A history of Regent Road

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What's your street's story? -

Regent Road


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Looking down on Regent Road from Fort Regent (click on image to see larger version)


This article is based on a 2018 presentation by archivist Trude Foster in Jersey Archive's What's your street's story? series


La Chasse and Regent Road, which lie below and to the east of Fort Regent, are in the Fief de la Fosse. They contain some of the earliest properties in St Helier, pre-dating the fort by many years.

Early names

La Chasse was once known by the intriguing name Rue de Madagascar, the reason for which has never been entirely clear. It has been suggested by historian Joan Stevens and others that there may have been an inn with that name in the street. Pre-1830 contracts generally refer to the street as Rue de Madagascar, but some record it under both names, presumably for clarity at the time when it was changing from one to the other [1].

Regent Road has gone by several different names. On the 1834 Le Gros map it was recorded as Regent Street, but it has also been called Rue de la Froid Vente, [2] translated as 'road of the cold wind', because of the way it faces.

Historian Philip Ahier suggested that the street was once known by that name at the top end and Ruette de la Comedie at the lower end, because of the theatre which was there.

This gate is now all that remains of Beau Regard

Theatre Royal

The Regent Road Theatre, or the Theatre Royal, as it was known, was in an area once known as Old Theatre Place, which appears to have been the site now covered by Regency House Apartments. This was Jersey's first dedicated playhouse, although there had been other small ventures before.

It was the brainchild of two Englishmen, Henry Lee and his great friend James Shatford, the manager of a touring company based in Salisbury. Lee left the partnership early on and James Shatford carried the project through to completion. [3]

It took several years [4] before a player's licence was granted. The theatre opened in the late summer of 1802. Contemporary newspaper reports would seem to suggest that it was a rather luxurious affair. [5]

The venture continued until 1814 and James Shatford's death. The building passed to Jean Le Mottee and then Matthew Amiraux. Nicolas Bott acquiredhalf the building in the 1830s and in 1837 he insured it, the building being described as built of stone and hung with tiles.

Battle of Jersey

La Chasse played a part in the Battle of Jersey. There is a plaque in the street dedicated to resident Edward Combs [6], who wasthe man who ran to tell Lieut-Governor Moyse Corbet that the French had invaded on 6 January 1781.

A volume of testimonies from Corbet's trial reveals that both Edward Combs, a young officer, and his father, also Edward, appeared as witnesses for the defence of the Lieut-Governor at his trial in London in May 1781. [7]

Edward Combs described how the Lieut-Governor spoke to him out of the window and said that he was only half dressed. Combs was ordered to take a horse and ride to Grouville to raise the regiment, but Clement Hemery arrived and was sent instead. He testified that Hemery was barely out of the stable before the French arrived to take the Lieut-Governor.

Beau Regard

Beau Regard was an interesting property that once stood in Regent Road. It is now demolished, but the original gates survive. They contain an inscription in Latin by Horace, which, translated, reads:'This corner of the world beyond all others shines upon me'. It is attributed to Jean Geffrard, a prosperous merchant who lived in the house in 1831.

Beau Regard in 1964

On 6 January that year, the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Jersey, he married Anne Pirouet, the widow of Josue Hocquard. They were both in their 60s. Behind the gates of Beau Regard there is now a mural giving an indication of what the view from their house may have looked like in 1831.

The property later became the Asylum for Aged and Infirm Women. The gates of the institution once contained a sign giving visiting hours with the inscription Celui qui donne aux pauvres prete a l'Eternite', meaning 'He who gives to the poor is ready for eternity' on the collecting box.

The institution was set up by a group of women who were concerned for the health of a blind widow who had been refused entry to the hospital. She was not Jersey-born but she was too weak to be sent back to England by boat.

Newspaper reports in the 1850s suggest that this woman was Philippa Way, the widow of a gardener, and had lived in Jersey for many years. She was eventually admitted as a lifelong resident of the hospital after a public outcry in 1857. A bazaar was held to raise funds for her and Jersey people contributed funds and goods for sale.

The first official meeting of the home's committee was in early 1860. The account books of that time are full of entries listing contributions and the money collected from their donation boxes.

One woman who was a recipient of care at the home was Cascida Cecilia Le Sueur. She was unmarried and moved in when she was in her 50s. She had been an invalid for many years because of kidney problems. The records of residents show when she entered the home, what she brought with her and who was contributing to the cost of her care.

The Home for Aged Women, now the Glanville Home, relocated to St Mark's Road in 1964.

Steps

Among the features of Regent Road are the steps that now lead to the apartment building. The first official mention of them was on 10 December 1874, when it was decided to build a wall to separate parish property from the Jersey Eastern Railway. The steps were possibly built between 1872 and 1874.

Cinema

A building at La Chasse which is remembered fondly is the Forum Cinema. It stood between La Chasse and Grenville Street. Many people remember the Compton organ, which is now installed at Fort Regent and the famous organist Edward O'Henry, who lived nearby.

Within the building was the Deep nightclub, which was popular during the 1960s. A 1967 advertisement for go-go dancers promised them full board in a hotel, flights to and from the island, and the princely sum of £8 a week for the right girl with a bubbly personality.

The steps from Snow Hill to Regent Road in the 1940s

Notes and references

  1. The 1834 Le Gros map of St Helier names it La Chasse Street
  2. The correct French name was Rue du Froid Vent; Rue Fraid Vent in Jèrriais - Editor
  3. This is an ovesimplification of the history of the Theatre Royal, which can be found in two articles published in the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise in the 1980s and included in Jerripedia - The Theatre in Jersey 1778-1801 and The Theatre in Jersey 1802-1806 - Henry Lee had already run the Theatre Royal in an unknown location from 1796 and James Shatford was responsible for the new venture at the end of Regent Street, as it was then known - Editor
  4. James Shatford's application was made to the Bailiff in 1800
  5. Reports of Henry Lee's and James Shatford's activities in Jersey were published in the Salisbury Journal because they were well known in the town. Jersey newspapers do not appear to have reported on the theatre in the island at that time
  6. Or Coombs
  7. Moyse Corbet faced a court martial, a report of which is contained in Jerripedia and was found guilty of 'allowing himself to be surprised by the enemy; signing articles of capitulation when a prisoner; and attempting, by orders and other excitements, to induce the officers in command to concur with and ratify the same, thereby shamefully abandoning the very high and important trust reposed in him'. He was dismissed and never returned to his native island.
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