Development of St Aubin over the centuries

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TIMELINE
  • 1269: First mention of Moulin des Gouttes Pluye (raindrops mill)
  • 1533: The first document to mention St Aubin records an attack by French vessels on a Spanish vessel which had left the harbour loaded with wheat
  • 1546: Privy Council record of attack on Flemish ship in the 'roadstead of St Albyne' by English pirates from Brighton
  • 1584: First mention of market in St Aubin
  • 1611: Date over Old Court House fireplace
  • 1626: Outbreak of plague kills 105
  • 1647: Privateers bring in 12 captured vessels
  • 1649: Charles II offers 500 Pistoles for building of pier
  • 1675: Pier build from St Aubin's Fort
  • 1700-1820: St Aubin unchallenged as island's main port
  • 1715: Petition for building of church
  • 1735: Foundation stone laid
  • 1745: First service
  • 1754: South pier begun - see 18th century map
  • c1759: St Aubin's Hospital built
  • 1771: Market rebuilt
  • 1788: Richard Marsh starts Sunday omnibus service across beach to St Helier
  • 1790: Landowners construct quay on inner site of harbour
  • 1798: 30 ships counted side-by-side on new quay
  • 1810: Road from St Helier to La Haule opened
  • 1816-1819: Construction of north pier
  • 1817: First Methodist chapel constructed - replaced by present building in 1868
  • 1824: Charles Robin, merchant and shipowner, dies in St Aubin
  • 1844: Extension of road from La Haule to harbour
  • 1870: First train runs from St Helier to St Aubin
  • 1879: Shipyard in operation at Bulwarks end of harbour
  • 1892: New church opens
  • 1899: Railway line extended to Corbiere
  • 1936: Railway closes

The three maps on the left below show very clearly how St Aubin developed from a village with a handful of isolated buildings in the 17th century to a bustling small town with a railway terminus and harbour by the late 19th century. They show exactly the same area as property after property was added to the town over a period of some 250 years.

St Aubin in the 17th century
St Aubin in the late 18th century
St Aubin viewed from the sea in 1809
The centre of the town in 1775
St Aubin in the late 19th century

17th century

In the 17th century St Aubin was completely isolated. The only way that the town of St Helier, scarcely any bigger, could be reached was across the sand past La Haule, Beaumont, Bel Royal, First Tower and West Park. There were no roads.

The centre of population in the Parish of St Brelade, of which St Aubin is on the south-eastern coastal extremity, was more than two miles away on the higher land of Les Quennevais. The parish church was almost as far distant, and reaching it for the Sunday services which were compulsory for all parishioners meant a long climb up what would later be known as Mont Les Vaux, followed by a descent into St Brelade's Bay along Mont Sohier. Churchgoers would remain close to the church between the two Sunday services, before the long walk home.

Unsurprisingly St Aubin was then home to very few families. There were a few buildings on the shoreline at the most southerly point, and another small group at the foot of Mont Les Vaux. A track led from there over high ground to La Haule Manor, which doubtless provided work for some of the St Aubin families.

However, this map must represent St Aubin in the earlier part of the 1600s, because by 1685 it was estimated that there were 'four score' (80) houses and a population over 300.

18th century

Through the 18th century St Aubin began to grow. First a pier was built on to St Aubin's Fort, out in the bay, and although this pier dried out twice a day as the tide receded, it was the only effective landing place around the whole island. Trade began to develop as merchants built themselves grand residences with adjoining warehouses and gardens stretching down to the shore along the length of coast from the centre of the village to the defensive bulwarks to the south.

However, it can be seen from the late 18th century map that, even after the construction of a pier at the southern end of the town, the centre of population was still to the north, at the foot of Mont Les Vaux. A map from 1875, which was published in the 1897 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise, identifies individual properties, and shows that there was still plenty of room for substantial gardens. The street in front of the houses is identified as Rue de St Aubin, but this is probably what it was called at the time the map was drawn. In 1775 there was no road here, just a narrow track between the properties and the shore, which disappeared heading east.

