From a Jersey Archive factsheet
The story of the Jersey Library starts with a clergyman called Philippe Falle. He was born in Jersey in 1656 and was sent to England to school and went on to study at Oxford University. He was ordained into the ministry of the Church of England, returning to Jersey in 1681, where he became Rector of Trinity for the next six years.
The Governor of Jersey was Lord Jermyn, and he appointed Falle as tutor to his son. He went with his pupil to England, and it was two years before he returned again to Jersey. He was then appointed Rector of St Saviour.
Philippe Falle played a full part in Island life. He was sent by the States as one of two representatives with a petition to the King for improved defences to protect the Island from the French. His various experiences in England showed him how little the English knew about Jersey. He set about writing An account of the Island of Jersey, the greatest of those islands that are now the only remainder of the English dominions in France, with a new and accurate map of the Island. The book was published in 1694. In 1696 Falle turned his attention to his fellow islanders. He was concerned first for the clergymen, and later turned his attention to the needs of others. Two extracts from his writings illustrate this.
In 1696 Falle wrote:
- "Considering the want of good and usefull books among the Clergy of this Island, which straitened as they are, they are not well able to purchase, I greatly augmented a collection which I had begun some years before, designing to give it towards the erecting of a small library in the Island."
In 1734, Falle enlarged his vision:
- "Nothing is more wanted in this Island than a Public Library, the place being out of all commerce of the Learned World, and the Clergy, through meanness of their income, under a disability of laying out much Money upon Books. And such a Library should not, I think, be solely appropriated to the Clergy, but free and open to the better sort at least of the Laity, and be furnished accordingly. Reading would give our Gentlemen juster Notions of Things, enlarge their minds, and render them more useful and serviceable to their Country."
- "There is already some advance made towards this, by the Promise of more than Two Thousand Volumes in most kinds of good Literature, the execution of which Promise is only suspended till a convenient Place can be provided for the reception of the Books."
Falle spent much of his working life in England, as Chaplain to King William III, and later as Prebendary of Durham Cathedral. He moved to Shenley, just to the north-west of London, in 1709, where he remained until his death in 1742. He worked on an enlarged edition of his Account of the Island of Jersey, in addition to other writings. As a lifelong bachelor, with no family to inherit his large book collection, he had decided to give the books to his native island. In order to resolve the problem of nowhere to house the collection, the generous Jerseyman gave a further gift to allow for the erection of a suitable building.
The States accepted Falle's offer of 2,000 books towards a library for the people of the Island. Land was identified near the Town Church by the Old Rectory, and a foundation stone laid in 1737. It took a further six years for the dream to become reality, and the library was finally ready for use in 1743, a year after the death of its founder. The Library was on the first floor of the new building, with accommodation for the Librarian on the ground floor. Regulations were made for use of the library in 1748. The money to pay the Librarian came from subscriptions from all library users, and this system remained in place until 1874. Maybe because of the subscription, and perhaps other factors, the library was not used as much as had been expected. With few users, and little income, there was no money to buy more books. Fortunately for the Library, another benefactor came along.
The Rev Daniel Dumaresq was born in Trinity in 1712. His education started in Jersey at St Mannelier's Grammar School, before he moved to England to school in Abingdon, and then on to Oxford University. He stayed in Oxford until 1746, when he went to St Petersburg in Russia as Chaplain to the English Factory there. In his 17 years there he learnt Russian, and kept up his own studies. He became Chaplain to the British Ambassador in Russia for two years, and made friends with many of the leading men and women in the Court, and managed to retain the respect of everyone, in spite of the corruption within the Russian Court. Even when Dumaresq returned to work at the factory for a few years, he retained his friendships in the Court. He left Russia in 1762 and moved to Somerset as Rector of Yeovilton.
Dumaresq had met Catherine while at the Russian Court. When she became Empress of Russia, she requested his help in setting up schools throughout the land. He gave some time to this project, and when it was completed, he was asked by the King of Poland (another friend from the Russian Court) for help in developing education in Poland. His influence extended far beyond his native island.
Like Falle, Dumaresq never married and had no family to inherit his library. He, too, decided to leave his books to the people of Jersey, and his collection, given in 1800, almost doubled the stock of the Jersey Bibliothèque Publique.
Comments about the Library
John Wesley founded the Methodist movement, and he visited Jersey when he was in his 80s. In 1787 he praised the Library and presented a copy of one of his own works.
Adam Clarke was less well-known, but was also a non-conformist preacher. He visited in 1786 and spent a lot of time in the Library, pursuing his own studies.
The French emigrés who came to Jersey as refugees during the French Revolution were regular visitors to the Library and valued it highly.
An American magazine of about 1850 described the Public Library as "the dustiest, mustiest, collection of ancient and decaying tomes that ever delighted the eyes and nostrils of the book worm!" - was this intended as praise or criticism?
The library was growing both in its book collection and in its use. By the late 1870s the States were discussing the question of a new building. They chose the site beside the Royal Court, and the new Library was opened in 1886. Again the Library was on the first floor, with offices beneath. The Library was on a grander scale than previously, reflecting its increasing influence on Island life.
When the library moved to the Royal Square there were just over 6,000 books to be moved. Within eight years that number had grown to over 18,000. However, none of these books could be borrowed. The library remained as a reference only library until 1934. There was much reorganisation before a separate collection of books was established which could be borrowed. Jersey had been one of the first places in the British Isles to have a public library back in the 18th century, but it was one of the later places to provide a lending service.
In 1931 the Junior Library was opened in Dumaresq Street, with lending and reference sections. It had grown out of the Jersey Church Schools Society, which allowed a room to be used for a small library. The Junior Library moved to the old St Paul's School, where it remained until it joined the adult library in the Halkett Place building in 1989.
The Junior Library occupied a large part of the former school. The entrance to the library area was through a door marked "Boys". There were picture books for the under 5s, fiction for older age groups, and information books for all children up to the age of 14. There were magazines and reference books in a separate reading area. The Schools Library Service was also housed here, and the Mobile Library was parked outside.
The demands on the library's services grew with the growth of the population. Pressure on space in the Royal Square increased, and plans were made for a new library to be built in Halkett Place on the site of the Halkett Place School.
The Queen opened the Library during her visit to the Island in 1989. The new building was much larger than the previous, bringing the children's and adult lending services under the same roof for the first time. The new library also houses areas for reference and information, for local studies, and for music. A garage for the Mobile Library was integrated into the building.