperous and there were many ship building yards along St Aubin's Bay, until the advent of steam killed this business. In the 1870s there were still two ocean going vessels owned in St Aubin, the St Brelade and the Bolivia. The last large vessel was the clipper barque Evening Star, of nearly 1,000 tons, employed in the Australian trade and commanded by Capt de Ste Croix, of the High Street.
She was built on the land at the bottom of the Bulwarks. The very last boat built in St Aubin was the yacht Wyvern, built by Farley for Sir William Vemon, the Bailiff.
Fight with French
Several attempts were made to build a pier at St Aubin before the yacht was finished. The old natural haven lay at the foot of what was the sea cliff between Market Hill and Bulwark Hill, sheltered by the Rocher aux Ancres from the south winds. Along the shore private wharves were built in early times at which vessels could load and discharge and goods be stored. At one of these wharves called La Docque there was once a fight.
- "About the year 1553, in the month of May, there was in the Island a merchant of Spain named Domingo, who had loaded his barque with wheat which he had bought in the Island to carry to his country. The said barque was loaded high up at La Docque and all ready to go to Biscay to the harbour of St Sebastian on the coast of Spain.
- "There arrived at the Island of Jersey at the harbour of St Aubin, four vessels of St Malo armed for war, flying flags with the arms of Brittany displayed, like men of war, declaring to be of Brittany, coming very determined to capture the said Spanish barque and take it to St Malo, for there was then declared war between France and Spain but not yet between the English and the French.
- "The said French vessels came all four under full sail to lay across the said Spanish barque of the said Domingo, and at the first assault to board and enter it and to cut the cables and ropes and so carry It off without resistance. But the said Domingo and his men repelled them valiantly though the Bretons would have carried them off had not the inhabitants of Jersey assembled from all sides when they heard the artillery fire, wherefor by the aid which the inhabitants gave to Domingo the Bretons were repulsed and forced to quit the said Spanish barque, and return in haste to St Malo all shameful at having taken up an affalr to their shame and dishonour."
As the trade grew and accommodation became inadequate, the States in 1648 ordered the building of a pier to extend the shelter glven by the Rocher aux Ancres. The King promised 500 pistoles (about £250), the balance to be raised by public subscription. Whether the king gave anything is doubtful but St Aubin subscribed a considerable sum; but nothing was done.
In 1664 another attempt was made. One Nicolas Bailhache contracted to build a pier from the ‘’Rocher aux Ancres’’, 13 perches long, 30 feet wide and 20 feet high, receiving in return part of the impot revenue. He received the revenue, but did no work, so the States claimed 1,000 livres currency from him and decided to build a pier themselves at the Islet where was the Fort.
The building of a pier at the Rocher aux Ancres was again mooted in 1697, but it was not begun till 1754. Thus the South Pier of the harbour was built in three sections of different styles of masonry. The first section was finished in 1765, but an extension became necessary at once.
As the pier progressed trouble was experienced from sand and gravel collecting round the head. In 1774 a spur was built to stop that trouble, but proved useless. Then in 1776 vessels were obliged to take all the ballast which they needed from the sand bank with a view to removing it. Finally, in 1791 the pier head of the recently finished second section was extended to the southwards. This extension was destroyed when the third section was made, but the foundation can still be seen.
All these remedies proved useless and sand and gravel still collect as badly as ever. Finally the north section was built, thus enclosing the harbour. Unfortunately, when this work was completed in 1819 the decay of St Aubin shipping had already begun and now even the coal boats have ceased to come there and the harbour is no longer dredged.
Swimming and diving
There used to be annual swimming matches and high diving near the harbour entrance and a high diving stage at the Bulwarks. Now there is no incentive for the St Aubin children to learn to swim and dive. On the southern side of the harbour the bollards to which the boats are moored are the guns from the dismantled last privateer, which belonged to Capt Herault after whom Maison Herault on the Quay is named.
The first Harbour Master was appointed in 1752, but finally the office was merged in that of St Helier.
For the defence of St Aubin in old days, besides the Fort a breastwork or boulevard was built to defend the south end of the town and gives its name to the Bulwarks. In 1646 a battery with a guard house, which till lately remained in ruins, was constructed on ‘’Le Bout’’ Point in Noirmont grounds, and another battery on the ‘’Pointe du Vau Varin’’ just opposite to where the high diving stage used to be.
