Abraham de Gruchy's successors

From Jerripedia
Jump to: navigation, search




De Gruchy's sons continue and expand the family business


William Philippe de Gruchy

William Philippe (1809-1881), Abraham de Gruchy's eldest son


Some ten years before Abraham de Gruchy died in 1864, his extensive business empire had been taken over by his sons, William Philippe and Philip de Gruchy. Family historian Guy Dixon traces the progress of the businesses from this point.

Family tree

Jubilee celebrated

By the time A de Gruchy and Company celebrated its golden jubilee in 1860, Abraham de Gruchy had retired and his sons William Philippe, Philip and Jean had taken over their father`s various business interests. In 1863, there was further expansion, accompanied by a reconstruction of the whole St Helier business, including rebuilding the facade. Across the Atlantic, plans had also been finalized that year, to extend Abraham de Gruchy`s Newfoundland fisheries to the south coast. The family also returned in that year to banking.

At the time of his death, Abraham de Gruchy was living at The White Lodge, Grosvenor Street, having moved from 7 Windsor Terrace some years previously. He died on 9 October 1864, aged 84. His widow survived him by two years. They were buried in Green Street cemetery, St Helier.

Successors

Elder son

Their elder son, William Philippe (1809-1881), was as successful a merchant as his father. Educated in England, he entered the family business in 1826, and will have made possible much of the diversification, which was a characteristic of the de Gruchy firms. A gifted linguist, he was quadrilingual, speaking fluent Spanish, which was then the language of international commerce, in addition to the Jersey merchant`s usual French, Jersey-French and English. He was, in 1848, on the Reservoir Planning Committee and, in the 1860s, a committee member of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce. He sat, in 1867, on the Restoration Committee of the Town Church and was one of the founders of the Jersey Eastern Railway Company. He was Constable of St Saviour from 1872 to 1878.

In 1837 he married Louisa Chapman, daughter of Charles William, of Camberwell, Surrey, a stockbroker and former marine insurance broker at Lloyd`s Coffee House, London, which is probably where he met his future son-in-law`s family. They had two sons, William Laurence, (1838-1920), a barrister, (see below) and Philip Henry, (1843-1899), an old Victorian, who entered A de Gruchy and Co, becoming in 1872 its manager and in 1881 its managing owner.

To Henry, (as he was called), must go the credit for having built, in 1883, De Gruchy`s Arcade. Described as a "very popular manager", [1] he was renowned for his good-natured and genial bonhomie. A major in the Royal Jersey Militia, he used to liken his running of the store to that of his former militia company.

Ships were an important part of the de Gruchy business empire. Their barque Eliza at Naples. Courtesy of Jersey Museum Service
De Gruchy, Renouf and Clement`s topsail schooner, Royal Blue Jacket, approaching Naples. Courtesy of Jersey Museum Service

Second son

The second of de Gruchy`s sons was Philip, (1812-1889), who lived at Little Grove, St Lawrence, where his family`s arms can be seen on the pedestrian arch. Philip was educated, with his brothers, at the quaintly named Mr Joyce`s School for Young Gentlemen, at Fordingbridge in Hampshire. Despite a gruff appearance, he was much loved by his entire family and will have been well liked by his staff. By nature a shy man, he was a highly competent businessman, whose principal responsibility was the department store. As such, the de Gruchys continued in the footsteps of their Le Brocq forbears, in having a younger son run their store, which left the elder son free to expand other branches of the business or embark on his own career. Philip traveled regularly on behalf of the firm to the United Kingdom and France. However, in July 1864, he bought into his brother`s shipping business, which largely owed its timely expansion, after many rival firms had been crippled by the 1873 bank crashes, to the injection, at that time, of his own money into the enterprise. This enabled the 1874 purchases of additional fishing `posts` and ships.

Third son

The third of de Gruchy`s sons was Jean, (1816-1862), who was involved in the King Street business. With his elder brother William, he was on the Reservoir Planning Committee in 1848 and had, in 1860, the vice-chair during the firm`s golden jubilee celebrations. He died not long afterwards from consumption, probably resulting from tuberculosis, on Christmas morning 1862. [2] The family has a leather-bound French New Testament inscribed: Délivré par Son Excellence le Major Général Messire Colin Halkett, KCB à Jean de Gruchy, 1826, which was a school prize won by the ten-year-old recipient. A stained-glass window in the nave of the Town Church, St Helier, was given in memory of Jean. It is the first on the north, or left, side of the aisle, as one enters from the west. During recent restoration, the brass plaque bearing his name was lost.

