Government House levee in 1938
The Lieut-Governor's official residence is Government House in St Saviour.
The house was originally known as Belmont and was acquired in 1821. The previous Government House was on the corner of King Street and Halkett Place, and before that, at the time of the Battle of Jersey in 1781, it was at Manoir de la Motte.
There is also a "Governor's House" at Elizabeth Castle, dating from its use by Sir Walter Raleigh, who built the castle.
The House is used for a wide range of official functions, and once a year on the eve of the Queen's official birthday, all Islanders are invited to celebrate the occasion at a Government House levée.
From the website of the Office of the Lieut-Governor
Government House stands on St Saviour’s Hill. It is built on land which was bought by the Reverend Philip Le Breton in 1803 (Rector of St Saviour’s Church) who built a house on the site.
In 1814 Francis Janvrin, a prosperous ship owner, bought the property from the Rector and demolished it. He then built the present Government House on the site and called it Belmont.
In 1822 the Lieutenant-Governor Major General Sir Colin Halkett acquired the house. He was unhappy with the one he lived in, which was in King Street where the New Look (previously Woolworths) shop stands today. He thought that the Lieutenant-Governor “would at Belmont possess the desirable opportunity of seeing together, without apparent partiality, such of the inhabitants, and strangers, as naturally expected to be invited to Government House”.
During World War II, the house was occupied by the Germans and General von Schmettow lived there as Commandant. The butler and his wife remained and it was largely due to them that the property remained intact.
Extra storey added
An engraving by P J Ouless of about 1820 shows a symmetrical villa. There was a porch to the east, but not the present porte cochère. There were two storeys, with a rather flat roof, and no dormers.
A third storey was added at some point before 1894. Although the third storey added to the size of the house, it did not really fit in with the previous building design.
On the site of the existing stable block, which has now been converted into cottages, there was another house which became absorbed into the property. The round arch leading into the present kitchen garden may be the only remaining feature of this.
The drive was previously a public lane to St Saviour’s Church. It was purchased by General Robertson in 1810 on the condition that it was not closed to the public until the new military road (now St Saviour’s Hill) was completed.
The 12 acre grounds include a variety of landscapes, gardens and features, such as:
- Formal garden
- Woodland valley
- Walled kitchen garden
- 2 small lakes
- 2 large rose beds
- Herbaceous and shrub borders
- Extensive lawns
The largest lake, clearly visible from St Saviour’s Hill, was created in 2009.
Large receptions and other events are held in marquees on the lawns.
Around the grounds there are trees planted by Royal visitors and former Lieut-Governors, and a variety of commemorative monuments.
The 13 metre wooden flagpole flies the Lieutenant-Governor’s flag when he is in the Island.
The estate is defended by 4 cannons on the bluff overlooking the town. The cannons were made in the early 19th Century. They are naval 64 pounder muzzle loaders converted from 8 inch smooth bore to rifled barrels.
Government House today
Today Government House remains as the residence of the Lieutenant-Governor and his wife. They entertain over 3,000 guests each year at functions in the house and grounds.
Royalty and other important official visitors stay at Government House during their visits to Jersey. The last time HM The Queen stayed was in 2005 for the 60th Anniversary of Liberation.
Government House has a selection of pictures from the Jersey Heritage collection, which are featured in the Your Paintings project.
Click on any image to see a full-size version
Departure of Queen Victoria, 1846; Philip Ouless
Old Peasant Lady with a wicker basket; John St Helier Lander
Shore Scene with figures, Man o' war and rowing boat, 1700; Peter Monamy
Old mill Sussex; Francis Le Maistre
Wooded lane with figures, 1940; Francis Le Maistre
View towards Fort Regent; Francis Le Maistre
Bruges canal bridge; Francis Le Maistre
Shipping scene with a laden man o' war; Peter Monamy
Squadron at sea; Peter Monamy
Coastal scene with fishing boats and martello tower, 1877; John Wright Oakes
Rocky Coast; Francis Le Maistre
Vraic Gathering at Corbiere; John Le Capelain
Click on any image to see a larger version
Lieut-Governor Hugh Sutley Gough at Government House with the Dean between 1904 and 1910
RSM Frank Mustow, of the Victoria College CCF, and Lieut-Governor Vice-Admiral Sir Michael Villiers
A photograph taken in the 1860s by Henry Mullins
Police parade at Government House, photographed by Percival Dunham