The Town Hall, St Helier's parish hall, was built in 1872. It replaced the earlier Hotel de Ville, which was a converted Methodist chapel in Don Street.
Before this parish meetings and other business were conducted in various inns and taverns, and before that, in the Town Church, until the States prohibited the use of the parish churches for secular activities.
Apart from the municipal offices on the ground floor and large Assembly Room above, the Town Hall has, over the years, been home to the island's paid police force, its fire brigade and, for much of the 20th century, its Police Court.
Indeed, the building did not start life as a town hall. According to F Le Sueur and C Rice in their 1938 report the building was States property, erected by the orders of the Comité de la Police Salariée from plans prepared by architect Philip Le Sueur, architect. The Town Hall had been built by the States in 1872 as a police station, with the Constable of St Helier being allowed use of part of the building for public administration. The building also housed the town fire brigade, which initially was staffed by members of the Paid Police.
In 1901 a Police Court was added, designed by Percy Aubin and destined to be used throughout the 20th century.
On 31 December 1965 the Parish of St Helier became the owner of the Town Hall, the title having been transferred from the States of Jersey. As the Police and Fire Services, who had originally been based in the building, had by that time relocated to Rouge Bouillon, the Town Hall could be used solely for parish affairs. The Town Hall was valued at £30,000 at the time of the 1965 exchange. Its sale formed part of the Deed of Exchange and Counter Exchange for land at Mount Bingham and La Collette.
The original building was designed by Philippe Le Sueur and Philippe Bree. Dormers in the mansard roof were installed in 1967, when the interior was remodelled to designs by Le Sueur and Baker. Philippe Le Sueur and Philippe Bree also designed the former Seaton Youth Centre, Wesley Methodist Chapel and the reconstruction of the Royal Court in 1877.
An almanac entry from the late 19th century indicates that the Town Hall cost £3,000 to build,of which the States paid a third and the parish two-thirds. If this is correct it raises the question of why the States owned the property for nearly 100 years before transferring it to the parish.
It may be, however, that this was only the building cost, and the cost of buying the land tipped the balance in the States' favour. There were six transactions by which the States acquired land on which the Town Hall was built, and these are recorded both before and after the 1872 construction date, suggesting that the original structure was added to in stages, the cost of which may also have been borne by the States.
- A contract dated 4 June 1870 from John George Welch
- A contract also dated 4 June 1870 from John Wakeham
- A contract dated 27 June 1870 from the Parish of St Helier
- A contract dated 22 January 1876 from Philippe Falle, (part of which was then sold on 24 May 1884 to Henry Ahier),
- A contract dated 24 May 1884 from Mrs Elize Ahier, nee Le Huquet, (the wife of Henry Ahier mentioned above)
- A contract dated 16 August 1884 from George Francis Marett
Gallery of pictures of the town hall over the years
The parish owns a substantial art collection, much of which is on display in the Town Hall Assembly Room. It started as the private collection of a 19th century Constable, Pierre Le Sueur. When he died they were inherited by his sister-in-law, Mrs Lucinda Mary Turner, who donated 23 pictures to the parish in 1890. Included among the parish's collection, but not forming part of Your Paintings, are a number of watercolours by John Le Capelain, on display in a parish committee room.
A gallery of pictures on display in the Town Hall Assembly Room. Descriptions are taken from a booklet commissioned by the parish in 2009 from Sophie Gorman. Click on any image to see a full-size version, or click on the title to see a full-size picture and description of the work
La Repasseuse, by French revolutionary artist David
Girl and a canary, 1860; F Bennluancq
Procureurs du Bien Public, 2011; Anna Le Moine Gray
Ship on Fire, School of Peter Monamy
Boyhood of Raleigh, 1934; Charles Emile Jacque (after Millais)
Figures and barges in an estuary, 1848; Egidius Linnig
Tavern interior; Dutch School
Miss Julia Westaway, 1898; Thomas Herbert Maguire
Winter scene; Andreas Schelfhout school
Boy and dog, 17c; Gerard Ter Borch
Edwin Wyndham Hettich, St Helier Deputy
Mrs Caroline Perrot, early 19c
Drunkard's wife, 1860; John Arg
Poultry Store, 1834; Petrus Van Schendel
Ratcatchers, 1857; George Armfield
Young girl with two puppies; English School
Interior of a fish shop by candlelight; after Gerrit Dou
Dutch shipping; Dutch School
Boors quarrelling in a tavern; after David Teniers
Tavern brawl; after David Teniers
Dutch interior, 1848; Egidius Linnig