It would not be until 1844 that a proper road was constructed between the centre of St Aubin and La Haule, linking with the road to St Helier. The properties on the seafront at St Aubin - for this was their location until the railway line and terminus were built later in the 19th century, are variously identified in censuses as being on New Road and St Aubin's Road. The name Victoria Street, which can be found in some late 20th century history books, never seems to have been accepted, and today's almanacs have reverted to New Road, or its French equivalent Neuve Route.

1841 census

The earliest detailed record of the population of St Aubin is given by the 1841 census, and it is a fascinating one. It shows that the population of the town was then 1,254, out of a total for the whole island of just over 47,500. The total population of St Brelade was then 2,203.

St Aubin lies in two Vingtaines - Noirmont and Le Coin. The figures above rely on a certain degree of interpretation as to which premises fall within the town boundaries of St Aubin and which are in the surrounding countryside. Apart from the very narrow flat coastal area on which the town developed, St Brelade was essentially a rural parish on the higher ground beyond.

Identifying individual properties is not helped by the variations in road and street names over the past 400 years. Today's maps show the streets of the town as French - Rue au Moestre, Mont Les Vaux, Rue du Croquet, Le Boulevard, etc - but the 19th century censuses, essentially UK operations, use English names, and there is little consistency.

The 1841 census records residents of Mont Les Vaux (still known by that name today, although St Aubin's Hill will also be found), Market Square (now Charing Cross, although neither is in common usage), Hill Street (Rue au Moestre, or Market Hill); Bulwarks (now Le Boulevard, but in 1851 referred to as Quays, in an historical reference to the time earlier in the century when merchants began to establish their own private jetties). Some of the smaller lanes have disappeared altogether as place names - Chapel Street, High Bridge Place, Prospect Row, Wesley Place, Pier Road, Albert Place and Garden Row all having ceased to exist.

Further complications are caused by the very poor quality of handwriting on the original census returns, compounded by poor scanning, and many of the entries are difficult, if not impossible, to read.

What emerges from careful study, however, is that the township of St Aubin, although still not as intensively developed as it would be by the end of the century, was already in decline as a commercial centre. The completion of the harbour with the construction of the north pier between 1816 and 1819 had failed to halt the move by shipowners and merchants away from St Aubin to St Helier, and even the completion of the road across St Aubin's Bay with the final section from La Haule to St Aubin in 1844 would have no effect.

By 1841 many of the merchants who had fuelled the growth of St Aubin as a town had deserted it, perhaps leaving family behind while they migrated to new homes in the capital. The shipbuilding industry would give St Aubin a further lease of life, as it had in Gorey when the oyster fishing industry collapsed, and this is also reflected in the occupations of its residents.

There is a delightful mixture of merchants and ship owners; people of independent means (who variously described themselves to the census enumerators as 'annuitants', 'fundholders', 'landed proprietors', etc); traditional craftsmen and women; and those involved in the shipbuilding industry or who sailed in the ships.

Residents

On Mont Les Vaux we find 30-year-old mariner Daniel Law and his wife Susan (20). In Market Square John Pike (55) and his 30-year-old wife Elizabeth ran a bakery, close to the home of sailmaker Thomas Tocque (35) and his seamstress wife. On the hillside on Rue au Moestre the Summerville Hotel was already established, refuting the claim of some later St Helier establishments still operating today to be the island's oldest. It was under the management or ownership of Elizabeth Le Jeune, described as a 60-year-old publican. This is one of the shortcomings of relying on census returns to paint a complete picture of a district - they do not record who owned premises or simply managed them; nor do they always identify whether a tradesman operated from his home or from elsewhere.

The 35-year-old Rector of the parish, Edward Falle, was also living, somewhat surprisingly, in St Aubin. He was appointed Rector in 1829, and by 1851 was shown to be living in the Rectory. Perhaps it was undergoing repairs or refurbishment at the time of the 1841 census.

