A history of St Martin's village

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This article is based on a presentation in the Jersey Heritage What’s your street’s story? series

The village centre of St Martin, surrounding the Parish Church, has actually been quite sparsely populated for much of the island’s history. The 1795 Duke Of Richmond map shows the Parish Church as a cross shape with a scattering of buildings surrounding it, including some either side of the junction where the present-day St Martin’s House and Nevill Holt stand. A building on the site of the Royal Hotel can be seen, as well as one on or near the site of Wrentham Hall on Grande Route de Rozel. The roads are mainly lined with fields and orchards, which shows the importance of agriculture in the area at that time.

A view of the village rooftops

Roads improved

A few years later in 1806, General Sir George Don was appointed Lieut-Governor of Jersey. In order to defend the island from a possible French invasion, he decided that improvements to the road network were needed. The roads that existed at the time were narrow, winding and muddy, making it impossible for soldiers (and their cannons) to march quickly to the scene of an enemy attack.

In St Martin, he took the three roads leading to the church as the central point for his improvements to the parish’s road system, possibly because the parish militia’s cannons were stored there. These roads are now known as Grande Route de St Martin, leading to Five Oaks (and providing a link to town), Grande Route de Rozel, leading to Rozel, and Grande Route de Faldouet, which improved the existing route from the Church to Gorey.

The improved road network can be seen on the 1849 Godfray map. Looking at the St Martin’s Church area, a few more houses had been built further down Grande Route de Rozel, but overall the buildings were still quite scarce.

By the 1934 Ordnance Survey Map, there had been an increase in the number of buildings along Grande Route de Faldouet, although still nothing like as many as there are today. Many of the familiar features of the area, such as the war memorial outside the Churchyard, the Public Hall, and St Martin’s School, had been built by this time.

The village approached from the west

The church and schools

St Martin’s Parish Church is at the centre of the village and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest building in the parish. A church has existed there as far back in 1042, as it is mentioned in a charter in which William, Duke of Normandy (who became William The Conqueror) granted 'The Church of St Martin The Old in the Isle of Jersey' to Cerisy Abbey in France, along with its lands and a third of its tithe of grain. The building has been added to and renovated many times over the course of its history.

During the reformation the chancel of the church was boarded off and the area was used as a school. There continued to be no dedicated school building in the parish until St Martin’s School was opened in 1900 following a law that came into effect in 1894 (the Loi sur l’Instruction Publique) requiring that the authorities of each parish had to provide a place of education.

There have also been a number of privately-run schools in the parish. These included Mr William E Silk’s School. Originally located at Springside on Grande Route de Faldouet, it was moved to Les Alpes from 1920 to 1933, and while there adopted the name St Martin’s Collegiate School. The school moved to premises in Longue Rue in 1933 and remained there until it closed on Mr Silk’s retirement in 1948.

After Silk’s school moved out of Les Alpes, Miss Elsie Marguerite Touzel moved her own school from Les Fonds at Fauvic into the premises, where she stayed teaching until her own retirement in 1977. Springside was also continued as a school by Mrs Hilda Ahier and her sister Miss Linda Le Seelleur, who continued teaching there until the 1960s.

In a way, the lack of a public school building also led to the construction of St Martin’s Public Hall. St Martin is the only parish to have a public hall rather than a parish hall.

In 1877 the States offered each parish £2,000 for the building of a parish hall. The parish assembly was not happy with any of the tenders it received for the building work. Eventually, the parishioners of St Martin’s church provided an additional £75 toward the project on the condition that the building was used for Sunday School on Sunday mornings. The hall was therefore built partially with money from the public. It has since been extended several times.

Based at the Public Hall, the Honorary Police of St Martin have been kept busy over the years. For example, on 17 May 1885 Mr Le Cuirot of Grouville was fined for driving his voiture dangerously fast in the vicinity of the church while drunk. Presumably this was a horse-drawn cart rather than a motor vehicle, but it shows that some aspects of parish life don’t really change!

The Royal Hotel in 1955

Royal Hotel

Another important institution at the centre of the village is the Royal Hotel. The Royal is not listed by name on the 1851 census, although living at St Martin’s House nearby we find Samuel Le Four and his wife Mary (née Falle). Samuel was a ship owner and master and hotel keeper and employed six men. His ship was called the Samuel and Mary. She was a 24 tonne cutter built in Jersey, perhaps at one of the shipyards at nearby Gorey, in 1844.

By the 1861 census the couple had moved into the Royal. By this time Samuel was describing himself simply as a hotel keeper, and the Samuel and Mary was eventually transferred to Colchester in 1863.

