Grouville Common

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A famous painting by Jersey artist Ouless of horse racing on the common
An early photograph of race day, showing what a major social event it was

Grouville Common (sometimes erroneously called Gorey Common) covers a large area in the east of Jersey, stretching south from Gorey Village. It consists of 160 vergées of sandy heathland on the coast, the greater part of which is given over today to the golf course administered by the Royal Jersey Golf Club.


This is divided by the coast road from Gorey's "village green", but before the creation of the golf course a large flat area was available for such activities as horse racing, Militia training and the annual Militia Review on Queen Victoria's birthday.

The common was a famous location for duels, and in 1799 the surgeon of the regiment garrisoned at Gorey was shot dead by a fellow officer. In 1594 the Seigneur of St Ouen, Philippe de Carteret, was ordered by the Bailiff to fight a duel after being falsely accused of treason, and only escaped the trap which had been set for him when his wife Margaret petitioned King Henry VII.

The Common was regularly used by the Militia in the 19th and early 20th century for training and as a camp, and the Grand Militia Review held annually on 24 May, Queen Victoria's birthday, was moved there from the beach in St Aubin's Bay. So, too, was the sport of horse racing, which moved to the common in 1843

The common has had many uses over the centuries, most notably for training and reviews by the militia and for sixty years from 1843 it was the venue for horse racing, which had previously taken place on the beach at St Aubin's Bay and then at Grève d'Azette. The Grouville Common event was Jersey biggest annual carnival and was captured in oils by island painter Philip Ouless in 1849.

Legendary 20th century golfers Harry Vardon and Ted Ray were both born in Grouville and learned their skills on the course. Vardon went on to win the Open Championship a record six times and Ray also won the Open and US Open and was the first Ryder Cup captain in 1927.

Gallery

Click on any image to see a full-size version

This photograph by Philip Godfray, taken in the late 1870s or '80s, shows Grouville Common with the recently laid railway line crossing it to Gorey Village Station, above the trees. Behind the station where there were previously shipyards and Coastal Tower No 8 the beach stretches almost to the station. No seawall has yet been built, with land reclaimed behind to extend the railway to Gorey Pier. And there is no road across the common. To reach Gorey Pier from the south it was necessary to pass through Gorey Village, seen in the foreground, to the bottom of Gorey Hill, and then continue down to the harbour
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