From St Saviour parish magazine
By Roy Le Herissier
The Copps, Champions and Jolins were the three families who dominated brick making in St Saviour. At one time there were 24 brickfields in the island, with a concentration in Mont a l’Abbe and St Saviour. The heyday of the industry was in the 19th century, although the last known brickfield carried on until the early 1950s and was at J W Huelin’s at Five Oaks (now the Normans site).
We start with Southview, operated by the Copps. It was worked from the 1890s to 1914. It sees Southview is the house now known as Sunnydene – the big house on the corner of Grande Route de St Martin and the Maufant Road. For years there was a sign and decorative brick work on thehouse gable (Maufant Road side). The sign referred to the Copp family but is now painted over.
The excavated brickfield (or more properly clayfield) is just past Sunnydene up the Maufant Road. Like a lot of former brickfields it can be recognised because it is lower than the road and, even though a small housing estate has now been built, there is clear evidence of a large hole. Apparently the base of the kiln could be seen up until 1980.
The other major brickfield was found at Five Oaks and was owned by the Champion family. They also had major brickfields at Mont a l’Abbe, just past the Motor Mall site going in the Town direction.
One of the clayfields for the Five Oaks brickfield was on the site now occupied by the JEP, next to Le Geyt Farm. Before the JEP arrived the site consisted of a large hole. (Editor's note: This hole had been filled in some time before the Jersey Evening Post moved to Five Oaks in 1977. The building now occupied by the newspaper was converted from a large agricultural canning factory which was already on the site.)
Apparently there was also a large excavated hole on the now Norman’s site which was used in later years as a rubbish dump, accessed from Rue a la Dame.
Mr Champion built and occupied Aylesbury House in Five Oaks and was also famous for building the Troglodyte Caves, a famous 19th century tourist attraction to be found on what is now Clos Paumelle Estate.
The other major yard was found, unsurprisingly, in Old Brickfield Lane, Longueville. Look to the left of the small estate opposite the workshops of Derek Warwick. It was owned by the Jolins who had the dubious distinction of having a son, Daniel, who killed his father, the owner, with a brickbat and was the last person to be publicly hanged at Gallows Hill.
There were also brickfields at Croix Besnard, but little further information is available.
Why did brickmaking boom and what led to its demise? The massive programme of fortification building in the Napoleonic Wars undoubtedly contributed, as did the growth in the town following large scale immigration in the early to mid-19th century. The Island’s trade with Gaspe and Newfoundland in North America provided another use for bricks. Ships came with cod for the island and Europe and left with bricks as ballast. If you want evidence of Jersey brick houses and structures you will find them in the Gaspe and Newfoundland as well as Jersey.
The last major building to be built of brick was the Forum Cinema. To see one of the last major examples standing, go to the Parcels Office of the Post Office in Commercial Street, where there are large walls built of Jersey brick. It was the custom for the brickyards to stamp their names on their bricks but there are no names visible at the Post Office building. Perhaps these bricks were laid with the names facing inwards or in nooks and crannies not open to public view.
Why did the industry decline? There were changes to building methods, cheaper bricks could be imported from England and the clayfields became exhausted. Because of subsequent building the evidence of this once prolific industry has largely disappeared