By 1871 Samuel was described as a widower. The couple had at least two daughters, one of whom, Louisa Mary Le Four, took over running of the pub after Samuel’s death in 1883, and on 8 May 1884 got married to Elie Falle, another experienced tavern keeper from the parish who was a widower. Elie was 13 years older than Louisa. Elie died in 1905, but by 1901 the pub had passed to John P de Feu and his wife Marceline. Louisa died in 1923, leaving property to her nieces and nephews.

The breakwater under construction in 1852

Breakwater

One event that had a huge impact on the character of the whole parish was the building of St Catherine’s Breakwater in the mid 1800s. A large influx of workers from the UK and Ireland arrived in Jersey to work on the project. At the peak of the project in 1852 the works had as many as 361 employees. The 1851 census lists a number of people living in the St Martin’s Village area with occupations such as 'Labourer, St Catherine’s Government Works'. Many of them were accompanied by wives, children and other family members. For instance, Thomas Rudd, a clerk to the government works originally from Croydon, was accompanied by his wife, eight children and two cousins.

St Martin's House

One of the oldest houses in the parish of St Martin can be found opposite the Church in the shape of St Martin’s House. Quite a lot has been written about this house in various publications. The Collas family owned the house for many years and their family are included in Payne’s armorial.

The first record of the house being purchased was by Gratien Collas. Payne’s Armorial notes that Gratien was involved in the disastrous Battle of Saint Aubin du Cormier, which took place in July 1488 between the forces of King Charles VIII of France and Francis II, Duke of Brittany. This battle effectively saw the end of Breton independence.

It is reported that Gratien fled, severely wounded, according to legend avec ses entrailles sur ses bras (with his entrails in his arms) and came to Jersey. He did have enough time, however, to collect some of his wealth, as well as bringing with him his wife Philippine Noel, sister of a priest called Nicolas Noel. They settled in the property that came to be known as St Martin’s House.

In September 1490, in front of parish officials, he bought theMaison de St Martin from John Nicolle. This was later confirmed in a contract registered in the Royal Court 20 years later in 1510. There is an extract from the extentes of 1528 confirming that he now owed rentes on the land that he had bought from John Nicolle.

St Martin's House in the 1930s

There the Collas family remained for almost the next 400 years. During that time they farmed the land around the house and changed the house massively with both the interior and exterior views being renovated and refurbished completely. There were distinguished members of the family. One member of the family was Philippe Collas, who was constable of the Parish from 1775-1779 and then again from 1784-1790.

By 1851 a Francois Guilleaume Collas, an unmarried, 43-year-old landed proprietor and keen amateur antiquarian lived in the property. It was he who provided most of the information to Bertrand Payne in creating the entry relating to the Collas family of Maison de St Martin in the Armorial and he was afforded this coat of arms as a sign of friendship from the author.

He was still living there in 1861 but died in 1867. He was soon followed by John Jervoise Le Vesconte Collas, his cousin, who had inherited the property but only had possession of it for a year. By 1871 Frederick C Lane is living in St Martin’s House. He is a 41 year old annuitant from St Helier living with his 22 year old wife. However, interestingly also living in the house is Edwin J F (Jervoise Francois) Collas who is registered as a boarder of 17 years old from North Bideford in Devon. His father having died he was actually the owner of the property, albeit not yet of age. By the 1881 census he had taken possession of the property and had married to Laura C Collas, 26. She is registered as being from Yorkshire. They have a son John Jervoise Collas, aged 1.

The Collas association with the property came to a close in March 1885 when Edwin sold the property to Dr Edwin Godfray for the sum of £650. By 1891 Edwin Godfray, a 38 year old Doctor, born in St Helier is living in the house together with his wife and children. He is still living there in 1901 with his wife, children and servants.

In 1958 the new owner of St Martin’s House discovered the top part of an ancient cross and a rough basin to the east of his property. Joan Stevens writes about this discovery in the 1960 edition of the Societe Jersiaise Bulletin. At first the assumption was that the cross was from St Martin’s Churchyard, however, she discounts this theory in her article.

She believed that the cross came from the Chapel of Sire Augustin Baudains, a medieval chapel that has since been destroyed.

St Martin Methodist Chapel

Methodist Church

Methodism was a massive influence in the Island in the 19th century and St Martin was no exception. In the Public Registry in 1819 a contract can be found between Edouard Luce, son of Edouard and Thomas Messervy, George Bree, Jean Messervy, son of Clement, Jean Gorey, Jean Le Hucquet, Jean Renouf and Michel Beaucamp, the group named by the Methodist Church on 10 June 1819 for purchasing land on which to build a Methodist Church in St Martin. It was based at the end of the road on which the current Methodist Church now stands and is now the site of Ash Cottage.