The remaining children were George, (1819-1893), Curate of Whilton, Northamptonshire (1842-1853), Rector of Little Bealings, Suffolk (1854-1870) and Vicar of Stoke St Milborough, Shropshire (1871-1893), Thomas and Marie Anne, both of whom died in infancy. There was also a stillborn child.

Newfoundland fisheries

In 1854, when he was in his early seventies, Abraham de Gruchy finally retired from active participation in business. This is reflected in the sale that year of his long-established Pointe Saint-Pierre cod fishery. His son, William Philippe, who took on the running of his father`s shipping business, was primarily interested in expanding the family`s Newfoundland presence to the west coast, which abounded in herring and mackerel, salmon and lobster. Most of the Jersey fishery firms in the region were interested only in cod. American commercial fishermen had discovered the Gulf of St Lawrence`s plentiful herring about 15 years previously. By 1866 they were also filling their schooners with the Gulf`s mackerel and by the 1870s setting up lobster canning factories. [3] William Philippe de Gruchy diversified into these fisheries, in two of which he was almost a decade ahead of the Americans. This expansion will have initially been financed by the 1854 sale. The Malbaie cod fishery was unaffected; the de Gruchys` change of emphasis in the ensuing years, from Gaspé to Newfoundland, from merely cod to include other fish, led to the successful establishment there of an increasing number of fisheries.

William Philippe de Gruchy in 1846 by Berteau
De Gruchy, Renouf and Clement's 149 ton schooner Bonny Mary, built in Gorey by Philip Bellot. Courtesy of Commander Peter Pallot
Abraham de Gruchy's brigantine Gem, built for him in 1847 in Poole, with the de Gruchys` pre-1863 house flag on the mainmast
Royal Blue Jacket in a gale. Courtesy of Jersey Museum Service
The crew of Royal Blue Jacket. Captain Francis Le Marquand, front centre, had previously been the Master of Abraham de Gruchy's brigantine Gem
John Mannion wrote of Woody Point, on that coast:
"Woody Point was the collecting and distributing centre for the Birds of Bonne Bay from about 1800 to 1850, when they were replaced by the Jersey firm of De Gruchy, Renouf, Clement and Company, [Author`s note: This firm was formed in 1863, see below, from the fisheries of Abraham de Gruchy and Thomas Renouf. Remembered here in its later name, in 1850 it will have been only De Gruchy]. This latter firm was also probably the proprietor of the Jersey room, [Author`s note: beach facility], in St John`s Beach, Humber Sound. As in the Bay of Islands, the emergence of the commercial herring and lobster fisheries attracted a number of agents or traders..." [4]

This replacement, in the 1850s, at Woody Point of the Birds of Bonne Bay by de Gruchy, was probably part of a larger picture as there was also, from this date, in Bonne Bay itself, a fishery owned by de Gruchy. [5]

The canning of salmon and lobsters by the future de Gruchy, Renouf, Clement and Co. in Burgeo, on the south coast of Newfoundland, in 1864, was described as an activity in which the firm lost money, [6]as they had evidently been unable to arouse in his South American or Mediterranean buyers an interest in lobster, at least, equal to that of the Americans of New York and other eastern seaboard cities, who had been eating Maine lobster, fresh or canned, for generations.

Shipping merger

In 1863, a year before the death of Abraham de Gruchy, his son, William Philippe, completed the merger of his father`s shipping business with that of Thomas Renouf. A third partner in the new venture was John Clement of Belgrave House, Millbrook, a former master in the Newfoundland trade of the barque Eliza, who became the company`s manager at Burgeo.

The company may have been newly formed, but its partners had been financially associated since 1858 and embodied many years of experience in the Canadian fisheries. The de Gruchys had been thirty-six years so involved; Thomas Renouf [7] had travelled out as a young man to Newfoundland, to work for Jersey`s then leading Newfoundland firm, that of Nicolle. [8] He was living in 1843 at La Poile, on the south coast, where the Nicolles had a large fishing establishment. By 1851, he was their agent and manager, leaving them in 1854 to start his own business. Lastly, John Clement came from a St Brelade family of master mariners who had been merchants at Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, in the late 18th-century. [9] Unable to weather the disruption to trade caused by the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812-1814, the next generation worked, as did Renouf, for the Nicolles, in their case, as shipmasters.

