Durell's 1847 guidebook
Hospital and Prison
- Jersey Hospital, its foundation and gradual increase
- Management of the Hospital
- Let for a barrack and destroyed by fire in 1783
- Compensation granted by the British Government
- Rebuilt in 1793
- The Burial ground for strangers
- Another for the Jews
- All Saints Chapel
- The Parade
- The Jail and House of Correction.
- Prisoners formerly confined in Mount Orgueil Castle
- The Halberdiers
- Prison Board
- Official Letters from Mr Maule
Our travellers returned to their lodgings well pleased with their excursion, and in the course of the evening they agreed to devote the next day to visit the town of St Helier. As the next morning happened to be fine, they sallied out early, and were ultimately highly gratified with their walk.
As many parts of the town of St Helier have been already described in Ouless' Scenic Beauties, and the explanations in that work were prepared by the author of this pictorial guide, the following quotation, which refers to a great part of the town, will not be unacceptable.
- "The town and parish of St Helier contain about 24,000 inhabitants, or one half of the population of Jersey. The former was originally but a collection of low and miserable thatched houses. During the government of Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1601, it contained but a few inhabitants; nor was it paved till long afterwards, during the reign of Charles II.
- "The town began to increase, though slowly, after the erection of the South Pier, till at the breaking out of the French Revolution in 1789, when it might have contained a population of between three or four thousand souls. The subsequent increase of St Helier is to be dated from that period. The great number of emigrants and French clergy who sought refuge here rendered additional buildings necessary, till in a few years the thatched and other mean habitations had totally disappeared.
- "The French revolution was succeeded by the long wars, which did not cease till 1816. During all that time the island was free from invasion, and enjoyed the advantages which resulted from the extraordinary expenditure incurred by a large naval and military establishment. The commerce of the island was also visibly augmented; but that prosperity was still further advanced by the immense sums of money which the building of Fort Regent and of several barracks occasioned to be spent in the country. It had been anticipated that the return of peace would be attended with a cessation of the prosperity which flowed from Government sources, but on the contrary, the trade and the shipping, instead of having been affected by that circumstance, began to increase in a most extraordinary degree. The harbour was brought to its present enlarged dimensions, and though not many years have since elapsed, it has become so inconveniently small that at this moment the public is actively employed in the construction of a port on a still larger scale.
- "The limits of the town were much confined before the French Revolution: Halkett Place, the markets, and the streets to the north of them, were nothing but meadows. The same may be said of La Motte Street, and of all the additions which have been made to the east of the house of Clement Hemery. New Street, Don Street, and David Place are all new additions. In Bond Street, the cattle fair, or market, was then held along the south wall of the churchyard. Beyond this end the sea there was nothing but a barren waste of sand, except the ruins of fuller's mill, a small beach, and some offensive slaughterhouses. It was probably at this place that the few boats belonging to the town were secured before the harbour had been constructed.
- "The same may be said of the west, or lower end of the town, for beyond Charing Cross, which was the site of the insular prison, which has since been demolished, scarcely a good house existed. Sand Street, as its name imports, was then but a waste of sand, over which were scattered some ruinous thatched cottages of the rudest description. All Saints Chapel and the streets in its neighbourhood did not then exist. The same may be said in a great measure of several other places in the skirts of the town, such as Great Union Road, Rouge Bouillon, St John's Road, the Coie, Georgetown, and Havre des Pas, which, instead of being large and flourishing suburbs, contained then but a few homely farmhouses.
- "Add to this that most of the houses which were standing at that time, having been rebuilt more lofty and capacious, contain now a larger number of inmates. The ground, which had been reserved to most of the houses for gardens and other purposes has been, as it increased in value, sold for building. Even the sand, which had been embanked from the sea at the Esplanade, has been filled up, portioned out into several new streets, and now forms a considerable addition to the town in one of its most commercial and busy parts."
We make a few additional descriptions. At the west end of the town stands the Jersey Hospital, a very large and spacious mass of buildings. The establishment combines all the advantages of an English infirmary, a general poorhouse for all the parishes in the island, an asylum for lunatics, and a refuge for the houseless and destitute, who have no settlement in the island. In a large country these form separate establishments; but that could not be done in a place of such narrow limits as Jersey, and on the other hand that combination does not seem to have been attended with inconvenience.
The Hospital has a very imposing appearance on the outside, and its internal arrangement is highly praiseworthy for its cleanliness and the attentions paid to the wants and the little comforts of its destitute, sick, and aged inmates, which forcibly reminds one of the almshouse of the Man of Ross,
- He feeds yon almshouse, neat, but void of state
- Where age and want sit smiling at the gate
- Him portion'd maids, apprenticed orphans blest
- The young who labour, and the old who rest
The entrance to the Hospital is over a spacious inclosed lawn or garden, which is laid out in front, where the sober, and well-behaved poor are allowed to take exercise and recreation.