The land was purchased for the sum of 4 cabots of wheat rente. A chapel that could seat up to about 300 people was built on the site. The congregation soon found that they were outgrowing the venue. On 19 January 1850 two contracts passed before the Royal Court that concerned St Martin’s Methodist Church. First the site of the original chapel was sold to Frederic Nicolle for £138 9s 3d. Underneath this entry is that of the trustees buying land from Ellen Hubert, wife of Peter Fallaize, for the 3 quartiers of wheat rente with the purpose of erecting a church on the site.

The architect Philippe Bree, who also designed Grove Place Chapel, was commissioned to design the building. The cost was £770 and the foundation stone was laid on 28 April 1850. the first service was conducted by Philippe Tourgis on 5 January 1851. In 1891 the chapel was enlarged and a new Sunday school and committee room were built.

Slade family

An individual very concerned with the state of the Methodist Church in St Martin was Edward Slade. He was born in England in the early 1860s. His mother was born in the Island and Edward moved back here and can be seen living in St Martin in 1881 with his uncle and aunt Jean and Ann Ferey. They lived at La Forge near the Drill Shed on Rue de la Croix au Maitre. Jean Ferey was registered as a Blacksmith and Edward was his apprentice. The St Martin’s book says that Edward had moved to the Island when he was just 14 in order to learn the trade from his uncle.

By 1886 he had raised sufficient funds to buy a property of his own and purchased what was called Orkney Cottage and which he renamed El Hassa on Grande Route de Faldouet from Charles Garnier for £387 12s. The contract records that the property had a forge attached to it. From this image of the 1891 census you can see that he continued to follow his profession of blacksmith.

In 1889 Slade married a girl from St Martin called Mary Elizabeth Noel and they were shortly to have a son in 1890, also called Edward.

The Slade’s were very deeply involved in both the Parish and the Methodist Church. Jersey Archive holds a number of depositions in which Centenier Edward Slade was called as a witness for a variety of crimes. He was often called upon to sort out problems within the parish. The St Martin’s Methodist Church minutes record that he was employed to install a hot water system in 1910.

The first Slade bus

His role within the parish and his church clashed in a case detailed within the St Martin’s Parish Book. Edward believed it an injustice that the money that he paid towards rates was used in the maintenance and upkeep of the Anglican church, but the Methodist community had no such luxury. Because of this he decided to withhold his rates payment for 1907. He was acclaimed as the first passive resister.

The case was brought in front of the Petty Debts Court on 20 March. His representative, Advocate Nicolle, explained that he did not object to paying rates to the parish and was quite happy to pay £1 15s 11d. He did object, however, to contributing to a church of which he was not a member and for paying for the church ventilation. Consequently he would not pay the extra 1s 7d that was due. He was ordered to pay the full amount of rates plus costs.

As he refused to pay, his colleague the Constable, C Perchard, as well as an officer of the Court, came to his house to auction his goods in order to recover the funds. An advertisement was placed in the parish box, but when someone took it down, Mr Slade advertised in the newspapers in order to highlight the event. From the report in the Jersey Times it sounds like a raucous affair with sympathisers and onlookers gathering. There was laughter and cat calls as Mr Slade announced that he was quite happy to pay if the court official could show him a law that compelled him to do so. In the event, as recorded in the Evening Post of the time, Mr J Renouf, a fellow Methodist, bid the amount owed for the first item that was auctioned, a scarifier that Slade had recently patented.

Mr Renouf was quoted as saying: "When I go cycling on a Sunday, I do not expect the church folk to pay for the repairs to my tyres and consequently I do not think that I ought to be called upon to pay for the expense of their services".

Afterwards the Reverend Allpress addressed the crowd acclaiming Mr Slade’s stand and saying that the Constable may have to come to his house later as he objected to paying the money as well. As the officials left one wag shouted: "That’s what I call taking the devil’s money for the Church". Mr Slade finished by addressing the crowd by saying: "Goodbye gentlemen, I hope to see you all again next year".

Many parishioners remember the bus company that used to operate from the parish. That was run by Mr Slade’s son, also called Edward. He converted El Hassa from a smithy to a garage and he steadily set about creating a bus company. His first route, which was started in 1923, was from St Helier to Greencliffe via St Martin’s Church. By 1934 he was operating three routes, to Faldouet via La Hougue Bie, to Archirondel via St Martin’s Church and to Rozel via Greencliffe, with extra coaches put on in the summer.

Edward finally sold the company to the Jersey Motor Transport Company Limited in 1946.

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