A history of Rozel

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What's your street's story? - Rozel


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A peaceful Rozel harbour in the 1930s before tourism took over


This article is based on a Jersey Archive Street Story presentation


In The Channel Islands - one of the early guidebooks of Jersey published in 1834, the author, Henry Inglis, writes ‘one of, if not the sweetest bays of Jersey, is Rozel’. The Bay is divided between the Parishes of St Martin and Trinity and is a beautiful part of the Island enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

Small creek

In Philippe Dumaresq’s 1685 survey of the Island he describes the area as ‘a small creek called Rosel, where the Islanders keep several boats, both for fishing and for going to the Ecrehous’.

The development of the ‘small creek’ in the two hundred years that followed Dumaresq’s survey was influenced by the fortification of Jersey during the French wars and the rise of the oyster fishing industry. Defence and then trade were therefore at the heart of the growth of Rozel.

In 1739 the States of Jersey discussed the construction of a small fortified boulevard at Rozel Harbour. There is evidence that work had started on the boulevard six years later when Aaron Gavey, one of the ‘entrepreneurs for the erection of the boulevard of Rozel’ is referred to in the States of Jersey minutes. The States signed off the work as finished in 1748.

A 1930s photograph of Rozel Pier

In 1780 the Constable of Trinity was ordered to construct a platform at Rozel Harbour on which it was possible to place two cannons. In 1791 it was agreed that a chain on which boats could be moored should be placed in the harbour.

During the 18th and early 19th century it was the defence of the Island from the French which drove construction projects at Rozel. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 it became trade and the rise of the Oyster fishing industry that continued the development of the harbour.

The industry’s main port was Gorey but the Rozel fishermen saw the development of the harbour as their opportunity to become part of this lucrative trade. By 1834 between 200 and 300 oyster boats were operating from Jersey. The boats employed around 2,000 crew and the industry also created jobs for around 1,000 women and boys.

In 1820 the States of Jersey discussed a petition from the inhabitants of Trinity and St Martin. Attempts had been made for many years to give the boats at Rozel Harbour more shelter. The inhabitants of Rozel pointed out that currently only 6-8 boats could be moored in the Harbour. They proposed that, with more money to construct a better refuge, 30 oyster boats could be accommodated. By 1826 the people of Rozel were asking for a refuge to shelter 40 oyster boats.

Three years later in 1829 the Harbours Committee recommended that a pier should be built and that work should start as soon as possible. They recommended a sum of £2,000 be put aside for the works.

In 1831 development of the role of the harbour continued when Rozel was given the same rights relating to the disembarkation of beef as St Helier, St Aubin and Gorey. By 1845 the States were purchasing land to enlarge the harbour. In July of that year it was agreed that the port needed its own Harbour Master and George Noel was appointed to the post.

The Harbour Master’s account for Rozel from 1849 shows that 90 vessels paying harbour dues arrived in the port during the year. Vessels that came into the harbour a number of times included the Esperance and the Phoenix. Between them these two vessels made up over half the trips into the Harbour through the year.

Shipwrecks

The close relationship between the people of Rozel and sea sometimes had potentially dangerous consequences. Those living at Rozel were witness to shipwrecks and were often involved in rescuing or giving shelter to stricken crew.

In 1816 a French transport ship, La Balance sailing from St Malo to Canada struck the Dirouilles, a reef to the west of Les Ecrehous and 40 people were drowned. The 70 survivors were temporarily housed in the barracks where the men of the 8th Royal Veteran Battalion supplied them with food, beds and clothes.

A receipt at the Jersey Archive shows that some of the locals actually profited from the wreck. In May 1816 Elie de Gruchy was charged 4 livres 2 sous for rope from the wreck of La Balance by J du Heaume.

Shipwrecks around the Jersey coast led the States of Jersey to vote that £150 should be granted for one lifeboat with a cart, boathouse and equipment. The boat was built at Rozel by Mr Lillington, an English shipwright and apparently tested for seaworthiness by 24 men who tried and failed to sink her.

Deckchairs on the beach in 1955

The lifeboat was launched at Rozel on 17 May 1830. Sir John Le Couteur was present at the launch and wrote in his diary ‘I hope she may soon save one life, when she even then will have repaid her expense.’

