Old Jersey Houses

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Published in two volumes in 1965 and 1977, Old Jersey Houses was written by prominent Jersey historian Joan Stevens, and is the only comprehensive guide to the island's homes ever published.

The first volume, which was reprinted in second, third and fourth editions, provided a fascinating insight into Jersey homes of the 17th century and earlier, and although it did not include every property from that era which was still in existence, it missed very few of any importance.

The same could not be said of the second volume, which took up the story at the beginning of the 18th century, and completely ignored a significant number of homes built in that century and still standing today.

General history

The first volume included chapters on the general history of the island and the life of a Jerseyman who might have lived in one of the houses, as well as examining in considerable detail the architectural features of the houses, both external and internal.

Given the degree of research undertaken by the author to produce what she did, one cannot help wondering what she might have achieved had she set out to produce her own all-embracing history of Jersey, rather than co-operating with Marguerite Syvret on updating George Balleine's own work.

Families

Jerripedia is happy to acknowledge the extent to which it has drawn on Old Jersey Houses as a source for its own articles on the island's old properties, but we need to make it clear that our over-riding interest is the families who owned and lived in them, rather than the shape of windows and arches, which were more important to Mrs Stevens.

Sketchy articles

For a long time it would have been considered a heresy to criticise these two volumes in any way (perhaps it still is). They were much lauded at the time of their publication and the first volume sold heavily in four editions. The second volume was not quite so successful and is still in print in its first edition some 40 years after it was published.

Perhaps the success of Volume One was based on the detailed descriptions of those houses about which the author had assembled a substantial body of information, and the desire of those owning one of the other homes given no more than a passing mention to have a copy of the book for their coffee table. Unfortunately those properties covered in detail are all too few, and many individual articles are very sketchy. That for La Grande Maison, Trinity, for example, offers no information whatsoever about the age of the property, no description of the house, no details of which families owned it and lived there. Indeed, all that the author has written about the property is that it has an unusual granite trough built into a wall, the purpose of which was unknown to her, and 'the house also has a round arch'.

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