The Clement family returned to shipowning in 1858, when John Clement began to take shares in some of Thomas Renouf`s vessels. [10] The withdrawal of the Nicolles from shipping in the mid-1860s was a result of the loss of markets for their fish in the southern, Confederate, States of America, during the American Civil War. This benefited De Gruchy, Renouf and Clement who, as described below, had ample capital, and therefore extended their fishery presence from Newfoundland's west coast, to `step into the Nicolle's shoes` on that of the south.


One of de Gruchy, Renouf, Clement and Company's establishments, called 'fishing posts', in Newfoundland, in about 1873, with a ship edging towards the quay, where another is loading. A third ship, a brig flying the company flag, is making sail. A small 'banks schooner' is made fast in front of the warehouse. In a fleet of barques, barquentines and schooners, the brig will be the Canada

New house flag

The new partnership of De Gruchy, Renouf and Clement had as a house flag a red lozenge within a white lozenge, on a blue field. This differs from that shown for them at the Jersey Maritime Museum, which was, regrettably, the result of mistaken information passed to John Jean, the Jersey maritime historian and author, by a well-meaning member of the Clement family. The correct flag can be seen at the mast tops of company ships in many a painting, one of which is displayed below.

Burgeo headquarters

De Gruchy, Renouf and Clement`s Newfoundland headquarters was at Burgeo, on the south coast. The partnership soon owned an extensive fleet, which included many fine `Banks schooners` and trading vessels. To the west coast former de Gruchy fisheries were added, on the south coast, fisheries at Burgeo, La Poile and Channel. The fleet consisted in 1865, of eight vessels, totaling 797 tons. In 1872, the company took over the former Nicolle, de Quetteville and Co. assets at Jersey Harbour, Fortune Bay. [11] De Gruchy, Renouf, Clementand Company ships were, from 1873, Jersey`s leading fleet in the Newfoundland fisheries, the fleet consisting, in 1877, of twenty-three vessels.

A de Gruchy banknote

Banking

In April 1863, Abraham de Gruchy`s son, William Philippe, entered into a partnership with Philip Gosset as “Gosset, de Gruchy and Co.”, taking over the Jersey Banking Company, (Est. 1828). Gosset was also the Treasurer of the States of Jersey, this being the Island`s government, so the bank included the States of Jersey among its customers, hence the description 'The States` Bank'.

The bank seal

It was located at 17 Broad Street, St Helier. A new bank building was completed by 1875, in Library Place, [12] to the design of the architects, Hayward and Sons, of Exeter, who also drew up the plans for Victoria College and, in 1883, for de Gruchy`s Arcade. [13] The building is today that of the National Westminster Bank.

The partnership of Gosset, de Gruchy and Co. ended in January 1877, as a result of ill-feeling between the senior partners, which had not been helped by Gosset opening, against the wishes of de Gruchy, an account in favour of the shipping firm Le Boutillier Bros, Matters were further complicated by Gosset having become a partner in his cousins` Gaspé firm, Charles Robin and Co., who were the principal rivals of the de Gruchys` Newfoundland firm, De Gruchy, Renouf, Clement and Company [14] A new partnership, that of Gosset, Du Heaume, Nicolle and Co., was formed to take over the Jersey Banking Company. Philip du Heaume, a landowner from a former mercantile family, of Broadlands in Grouville, was a Jurat of the Royal Court, whilst the third partner, Clement Nicolle, a soon-to-be-elected Jurat, was a farmer and landed proprietor from St Saviour. Regrettably, neither man had personal experience of commerce or banking. [15] Nine years later, it would be du Heaume and Nicolle`s turn to regret their association with Gosset.

William Philippe de Gruchy, although retaining for his family a seat on the Jersey Banking Company`s board of directors, formed in 1878-9 a new bank, called Abraham de Gruchy and Sons, the partners of which were named in The Banking Almanac, Directory, Year Book and Diary, 1880, as being "William Philippe, Philip, William Laurence and Philip Henry de Gruchy". Their London agent was given as the "London and Westminster". This new de Gruchy bank was located at the firm`s premises in King Street and latterly in de Gruchy`s Arcade. In 1885, the Journal of the Institute of Bankers listed, for Abraham de Gruchy and Sons, Jersey, two members, these being Jonathan Smith, a Fellow of the Institute, who will have been, in all likelihood, the bank`s manager, and Thomas John de Gruchy, an Ordinary member, who was perhaps the Chief Clerk. The former lived at the de Gruchy`s property, Langley House, St Saviour, whilst the latter was a 3rd cousin of the directors. [16]

Philip de Gruchy (1812-1889)

