The Grand Hotel on the Esplanade is one of Jersey's oldest and most famous hotels. It opened on 13 June 1890 and soon became one of the most fashionable hotels in the Island.
The hotel as it opened in 1890
The site of the Grand Hotel already had a long tradition in the tourism industry. The first hotel located there was Hotel Empress Eugénie, which became the Marine and Baths Hotel in the 1860s or 70s. In 1871 the hotel was run by Simeon Jewell, an Englishman, and the establishment was popularly known as Jewell's.
Simeon, was Jewish and was a Trustee in buying a property in Upper Grove Place for building a Synagogue. He also had an interest in quite a number of properties in St Helier including the Esplanade Brewery.
In September 1887 at a meeting at the Town Hall, the Jersey Humane Society presented its Silver Medal to Joseph Jewell, probably Simeon's brother, of the Marine Hotel, for saving upwards of 20 lives. He had already received a medal from the Royal Humane Society in 1869. Simeon died the following year, and his widow Hannah died in Brighton in 1897.
The Marine Hotel was bought by The Grand Hotel (Jersey) Limited from Thomas Le Geyt Curry in 1889. The foundation stone of the new hotel was laid in September 1890. The British Press and Jersey Times described the hotel as "commodiously,not to say luxuriously, furnished throughout" and said that all visitors wwould "have their every want carefully studied and met". The newspaper was also impressed by the presence of two fine Billiard tables. Such was the importance placed on the game that in the 1901 census Peter Oliver, a 16-year-old from St John, was employed at the hotel as a billiard marker.
Claude Debussy, the great French composer, stayed at the Grand Hotel in the summer of 1904. His personal life was filled with scandal. In 1899 he had married Rosalie Texier, a dressmaker. He later met Emma Bardac, the wife of a rich banker, and they began an affair in 1904, visiting Jersey and staying at the hotel.
During World War 2 the hotel was taken over by the occupying German forces as administration offices and accommodation for senior personnel, with prisoners of war in the cellars.
After the war the hotel was sold to Leslie Sangan, who ran it until 1976, when the Lapidus family purchased the company. A UK hotel chain then took over in 1981 until Hilwood Resorts and Hotels acquired the Grand in April 2006.
Over the years The Grand has been chosen to host many important events, including the Liberation 60 State Banquet in 2005, with guests the Queen and Prince Philip.
From The Historical Hotels and Inns of Jersey by Philip Ahier and W S Ashworth
The foundation stone of the Grand Hotel was laid on the same day as the statue of Queen Victoria was unveiled. This statue now stands on Victoria Avenue, in close proximity to the hotel . The stone, which was removed from its original site some years ago, and was installed in the wall of the covered arcade within the hotel, is inscribed:
- "This stone was laid
- By his Excellency
- Lieut-Gen C B Ewart CB, RE,
- of the Island
- on the 3rd Day
- of September 1890"
When it was removed a leaden casket was discovered which contained coins, newspapers and the personal cards of the directors of the company, and the prominent people concerned in the planning and building of the hotel.
The company, which was formed in 1882, did not commence trading until 1890. The hotel became one of the most fashionable in the island. A brocuhre issued by the directors of the company in 1894 gives the following information:
- "This is the only first class hotel on the sea front in St Helier and is constructed after the design of J E Colcutt Esq, architect of the Imperial Institute, later London University, with all the latest improvements and every home comfort. The position of the hotel is unique, standing 20 feet above sea level and commanding a magnificent view of the picturesque and romantic bay of St Aubin."
During the early years of its functioning a visitors' book was kept in which remarks concerning the organisation and running of the hotel were duly recorded. On the brochure previously mentioned no less than 66 distinguished visitors expressed their views, from which the following are culled:
- "Sir William and Lady Crookes have been six days, and can speak most highly of the comfort and excellent management of the Grand Hotel"
- Sir Wilfred Laurier, Prime Minister of Canada: "L'ile de Jersey est un endroit charmant et le Grand Hotel tout a fait digne de Jersey".
- M Waldeck-Rousseau, Prime Minister of France: "On arevient avec plaisir au Grand Hotel et on ne le quitte qu'avec regret."
- A Choates, the American Ambassador in London and his family "have stayed several days in this hotel and found everything most comfortable and satisfactory".
- "Sir Edward Clarke and Lady Clarke have stayed here for a week and found the hotel very confortable, the management is excellent, the cooking good and the staff attentive"
- "Mr Rockerfeller and his family, of New York, have found the Grand Hotel very pleasant and comfortable; attendance and cooking very satisfactory"
- Lillie Langtry:"We have been excellently served and waited on and made most comfortable".
- HSH Captain PRince Louis of Battenberg, RN, and a party of officers on duty remained at the Grand Hotel for a few days and found it "most conformtable and desirable in every way".
Various members of the Royal Family have been entertained by the States at special banquets, including Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Marina, Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother.
The Grand Hotel has been the venue for luncheons, dinners, banquets, 'at homes' and dances, including a Calico Ball held on 18 December 1903.
A court martial was held on 14 December 1914. Edwin Single was charged with spreading a report likely to cause alarm among His Majesty's civilian subjects in Jersey in contravention of the Defence of the Realm Act of 1914. The court sentenced him to 14 days imprisonment but recommended him to mercy. The Lieut-Governor Sir Alexander Rochfort commuted the sentence and he was released.
After the Hotel was used to house German troops during the Occupation, it was taken over by the Royal Engineers, then a Polish Unit. It became a hostel for Welsh girls who came to Jersey to pick tomatoes.
In 1947 and 1948 'an army of workmen' moved in to restore the property, which was purchased by Louis Sangan.
Click on image to see larger picture
Grand Hotel guests welcomed at the Harbour, photographed by Percival Dunham
Pictures from 1905 hotel brochure
Notes and references
- ↑ Actually in Triangle Park immediately next to the hotel. It is the Victoria Monument which is on the edge of Victoria Avenue, where it has stood since erected