Orviss family page
This page covers the history of the Orviss family in Jersey and also of the retail group founded by one of its members in 1874
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Origins of surname
The name is believed to be derived from the Latin Horatious.
The Orviss family originated in Norfolk and early in the 19th century. John William Orviss (1788-1822) moved to Jersey.
John William Orviss' elder son William appears in the 1861 and 1871 censuses in business as a grocer at 30 Queen Street, living with his wife Mary, and sons Philippe Gosset and John Walter in 1861. By 1871 the two sons, then aged 25 and 18, had left home. Three years later John Walter Orviss established his own business, Beresford Supply Stores, on the corner of Halkett Street and Beresford Street. What is not very well known is that John Walter must have opened his business in competition with his father, because William was still trading at 30 Queen Street in 1874. By 1881 he was in his 60s and had handed over to another son Philippe, who was living across Queen Street at No 31, with his family and trading as a grocer, after returning from a brief emigration to Australia. His 70-year-old mother was living with him, but there is no sign in the census of his father, although it is known that he did not die until 1888.
Philippe Gosset Orviss is shown as the occupant of No 19 in an 1890 almanac, but the premises were not listed in the following year's census, suggesting that his family was not living there. The census shows John Walter Orviss living in Grosvenor Street, and a member of his household was Philip Payn Orviss, his 15-year-old nephew, Philippe's son. Philip is shown as a grocer's assistant, so was presumably working for his uncle. So, too, was his elder brother Edmund Philip. He is shown as having been born in Australia in about 1872, suggesting that his father and mother emigrated at some point but then returned to Jersey.
This is confirmed by the 1871 and 1881 censuses. Philippe does not appear at all in the former, but by 1881 he is back in Jersey with his wife Emmeline and sons Edmund and William, both born in Australia in 1872 and 1874 respectively, and Philip Payn, born in Jersey in 1876, and younger daughters Jessie and Dora. The family was living at 31 Queen Street, and Philippe is shown as a grocer. By 1890 the family has moved out of No 31, which subsequent records suggest that they did not own, but had rented, and are now at No 19.
Philippe Gosset Orviss was not listed in the 1891 census and by 1901 he and Emmeline, with their daughters Dora and Emmeline, were living in Elizabeth Place and Philippe had left the grocery business and was shown as a carpenter. His son Philip Payn Orviss was no longer working for John Walter, but had emigrated to New Zealand. It is not known what happened to his elder brother Edmund, who lived until 1940, but another brother, Ernest Walter, moved to Wales.
John Walter Orviss' business prospered. By 1895 he had acquired 19 Queen Street, but it is unlikely that he lived there, or traded at the premises. He is still shown as the occupier in a 1905 and 1910 almanacs, and in 1920 the property was listed as owned by Orviss Ltd, as it was in almanacs up to 1950. By 1960 Orviss had been taken over by Le Riches Stores, but there is no indication that No 19 Queen Street ever featured in the acquisition.
Ironically, No 31 Queen Street, on the corner with Bath Street, where Philippe Gosset Orviss traded on his return from Australia, was leased by Le Riches from Philippe Le Geyt and then Mrs Winifred Labey, and was an important Le Riches shop of some size from 1910 to 1948.
Early company history
No history of Orviss Ltd has ever been written, although it was one of the most important retail groups in Jersey for nearly a century. The history of its early years features in The Le Riches Story, a 1993 history of the rival company which they commissioned Kenneth Renault to write for their 175th anniversary in 1993. This is what he recorded concerning Orviss:
- "The business was founded in 1874. A photograph shows that by the early 1900s the family firm of John Walter Orviss had built up a very handsome and substantial grocery and provision business embracing the extensive corner site of Beresford Street and Halkett Street. The shopfront features wll the bold details of a typical late Victorian store, with ornamental woodwork framing the windows, which are fully dressed in the conventional style.
- "The fascia under the elaborate cornices proclaims John W Orviss as the proprietor. Later photographs illustrate the same elaborate frontage but now extended in the same style along Beresford Street and further up Halkett Street. Contracts and photographs of a later period show that Asplet at No 17 (Beresford House) and No 18, adjacent to the original shop, have been absorbed into the business and a new fascia boldly proclaims the firm as Orviss Limited. John Walter had obviously built up a business of considerable importance as was a worthy rival, first to Samuel Le Riche, and later to Le Riche, the company.
- "The Orviss and Le Riche families of the 1880s and '90s were showing remarkable similarities in personal circumstances and in the effect these had on their respective businesses. John Walter Orviss died on 13 February 1918 at the comparatively early age of 65; his widow, Amelia Frances, died a year later in May 1919 aged only 67. They had only one son, Hugh John Walter, who died in infancy in 1884, and two daughters. Possibly in anticipation of events handwritten articles of association were published on 11 August 1917, 'by demand of John Walter Orviss and others' under the Companies Act of 1861, by which Orviss Limited was formed with a nominal capital of £50,000 in £1 shares.
- "A prosperous family business suddenly lost the controlling influence and direction of the head of the family, leaving no direct heir to take over the reins. The company busines of Orviss was established to continue parallel with Le Riche's Stores through the next 40 years, their principal shops in town maintaining and advertising the same variety of goods and similar standards of personal service and courtesy. Despite the precaution of company formation, there was no public issue of shares.
- "In one service Orviss appears to have been the more successful. Like Le Riche, they opened a restaurant on the upper floor of Beresford House and this remained open until the 1930s. In a show of one-upmanship of the time, Orviss also ran a popular outside catering service with their own marquees and furnishings and this was much in demand at the Battle of Flowers and at the races which, prior to the Red Houses/Quennevais development, were held on the old course on the Dunes.
- "Beresford House premises were also extended to accommodate the wine and spirit shop and the confectioners. No 15, the nearest to the Market gates, became the registered office of the company.
- "In addition to the town shops Orviss began to outstrip Le Riche at one stage by the opening of branches in Bath Street, First Tower, Gorey and St Aubin, the latter three covering areas which Le Riche had not yet reached."
There was another shop opposite in Beresford Street and a fish shop in Halkett Place, which was famous for its displays of poultry at Christmas.
La Société Jersiaise is in possession of two scrolls, the first inscribed by the staff to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the shop and Mr Orviss and his wife Amelia's silver wedding anniversary in June 1899, and the second dated 24 June 1914 to celebrate 40 years in business.
Both scrolls were signed by all the staff, whose numbers grew in the intervening 15 years from 60 to 120.
Orviss was famous for its standards of service. Customers could sit at the counter while placing their order, and usually it would then be delivered to their home, often arriving before their return. Many customers had accounts. If purchases were paid for in cash, this was placed in a small cylinder, which was conveyed to a back office by a system of cables and pulleys, later replaced by a compressed air system. The cylinder returned immediately with the customer's change and receipt.
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