Val Plaisant

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Val Plaisant


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This article is based on a 2022 presentation by Jersey Heritage

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Val Plaisant is one of the main streets running north from the centre of St Helier, meeting what today is the ring road, and then continuing north as Trinity Road and Trinity Hill.

The date of the picture above is uncertain, but it must have been taken after 1887, when St Thomas' Church, on the left of the picture below, opened, and judging by a few other clues in the picture, probably not very long after that date. The identity of the low building is something of a mystery. It is clearly a shop, perhaps a grocer's, but the name above is very difficult to read and may not relate to the shop.

Manipulation of the picture in Photoshop has not helped very much, but we are inclined to the view that the sign reads 'Mechanics'. Was this the original home of the Jersey Mechanics Institute? This billiards and snooker club, which has been at its current premises in Halkett Place since 1909, was founded in 1864. Did it start out in Val Plaisant, before an earlier move to Union Street? We have been studying almanac street directories for Val Plaisant from 1890 onwards and they have proved little help in identifying the occupants of the shop.

Street listings in this era tended to concentrate on the names of those living on the premises, rather than businesses operating from them. Although it is clear exactly where these properties are, it is difficult to establish how they were numbered at the end of the 19th century. St Thomas' Church swallowed a row of properties, the numbers of which were extinguished. To the left of the three-storey building next to the shop is Windsor Road, and the property on the other corner was No 31, although a succession of almanacs suggest that it was No 33 or 35.

The three-storey building has vanished, along with the shop, and there is now a green open space with Caesarea Court flats behind. The building which was Pension de Famille Francaise still stands, and we believe that to be No 36. Although properties have odd numbers on this side of the road and even numbers opposite, we have confirmed that No 36 was on the 'wrong side' of the road, between Nos 35 and 37, and that the mystery shop would, therefore, have been No 35. Can anybody prove us wrong, or help with further information?

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Street history

Over its long history, Val Plaisant has been home to many interesting individuals of varying backgrounds and professions. But one area in particular has been continually favoured by those in the medical profession. This is where Val Plaisant intersects with David Place and Midvale Road.

A perfect example is Windsor Crescent, which has continued the tradition of housing residents in the medical field to the present day. In particular, 8 Windsor Crescent had a seemingly uninterrupted succession of doctors and their families living at the property over at least 70 years. In 1881 it was the residence of Dr Walter Peel-Yates; in 1891 of Dr Claud Le Quesne; in 1901 of Dr Edward Colson; and in 1911 of Dr Arthur Stamberg.

These doctors were followed by Dr Brendan Bartholomew Kennedy, who lived at 8 Windsor Crescent during the Occupation with his wife, Dorothy, and their seven children, as well as three members of staff. The doctor was well-travelled, having journeyed with his family to Indonesia after living and working in Palestine, the birthplace of one of his children, as well as practicing in Ireland and Jersey.

Doctors exhausted

In his capacity as the Honorary Secretary of the Jersey Medical Society, Dr Kennedy wrote a letter to the Bailiff of Jersey in June 1945 requesting special consideration for those in the medical and nursing professions to be granted leave in the mainland. He stated that “after five years of strenuous, uninterrupted and unremitting service” and having reached “a stage of physical and mental exhaustion”, they were deserving of “a little rest”.

In response, the Bailiff acknowledged and sympathised with Dr Kennedy’s concerns, accepting that allowing medical staff a break could only be an advantage to the public health of Islanders. A list of doctors to be given permits to leave was drawn up in order of priority – Dr Kennedy himself was placed at the end of the list.

Marked two places above Dr Kennedy was Dr Florence Elizabeth Sexton, who lived at Egyptian Lodge, on the opposite side of the crossroads from Windsor Crescent. So-called because of the building’s pseudo-Egyptian detailing, Egyptian Lodge was the residence of several practicing doctors from at least the 1870s through to the Occupation.

One of these was Dr Robert Maxwell Moffat, who was living at Egyptian Lodge in 1901, according to the census that year. He wrote several letters to the Editor of Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph. One of these letters, published in 1893, considered the potential consequences of a cholera outbreak in the Island in the 1890s following its spread in mainland Europe.

Dr Moffat wrote of the impact infection could have on Jersey’s tourism and the sale of potatoes, as well as suggesting particular actions that could be taken to prevent the spread of infection. These included “a vigorous system of immediate reports under a penalty” and “isolation hospitals at convenient centres”.

Dr Sexton, born in Manchester in 1878, was granted permission to practice medicine and surgery in the Island during the summer of 1911. She was based at David Place until at least 1925 and was an active member of the community, giving talks at church services and lending a scientific voice to various events, including meetings of the Women’s Temperance Association.

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