Westmount

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The hill which marks the western boundary of the town of St Helier and overlooks People's Park and West Park is today known as Westmount. But it was formerly known as Mont Patibulaire, and then Mont es Pendus, or Gallows Hill, because it was here that criminals were executed in public.

The 250-foot high hill stretches from St John's Road in the north to West Park in the south and then westwards towards Bellozanne, although it is the south and east facing edges which are usually recognised today as Westmount.

As George Balleine wrote in his Bailiwick of Jersey, it was as Gallows Hill that Westmount was known to most islanders, and still is to some, although it is almost 200 years since the last public hanging took place there in 1829.

"Four gaunt pillars crowned the hill, where a little summer-house now stands, four to show that these were the King's gallows. Seigneurs who had hanging rights were allowed only two. At first these pillars were of wood, but in 1632 they were replaced by columns of solid granite at the request of the eloguent aootrney-general, who amused the Court by pleading: 'Then they will last for ever and serve for us and our children.'

Executions took place on market days and were proclaimed in all the churches on the previous Sunday. They were frequent, and held in public so that the deaths of the unfortunate, whose crime may have been as trivial as the theft of an item worth more than a shilling, would be an example to others.

There were three quarries at Westmount. One, known as Horseshoe Quarry was cut into the south face above St Aubin's Road and the Lower Park beyond. By the mid 18th century this had been turned into a small public garden, which remains there today, although few islanders know where it is or have visited it. Further towards West Park another quarry provided the land on which West Park Pavilion, now replaced by a block of apartments, was built in the 19th century, and rebuilt and extended in the 20th. The third quarry was at the northern end of the eastern face of the hill.

There was also a copper mine in this area, which was turned into an air raid shelter before the German Occupation. The site of the original gallows, which was turned into a summerhouse after executions ceased, was in turn converted by the Germans into a machine gun post, but in 1989 this substantial granite and concrete structure, whose position had been rendered unsafe after a landslide during the storm of October 1987, had to be demolished.

Early photographs show a gazebo-like structure on the summit of Westmount, which was in Victorian Times an extensive walled property, Westmount House, owned by Francois Voisin.

Below Westmount to the east is People's Park, which was the venue for many public events in the early 20th century, including the Muratti and Upton Park football matches.

Gallery

A view of St Helier from Westmount in the 1870s, photographed by Ernest Baudoux
1929
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