Francis Voisin

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Francis Voisin


The founder of Voisin's department store in St Helier

Francis Voisin (baptised Francois) 1816-1894, was the founder of Voisin's department store in King Street. He was the son of Francois and Elizabeth Gibaut, and was born in St Lawrence.

He came from a farming family, but after his marriage to Jeanne Catherine Bishop, he took over the 26 King Street haberdashery business she had inherited. As the business grew he went into partnership with Charles Bisson, from 1858 to 1876, as Voisin, Bisson and Company. Charles Bisson looked after the store while Voisin travelled extensively to buy goods, as the business expanded into millinery and tailoring, hardware, ironmongery and furniture, and spread in King Street and through to New Street and Don Street.

Francis Voisin also became involved in banking, and Voisin's Bank survived the bank crashes in the 1880s and continued to take deposits until 1896, by which time the major English banks had taken the majority of the local establishments' business.

He and Charles Bisson both retired in 1876 and the business passed to Francis Bishop and Emile Voisin, assisted by their brother John, who devoted most of his time to his role as a Lt-Colonel in the Militia. In due course Francis Bishop Voisin bought out his brothers and the business remained in the family, with Francis Hazzard Voisin; his son Gerald Hazzard Voisin; his brother Francis Ogier Voisin; his nephew Gerald Francis Voisin; and his son Francis Gerald Voisin successively in control.

Today Gerald Francis Voisin remains in charge of what is claimed to be the oldest established family business in the British Isles.

After his retirement Francis Voisin entered politics, becoming Constable of St Helier from 1878 to 1881, and overseeing the development of the important public open areas which remain to this day in the Parade, Westmount Gardens and People's Park, as well as the opening of Mont a l'Abbe cemetery, where he was buried in 1894 in a new family vault.

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