1873

1873 is one of the two dates that Jerseymen and their descendants, whether in or out of the Island, will usually remember. The Island`s `cod trade` had been flourishing, yielding handsome returns, until a gradual slow-down was noticed during the years 1871 and 1872. An international recession, fuelled by circumstances that had nothing to do with the Island, was setting in. The crisis arrived in 1873. Banks and businesses abroad and within the United Kingdom were hit, causing many to go into liquidation. A disaster affecting one bank will affect others. Thus it was that on 1 February the Jersey Mercantile Union Bank, run from 1865 by the partnership of Le Bailly and Deslandes, one a ship-owning Timber Merchant and Jurat and the other the former shipbuilders, George Deslandes and Company, went into liquidation. On 3 July, the Jersey Joint Stock Bank, run since 1870 by Elias Neel and Company, known to some as `The Methodist Bank`, due to Jurat Elias Neel and most of his customers being of that persuasion, also failed. Le Neveu, Sorel and Company`s English and Jersey Union Bank, severely affected by these events, was obliged, in September that year, to sell its business.

The effect upon a community of the loss, in the case of the first two banks with all deposits, of three out of their seven banks, can scarcely be imagined. Furthermore, the collapse of these banks led to the ruin of many shipping firms who banked with them, which included several significant shipping rivals of the de Gruchys. These included [John] Le Boutillier and Company (Established 1830), William Fruing and Company (Established 1832), Philip de Quetteville and Company (Established 1786) and the partly revived Nicolle firm of Joshua Mauger Nicolle, who was then in partnership with his first cousin, Clement Augustus de Quetteville, trading as Nicolle, de Quetteville and Company.

Abraham de Gruchy of King Street, which was still a private family venture, continued to flourish. The Jersey Banking Company which, at that time, was still run by Gosset, de Gruchy and Company, weathered the severe storm, as did, despite having taken a hit over the previous three years, De Gruchy, Renouf, Clement and Company. William Philippe de Gruchy now saw in the crisis, an opportunity to invest further in Newfoundland. Just as the de Gruchys and their partners had `stepped into the Nicolles' shoes` in Newfoundland in 1863, now they would `step into` those of the de Quettevilles and, to an extent, those of Jean Le Boutillier. This would also save jobs, both in Jersey and Newfoundland, and guarantee further employment.

Philip de Gruchy's share account book

Extension of Newfoundland Fisheries

In May 1874, Philip de Gruchy and Philip Payn each advanced the firm £3,300 sterling at 5% interest, William Philippe de Gruchy, in effect, mortgaging six of his ships, including Warrior, by way of security. [17] The comparative value of these men`s 1874 investment, in the money of 2017, would be about £212,000 each. Philip de Gruchy`s Share Account book, which survives within the family, is worthy of analysis.

Letter dated 29 May 1877, advising the Registrar of Shipping of the loss of the schooner Warrior, wrecked on the west coast of Newfoundland in January. It also shows that the company was, at that date, trading with New England

His original investment, or "paid up capital," was £1,000, which in the currency of 2017 would be approximately £60,000. His share of the profits from De Gruchy, Renouf and Clement`s trading between 1864 and September 1870 was £772 17s 5d, which would be in the money of 2017, £48,000. As an example of the profitability of the `cod fishing` triangular trade between Jersey, Canada, South America or the Mediterranean, and back to the United Kingdom, Philip de Gruchy`s share of profits generated in these six years, amounted to more than 75% of his original investment. In the one year 1870-1871, his share of the profits was a staggering £554 6s 8d, or in the currency of 2017, £34,000.

As a result of these mortgages granted in May 1874, De Gruchy, Renouf and Clement embarked on audacious purchases in Newfoundland of additional fishing stations and vessels. The Share Account book makes no mention of profits or losses between December 1873 and March 1885. This was no doubt initially due to the years 1874 to 1879 being dedicated to the discharge of the six mortgages. The actual sum due, between February 1877 and March 1879, to de Gruchy and Payn jointly was, in the money of 2017, £517,630.51, the equivalent value of the principal having increased since 1874, of which 5% per annum over several years, in the sum of £80,811.52 was accrued interest - a healthy alternative to a dividend. That such a sum was paid at all, in the full discharge of each mortgage [Jersey Shipping Register] gives more than a little indication of the likely profits of the cod trade during these particular years.

William Philippe de Gruchy died following a stroke on 28 July 1881, having played a leading role in Jersey`s mercantile and commercial life. It was reported that his family thought they would never come to the end of those who wrote, called or expressed in the street their gratitude and appreciation of the deceased. Certainly his prompt action in 1873 will have saved many a household from ruin.

