Bichards of Charing Cross

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This photograph of Bichards grocery at Charing Cross was used in the Jersey Evening Post in October 2016 to illustrate an article about present-day attitudes to building site workers 'wolf whistling' women passing by. No information was provided about the property in the photograph, so we decided to investigate.

It is difficult to be certain about the date of the photograph, but the Bichards delivery van in front of the shop suggests that the picture was taken just before, or just after the Occupation. It was certainly before 1950, when the premises to the right occupied by C J Cuming, had been taken over by the Channel Islands Co-operative, which would eventually absorb the Bichards property into their Charing Cross store.

Close examination of the picture suggests that the business is still trading from the right-hand end of the property, while the rest has been gutted by builder Ernest Farley. The two pictures on the left and right here show how the peoperty looked after the builders had finished. The picture on the right can be dated to 1953 when decorations celebrating the Coronation were draped from one side of Charing Cross to the other. The vehicles in the picture on the left suggest the late 1940s. The shopfront signage reveals that the business was established in 1836, which set us off on an investigation in almanacs, censuses and other records.

Elizabeth Bichard

The 1841 census reveals that the business was being run by Mrs Elizabeth Bichard. Her husband John was shown as a 'seaman' and living with them were daughters Elizabeth (10), Caroline (6) and sons John (4) and Horatio Nelson, who was only 16 days old when the census was held. John was baptised Jean Martel Bichard (1797-1849, and was the son of Philippe Bichard (1762-1813) and Susanne Balleine (1771-1830), of St Peter. He married Elizabeth, the daughter of Abraham and Jeanne Arthur, of St John, in Canada. It is not clear whether the couple emigrated together, knew each other before in Jersey, or met in Canada, but they were married in Quebec and spent 3-4 years there before returning to Jersey. Three children were born there, but only Elizabeth survived to return to Jersey with them.

The 1841 census did not give full addresses for households but the next, taken in 1851, receals that Elizabeth was trading at 8 Charing Cross, assisted by her 19-year-old daughter Elizabeth. This was not the property shown in the photograph, but diagonally opposite. These premises were subsequently home to Charing Cross Tavern, and more recently, Bellagio's Wine Bar. Unusually Charing Cross is not numbered with even numbered properties on one side and odd-numbered on the other, but sequentially from the junction with Broad Street along the south side, then back along the north side to the junction with King Street.

Business moves

By 1861 Bichards had crossed the street to No 25, where it would remain, also spreading to the left to No 24. Elizabeth was still running the business and 19-year-old son Horatio had followed his father into a seafaring career. He does not appear in the 1871 census, so was probably at sea at the time.

From 1874 he is shown in almanac listings and census returns as the head of household at 25 Charing Cross, described usually as Capt H Bichard. In the 1881 census Horatio was shown as a 'master mariner', and his wife, another Elizabeth Bichard, was running the business. Their son Horatio John was born in 1871 and by 1890 the business is listed as Bichard and Son. The 1920 almanac does not show Bichards, but the Co-op is listed at 24½ Charing Cross. We have not found any other information to explain this change, but by 1930 Bichards Grocers are again listed, at No 24, with Bagot Laundry at 25 and the Co-op at 27 and 28.

And so it remained, through the substantial redevelopment revealed in the photograph, until the 1960s, when Bichards was taken over by the Co-op. The pressure the family were under is shown in the 1960 almanac, with the Co-op trading at 22, 23, 26, 27 and 28 Charing Cross and Bichards sandwiched at 24 and 25.

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