Whether the lifeboat did ever save a life is uncertain but the inhabitants of Rozel certainly helped save 18 crew in November 1872 when the Norwegian vessel Isabella Northcote went aground on the Ecrehous.

Her distress signals were noticed from the shore and despite the stormy conditions Charles Blampied, a Rozel farmer set out in a rowing boat with Elie Whitely and John Bouchard to rescue the crew.

Blampied and his companions reached the stricken vessel landing 12 of the 18 crew on one of the nearby islets then rowing 6 back to shore before returning for the 12 the next day. The RNLI presented all three rescuers with medals for bravery and £5 each. Mr Blampied was also given a Norwegian silver life-saving medal.

By the 19th century Jersey was becoming a tourist destination and Rozel began to be influenced by the rise in the industry.


Hotels

Rozel Bay Hotel

The Rozel Bay Hotel, now The Rozel Bar and Restaurant, was originally a private house belonging to George Philippe Noel. Noel sold the property to Josué Blampied in 1851. It was Blampied’s son, Josué junior who decided not to follow his father to sea but to open the house as a hotel.

In the 1871 census the property appears as a hotel for the first time with J Blampied junior listed as the head of the household living with his wife Bridget and one groom – Frederic Le Huquet as a servant.

Blampied sold the hotel to John de Gruchy in 1878. de Gruchy very quickly sold the property on to Francis Edward Hyne in 1879. Hyne was a wine and spirit merchant who lived at Roseville Terrace in St Helier and bought the property as an investment. Subsequent records show a number of different landlords in place at Rozel.

The Honorary Police register from St Martin records a dramatic incident that took place at the Rozel Bay Hotel in 1891. On 19th February Edwin Jones and Owen McGovern, both 18 year olds from Liverpool, were arrested. The pair were accused of creeping into the stables of the hotel and killing a horse and two chickens. On the same night they stole 9 bottles of liquor from the house of Walter Thomas Le Cocq at Rozel. They were sent to Court on 21st February.

Chateau La Chaire

The principle hotel in Rozel today is the Chateau La Chaire. La Chaire was originally a private house constructed on land bought by Harriet Fothergill, née Curtis in 1841 and 1844.

It was Harriet’s father, Samuel Curtis who is famous for planting the beautiful array of plants at La Chaire which have been described as ‘probably the greatest diversity of subtropical plants of any British garden before or since…’

Rozel in 1951

Samuel was born in 1779 and published a number of botanical books during his lifetime. He became editor and proprietor of The Botanical Magazine in 1827. He spent much of the 1830s looking for the perfect climate and conditions to develop a ‘tropical garden’ in Great Britain and found these at La Chaire. Samuel died in 1860 and is buried in St Martin’s Churchyard.

After her father’s death Harriet continued to live at La Chaire. The house passed out of the Curtis family in 1898 when it was purchased by Charles Arthur Fletcher. Charles was responsible for demolishing the original La Chaire and rebuilding the house.

In 1921 Elizabeth Grant Ross bought La Chaire from Charles’ son. Elizabeth must have owned significant property in the area as a few years later in 1924 she purchased Rozel Barracks from the Crown.

Barracks

The land on which the barracks still stand was leased by Samuel Lempriere, Master of Barracks for the Crown from Philippe Raoul Lempriere the Seigneur of Rozel in October 1810. The lease was originally for a term of 99 years at an annual cost of £4 13 shillings.

Construction of the barracks must have begun straight away as the archive holds a letter from Don to Edward de la Taste dated 2nd May 1811 giving him authority to place 4 men at the new barracks at Rozel Harbour.

Despite the peace that descended on Europe at the end of the Napoleonic Wars the barracks continued to be used by the military with army pensioners listed as living at the barracks in the 1871, 1881 and 1891 censuses.

In 1932 the barracks were sold to Arthur Villeneuve Nicolle who in turn sold the property to Charles Frederick Sharp in 1958. It must have been Charles who turned the barracks into a hotel as in 1966 he sold a hotel called Le Couperon de Rozel, previously Rozel Barracks to Rozel Hotels Limited.
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