L'Habitation du Juge

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This article by F de L Bois was first published in the 1987 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

L'Habitation du Juge
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The landscape artist suffers none of the frustrations of a photographer who, having set up his scene, finds that something which he wishes to include is obscured. Moving to a position where the view is opened up, he finds that he has lost essential parts of the original scene.

No such frustration afflicted Felix Benoist who allowed nothing to stand in his way when he made a drawing of Bouley Bay, and thus a lithograph of 1870 based on his drawing gives many details of interest to those familiar with the locality, of which none is of greater interest than what may fairly be called a palatial dwelling standing at the top of Bouley Bay Hill which is described as l'habitation du Juge.

Nowadays the scene from the same viewpoint shows a well-wooded area effectively obscuring the house which still stands on the site, though somewhat diminished by a conflagration brought about during the Occupation by the Germans' habit of overheating their quarters. But taking all things into account, it must be said that Benoist exaggerates the opulence of the building, perhaps intending to flatter its creator and in ignorance of the fate which was to overtake the latter a very few years afterwards.

Bank collapse

The 'juge' was Jurat Josue Le Bailly, who built the house in the 1860s and called it Rockmount. He was Chairman of the Jersey Mercantile Union Bank, which opened in 1834 and which suddenly and unexpectedly suspended payment at 4.20 pm on 1 February 1873, bringing disaster to him, including the loss of his home.

The disaster was widespread, so much so that Deputy Vickery of Saint Helier was prompted to propose to the States that a £300,000 lottery should be held, with prizes amounting to £65,000.

The preamble to the proposition (translated from the original French) reads as follows:

"The suspension of the payments of the banking-house known as The Jersey Mercantile Union Bank which took place on 1 Februar, 1873, and the closure of the company which is the result thereof, has revealed a situation deplorable for the interests of this country. It has spread ruin among numerous families, who have lived hitherto in ease. It has thrown the general affairs of this country into confusion, which a length of years can alone repair. Mistrust is everywhere; commerce is retarded. Considering that it is necessary to end the present state of anxiety as soon as possible, as it threatens most seriously the interests of the country and to stop, if possible, the ruin of so great a number of families."

On 27 May 1873 the proposition was carried by 28 votes to 5, and the Bailiff (presiding over the Assembly) promptly expressed his dissent to the resolution as lotteries were then illegal. The matter then remained in suspense while it was referred to the Privy Council which, on 26 June, declared the resolution to be void.

Lavoir

As one comes up Bouley Bay Hill, to the left, just before Radio Corner (so called because the van which controls the public address system at motor vehicle hillclimbs is stationed there, the road divides at this point, the main road going off to the right and a steeper road continuing straight ahead) there is a lavoir which has a trough in its centre bearing the date 1834 and the initials HNC, IGLC and ILBLT on one side and the initials CGLC, INC and IMC on the other. Initials of particular interest are CGLC and IGLC, for among those from whom Jurat Le Bailly bought the property which went to make up Rockmount were Clement Gallichan and Jeanneton Gallichan, wife of Jean Gallichan, giving him, no doubt, the right to use the lavoir.

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