Although the majority of Army and Navy officers retired on half pay, who had been attracted to Jersey by its climate and tax regime in the early decades of the 19th century, were living in the fast-growing town of St Helier, several had settled in St Aubin, among them Army surgeon Robert Leaver (55). Among his neighbours were parish clerk Peter Le Font (45), his wife Susan and family, and glazier John Le Bas (65) and his wife Susan. Four of their children were still living at home, including bonnet maker Sarah (20) and carpenter George (15). Also in Rue au Moestre we find shoemaker Thomas Price (25) and his wife Elizabeth (30) and Mason William Bridle.

Carpenter Edward Le Maistre lived in Wesley Place, and in Garden Row we find another of the same trade, John Le Rossignol, clockmaker John Le Maistre, mariner Frederick Alexander, gardener Charles Le Masurier and mason William Dart.

It is worth reflecting that although some of these tradesmen and women may well have had clientele elsewhere in the island, the difficulty of moving from one area to another while the road network remained very limited in nature meant that to survive in business they were undoubtedly reliant on the custom of their near neighbours.

Among them would have been ship owners such as Edward Allen (30) and Francis Hocquard, resident on the Bulwarks. Whereas 20-30 years earlier their neighbours would have been almost exclusively gentlemen of similar status, they were now rubbing shoulders with carpenter John Le Maistre; mason William Dart (55) and his laundress wife Susanne, their children John (blacksmith) and Paul (carpenter); blacksmith Edward Le Sueur (50); carpenter Charles Le Cornu (25); shipwright Elias Briard (35); plasterer Philip Hamon (65) and carpenter Philip Le Ray (30).

It will be noted how many of the St Aubin residents had traditional Jersey surnames, and a perusal of the census returns shows that a very high proportion were born in St Brelade - probably in St Aubin itself. Although the self-employed tradesman who relied on their neighbours for business tended to live in the urban streets, the mariners, shipwrights and other employees, could be found living in the surrounding more rural environment.

Manors

The two main manor houses in this area were Noirmont, where widow Elizabeth Pipon was head of household, and La Haule, just outside the parish boundary. Undoubtedly these gave work to gardeners and thatchers, such as father and son William and George Henry.

Schools

The children of St Aubin families had a better chance of receiving an education at this time than did many elsewhere in the island and there are several schoolmasters and mistresses identified in the census, including Elizabeth Jandron (30), daughter of carpenter James, and 45-year-old Sophia Carswell. Certainly by the time of the next census in 1851 there seems to have been a much larger educational community, and pupils were already being attracted from outside the island.

At the other end of the scale, the poorhouse, or St Brelade's Hospital, at the foot of Mont Les Vaux, had 16 inmates in the charge of Matron Victoria Jones in 1841, comprising eight men, five women and three children, aged from 80 down to six.

High Street

As the merchants began to leave their quayside properties, the High Street, on the other side of the town, was undoubtedly the more fashionable district. Here we still find merchants Philip Caux, John Le Feuvre, James Remon, John Carrel; merchant's widow Esther Janvrin; and shipbuilder Thomas Bartlett.

Among their neighbours are 70-year-old St Aubin harbourmaster Philip Hamon, schoolmistress Mary Clifford, schoolmaster Philip Le Maistre, shopkeepers Ann Webb (also postmistress) and Mary Shale, and Mark Drake, omnibus and coach proprietor and his numerous coach drivers and stable boys.

The Old Court House (left), merchant's houses to its right and Somerville Hotel, above, were already built in the 1840s

1851 census

The population as shown in the 1851 census was much of the same mixture as it had been ten years earlier, although, subject to the same reservations as above about which houses actually fell within the boundaries of the town, the total had fallen slightly to 1,159,

Some street and district names also varied over the decade, but the second full census of the island in 1851 tended to give more detail than the earlier one. Joseph Thoumain (31) was in charge at the Mill Bakehouse, where he lived with his wife Eliza (32) and young family. Miller Auguste Machon was in St Aubin's Square and another of the same trade, James Cornish, lived in Albert Place. Another baker, John Le Ray (26) lived with his wife Sarah on the Quay.

