Mont Les Vaux

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What's your street's story? - Mont Les Vaux


JC16MontLesVaux1860s.jpg

Building Mont Les Vaux in the 1860s (click on image to see larger version), with the gasworks behind


This article is based on a 2017 presentation by archives and collections director Linda Romeril in Jersey Archive's What's your street's story? series


LL postcard showing the upper part of the road

The story of Mont Les Vaux is intrinsically linked with the development of St Aubin's Harbour as the island's principal port before the growth of St Helier Harbour in the 19th century. The Duke of Richmond Map of 1795 shows a number of properties at the foot of Mont Les Vaux where the valley meets the corner of St Aubin's High Street.

The buildings of Mont Les Vaux include churches, schools and a hospital, and the path which was formerly the railway track from St Aubin to La Corbiere runs parallel with the road for part of its length.

Railway line

The construction of the railway was instigated on 15 March 1871 when the Constable of St Brelade presented a petition to the States on behalf of Maxwell Bury, who owned the granite quarry at La Moye. The petition asked the States to allow a railway to be built so that granite and other goods could be moved from La Moye to St Aubin and then on to St Helier by the Jersey Railway.

Construction of the line started in 1873 near Don Bridge, after some reservations by the chairman of the company, who reported that the prices being asked by landowners for the land on which to build the line were far higher than originally estimated. He reported that a landowner 'near St Aubin asked more than £400 an acre for a piece of rock of no apparent value and completely unproductive'.

In 1876 the company was declared bankrupt and work was suspended again in 1877. In 1883 the Jersey Railways Company was established to control both the St Helier to St Aubin and the St Aubin to La Moye lines. The new line was completed in 1884 with the first journey taking place in March of that year.

In July 1897 the company decided to construct a tunnel at the St Aubin end of Mont Les Vaux to help straighten the line, which curved sharply. The work was carried out by William Green and the tunnel opened to traffic on Boxing Day 1898.

The tunnel was used and extended by the Germans during the Occupation. It was widened and storage chambers were added by digging into the hillside. The site was then used to store coastal artillery ammunition to supply the batteries at Noirmont, Route Orange and La Moye.

Looking down on the bottom of the road. The railway line can be seen in the left foreground of the photograph

Hospital

The railway line passed the back of what was St Aubin's or St Brelade's Hospital. [1] The hospital was built following a gift to the poor of the Parish of St Brelade by Thomas Denton. Born in 1701, he was a merchant and shipowner, who married Jeanne Le Bailly in 1732. The couple's children all died young [2] which may have been his motivation for establishing the hospital.

A contract of 7 October 1757 in the Public Registry shows that he proposed to the Parish Assembly that he donate £1,006 to be placed in annuities in the Bank of England with the interest on the sum to be used to help the poor. The donation was made on condition that the parish, at its expense, would build or buy a house to turn into a hospital.

The proposition was accepted and the Constable bought a house near St Aubin in the name of the parish. Thomas Denton became the first treasurer of the hospital, a position he held until his death in 1770. His widow died in the same year, leaving another £1,500 to the infirmary.

This enabled the hospital to provide for an increased number of people, with the result that the original building became too small. A solution was reached when the parish exchanged it for a larger property owned by Philippe Pipon, who received 2,840 livres as part of the transaction.

Jersey Archive holds the hospital records as part of the Parish of St Brelade collection and they give a fascinating insight into the running of the institution and some of the inmates.

The accounts book begins in 1757 with the donation by Thomas Denton. The first page reveals that in 1758 the first governor of the hospital was Pierre Le Marchand. The accounts show payments for labour and goods, including a kitchen table, a barrel of beer, wheat barley and wooden faggots.

Church

Thomas and Jeanne Denton, as well as funding the establishmentand ongoing costs of the hospital, were also among the founders of St Aubin-on-the-Hill Church.

In 1716 a petition complaining about the inaccessibility of St Brelade's Church was presented to the Bishop of Winchester by Martin de Gruchy on behalf of the inhabitants of St Aubin. The petition pointed out that the church stood 'in a remote corner of that parish and most of the inhabitants have settled themselves in a town in the bay of St Aubin'.

It also stated that St Aubin contained over 200 families, that the road to St Brelade's Church was difficult, with steep ascents, descents and moving sands, and that the inhabitants were exposed to 'great fatigue by the scorching heat in the summer and the storms of impetuous westerly winds which usually blow there in winter'.

The Bishop gave licence for the building of a chapel in St Aubin and on 3 May 1733 Jean Seale donated the land at Les Vaux on which the original chapel was built.

In 1887 this original chapel was declared unsafe and demolished. Work began on the new church and the foundation stone was laid by the Bishop of Guildford on 4 June 1889, with the first service held in October 1892.

A Roman Catholic chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart was opened next to St Aubin's Hospital on 25 February 1900 with the opening ceremony carried out by Pere Leon Legrand, Rector of St Thomas.[3]

The original chapel was on the first floor of the building, which housed two classrooms below, allowing Catholic families in the west of the island to give their children both a primary education and Catholic instruction.

The first report in 1900 following an inspection of the new mixed school concluded that it was 'efficient'. 'It has begun well. Instruction is sound and good. The points that chiefly need attention are spelling and arithmetic.' Five years later inspector Mr Harrison reported:'The school is doing fairly satisfactory work. The children are still backward for their age, but are making some progress. The windows should have clear glass. The desks are of a bad pattern and should be renewed.' Mont Les Vaux was also the location of St Brelade's Central School, now St Brelade's College. The school building was constructed in the late 1870s and closed as a primary school 100 years later, despite protests from residents.

An Evening Post photograph, date unknown, taken from the same viewpoint as the 1911 image above, but some time later

Notes and references

  1. Both names were used in official records
  2. Church records show that the couple had three children: Thomas, who was born and died in 1735; Elizabeth born in 1737; and another Thomas, born in 1739. No burial records have been found for the two later children
  3. The Chapel was eventually replaced by a new, larger church, on the seafront to the west of the town of St Aubin. The foundation stone was laid in 1937, but war intervened and the church was not used until 1947
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