600 or more staff

Departments continued to be opened at the King Street business, which included the millinery department in 1872, and in 1883, the hardware or ironmongery department and the funeral, or mourning, department. Philip Henry de Gruchy, in his census entry of 1881 gives the staff of A de Gruchy and Company at that date as 250. This figure probably includes the staff of Abraham de Gruchy and Sons' bank, which latterly operated from de Gruchy`s Arcade. [18] De Gruchy, Renouf, Clement and Company will have employed a greater number, as they had, in that year, crews serving in sixteen ships, [19] staff at about ten fishery establishments in Newfoundland and Canada, together with warehouse staff in Jersey and employees at their 8, Bond Street, St Helier, headquarters. The total number of persons employed by both firms will have been in excess of 600. [20]

William Laurence de Gruchy (1838-1920)

In March 1885, another international slump was making itself felt. De Gruchy, Renouf, Clement and Company, Charles Robin and Company, and others among the larger Jersey shipowners, began to register vessels in foreign ports, [21] in order to at least partly guard against the effects of an economic upheaval similar to that of 1873, as the vessels would thus be safeguarded from seizure on behalf of creditors, being beyond the jurisdiction of the Royal Court. Philip de Gruchy and, no doubt, other shareholders of De Gruchy, Renouf and Clement, who were mostly relatives of one or other of the partners, were therefore called upon to pay up a further sum of £900, being £66,705.30 in the money of 2017. This was probably when the firm also acquired, as did other Jersey shipping firms, a loan from the Jersey Banking Company, which W L de Gruchy wrote, in A Full Statement of the Facts..., (see below), was still outstanding in February 1886. Philip de Gruchy then had to pay upon call, six months later, the same amount as in March 1885, at what was by then the height of a new and more severe recession. [22]

1886

This and, no doubt, similar measures hastily adopted by Jersey`s other shipping firms, was too little and too late. The three businesses in which the de Gruchys had been engaged, though regarded as being, with another firm, [23] "as safe as the Bank of England," [24] were nonetheless enmeshed in the downfall in January 1886 of the Jersey Banking Company.

The situation occurred because, in the mid-1880s, southern Europe, the market for so much of the cod in which Jersey firms traded, was in the grip of the anticipated recession. This had a serious impact on the profits of Island firms trading in the area. Two of the Jersey firms most affected were the above Charles Robin and Co. and Le Boutillier Brothers of Gaspé, both of whom were already heavily indebted to Gosset, Du Heaume and Nicolle`s Jersey Banking Co. William Laurence de Gruchy [25], a Jurat and former Constable of St Helier, who had succeeded to his late father`s directorship of the troubled bank, was at the centre of events in January 1886. He wrote that the bank should have held a mortgage upon Robin and Company`s Jersey assets, something he had urged upon the other two directors, in order to secure their debt. The bank should also have foreclosed upon all Le Boutillier Brothers` local assets, although a start had been made, in acquiring their remaining ships. De Gruchy also urged his fellow directors to instigate proceedings to secure the registration of the debt due to the bank on Le Boutillier property in Canada. This turned out to be impractical, however, as it would have necessitated a lawsuit, for which there was insufficient time.

The desired mortgage with regard to Robin and Company, although prepared, was never legally binding "in consequence of Mr Lemprière of Rozel having refused to sign". [26] The necessary action against all of the Le Boutillier Brothers` local assets was never taken as a result, de Gruchy inferred, of the other directors` "ties either of friendship or business interest" with the owners of that firm, being ties most certainly not shared by him nor, any longer, by his family. That this had not always been the case, was evident in the choice by the Le Boutillier Brothers` own brother-in-law and partner, C.T. Sutton, of Abraham de Gruchy and his wife, as godparents in 1836 of his son Adolphus de Gruchy Sutton, who had become, in 1874, his father`s eventual heir and a shipowner, himself. [27] Nevertheless, the representatives of these firms thus found themselves unable to repay to the bank their still considerable outstanding loans. Many other shipping firms, including that of the corn merchants, Gautier de Ste Croix, [28] which had been trading since the late 1830s, were in a similar position. Furthermore, matters were not helped by the States of Jersey, which was still a major customer of the bank, having greatly overspent on the harbour. The strain upon the bank soon proved fatal. De Gruchy continued: "[Mr Lemprière] having also talked openly about the Bank`s [Robin and Company] advance, there was a run on it, (the Jersey Banking Company). On Monday morning, it did not open its doors and the run diverted itself to Abraham de Gruchy and Sons, who had to close on the Tuesday".