Shipbuilding was the town's most important industry at this stage, the business of import and expert merchants having for some time been on the move to St Helier. Amice Duval, at Albion House, and Edward Allen on the Quay, who employed 25 men, were the principal builders, and working for them were men such as Benjamin Shenton (35) who lived in Albert Lane and was a ship's carpenter employing four men and three apprentices. Sailmaker Thomas Tocque lived in St Aubin's Square.

Perhaps their customers included ship owners Francis Le Feuvre, of Bulwark House; Philip Dean and Francis Sauvage (39), of the Quay; Philip Sauvage, John de Caen (35) and John Syvret (40) of the High Street. They, in turn, probably relied on master mariners such as Hope Smith (33) who lived at Aurora Cottage, Bulwark Street.

Although the loss of its trade to St Helier would eventually seal the fate of St Aubin as a major port, it remained a busy town, thriving on the tourism industry of the 20th century, and would perhaps have grown further hand there been any flat land left to build on

The shibuilders were not the town's only employers. Boot and shoemaker Philip Roy employed five men on the Quay and Mary Laurens, a dressmaker, had ten apprentices working for her on Market Hill. Another dressmaker was Mary Rouet, of the British Hotel, as was Harriet Lafond, 24-year-old daughter of grocer Peter Lafond (57) and Susan. Her sister Mary (26) was a milliner. They were far from the only sons and daughters of their age still to be living with their parents. Susanne de Bourcier on Mont Les Vaux was a bonnet maker.

Other shopkeepers included grocer Peter William Clement in the Square, butchers Thomas Corbin (33) from France and his uncle Damian (71) and grocer, tea and spirits dealer Francis Bossy (46) at Charing Cross, and grocer Edward Hamon on Market Hill. James Coudray (29) ran St Aubin's Hotel and Englishman Thomas Biggs (46) and his wife Ruth had a lodging house at Prospect House. Ten years later they had moved to St Helier where Thomas was a cab proprietor. Edward Hussey was a hotel keeper in the High Street and Peter Le Clercq a publican, and Margaret Le Brocq ran a lodging house in Bulwark Street.

The Rector of Latimer, Buckinghamshire, Samuel King, lived at Bulwark house, close to John Le Brocq, a cabinet maker at de Carteret House, and timber and coal merchant Philip Le Brun at Marine Lodge. Serving the community in their different ways were midwife Peggy Dunford (52) in Albert Place, where she lived with wheelwright husband John (60); William Smith, the 'letter receiver' at the Post Office, also of Albert Place; master of the weighbridge, Henry Marett (65) at St Aubin's Square; pilot John Bullen, who lived in Albert Place; hairdresser John Huard (57) of Mechanic Place; schoolmistress Mary Baker and schoolmaster Philip Le Bas, who both lived in the High Street.

St Aubin was still home to several merchants, including George Philip; Edward Le Brocq, who employed 25 men; James Remon, who dealt in corn; and John Blampied, coal. Michael Keeping, in the High Street, was ageneral dealer in cattle.

James Coad on Market Hill was a master blacksmith, James Samson of Albert Lane, a tinsmith, and John Cayford, in the High Street, a black and whitesmith.

It is also noteworthy that there were upwards of 20 farmer/landowners in the Vingtaine of Noirmont to the south and west of the town. The size of their holdings was given in acres in the census, although the land measurement which was common in the island in those days and remains so today was the vergee.

End of 19th century

As the third of the three maps above clearly shows, by the end of the century St Aubin had significantly more buildings than at the start. There were buildings all the way up both sides of the High Street, and along the Bulwarks, or Quay, or Boulevard, depending on what it was known as by the town's residents at various times. It may appear on today's maps as Le Boulevard, but it is invariably known as the Bulwarks from one end of the harbour to the other. Some of the magnificent merchant's houses in this row remain largely unaltered to this day, and their gardens mostly still stretch to the harbourside, although there is now a full-width road in the way rather than a four-foot wide track, as there once was.

The harbour had been completed in the 1800s, and there were road and rail links all the way to St Helier.

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