The younger sons of most Jersey families went to sea and began their profession when they were about 13 years old. Jersey ships went to Boston and Newfoundland. At Newfoundland were the cod fisheries, and the ships carried fish to Portugal and Spain and other Roman Catholic countries. After Canada became British, Charles Robin, who was born in St Aubin in 1743, founded his well known firm at Gaspé in Canada and that town was at one time composed of Jersey families. Charles Robin died in St Aubin in 1824.
St Helier was always the capital of Jersey and the chief market town, and though the ships brought the goods to the harbour at the Fort and to St Aubin, they had to be carried over land or across the sands to St Helier's market, which was very inconvenient, as there was then no main road to St Helier.
It was not till 1844 that the road between St Helier and La Haule was finished, and even then the only road to St Aubin was up the hill by La Haule and then down the High Street. The main road is still officially called, I believe, La Route de la Haule. My La Haule great-grandfather gave 30 feet in breadth all along his land from La Haule to halfway to Beaumont, towards the making of this road. When the harbour at St Helier was built, (it was begun in 1790 but not finished for some years) the ships naturally went there and St Aubin lost its importance.
It was not till 1844 that the road between La Haule and St Aubin was opened. Before that La Haule must have been cut off from St Aubin by the promontory called ‘’Le Croquet’’ on which the little house Beauvoir is built. This jutted out into the sea, which then washed up to the hillside most of the way to St Aubin. When in 1546 the garrison at the Fort was disbanded, the artillery was deposited with Edward Dumaresq of La Haule, to protect the coast, and when the new road was built 300 years later, the old gun embrasures were imitated in building the new garden wall.
I remember when the sea at high tide came under the road and formed a pool in a hollow where the landslide recently took place, and this hollow was by degrees filled in by the parish rubbish and is now a vegetable garden. There has been a house at La Haule from very early days. We possess the will of Guille Dumaresq of La Haule, dated 1458, by which he leaves the house to his elder daughter. The cellars of La Haule are part of the old house which faced the hill and which was rebuilt by my great grandfather at the end of the 19th century. An old print shows that there were two cottages where the avenue now is.
The railway between St Helier and St Aubin was opened in 1870. The terminus was built on rather an ambitious scale, the idea of the promoters being to entice people thither from St Helier and for several years after the railway was opened the terminus and hotel was one of the gayest rendez-vous of the Island.
In old postcards can be seen the big roof of the station where a grand fancy dress ball was held when it was first used. One exciting attraction was when a tightrope walker made his way across the harbour at its widest expanse.
The train ran on black wooden piles from La Haule Station towards St Aubin. There is a photograph in the Société Jersiaise Museum showing the train on these piles at the opening. I think that the black piles in the sea wall nearly opposite West Lodge must be remains of these piles.
When we were children playing on La Haule sands, one of our excitements was to get under these piles as the train came along and let it go over our heads, sometimes a bit dangerous as hot water dripped from the engine.
The railway was extended to the Corbiere in 1884, the tunnel was made a little later as the curve to get round the hill was awkward. I had one of the first rides on this line as the chief engineer took my sisters and myself on a trolley, which was pushed off somewhere opposite the schools and then went by its own weight down the line to the harbour.
Motor traffic killed the railway, but the old train was very comfortable and friendly and there was always a waiting room at each station in which to shelter, and which we miss now. The railway ceased running in 1932 and it needed the advent of the Germans to resuscitate it. They went to the trouble of remaking the whole line to Corbiere but luckily not spoiling the gardens made on either side, which are such an asset to the neighbourhood. When they left, the railway was again dismantled in 1947 and the former Terminus Hotel is now the St Brelade's Parish Hall.
Originally all the houses along the present quay had their own quays at the bottom of their gardens and there was only a path four feet wide between the gardens and the sea, and all horse traffic to the Bulwarks at high tide had to climb the steep Rue du Moestre and then go downward to the Boulevard. In consequence those who lived in these houses in December 1789 sent a petition to the States to allow them to build a public quay at their expense thirty feet wide with two slips. From this petition we know the names of those living along the quay at that date.