On Monday and Tuesday, 11 and 12 January 1886, thousands of indigenous Jersey men and women, of all ages and backgrounds, lost their life savings. Furthermore, many businesses and landowning concerns were ruined. Among the former were all three de Gruchy firms, as the collapse of the Jersey Banking Company caused the run on Abraham de Gruchy and Sons` bank which, in its turn, drove the highly profitable A de Gruchy and Company, of King Street, into receivership. [29] That Robin and Company did not apparently approach, with a view to solving their cash-flow problems, their own sister-firm, Robin Brothers, which had in 1879 entered the banking sector by acquiring Jersey`s "Commercial Bank", is most surprising. However, Gosset, whose grandmother was a Robin, now had a stake in their firm that amounted to a partnership. Any loan arranged by him in their favour would not have been at a high rate of interest, if at any rate of interest at all. Jurat Laurence de Gruchy casts light on the situation, that became known to him only after the crash, [30] in writing that much of the bank`s unsecured debt, such as that of the Le Boutillier firm, turned out to have never even been entered by Gosset on the bank`s books. [31]

JerseyBankingCo.jpg

Court trial

In the ensuing trial before the Royal Court, Philip Gosset, [32] the Jersey Banking Company`s managing partner, was found guilty of embezzlement, misapplication of public money and fraudulent misappropriation of Bonds. He was sentenced on the 31 March to five years penal servitude. The prison chaplain, [33] who visited Gosset in his cell, recounted to his son and others how sorry Gosset felt for himself. It is unclear whether this sorrow extended to the many victims of his crime. The directors of the Bank, Philip Du Heaume, (the Bank`s President), Clement Nicolle and William Laurence de Gruchy, were cleared of all wrongdoing and acquitted.

As the Jersey Companies Law, (1861), had required Jersey banks to be conducted as unlimited liability companies, the Jersey Banking Co.`s creditors could now realize all assets belonging to the bank`s directors. William Laurence de Gruchy`s assets included A. de Gruchy and Company and Abraham de Gruchy and Sons, Bankers, the latter of which did not therefore reopen, as its creditors naturally, if perhaps a little inequitably, expected a full realization of assets. De Gruchy, Renouf, Clement and Company was also badly hit. However, after the sale of many of its vessels and assets and the transfer by William Laurence de Gruchy of his interest in the remaining vessels to Renouf and Clement, it survived.

Within the ranks of the Robin family, there was personal bankruptcy, but the Robin firm survived in name at least, having been taken over by third parties. The new ownership had as senior partner, Elias Collas of Pointe Saint-Pierre, who had been briefly, from 1851 to 1854, the de Gruchys` neighbour at Gaspé. The new owners chose the trading name of "Charles Robin, Collas and Company", in deference to the history of the Robins, who now had no part in the running of the firm. Much credit has quite wrongly been given to the Robins` power of survival in times of adversity, such as that of 1886. Their survival owed more, however, to their relative, Gosset, in their time of need, having arranged for them unsecured loans from a bank other than their own. Their own bank was not therefore troubled by any such advances and survived, being bought, as late as 1908, by the Westminster Bank.

Thomas Renouf, who lived at Chandos House, Millbrook, although almost ruined at the very time he might have been contemplating retirement, continued to trade with Newfoundland for some years before selling his interest to his surviving partner, Philip Clement, brother of John. [34] It is creditable, though, that in 1897, the company, then called Renouf, Clement and Company, were still Jersey`s leading Newfoundland concern, owning ten vessels, and second only in the size of their fleet to that of the new Robin Collas and Company Gaspé partnership, run by the Collas family. [35] Cod were, however, less plentiful and profits smaller. The above Philip de Gruchy, although having latterly sustained great losses, survived the bank crashes as he had other assets. His Millbrook neighbours and colleagues, the Clements, were to become the last of the Jersey merchants to gain a living from the Newfoundland fisheries, trading into the mid-20th century. [36]

To further satisfy the creditors of the Jersey Banking Company, Abraham de Gruchy and Co. of King Street was, in 1887, made a limited liability company, taking over existing assets and running the business, with the intention of paying off all creditors within ten years. Philip Henry de Gruchy was retained as its manager. On his death in 1899, his widow joined their son and two daughters in England, thus ending the family`s involvement in their former business.

Such was the continuing success of the new operation, that after the ten years were up, a proposal was agreed to keep trading for another 25 years and then, indefinitely. As a reflection of the firm`s continuing profitability and of the affection in which it was held by the people of Jersey, its life was thus extended long after the creditors were paid and it still thrives as an ongoing Jersey institution.

