St Aubin Market

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This article by Philip Ahier was first published in the 1960 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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The market in 1959

First mention

We first hear of a Market in 1584 in the Acte des Etats of September 19 of that year, when we read that the Parish of St Brelade had not yet contributed any money towards the liquidation of the debt on the building. £4 sterling was still required for that purpose and both the Royal Court and the States decreed that that parish should raise £1 6s 8d while the balance was to be obtained from the other parishes.

However, on 27 May 1585 the Parish had not met its obligations; they were ordered to pay the four nobles (£1 6s 8d) to Le Vicomte. At the meeting of the States, the rents to be paid by the stall-holders were fixed, a silver crown by the butchers and 20 sols by the bakers. No clue is given as to how many stalls then existed.

It would seem that this Market remained in existence till 1770 when it had apparently outlived its purpose, but we do know that in 1682 the market day at St Aubin was fixed for Mondays.

New plans

The States on 9 October 1770 approved a plan to erect new market premises as well as Public Weights. But on 1 June 1771 the plans were altered so as to have the following dimensions, 28 feet long, 20 feet wide and 12 feet in height.

On 18 July 1772 the States received the report of the committee appointed to erect the markets from which it appears that the building was finished. The building materials which were not used in the work of erection were sold; the final cost was estimated to amount to 2112 livres, 13 sols 2 deniers - approximately £160 in sterling in that year.

Some question had arisen whether the six pillars forming the colonnade should be made of Portland stone or of Mont Mado stone, or even in oak. However, the committee decided on Portland stone at a cost of £33 sterling.

A date stone with the year 1771 incised in it could be seen on the walls of the building, but after the third structure was erected, it was embedded in the pavement where it still remains. The names of some of the builders, tilers and plasterers have been preserved, the masters being Nic Le Quesne, Jean Romeril and Matthew Horton.

Larger building needed

In the meantime, St Aubin had become a very important mercantile port, so it was very necessary to have more commodious markets than those erected in 1772. Consequently, on 10 August 1824, the States decided to erect a new market there and to hold one or two lotteries to pay for the same. This was a device used by the States over a hundred years ago to raise money by pandering to the sporting proclivities of the Jersey public.

The Markets Committee were authorized to organise these two lotteries as they had had considerable experience in this direction in running some between the years 1792 to 1808. Eight Commissioners were named, they were most meticulous in following the procedure which had been formerly adopted regarding the numbering of the tickets etc.

These Commissioners informed the public that the contract for the erecting of the Markets had been given to Messrs. Pierre Bosdet and Nic Le Quesne, who were prepared to do the job for £775 sterling. It was hoped that the work would be finished by 1 January 1826, and the Gazette informed its readers: "It is therefore unnecessary for us to expatiate any further upon the advantages of a public building of this character".

2,500 tickets each of 24 livres (£1) were issued and the first prize was 6,000 livres (£250). But before the lottery could take place, the wheels in the lottery apparatus had got broken, and so it was necessary to have them repaired.

Lottery draw

In order to make the lottery a success, the Commissioners hit upon a happy idea of arranging a spectacular procession:

"The draw, fixed for Monday, 28 March 1825, will begin at 9 am, all the tickets (2,500) should be drawn that day, consequently all the Members of the States Committee should be in the Court House at 8.30 am to open the wheels.
" At 7 am the wheels will be placed on a superbly decorated carriage with four boys dressed in magnificent robes garlanded with coronets, etc. The procession will start from the Constable's home (Thomas Duhamel) and proceed to the Royal Square going through the principal streets of the Town preceded by a band playing Le Gros Prix de six mille francs. The carriage will arrive in the Square at 8 am and the wheels will be transferred to the Royal Court, placed in the vestibule, the band in the meanwhile playing God Save the King."

Errors in plan

So much for the advertisement in order to get people to part with their money, now for the building operations. On 25 May 1825, errors in the plan drawn up by the architect, William Thompson, were discovered so the Acte of the Markets Committee tells.

Bosdet threw up the job in disgust. He had built a southern wall of 84 feet but the architect wanted 94 feet. The States were summoned to deal with the situation and recommended that the work of building the markets should continue. Reading the Actes of the Markets Committee, there is reason to believe that Bosdet was placated handsomely, for on 15 June the Committee told him to lengthen the southern wall by ten feet, and so everything was beautifully smoothed over.

On 18 March 1826 it was reported to the States that the building was not completed and that more money was required; so two more lotteries were ordered to be organised in 1826; even then four more lotteries were required to obtain money for the payment of these Markets.

The structure was completed on the early part of July 1826 and on 18 July 18 the States ordered it to be opened to the Public. The names of the first six stall-holders were Messrs. Monk, Frank Laffoley, Richard Hayne, William Fleury, Philippe Bisson and Jean Le Cornu, who each paid 25 livres rent yearly (approximately one guinea).

It was not till 17 July 1828 that the final settlements to Pierre Bosdet were made. In an Acte of the Markets Committee of that date, it appeared that he had received £46 15s 9d too much for the erection of the market. The States Treasurer was authorized to receive that amount from Mr Bosdet. Incidentally, after the contretemps of 25 May 1825, when he had threatened to proceed with the building, the States gave him £900 to carry on; his contract price had been £775.

Then on this day, the Markets Committee deemed it advisable to make it public that the plan for the structure as previously drawn up by Mr Thompson was not in the least erroneous.

The Market at St Aubin declined in importance when transport facilities to St Helier became more frequent, especially after the construction of the Jersey Railways and Tramways. Two of the stalls were closed, one was converted into a shed for housing the Fire Engine of the Municipality of St Brelade. The other was used as a temporary lock-up wherein to detain infringers of the law until they were removed to appear before the Police Court in St Helier.

A contraption similar to that found in the door of the prison at Knaresborough Castle, Yorkshire, was inserted in it so that the Honorary Police of St Brelade could ascertain whether the prisoner had broken jail. It was also used for passing through it "slight refreshments".

Update

Not part of original article The new building was opened in 1826, on land acquired by The States on 8 January 1825. This building is located almost opposite the Parish Hall, and is now the NatWest Bank. The road beside it is known as Market Hill. The site acquired measured 21ft x 89ft.

The Market building was opened on 18th July 1826 to stall holders. The rents were fixed at 25 livres (about £1.15 in 2013) per year.

Originally the sum of £775 had been considered enough for the project, but the cost increased to £900. As time passed, St Helier took over as the centre of commerce and the St Aubin Market declined. For a time part of it was used as the Parish of St Brelade Fire Station, while another area became a temporary Jail. Gradually, the building fell into disuse until renovated to become a branch of the National Westminster Bank in 1962, opened in July 1962.

NatWest Bank is now owned by Royal Bank of Scotland International as of the 1 January 2003.

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