I wonder whether any of you in your walks about St Aubin have been interested to look at the dates on some of the houses and the initials of the builder and his wife carved thereon. Some years ago I collected all the information which I could from various sources, among these old contracts belonging to some of the families who had possessed houses for some generations.
Old Court House
I shall not weary you with an account of all the information which I gathered but will give you a few examples. Probably the oldest house is that on the Quay known as the Old Court House, behind what is now named the Old Court Hotel, formerly Osborne House. It has a fine round entrance arch with one big stone on each side of the key stone. The haunch stones and the windows have holes for iron bars and pointed embellishments which show their age. There is a fine newel staircase which reaches to the top of the house but the windows of the top storey are modern.
There is said to be a coat of arms on the house now hidden by additions made to it, and when the house was repaired in 1932 an old stone fireplace was discovered on which is the date 1611 and the initials P S, probably standing for Pierre Seale, and an old machine for grinding pepper was also found.
The house is said to have deep cellars, as have several on the quay where the merchants must have stored their goods. The next oldest date which I discovered was on the house which was incorporated in Tenby by the Rev P T Mignot when he bought the two houses and remodelled them into one during the 1914-18 war.
It had the date 1624 on the front wall. There are several houses on the High Street and the Quay with the date 1686. The house now known as La Vielle Maison on the Quay was originally called Villeneuve and kept that name while in the possession of the original owners; but newcomers who did not know its history changed it.
This was a pity as the Villeneuves were a Huguenot family from Chenonceaux in France who settled at St Aubin and married into St Brelade families. It was at Jean Villeneuve's instigation that the original Founder's Chapel of Ease at St Aubin was built.
The house has on it the initials P L B and date 1687 on a shield. These initials stand for Pierre le Bailly who sold the house to Jean Villeneuve in 1705 for 11 quarters of wheat rente. Some of the houses on the Bulwark are old. In 1686 Jeanne de Carteret, wife of Philip Marett, received from her mother Marie Bailhache "la petite maison de St Aubin proche le plein de la mer appellée la maison de Bas" and when in 1785 her son, Francis Marett of Avranches, sells this house to Philip de Carteret, it is said to be south of de Carteret's house, which is probably that now known as Maison Carteret in the yard off Bulwark Hill, which yard once had an arched entrance.
In 1683 Richard de Carteret, Thomas Poingdestre, Jean Pipon and Jean Dorey were fined by the Constable for cluttering up the road '’qui descend vers le Boulevard'’ near their houses, with masts, etc.
I imagine that the lower part of Bulwark Hill must be about the original width of the roads everywhere in those days, the parish books always mention "chemin de huit pieds". In Mont les Vaux the house belonging to Mr Alfred Holley has on it over the window H P - a reversed heart - AD 1706. This is rather interesting.
The builder had his initials put on, leaving space for his wife's; as he never married he filled up the gap with a single heart reversed and AD for Anno Domini. The house has a nice oak staircase and there are evidently big, old fireplaces, now covered by modern grates.
Off Mont les Vaux is a now derelict building with date 1776 and the inscription FI MC. The initials stand for Francis Jeune and Marie Carcaud, ancestors of Jeune, Bishop of Peterborough, after whom Peterborough House in the High Street is called.
In La Profonde Rue, which is the little road off the High Street, which was the original way up Mont de la Rocque, is an old house now named Ty Anna. It has on it the initials RRB MDC 1713, standing for Raulin Robin and Marie de Carteret, his second wife, ancestors of the Robins of Steephill, St Saviour. He was a Jurat from 1700 to 1731. La Corderie at the top of High Street gets its name because in the busy shipbuilding days, rope was made in the path in La Haule property leading from the top of High Street to the house, and which is still called the Rope Walk.
A contract of La Haule shows that in 1770 Philip Marett rented to William Brine for nine years the garden and corderie, on condition that he kept the ground in good order, for 66 livres 13 sols 4 deniers, argent, a year, it being understood that Philip Marett will furnish William Brine with the tools which he needs for his trade of rope maker till he can buy his own.
Probably the oldest house at the top of High Street is the house facing South which is incorporated now in what is named La Tour. It was once called La Maison de Martel, and was the property of Philip Martel. He went bankrupt in 1751 and his property was taken over by Philip Marett of Avranches, St Lawrence, who left it to his daughter, Anne, who sold it to William Brine. The Brine family at one time owned most of the land at the top of High Street.
