Charing Cross

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CROIX DE LA REINE
La Croix de la Reine is situated at Charing Cross in St. Helier. A memento of the the Queen's Silver Jubilee of 1977, it takes the form of an abstracted four-armed cross carved, almost encrusted, with views and symbols of St. Helier. The granite stones for the new cross were lifted into place by crane on 3 March 1978 and the cross was unveiled on the 19th. Cyril Warren, former Public Works engineer, was in charged of research and the designh of the cross. The Procureurs du Bien Public of St Helier's Vingtaine de la Ville, Leslie Sinel and George Croad, thought that the cross should have panels depicting something of the town's history. They helped to choose some of the subjects for the panels, and indicated that the Vingtaine de la Ville would contribute towards the cost. Louis Chataignère, a French stone-engraver, was given the task of carving the cross. Having completed his task he retired. The Constable of St Helier, Peter Baker, performed the official unveiling ceremony, and said that it was unlikely that Jersey would see this quality of workmanship again. It took Mr Chataignère at least 240 hours to carve just one of its panels, depicting historical buildings and events connected with St Helier. George Croad said that he was proud to hand over a cheque for £3,000 to the Constable towards the cost of the cross on behalf of the Vingtaine. The cross contains features of the town, all within the Vingtaine: The Parish Church, Elizabeth Castle, the Hermitage, the old Island Prison, Mont de la Ville, "St Helier" (copied from a statue in Bréville, Normandy), an ormer shell, a town pump, the gold torque, a sailing ship, a Jersey milk can, "V" for Victory or Vega, and royal initials. There are also panels depicting the parish emblem, Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee, the names of the designer and stonemason and those of the Procureurs of La Vingtaine de la Ville. The flower bed that is attached is constructed with granite from all the quarries of Jersey and outlying islands. There is also a "footprint" of St Helier. He also said it was fitting that the cross should be unveiled in the year the Queen is to visit the Island, as the idea for its construction was conceived in Silver Jubilee Year.
John Chevalier Bisson's fruit and veg shop at 3 Charing Cross in the late 19th century
Mr Bisson's earlier shop at 16 Charing Cross on the opposite side of the road

Charing Cross is the western gateway to the centre of St Helier, and until the early 19th century it was literally a gateway, with a narrow tunnel passing under the prison, which then straddled the wide road. But it had to go, partly because it was in an appalling condition, and partly because of the Lieut-Governor, General Don's road-building programme. He wanted to be sure to be able to move troops and equipment quickly around the island in times of emergency, and his guns would not pass through the tunnel under the prison.

The location of the prison gave Charing Cross its original name La Rue de la Prison. It was also known as La Pompe du Bas, because one of two town pumps, providing residents with fresh water, was located there.

To the west of Charing Cross was undeveloped sandy land, stretching down to the sea. The old town wall ran from here to the south of Broad Street, which was known as La Grande Rue, because it was the main thoroughfare to the Royal Square. The other street leading into the town from Charing Cross, King Street, barely existed in the early days of the development of St Helier. Today it is the island's main shopping street; then it was a back street, appropriately known as Rue de Derrière.

Prison

The prison was built Between 1688 and 1697. Before then all prisoners had to be held at Mont Orgueil Castle, and brought from there to town for trials at the Royal Court. It is believed that the design of the prison may have been because it was intended to represent a city gate, but it may also have been a copy of old Temple Bar in London. It was demolished in 1811.

Picture gallery

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The junction with King Street and Broad Street in the 1940s
The junction with King Street and Broad Street early in the 20th century

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