The Hospital was founded about a century ago by the executors of Mrs Bartlett, of the town of St Aubin. This munificent establishment rose from small beginnings, and has been since gradually increased to its present state by subsequent benefactions. One of the wings was built about 15 years ago, at the expense of the executors of the late Charles Robin, of St Aubin, who appropriated part of it for a chapel, and further provided an endowment of £30 a year, towards the salary of a chaplain.
The superintendence of the Hospital belongs to the States, whose power is again delegated to a managing committee chosen from their own body, who issue their orders to the chaplain, the surgeon, the master, and the matron of the establishment. There was till lately a considerable income belonging to the foundation, on which the different parishes were entitled to place paupers free of expense, each according as they are assessed to the general rate of the island. The number of those foundation paupers, was, however, but small. The great body of its inmates, now amounting to almost 350, consists of destitute strangers, or of the widows and orphans of soldiers and sailors, who had died while they were stationed in the island. These occasion a heavy expense, which is defrayed by the island, according to the proportions to which the different parishes are assessed.
This establishment met with a singular misfortune in 1783, Government having thought it necessary to increase the military establishment in the Channel Islands towards the end of the American war, and there not being a sufficiency of barracks to accommodate all the troops it became indispensable to have recourse to some expedients to avoid putting the inhabitants to the inconvenience of having them quartered upon them. In consequence of this, several private houses were hired for temporary barracks, and among the rest, the States were prevailed upon to let the Hospital for that purpose.
The poor were drafted away into another residence, and the soldiers installed into a dwelling, which its founders had exclusively appropriated for the relief of the indigent and the unfortunate, a measure of so equivocal a nature that it cannot be even palliated but on the plea of extreme necessity. The States yielded to the pressing solicitations of the Governor, and surrendered the Hospital; but, whether it was the effect of deception, avarice, or imprudence, it was not long before that measure was severely punished. About a year afterwards, in 1783, the powder magazine, which was kept there, caught fire, blew up, destroyed the building, and killed several persons on the spot.
The Hospital then remained a scorched and uninhabitable ruin for some years, till at length the claims of the island having been taken into the consideration of the British Government, the States obtained a compensation for the destruction of the Hospital, which soon afterwards rose again from its ruins, and forms now the present building. The interruption lasted ten years, as it was not till 1793 that the poor were admitted again into their inheritance, which has not since ceased to prosper and to increase in reputation.
Farther to the west, and the very last object at the foot of the hill, is a large inclosed burying ground. It was purchased by the States in 1832, during the prevalence of the cholera, and in that place were deposited most of the victims of that terrible pestilence. It has been mostly appropriated to the burial of strangers, and of other persons belonging to the lower classes of society. There are few or no monuments worth mentioning in this humble receptable of the dead, where all is peace and solitude, and well beseems the memories of those who were unknown in their generation, and were consigned to this place but to be the sooner forgotten. The Jews have also a small unostentatious burying ground in the immediate vicinity.
All Saints is a neat chapel of ease, belonging to the parish of St Helier. It lies on the west side of the Parade, on an artificial mound, at a small distance from the Hospital, and was built about 12 years ago by subscription, to which the States munificently contributed £200. The minister is appointed by the Rector of St Helier. The chapel derives its name of All Saints from its having been built on the site of a burying-ground, which was closed after the purchase of the new cemetery for strangers.
The Parade, in which All Saints Chapel has been erected, was, as its name imports, made during the last war, for the convenience of exercising the troops. As the town of St Helier had originally been built at the east end of the valley, and under the shelter of the Town Hill, a considerable track of ground at its western extremity had been left as an unprofitable waste, overspread with sandy hillocks, and a copious growth of the sand-rush. It formed an extensive common, and as there was then scarcely any demand for building, it had been left for ages unimproved, and exposed to fresh accumulations of sand, which every violent storm blew in directly over it from the sea.
After this common had been levelled and converted into a parade, and the Hospital and Jail had been fixed near it, the neighbourhood began to improve, the ground acquired a certain value, and some good houses were built. It then occurred that The Parade would be well adapted for a public walk. The opinion prevailed and the whole was laid out for that purpose in gravel walks, and planted with rows of ornamental trees, which have not, however, grown so rapidly as had been expected. That circumstance can be easily accounted for, as the substratum, in which they had been planted, was but a barren sand, incapable of supporting vegetation. The only remedy for this, and which has at length been adopted, would have been to fill the pits, in which they had been planted, with vegetable mould, in which the roots might have had room to expand. As the ground becomes sheltered and improved, the trees will also become more luxuriant, and as the neighbourhood will have a greater number of modern elegant houses.
It may be easily anticipated that at no very distant period, the Parade will become a fashionable place of recreation, and afford to the inhabitants of St Helier, a public walk in every way worthy of their populous town.
The Jail adjoins the Hospital, and like it, the main entrance is from Gloucester Street. It is a strong and substantial modern edifice. It has a handsome and elegant appearance, and its front is of the most beautiful granite found in the island, and seems to be well calculated to promote the health, and to secure the safe custody of the prisoners. At a small distance it might be easily taken for a palace, or at least for some large public establishment. A house of correction was annexed to it a few years ago, and is subject to the same regulations as the jail.