A letter written by Philip de Gruchy on behalf of his father, Abraham de Gruchy, in 1851

Notes and references

  1. British Press and Jersey Times, 19 January 1894, cited in Lloyd, De Gruchy`s
  2. Death certificate of Jean de Gruchy, merchant, registered 29 December 1862.
  3. David Lee, The Robins in Gaspé 1766 to 1825 (Ontario: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1984)
  4. Mannion, John J, The People of Newfoundland: essays in historical geography, (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Institute of Social and Economic Research, 1977)
  5. John Jean, Jersey Sailing Ships (Chichester: Phillimore and Company, 1982)
  6. A Souvenir of Burgeo Today and Yesterday,
  7. Thomas Renouf was born in 1819 in St Saviour, Jersey, the son of Clement and Sophie, nee Perchard. By 1841, Clement Renouf and his wife had settled in St Helier, as had Thomas, who entered as a clerk the 'cod firm' of Philippe Nicolle. At an early age, he travelled to Newfoundland and was soon a manager of one of Nicolle's fishing posts. He left that firm in 1854 to start his own business.
    The Renoufs already had an interest in fisheries, although not in Newfoundland, but in Gorey's Oyster trade.
    When plans were drawn up in 1872 for a "Chemin de Fer de L'Est de Jersey", the track of the proposed railway was shown in drawings as passing from Gorey southward over the top of the first slip, over a property belonging to William Le Brocq, on the seaward side of the present main road, over part of that belonging to The National School and over part of that, adjoining the beach at Gorey, belonging to "Renouf, de Gruchy and Co."
    The 1878 St Martin Rates Assessment (Faldouet) for this yard and building was 22 quarters, the owners then being described as "Thomas Renouf and others (St Helier)". In 1858 Marie Renouf owed this exact sum, being no doubt, a relative of Thomas. There had been, by 1857, a new boom in the oyster trade. That year saw, to quote Raoul Lempriere, in his 1974 History of the Channel Islands, 179,690 tubs, worth £37,248, dredged. Thomas Renouf and his partners had clearly held on to this beachside property in the hope of there being, in the future, ongoing profits from this trade. Unfortunately, profits declined with the number of oysters. Renouf was for many years a Justice of the Peace in Newfoundland and was the United States` Vice-Consul in Jersey, 1865-1886.
  8. The Nicolles, affluent farmers in the north of St John, were not amongst those listed in 1768 as merchants and shipowners, at the formation of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce. They had, however, well before 1788, become successful wool merchants. With the decline of that trade, Philippe Nicolle (1769-1835), moved in about 1792 into the Newfoundland cod trade: Syvret and Stevens, Balleine`s History of Jersey. (Chichester: Phillimore and Company, 1981), 185; Jean, Jersey Sailing Ships, 118. By 1821, Philippe Nicolle owned five vessels and several fisheries. He continued to flourish so that, by 1828, when he moved also into banking, he owned numerous fisheries and the size of his fleet stood at no less than eighteen vessels.
  9. Saunders, A C, Jersey in the 18th and 19th Centuries, (Jersey: Bigwood, 1930), 219.
  10. Jersey Shipping Register, Sept. 1858: Vessel: Hearty.
  11. Jersey Harbour, Memorial University of Newfoundland: www.mun.ca/mha/resettlement/jersey_harbour.
  12. Almanach de la Nouvelle Chronique, (Jersey: Huelin and Le Feuvre, 1875), 97.
  13. Lloyd, De Gruchy`s, 34.
  14. De Gruchy, W L, A Full Statement of the Facts connected with the Settlement of all Business Matters between Philip, Laurence and Philip Henry de Gruchy, (unpublished typescript dated 1894, in the possession of the author of this article).
  15. The Jersey Banking Company was founded in 1828 by the renowned merchant Philippe Nicolle junr., and his three partners, de Ste Croix, Dauvergne and Le Quesne, two of whom were merchants and Dauvergne a landowner. In spite of his surname, Clement Nicolle was not of the immediate family of Philippe Nicolle, nor was he personally involved with the fisheries, upon which the bank relied. The historian Jane Edwards writes that after his financial ruin in 1886, he "was declaring in public that his marriage...was `the cause of his ruin` and that [his mother-in-law] had been `the cause of his getting mixed up with the fisheries`". Clearly, he had not been involved with the fisheries prior to becoming, in 1877, a partner in the bank that so depended upon them. His mother-in-law was Sophia Bertram, née de la Perrelle, widow of Francis Bertram, a former partner, (1850-1863), in the bank. The fortunes of this latter family had been so adversely affected by circumstances since 1863, that Mrs Bertram may well have seen in Clement Nicolle, a way for the family to return to a banking partnership: Edwards, Jane, `My Dear Mary Anne`, Letters from Gaspé, Jersey Heritage Trust, (online).
