West Park today is dominated by traffic. Sandwiched between the Esplanade on one side - the main gateway to St Helier from the west - and St Aubin's Road and Victoria Avenue on the other, carrying thousands of vehicles a day in either direction, it is undoubtedly the island's busiest crossroads. A century and a half ago things were very different, as this painting which had the place of honour on the cover of the special bulletin published to mark the centenary of La Société Jersiaise
in 1973, shows so vividly. Painted by Felix Benoist in 1870, according to a note in the bulletin, the painting shows the area in much greater detail than any of the photographs which survive from that era. The view is from the summit of westmount, where a Victorian family is shown enjoying the outlook. Below them horses graze among rocky outcrops, long since levelled . But it is the scene along the coast which is most fascinating. No sea wall has yet been built, and a large shipyard occupies the shoreline on the right, smoke belching out of its chimney. There are further similar chimneys to the left, one standing next to the site now occupied by the Grand Hotel, which would not appear for another two decades. Benoist shows clearly how the town of St Helier has already spread to what remains its western boundary to this day, the Triangle Park and People's Park providing a valuable open space. This painting, which was in the collection of John Blench at the time of the centenary, is one of the best overall views of the island's capital town to survive from Victorian times. But there is something missing from the picture which suggests that the date of 1870 might not be correct. A year earlier the States had agreed to the establishment of Jersey's first railway, from the Weighbridge to St Aubin. The lines were laid and test runs were taking place in September of the following year. So when did Benoist undertake this work? It seems inconceivable that he would have ignored the railway line when his painting includes so much other detail, so either it was painted in 1870 from sketches made before the track was laid, or the date is incorrect. Can any Jerripedia user thrown any further light on this mystery? Update, October 2017. This picture was added to the site in 2011, and to this page in March 2016. Further research has now revealed that it is not an original colour painting, but a coloured version of lithograph, published in Album de L'Ile de Jersey
by Felix Benoist in 1870. It is, therefore, highly likely that Benoist's original drawing was made on a visit to Jersey several months before publication, so it could easily have been made before the railway track was approved and laid.