William Brine's eldest daughter married Philip Le Maistre, who started a boarding school and built the school buildings and tower adjoining the house. This remained for many years a very prosperous boarding school under the Rev George Le Maistre, and afterwards under Mr Vibert. After the latter's death the property was sold to Mr Dart, who converted the school buildings into two houses, the wash house on the opposite side of the road into a house called Bentcliffe, and sold the land adjoining this, all part of the school property, to Archdeacon Heard, who built Sanchi.
The Brine family had possessed on the sea side the land as far as the sea, and part of the cotil of Mont de la Rocque which Philip Brine, son of William, bought from Philip Marett of La Haule. The initials of this Philip Brine and the date 1801 can be seen on the house named Graystone.
The property must have continued a good way down the High Street as Bethanie seems to have been built by Philip John Le Feuvre on what was Brine property, and a Mr Brine used to live in the cottage adjoining that property.
The date 1676 with initials G L B is on the house in Market Hill belonging still, I think, to Miss de Quetteville. The initials stand for George Le Brun for, in 1733, following a dispute it was decided that the steps and path running opposite the house of Jean Vincent, formerly belonging to GeorgeLe Brun, and passing before the yard of Edward Touzel and the gable of the home of Brian Benest, to the road along the quay, was public and the steps and road are still there.
On the wall of the garage along that little road are the initials TP SP, standing for Thomas Pipon, Constable of St Brelade 1701-1713 and his wife Suzanne, fourth daughter of Elie Pipon of Noirmont Manor.
A private house used to stand on the site of the Somerville Hotel. This was burnt down one night and the site sold to Mr Chapman, who built there his own private house, later turned into a hotel and gradually enlarged. Where the long terrace is now were two houses which were demolished for the purpose.
St Aubin's Hospital, or rather 'Home', was founded in 1756 by Mrs Denton on the opposite side of the road to where it now stands, and was moved to its present site when Mr Denton died and his wife gave by her will sufficient money to provide for a larger house. The old St Aubin's Church or Chapel of Ease stood in what is now the garden west of the present Church. In 1716 a petition was sent to the Bishop of Winchester by the inhabitants of St Aubin, asking permission to build a church at their expense.
- The case of the inhabirants of the Town of St Aubin in the Island of Jersey sheweth that the Church of St Brelade standeth in a remote corner of that Parish, and most of the inhabitants have built and settled themselves in a town in the Bay of St Aubin, which of late years hath so increased that it now containeth about two hundred families, encouraged thereunto by a reason that there is the best harbour in the Island, well defended by one of His Majesty's forts, under whose cannon ships may lay secure in a mole or pier adjoining to the said fort, in which His Majesty's ships coming to the said Island usually lay.
- That the advantage of commerce occasion a great concourse of foreign merchants and others to the said town, which is distant from the said parish church about two miles, and the road to the said church is very difficult by reason of many rugged steep ascents and descents, and a great way of moving sands, and that the said inhabitants are exposed to great fatigue by sheer scorching heat in the summer, and the storms of impetuous westerly winds which usually blows there in winter, and from which there is not the least shelter.
- That by the distance from the church and the great inconveniences aforesaid, the infirm of the said town are hindered from the publick worship of God, and others cannot frequently attend it without endangering their health.
- That dying infants have not the benefit of Baptism and agonizing Christians dying without the consolation of the Church, before the Minister (whose house is adjacent to the church) can be called and repair to them. That such as come to the church cannot return between morning and evening service, but are exposed to the inconveniencys of expenses for their necessorys, and of staying at some publick house near the said Church.
- That the said inhabitants, for the advancement of the Glory of God, and the increase of piety, having formed a design to erect a Chapel of Ease in the said Town of St Aubin, in which Divine Service is to be celebrated in French every Sunday according to the Church of England, and prayers every Wednesday and Friday, and for the advantages of His Majesty's the English tongue, Divine Service shall be celebrated, English Sermons will be preached at least once a month, whereupon application having been made to the Diocesan, a licence has been obtained for the erecting of said Chapel.
