Colomberie House was one of St Helier's most important town houses, sadly demolished in the late 20th century to make way for offices
Built in 1771, formerly owned by Sir Thomas Pipon, the Lieut-Bailiff and purchased in 1800 by Clement Hemery, this was the main Hemery residence in Jersey for 110 years.
Sir John Soane
The English architect Sir John Soane designed alterations to Colomberie House, and in the archives of the Sir John Soane’s Museum in his former house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields London there is a letter from Clement Hemery to Sir John Soane dated 10 February 1810, with plans and elevations of the building as it was in 1810, and Soane’s suggested alterations. Although the plans were watered down and not fully executed, there was still a considerable change in style, especially to the interior layout. The text of the letter is as follows :
- Jersey 10 February 1810
- I have herewith to commit you a sketch of the front and back of my house which you informed Philip Le Breton about six weeks ago when he left the ground plans with you was necessary in order that you might be enabled to modernize it. The alterations I require are these :
- To increase the dining parlour and new model the windows
- To increase the drawing room and to new model the windows. This I am apprehensive will be attended with more difficulty than the altering of the dining parlour owing to the lowness of the beams on that story. I therefore leave it to you to join the two rooms in one by means of folding doors, or to take from one to add to the other if you think the height will admit of it.
- To contain a back staircase for servants.
- To lay out the ground in the back of the house from which I am removing a coach and outhouses which I propose rebuilding on a piece of land separate from the house.
- To have the plan of a new portico in front of the house in lieu of the old one which has been removed.
- You have above the changes I have chiefly in view ? which I shall thank you to point out such others as may strike you after having examined the plan, and should you require further explanations you will please write to me for them. As the season of the year for beginning this job is now advancing, I will be obliged to you to let me have your plan as soon as possible, forwarding it to me directed as at foot.
- I am sir, Your most obedient servant
- Clement Hemery
Colomberie had ‘barley sugar’ balusters on the stairs, which are rare in Jersey houses. The papers include an elevation of the house as it was in 1810 and a ground plan.
In December 1863 the Submarine Telegraph Company laid the cable in Colomberie Street, but on 22 September 1865 the cable was damaged by the workmen employed by Miss Hemery as they were laying a gas main. It took eight days to find the fault, at first thought to be submarine, which disrupted communication between Jersey and France.
The will of Ann Hemery, widow of Clement, who died in 1865, gives us a glimpse into Colomberie House :
- The two marble tables in the drawing room I give to my son Clement, with the looking glass standing between them. The portraits of the late uncle James Hemery by Opie, and those of my father and mother by Howard, I desire to be considered heirlooms and always to remain in the senior branch of the family. My likeness and that of my dear husband now in the drawing room I give to Ann and Julia to dispose of after their death.
As well as a library, there were globes, at least one of which would have been of the earth. There were also greenhouses on the site.
The will of Clement Hemery (who died in 1877) also mentions objects at Colomberie.
It remained a family home until 1911 when Julia Hemery, the last member of the immediate Hemery family in Jersey, died. After that it was owned by the Blampied family, who leased it for use as a school. At one time it was home to the Collegiate School for Girls. The school closed on 14 December 1984.
It was bought by the firm of Coopers Lybrand Deloitte who had offices next door. It needed much repair, but they neglected it and it was earmarked for demolition. Save Jersey’s Heritage and architectural historians Dr Warwick Rodwell and Ptolemy Dean campaigned to save it, and former pupils of the school joined a protest march. The law suit Coopers Lybrand Deloitte v Island Development Committee 26 February 1992 was part of the legal challenge to the campaign to stop demolition. Even the Planning Committee tried to reverse the previous decision but were taken to court, and sadly lost. Colomberie House was demolished in 1998, with some elements saved and stored. It was a loss to St Helier and the architectural history of Jersey. The new building, owned by Abacus, is called La Motte Chambers.
- Detailed history of Colomberie House by Richard Hemery