Great Eastern Hotel
The Great Eastern Hotel was opposite St John's Church in the second half of the 19th century, although who owned it and exactly which land it occupied is something of a mystery.
Picture from France
We have been researching the hotel since the photograph at the top of the page was sent to us from France early in 2016. The picture was captioned 'St Peter's Village, Jersey' but it did not take long to determine that it was, in fact, St John's Church in the background.
The scene was easily identified because we already had the middle picture on the Saint John parish page of Jerripedia. In that photograph, which we believe was taken after the top one, the building which had been the bowling alley is clearly identified as part of H E Crussell's Great Eastern Hotel. The top picture had to be taken between 1881 and 1912, because the church steeple was rendered in the former year and the parish hall, which can be seen to the right of the bottom picture, was built in the latter year.
The covering on the steeple, which was a Victorian fashion, and always controversial, was removed in 1972-73. The plaque on the south face of the steeple disappeared at the same time. In the bowling alley photograph the date 1881 can be made out, together with the initials TFL and JFL, which, depending on which history of the church is to be believed, either belonged to the stonemasons who carried out the work or the churchwardens who commissioned it. It is likely that the FL part of the initials stands for Falla, Filiastre or Filleul.
More is certainly known about the church than the buildings which stood opposite, and which were eventually demolished, as can be seen in the picture below left, before eventually the area was given over to the parish war memorial, as can be seen on the right. It appears from the early photographs that the buildings which stood here were somewhat wider than the strip now occupied by the memorial and flagpole, but that may be an optical illusion. It also appears from the photograph of the Great Eastern that the road was somewhat wider at the time, but part of that width may have been taken up by the garden outside the parish hall.
But just who owned the hotel and the bowling alley, and how they came eventually to be replaced by the war memorial, is shrouded in mystery. Research carried out on behalf of Jerripedia has failed to find any mention of the hotel in contracts for land transactions. The War Memorial appears to have been built on the site of a former drill shed and parade ground called the “anciennes Buttes”. This land, on the edge of Rue des Buttes, is believed to have been used for archery practice and Militia drills in the past. The land now belongs to the Parish “by title of in excess of 40 years”. The field (J371) immediately to the West of the War Memorial/Buttes (which is called Le Pré) belonged to the du Feu family from mid-1870 into the late 1990s.
There is no mention of a hotel in any transaction, although it is clearly identified in successive censuses.
In 1891 the premises were occupied by Herbert Ernest Crussell, described as 'hotel keeper', and his wife Elina B. Mr Crussell, who appears in the St Helier baptism register as Hubert, was 23, and his wife, also from St Helier, was 19. We have not been able to find her maiden name. Mr Crussell was one of four children of James William Crussell and Anne Le Cornu. He was born in St Helier on 20 March 1868, and baptised rather belatedly four years later. His siblings were Reginald Alfred James, Annie Maria and Lilian Mary Ward.
The property was still a hotel in 1901, with Edward Williams (66) as hotel keeper, living there with his 54-year-old wife Jane Mary, their sons Edward and Walter, step brother Charles de Quetteville and nephew, another Charles de Quetteville.
Going back in time, the 1881 census shows Frederick Simon, born in St Peter Port, as hotel proprietor. This need not necessarily imply ownership of the premises because tenants of hotels and inns would frequently describe themselves as 'proprietor' of the business. James Iggledon was hotel keeper in 1871, and Charles Jennings in 1861. There is no mention of the Great Eastern in the 1851 census, but it is possible it was then called the Foreigners' and Travellers' Hotel, it being difficult to identify the location of individual properties from the details recorded of country parishes in the census. Neither the Great Eastern nor the Foreigners appears in the 1852 Post Office Directory.
An 1860 advertisement in the Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph refers to the hotel 'having been thoroughly repaired', suggesting that it may have been closed for some time, but was previously known by the same name. The proprietor is named as Thomas Whittle. An advertisement the following year shows that Charles Jennings had taken over, confirming the census return.
No mention of a bowling alley has been found in census returns, property transactions nor almanacs of the time, but it must have existed, as shown in the picture, during the 1880s. This was a time when nine-pin bowling, or skittles, was a popular pastime and it is quite possible that this was associated with the hotel, which expanded into the neighbouring building by 1891.