- But whereas according to moderate calculation of able workmen, the charges of building the said chapel will amount to a greater sum than their narrow circumstances can furnish, they pray all Pious persons to encourage and advance so pious a work with their contributions."
It was a long way to St Brelade's Church and a difficult one if one remembers that after mounting the hill the way across the bay was only by the sands or sand hills.
The church was a square, barn-like building with high pews placed round a slightly raised platform on which stood the communion table, the reading desk and the tall pulpit with desk underneath for the clerk.
A steep wooden stair near the main entrance led up to a wide gallery, in the centre of which was the organ with seats for the choir and Sunday school, and a few pews.
At the back against the wall were two large blackboards on which were written the Commandments in gold letters. The glory of the church was its roof. It was painted a pale blue, dotted with gold stars, and in the centre was a triangle in gold forming the word Jehovah, towards this floated angels in a circle, and at the corners of the ceiling angels again appeared blowing trumpets.
The evening service used to be in French and the old Rector, Mr Falle, changed his white surplice for his black Genevan gown before the sermon, while the clerk, Mr Lafond, led the responses from his desk.
About the year 1888 the building was pronounced unsafe and it was decided to build a new church. The foundation of the present building was laid on 4 June 1889 and for three years the service was held in the parish schools, which were church schools.
How these present-day schools came into existence ought to be recorded. The Rev Samuel King and his wife came to St Aubin in 1850 and built and lived in Cardington Lodge at the entrance of Noirmont Avenue. It was due to them that a dame's school for infants, kept by a Mrs Queripcl at Hilbré in Market Hill, grew into a bigger school for St Aubin's children.
Under their auspices working parties were started to help to pay the expenses of this little school in the lower room of the house, and later of an upper school held in the upper room of the same house. Miss Scott, niece of Mrs King and only daughter of Scott, the commentator on the Bible, with the help of other ladies of whom my mother was one, collected seaweeds dried and mounted them and made them into albums, the sale of which helped to pay the expenses of the school for 14 years.
De la Rue of London made a present to the collectors of a handsomely bound book which was filled with seaweeds named by Miss Scott and presented to Queen Victoria, through Lord Wriothesley Russell. Her Majesty sent £20 in return with a request that Miss Scott should purchase Harvey's book on seaweeds and give the rest (£14) to the school fund.
As many as 250 specimens were in each album of seaweeds. Besides supporting the junior school, the sale of seaweeds gave £10 a year for two or three years to the upper school, and thus by the help of friends the education was carried on in both schools till Sir John le Couteur of Belle Vue adopted the infant school as a thanks offering for his preservation in battle.
Bazaars were then organised to get larger premises. These were held at Belle Vue, and Hibernia Vale in Mont les Vaux was bought, and Mr and Mrs Paul appointed as master and mistress. There were then 210 children, 76 boys, 54 girls and 80 infants.
Bazaars at Belle Vue, La Haule Manor and a grand fete in the St Aubin's Railway Terminus kept the school going and helped to collect money to build a new school and the foundation stone of the present school building was laid by the Bishop of Winchester, Harold Browne, on 5 June 1878 and the school opened by the Bishop two years later.
With the passmg of the Compulsory Education Act, with free education, the school, which was a church school, ceased to be supported by public subscription and children's fees and was finally handed over to the States Education Committee with the proviso, however, that out of school hours it should belong to the trustees. Till the past war a jumble sale was annually held in the school after school hours. Hibernia Vale still belongs to the Trustees.
St Aubin had a market from early days, the first mention is in 1584, and in 1682 the market day was Monday; the present market was built in 1771, the date could formerly be seen on the stone outside. It has lost its size and all its importance. An Act of the States of May 1772 states that the market and office of public weights ordered to be built according to a plan of 9 October 1770 and 1 June 1771 was finished. The date is sometimes given as 1824, perhaps some addition was made then. It is the possession of a market that gives it the status of a town not a village.
Among the rentals due to the King in St Brelade for the year 1749 is this:
- "The King has an old house or Cellar called ‘’le Cellier du Roi’’ in St Aubin's Town, upon which cellar there is due to John Seale two cabotels of wheat rente; the said cellar wants much repair."
I have not found out where this cellar was and whether it still exists. There was also, in 1668, the King's Weights, situated, it is said, where Hilbré is now, Market Hill.
