Belmont Road

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What's your street's story? - Belmont Road


E18StHelier1930sBelmontRoad.jpg

Looking down on St Helier in the 1930s. Belmont road is the diagonal row of buildings at the centre right of photograph (click on image to see larger version), with the gasworks behind


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


Sitting between Bath Street and St Saviour's Road, the Belmont Road area consists of Belmont Road, Belmont Gardens and Belmont Place, as well as Simon Place.

Nathaniel Westaway

Built by Nathaniel Westaway during the expansion of St Helier in the early 19th century the area has given Jersey some surprising firsts, was the birthplace of one of Jersey's most prominent artists and at the epicentre of one of the island's most famous family feuds.

When Nathaniel Westaway, a West Country builder and brick maker, came to Jersey in the first decade of the 19th century he married a local girl, Anne Alexandre, in 1811. It was partly Anne's money that enabled Nathaniel to expand his business. They had five children, but only daughters Julia and Harriet and son John Nathaniel lived to full adulthood.

Nathaniel was buying land in the Fief de Collette des Augrès as early as 1816. A contract dated 18 January 1827 shows the sale of two houses bordered by Rue Belmont to Philippe Le Sueur, which is evidence that the developing street was already large enough to have a name.

The Moulin Rouge on the corner with Belmont Place in 1966. It later became 'The Place'

On the 1834 Le Gros map one half of Belmont Road was becoming firmly established with a number of properties shown in the area adjoining Bath Street. Belmont Street, which became Museum Street in 1836, is also shown. On 15 May 1836 Belmont Road was ceded to the public.

Nathaniel Westaway was innovative in the technology he used to build his houses and he pioneered the idea of creating houses with a façade rendered to make it look as if it was made of stone blocks.

This enabled him to build faster and cheaper than using traditional methods. The houses in Belmont Road are among the first in Jersey built in this way.

Family dispute

After Westaway died in 1852 his considerable assets were divided between his children by partage on 28 December that year. This included many properties in Belmont Road and the surrounding area.

John Nathaniel Westaway, who lived in Belmont Road, expected thathe should administer the property and assetsof his unmarried sisters and of his widowed mother, and thatthey should pay him for doing so. The sisters had other ideas and would not pay, and so began one of the most infamous family conflicts in Jersey.

He had his sisters imprisoned for debt. They lasted a weekbefore Harriet became ill and they paid up, but the feud went on.

Harriet left her brother one shilling in her will, which was a far greater insult than leaving him nothing.

He became a hero in January 1870 when he was drowned in a shipwreck off the Isle of Wight while trying to aid other passengers. Harriet Westaway left her money to Julia and Julia left hers to the island.

Businesses

Belmont road was home to a number of businesses. The short-lived Economical Conveyance Company was Jersey's first licensed cab firm in 1851. Itused small light cabs similar to the vehicles used in Paris and plied their trade at the Harbour on a Saturday. The ventury was not successful and they were soon replaced by the Royal Horse and Carriage Repository, also in Belmont Road.

The street has been home to many artists and photographers. John St Helier Lander was born and brought up at No 8. His neighbour was artist William Collie, who was took some of the first photographs ever printed on paper. His studies of Jersey market women date from as early as the 1840s.

The ornate building on the corner with Bath Street, after the Donaldsons music business had closed

He was very proud of the fact that he won a medal and certificate at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and bequeated in in his will.

Other artists and photographers also made the area their home, including Jessie Hilson, who worked from 35 Belmont Road and painted both TB and Howard Davis.

No 14, nowthe Belmont Hall, was once a private house built by Nathaniel Eestaway. Chemist James Finnie acquired it in 1844. It passed to spinster Jane Neel by partage on 14 June 1870. At this time she was 37 and of independent means, already living in Belmont Road. She married the following year and had her first child at about the age of 40.

On 20 May 1942 her son sold the property to Dora Susan de Gruchy, wife of E W Bertram. It was also used by the Boys Brigade as a headquarters and on 21 March 1948 it became the Gospel Hall of the Open Brethren.

Assembly rooms

The Queen's Assembly Rooms in Belmont Place are now residential accommodation, but they have been used for a variety of purposes since they were constructed by Nathaniel Westaway. As well as hosting lectures and entertainment, they served as the first clubroom of the Jersey Green Room Club between 1920 and 1942.

The building was also used by the Militia and as a recruiting office. A document held at the Archive was originally sent to W Picot, of Beech Farm, St John, dated July 1914. It notified him that he must attend the Assembly Rooms inorder to receive arms and kit upon mobilisation. He was also ordered to bring his own blanket.

French exile Victor Hugo once spoke at the Assembly Rooms and they were used as a roller-skating rink in the 1870s. William Kine, ownerofthe rink as well as a brewery, a music hall and a billiard room, advertised from Belmont Road at this time.

Behind the Assembly Rooms on the corner of Belmont Place was the Jersey Tobacco Company, or Chings Cigarette Factory. The building later became the site of the Little Theatre.

On the corner of Bath Street and Belmont Road there is now a Costcutter store. The archivectureof the bilding differs from those around it. It is taller and rather ornate. This was once the Donaldson brothers music shop. Set up by the family in the late 19th century, the shop was there until the 1960s.

In May 1903 Donaldsons gave a piano recital for an invited audience of 20. The programme, which included works by Weber and Chopin, was produced by a device names a Cecilian, which would have been a novelty at the time.


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