In ancient times the King's Prison was in Mount Orgueil, from whence the prisoners were conducted almost five miles to take their trial before the Royal Court at St Helier. There was a body of about 300 pike or javelin men, who were bound by the tenure of their estates to attend the prisoners to their trial, and back again to the Castle. That having been found to be attended with a great deal of inconvenience, it was resolved to build a jail at St Helier, which was accordingly done under Charles II. Its site was in that part of the town which is now called Charing Cross, but having in its turn become ruinous and inconvenient, the States decided that it could not be repaired, and ought to be demolished. That happened about thirty years ago, when the present jail was built to replace it, at an expense of above £16,000, and as the funds for that purpose had to be raised by loan, they form at this moment no inconsiderable part of the public debt of the island.
The internal administration of the prison may be comprised in a very short description. The maintenance of the prisoners was formerly at the charge of the Governor, as being the Grantee of the Royal Revenues in Jersey. As the Jailor was then but poorly remunerated, he was allowed to sell drink without licence, principally for the accommodation of the debtors. That system has been done away with within these few years, the maintenance of the establishment has been divided between the Governor and the States, and the Jailor receives an adequate salary as a compensation for the loss of his license.
The spirit of public economy, which has operated so many reforms in England, has extended its minute ramifications even to this establishment. The public executioner was an officer under the Crown, who was acknowledged as such in the King's Rent Roll, and was entitled to the pay of a common soldier, as well as to a suitable dwelling. But the office having been found expensive, and the salary burthensome, it was abolished, when all his emoluments reverted to the Crown. A part of the inferior duties, such as the flagellations of culprits, by sentence of the Royal Court, has been provided for by being assigned to the Turnkeys.
Formerly the Jail was without any spiritual provision, and it is only within these few years that a chaplain officiates in it, for though a chapel had been built, it had been left untenanted. That duty has devolved to the Chaplain of the Hospital, who receives an additional salary from the States to perform that charitable work.
The management of the Jail was formerly in the hands of a Committee of the States ; but it is now entrusted to a special Prison Board of six members, at the head of whom are the Governor and the Bailly. Let it then be expected that from the apparently pious, disinterested, and philanthropic character of some of those gentlemen, the public will not be disappointed in seeing that establishment flourish, as if it had passed under the administration of some modern Howard, of our own growth.
On leaving the Jail, and coming down Gloucester Street, the traveller will find himself on the road which runs parallel with the Esplanade. This is a large sea wall, which begins at the north end of the Harbour, and is carried in a direction parallel to the town for half a mile, which it is calculated to protect against the fury and encroachment of the waters. The road from St Aubin, and from the western parishes has been continued over this esplanade, till it joins the quays, and opens for those parishes a direct communication with every part of the Harbour, without the delay or inconvenience of traversing the town.
At the end of this esplanade, and in an open space, a weighing machine has been erected, the superintendant of which is appointed by the States.
We conclude with an extract from a letter, written on 6 July 1837, by order of Lord John Russell, then Secretary of State, to the States of Jersey, relating to the projected alterations in the administration of the Jail, which have since been adopted:—
- "Lord John Russell is glad to learn from the report of the States that they concur with him, in the propriety of paying the charge for an executioner, and the expenses of the transportation of felons to the Hulks, out of the Prison fund, and His Lordship has every reason to believe that the sum of £600 to be raised in equal parts, by a contribution of the King's Revenue, and by the States of the Island, will be amply sufficient to defray these charges, as well as the expenditure for the maintenance of the Prison, and every other charge connected with the management and safe custody of the Prisoners. Should, however, from any unforeseen cause, the general expenses of the Prison exceed the sum of £600, Lord John Russell firmly believes that when the States witness the important advantages arising from an approved system of prison discipline, they will readily provide for such excess, and His Lordship hopes that upon a reconsideration of this point, the States will withdraw their opposition to this proposal.
- "With respect to the observation of the States on the composition of the Prison Board, Lord John Russell considers that six members will be sufficient, and His Lordship now proposes that the States nominate three members, one of the three to be the Bailiff, the remaining three being members ex-officio, viz, the Lieut-Governor, the Sheriff and one of the King's Receivers.
- "I am further directed by Lord John Russell to desire you will take the earliest opportunity of calling the attention of the States to the subject, and as Lord John Russell does not anticipate any further difficulties, His Lordship has no doubt the States will proceed forthwith to take such steps as may be necessary for improving the state of the Prison in the Island of Jersey, and every facility will be given by Dr Hawkins, the Prison Inspector, to forward the desirable object.
- "As soon as the Board is constituted they should proceed to prepare plans, which, however, must be submitted to the Secretary of State for approval.
- "I have the honor to be, Sir,
- "Your obedient Servant,
- "F Maple, the Lieut-Governor of Jersey"
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