A history of St Lawrence village

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What's your street's story? -

St Lawrence village


Bosdet-Last Supper.jpg

Thomas Henry Bosdet's The Last Supper stained glass window in the parish church


This article is based on a 2017 presentation by records manager Emily Le Feuvre in Jersey Archive's What's your street's story? series


The 1795 Richmond Map shows that the area surrounding St Lawrence Church was predominantly fields and orchards, with only a few houses at the time. The buildings that can be seen on the map include Le Colombier Manor. The current manor house dates from 1776. Also shown are Abbeygate, to the west of the church, the rectory and what may be Albany House, opposite the church.

The large number of orchards visible in the parish on the map was typical in the island at a time when cider making was still a very important industry.

Road building

Just over half a century later the 1849 Godfray Map shows that several more buildings had been built in the area of the church. The Lieut-Governor, General Sir George Don's road-building scheme in the first 20 years of the 19th century included Mont Felard and Grande Route de St Laurent, providing an arterial road through the heart of the parish and making access to, and through it, much easier.

As with other parts of the island where General Don's roads were built, easier access brought a greater need for amenities such as hotels, shops and pubs to serve locals and visitors to the parish alike. One such hotel and public house, which was built during the mid-1800s, was the British Union Hotel, now the Saint Laurent.

It was built between 1849 and 1851 by Jean Hamon, on land that he had bought on 12 May 1849 from Edouard Laurens. It remained in the Hamon family until its purchase for £1,000 by Ann Street Brewery from Jean Hamon's grandson, Horace John Hamon, in December 1924.

The hotel and pub has been at the centre of parish life for over 150 years, and during that time a number of families have run it and lived there.

A family with a long association with the business were the Houelbecqs, who ran it for 25 years, two of their children also becoming publicans.

The village pub and shop

Houelbecq family

The 1871 census shows Frank Houelbecq living at the British Union and running it as hotel keeper and grocer with his wife and their daughters Clara Jane and Alice Ann, who, along with her husband, would eventually take over the running of the pub into the 20th century.

Frank Houelbecq featured in several entries over the years in the St Lawrence Honorary Police incident books. An entry in 1871 details a disagreement between him and Jean Le Cornu. He had reportedly used insulting and threatening language towards Jane Houlebecq, but he claimed that he had been mistreated by her husband. The case was sent to the Magistrate's Court, where both Le Cornu and Houelbecq were released with a warning about their future conduct.

Another incident at the premises two years later, in July 1873, suggests that Mrs Houelbecq was perfectly capable of defending herself. Two soldiers of the 16th Regiment, Charles Glacken and John Forrest, after being served drinks by Mrs Houelbecq, tried to rob the pub. As one of them leaned across the counter and attempted to pilfer the till, she seized him by the hair and struck him on the head.

While she was grappling with one soldier, the other succeeded in stealing some liquor and money before fleeing and continuing their spree further down the parish at Millbrook.

Arsenal

St Lawrence Arsenal was built just before the pub in 1847. During the Napoleonic Wars guns had traditionally been kept in parish churches, but after the end of hostilities in 1815, and with threat of French invasion much decreased, the arsenals were built to store them, as well as ammunition.

Little more than a decade after its construction, the building and parish militia as a whole came under threat when the States decided in 1859, as part of the new Militia Bill, to disband the St Lawrence Battalion and incorporate the men with the South-West and Sough Regiments.

This caused outrage in the parish, both among the men of the militia, who felt than a battalion with such a proud history did not deserve such treatment, and with the parishioners who had not long contributed towards the construction of the Arsenal.

The Constable, John Le Gros, duly called a meeting of the parishioners at which, according to newspaper reports, all in attendance were in agreement that the States had to be petitioned to encourage them to change their mind. One particularly passionate parishioner was reported to have remarked: 'I would rather go in jail 50 years than serve in the South-West' and 'We'll never camp with the St Pierrais'.

Two petitions were presented to the States a couple of weeks later, one signed by 27 officers and non-commissioned officers, 209 rank and file and 33 artillery-men, the other by 352 other parishioners.

A newspaper editorial on the day the States sat to debate the petitions remarked:'There can be no mistake as to the spirit that vote has evoked in St Lawrence. All are of one mind - officers and soldiers, the young and theold, the rich and the poor - all feel that the parish is wronged and insulted.'

After much debate the previous decision was overturned by 37 votes to five and the St Lawrence Battalion was saved.

Church

St Lawrence Church is a building with a fascinating history and interesting architecture and archaeology. Its origins go back to at least the 12th century, when it was recorded that King John gave it to the Abbey of Blanchelande in Normandy. [1] In 1524 the Hamptonne Chapel, named for its benefactor Sire Louis Hamptonne, the Rector for 56 years between 1502 and 1558, was added.

Between the 16th century and a major restoration at the end of the 19th, it seems that the church remained much the same.

Shortly after the restoration, the stained glass windows were added, designed by one-time St Lawrence resident and renowned stained glass artist Henry Thomas Bosdet. In the east is depicted the Last Supper. A newspaper cutting from the time in the Archive collection records:'The expression of each of the characters has been most artistically treated, while that of the Saviour is such as should appeal to all beholders'.

In 1923 Bosdet designed another set of windows for the church, the sketches for which are held at the Archive. The piece was commissioned by Clara Valpy, in memory of her sister Elizabeth Le Couteur, and is called Christ the Light of the World, the Good Shepherd.

Notes and references

  1. John did not become King until May 1199, so he would have to have made the bequest that year, if it was in the 12th century
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