A Street Story history of First Tower

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What's your street's story? - First Tower


W18FirstTowerAlbertSmith.jpg

An early 20th century photograph of First Tower by Albert Smith. First Tower Institute, the working men's club referred to in the article, is on the left of the picture. It has since moved again to Route es Nouaux, the opposite side of St Aubin's Road (click on image to see larger version)


This article is based on a 2017 presentation by archivist Stuart Nicolle in Jersey Archive's What's your street's story? series


The First Tower area has come a long way in the last 200 years. Barely developed in the 18th century, it is now a busy residential suburb on the outskirts of St Helier and, straddling Victoria Avenue and St Aubin's Road, thousands of motorists pass through every day on their way to and from the town from the west of the island.

On the 1795 Richmond Map there are hardly any recognisable buildings apart from the tower, from which the area derived its name. In the 18th century the area was mostly marshland.

Tower

On the 1849 Godfray Map some development is evident. The previously solitary tower was then surrounded by different structures as the town expanded and the road to the island's second town of St Aubin became more populated and desirable.

The tower was built in the 1780s as part of the fortification programme of the time that was linked to the Napoleonic Wars. Having fallen out of use when the wars ended, the tower was eventually sold by the War Department to the public of the island on 13 June 1896.

Looking from Victoria Avenue towards St Aubin's Road

Clameur de Haro

In 1900 Centenier and later Constable John Edwin Pinel, who was also an advocate, lived at Belle Plage, just west of the tower. On 5 November workmen began changing the layout of the road, passing through his garden. Dismayed by the workers starting to dig up her property and knocking down the fences, Mrs Pinel doused them with a hose while calling for the assistance of her husband.

When he returned he fell to his knees invoking the Clameur de Haro and demanding that the work stopped. This called a halt and both parties went to Court to settle the dispute.

The case was of particular interest because rather than being between two private parties, the Clameur de Haro involved an individual and the States of Jersey in the form of the Main Roads Committee.

Having examined plans and papers relating to the property, the Attorney-General concluded that he did not believe that the land in question belonged to Mr Pinel and that there was no evidence that the States had given the land to him.

After lengthy legal argument the Court ruled that the Clameur had been brought incorrectly, that Mr Pinel did not own the land and that he was to be fined for wrongly raising the Clameur, although at half the normal rate because of the circumstances.

Philanthropy

A piece of land which Mr Pinel did own was La Mielle, near Tower Road. He sold it to another lawyer, Lyndon Rive, in 1927. Mr Rive obviously had a love for animals because he donated part of the field to become the Animal Cemetery, which is still there today. On his death in 1957 he bequeathed the cemetery, together with £10,000 for its upkeep, to the Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who still maintain it today.

Another act of philanthropy in the area involved Gervaise Le Gros, the owner of Seafield at Millbrook. He was a leading figure in the 19th century, becoming an Advocate in 1853 before holding the offices of Greffier, Viscount and Jurat.

In 1869 he bought the Fief de Meleches and became a Seigneur. He donated the land that St Andrew's Park [1] was to be built on.

He wrote to the Constable of St Helier in May 1911 to offer the land for the park, saying that he wanted to give the land on which a dolmen stood to the parish to remain in perpetuity as a public garden and place of recreation.

The crossroads of St Aubin's Road and Mont Cochon

Church

His conditions were that the dolmen was to be looked after by La Société Jersiaise, that a small roadway would be established on the land and that part of it was to be resigned to the Ecclesiastical District of St Andrew for the construction of a church, which was to become St Andrew's Church.

There had been an Anglican place of worship in the First Tower area before St Andrew's was built. From the early 1870s a mission church for All Saints Church was established next to Hope Villa on Mont Cochon, although this was in a temporary wooden structure.

After the gift of land by Mr Le Gros, it was a long time before work began on building the new church. The advent of the Great War meant that minds were focused elsewhere and the price of building materials increased, making it impossible to afford the construction. It was not until 1925 that sufficient funds were raised for the building of the new church again to be considered.

The foundation stone was laid in May 1926, with the Evening Post calling it 'a red letter day for the people of Frist Tower district and also an historic occasion in our island life'.

St Andrew's was not the only place of worship in the area. The Bay Methodist Church was sold into private hands in 2014 but before that it had been a chapel for over 160 years. Trustees for the English Methodist Society bought the land on which the chapel was to be built on 27 February 1847 from Francois Charles Godel and Jean Elie Fauvel.

The gates to Overseas Trading with the business's sun symbol

Overseas Trading

One of the iconic buildings in the area is the former Overseas Trading Corporation factory. In April 1876 Thomas Charles Staples Cook, of Reading, and his business associate William Brett, moved their export business to Jersey to avoid high taxes in the United Kingdom.

Mr Brett established the first tea-packing factory in Jersey in a rented store in Commercial Buildings, moving to Cheapside in 1880.

In 1884 Mr Cook's brother-in-law Joseph Walker succeeded Mr Brett in running the business in Jersey. Mr Cook died in 1890 and then Joseph Walker controlled the whole business, running it with the help of his five sons, William, Frank, Joseph, Ernest and Thomas.

The operation grew and in order to be able to expand further the family bought land and built a factory called Sun Works at First Tower, forming a limited company in 1901 under the name Joseph John Walker and Sons. It was a thriving business and an integral part of First Tower life through the 20th century, until it closed in 1992.

The family's influence in the area did not stop with the business. They played a central role in the building of the Sun Works Bowls Club in 1928. It still exists today behind the new housing development, Jardins du Soleil.

They were also instrumental in setting up a working men's club in the area, first at Delafield House in 1907, and when it outgrew the premises within two years, in a building erected at the business's expense.

The club was set up to provide 'occupation and recreation in their spare time to the boys, and men, who before used to congregate in the neighbourhood, and find an outlet for their energies in a manner which did not always conduce to the peace of the community'.

Notes and references

  1. Commonly known as First Tower Park
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