St Aubin has always been a town, not a village, as some of our newer residents call it, but it was never the former capital of Jersey as the tourist agencies persist in calling it. There was a village at St Helier long before St Aubin, in proximity to the Abbey of St Helier, founded by Marculf on the Islet where Elizabeth Castle now stands.
We find that from the earliest times the Court always held its sittings in St Helier, and the deeds passed before the Bailiff and Jurats state that they were executed in St Helier. Also, the chief market place was in the Royal Square. Perhaps the idea arose from the name of the Old Court House being given, as I mentioned before, to the old house on the Bulwarks. Perhaps the name originated from the Seigneur of Noirmont holding his Seignorial Court there.
The Seignorial Courts were held regularly in old days. Noirmont has its rolls back to 1550 and the court books of several other Jersey fiefs are still in existence. Perhaps in the days of privateering the Admiralty Court for the division of prize money may have been held there.
Now for the names of a few famous people who have visited St Aubin. The only grandee we read of as having slept in St Aubin in early days was Lord Somerset, son of the Marquess of Dorchester, who arrived in Jersey in December 1646 after the fall of the Castle of Raglan and stayed a night and day in St Aubin, where he arrived before going to Elizabeth Castle as a guest to Sir George Carteret.
But we have had some famous visitors. Alfred Tennyson, the poet, whose brother Frederick lived in Jersey, landed from a pleasure boat and spent some time on the Boulevard. We are told that Charles II, when in exile in Jersey, frequently sailed over from Elizabeth Castle, for a merry jaunt, to St Aubin and, so legend says, once turned aside with his lively retenue up Bulwark Hill for a draught of water from the well now hidden by a house half way up.
Louis Philippe Albert, Comte de Paris, pretender to the French throne, stayed a few days at the Somerville Hotel and the old noblesse of France flocked over the sea to greet their monarch, among them Breton nobles in national costume of white, short jackets adorned with many rows of buttons, baggy breeches, broad brimmed velvet hats with streamers finished by tiny silver crosses.
Queen Victoria's visit
Lily Langtry, also, who after her marriage lived for a time at Noirmont Manor, spent many a day going fishing from St Aubin's harbour with George Marett, a well known fisherman of his day. But our greatest and most renowned visitor was Her Majesty Queen Victoria, who on her second visit to the Island in 1859 made a surprise visit to St Aubin.
She had paid her state visit to St Helier in the morning and after returning to her yacht decided to make an impromptu visit to St Aubin to see something of the Island. So she, with Prince Albert in one boat, with Prince Alfred and Princess Alice and suite in another, were rowed over to St Aubin.
No one was expecting them; all who could had gone to welcome the Queen at St Helier. The sailors drew up at the pierhead and Prince Albert jumped out and helped the Queen up the steps. Meanwhile Colonel Le Couteur, the aide-de-camp, arrived in his carriage, his face beaming with joy at receiving her Majesty in his own parish.
There was but a small group of onlookers, mostly poor folk and children, who having seen the boats crossing from the yacht, had gone to the pier to see what was happening. The Queen was wearing black silk, with a grey mantle, and one old woman pressed up gently behind her and stroked her mantle with her finger tips that she might tell her descendants that she had touched the Queen. Another a little bewildered at the Queen's lack of magnificence murmured: Mais ou n'a pas sa couronne, ou'es qu'est sa couronne?
Two carriages were waiting for the Royal party and Gregory of the well-known livery stables had provided a smart, silk-lined equipage for the Queen. The aide-de-camp, walking backwards, conducted the Queen to it. The centenier attempted to shepherd the onlookers into some order on so great an occasion. But it was too unexpected, he himself forgot and turned his back on the Queen.
He walked forward shouting to the uncomprehending onlookers: Mais criez hourrah donc, Criez hourrah. But nobody cried 'hourrah'. Amid dumbfounded silence on the part of the onlookers the Royal party set out for St Catherine, passing through St Peter's Valley and the leafy lanes of the northern parishes. It was not till the cannon from Elizabeth Castle gave the signal for the departure of the squadron that the St Aubinais quite realized who had been amongst them.
Notes and references
- ↑ The use of perquages as sanctuary paths has now been disproved by an article in a later edition of the Annual Bulletin