Howard Davis Park

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The park in 1951

The Howard Davis Park in St Helier was a gift to the island by one of its most generous benefactors, Thomas Benjamin Frederick Davis or T B Davis, as he is always known. Born at Havre des Pas, St Helier, Jersey on 25 April 1867, the son of Thomas Leopold Davis, a fisherman and ship's carpenter, and Jemima Vickers, T B went to sea as a young man, survived a journey in a rowing boat after his ship ran aground, established a stevedoring business in South Africa and eventually returned to the island of his birth a rich man.

The rose garden

Promise kept

This allowed him to fulfil a promise made as a young boy, which is recounted in a delightful story in the memoirs of Jersey's wartime Bailiff Alexander Coutanche. Davis was in the choir at St Luke's Church and one Sunday he went looking for conkers with a friend, Walter Braithwaite, later a General, in the gardens of the neighbouring house, Plaisance. They were caught by the owner, Jurat Joshua George Falle, who let Braithwaite go with a letter asking his mother to punish him suitably, but confined Davis to his cellar cleaning boots, while he had lunch.

When he was eventually freed Davis, who had a colourful vocabulary for a young boy, told the Jurat:"One day I shall be a rich man. I shall buy your ...... house and I shall pull it down stone by ....... stone". True his word, TB made his fortune overseas, returned to Jersey a very rich man, and bought Plaisance from Lily Falle, the Jurat's daughter. He had to leave for South Africa but instructed his friend Coutanche to ensure that the building was demolished and not a stone left standing. On his return he was less than pleased with the result, telling his friend "you have left the ...... cellar in which I was imprisoned. Get it out!"

A great admirer of the monarchy and friend through their joint love of sailing of King George V, Davis had decided to give the grounds of Plaisance to the people of Jersey as a public park in memory of his son Howard, who lost his life in World War One, and to erect a statue of the King where the house had once stood.

Today the gardens are among the most beautiful in the island, with sweeping lawns, mature trees, shrubs and flower borders. At the other end of the park next to St Luke's Church is a cemetery housing the graves of British and Allied Servicemen killed in World War 2, something of which Davis, who died in South Africa in 1942, would certainly have approved.

The cemetery at the eastern end of the park
HowardDavisPark.jpg

Property transactions

The property was ceded by Thomas Benjamin Frederick Davis to the Public of the Island of Jersey on 23 December 1937, through his representative on the Island Mr Edgar Aleck Dorey, as Mr Davis was based in South Africa. The property was formerly the grand house with extensive grounds known as Plaisance, which had belonged to Miss Albina Falle, the sister of Lord Portsea.

Under the terms of an agreement dated 20 July 1937, entered into between Miss Falle, John Edward Le Huquet, Deputy Greffier of the States, and authorised for and on behalf of the States, Miss Falle agreed to sell her property to the Public for £25,000.

T B Davis wrote a letter to the States on 16 October 1936 saying that he wished to commission a bronze statue of King George V as a gift to the Island. Francis Doyle Jones was his preferred sculptor and his offer included the cost of a granite base and the statue's erection. The suggested site for it was the Royal Square. When the proposal went before the States it was met with applause, although some voiced the opinion that the new statue should not replace the current one. So it was agreed that the new statue would be placed at the main entrance to Howard Davis Park.

The park was officially opened by T B Davis on Saturday 30 September 1939.

Paintings

The Howard Davis Hall, as it is known today, was the original billiards room of Plaisance. Hanging in the hall are paintings of Howard Leopold Davis, Thomas Davis, his wife, and his sister as well as a painting of the famous yacht Westward in full sail.

Picture gallery

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