George Le Boutillier

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Merchant George Le Boutillier was born in Jersey, but established his drapery business in Guernsey where he took a prominent part in local politics and was credited with the rebirth of Elizabeth College.

The college had only one pupil in 1799, over two centuries after it was founded and endowed by Queen Elizabeth.

He then lost all his money in a St Peter Port Arcade development, and moved with his family to the USA, where he made a fortune as a merchant, before retuning to Jersey three years before his death.

The son of Jean Le Boutillier and Rachel Le Geyt, George Le Boutillier was born in Trinity in 1783.

Family

He married Elizabeth Le Maistre and they had four sons, Charles, born 1811, George, born 1813, James, born 1814, Thomas, born 1816, and three daughters, Eliza, Mary, and Ann.

In 1804 he established a drapery business in Guernsey, and took a prominent part in local politics. His great work was the rebirth of Elizabeth College, founded and endowed by Queen Elizabeth in 1573. At the end of the eighteenth century it was almost dead. In 1799 it had only one pupil.

Le Boutillier decided that it ought to be set on its feet again. In spite of great indifference among the authorities, he investigated its history and finances, and, when a new Lieut-Governor, Sir John Colborne, arrived in 1821, he laid before him a carefully thought out plan for the entire reorganization of the College.

The Governor appealed to the Dean, who was Visitor of the College, and, as the Dean moved slowly, in 1823 he ordered a public inquiry, which resulted in a new charter being obtained in 1825, and new buildings begun in 1826. The school reopened with forty scholars, the first two names on the Register being sons of the Lieut-Governor, the next three numbers being given to sons of Le Boutillier in recognition of what the College owed to him.

He was responsible for the introduction of gas into the island; and then embarked on an ambitious scheme, the building of the Le Boutillier Arcade, later called the Commercial Arcade.

"Before his time", said the Gazette de Guernesey, "the old Town was like a nut without a kernel. Grande Rue skirted the harbour, but between it and the new streets there was nothing but gardens. He conceived the idea of linking the Market Place with Grande Rue by removing and levelling what was almost a mountain, and connecting the new district with the Platon, by means of a flight of steps.
”The present site of the Arcade was then terraced gardens. He opened the thoroughfare that he needed by demolishing the house of Mons Robin in Grande Rue. The Arcade then arose, and a new commercial centre was created"

But the expense ruined him, and in 1858, when 53, he emigrated to Cincinnati, were he was soon joined by his three sons. Here he built up a large and prosperous merchant's business, and his sons opened branch houses in Philadelphia and New York.

He returned to Jersey in 1864 a very rich man, and three years later on 17 July 1867 he died in his native parish of Trinity in his 84th year. The Gazette de Guernesey called him "a man of novel ideas, one of those ardent spirits who conceive and inaugurate vast undertakings, a master mind that left its mark on every place it passed through".

The Elizabeth College Register called him "one of the greatest benefactors that ever came to this island".

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