  16. The post-1877 partnership running the Jersey Banking Company became insolvent and ceased trading in 1886
  17. Jersey Shipping Register, May 1874: Ships: Dolphin, Warrior, Royal Blue Jacket, Canada, Bonny Mary, Martha Brader, these all being trading vessels. Warrior was wrecked on the west coast of Newfoundland in May 1877 and Martha Brader after being transferred elsewhere, was wrecked in 1886. The four remaining mortgages on these trading vessels were discharged in full, in or by March 1879. For the equivalent value of sums raised, in the money of 2017, by the mortgage of these ships and in the above analysis of the Share Account book of Philip de Gruchy, see: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency-converter.
  18. Census, St Helier, Jersey, 1881: RG11/5615
  19. Almanach de la Nouvelle Chronique de Jersey, (Huelin and Le Feuvre, 1881), 108, 110, (list revised to 9 November 1880). At the height of expansion, the company had simultaneously owned twenty-one ships, ibid, (1875), 106, 108, (list revised to 4 November 1874).
  20. A Jersey firm in Gaspé of comparable size to that of De Gruchy, Renouf and Clement was that founded in 1830 by the above mentioned Jean Le Boutillier (1797-1872). He was stated to have employed in 1861 no less than 2,500 persons, which figure will have included his many indigenous, Acadian, fishery employees. The number of those employed by the de Gruchys in the Canadian fisheries may therefore have been greater than that estimated above, as they also will have employed, in common with other Jersey firms, seasonal Acadian staff: Ulric Lévesque, Le Boutillier, John in Dictionnaire Biographique du Canada Vol.10, (Canada: Université Laval/Université de Toronto,2003); www.biograph.ca/fr/bio/le_boutillier_john_10F.html. Note: This firm should not be confused with that of Le Boutillier Brothers, founded by Jean`s cousins in 1838. However, not long after Jersey`s 1873 bank crashes, the latter firm took over that of Jean Le Boutillier.
  21. One of these was the schooner "G R C", an abbreviation of the owners` initials, which was probably also the company`s nickname: Almanach, Chronique de Jersey, (Jersey, 1886).
  22. Philip de Gruchy had in 1885, as a result, an investment in the firm of a greater sum than that advanced earlier upon mortgage of the ships. Regrettably, on this occasion, for reasons mentioned above, the de Gruchys` bank, "Abraham de Gruchy and Sons," and "Gosset, Du Heaume and Nicolle"`s Jersey Banking Company, failed to weather the worldwide financial storm. Philip de Gruchy therefore lost most of his investment but avoided bankruptcy as he had other sources of income. The Clements, however, took to the bank "the last of their gold sovereigns": Information given to the author by their descendant, Mrs Clement-Robson. Thomas Renouf was scarcely better off, nor were many thousands of his fellow Islanders.
  23. This other firm was Charles Robin and Co. of Gaspé, (Est. 1783). The Robins, formerly shipmasters in St Aubin, became in 1737 Robin Brothers, Chandlers and shipowners, carrying goods to and fro from Newfoundland, on behalf of fishery owners. When Philippe Robin, elder brother of the celebrated Charles, married in 1764 into the long-established family of wool merchants, Pipon of Noirmont, "Robin, Pipon and Company" of Cape Breton Island was founded, (1765), operating a number of their own fisheries. Philippe`s brother, Charles, worked for many years as an agent for Robin, Pipon and Company, extending their business interests northwards, in and beyond Chaleur Bay, Gaspé. Charles, who will have assisted, as a boy, his father and maternal aunts in their chandlery store in St Aubin, adopted the `truck system of credit`, practised for generations by the Hudson Bay Company in their dealings with Indian fur trappers. In Robin`s case, indigenous Acadian fishermen were advanced goods from his various stores, against the cost of the fish they were likely to catch. They thus became the stores` captive customers, whilst struggling to pay off their debts. Attempts to justify the system were made in observing that cash payments were of little use in remote, inhospitable, regions, far from shops or banks. Indeed, most Jersey merchants following Robin into the Gaspé fisheries, adopted the same measures. Charles Robin, in every respect, has to be regarded as the pioneer of Jersey fisheries in Gaspé, starting his own firm there in 1783, which owned in 1800 four ships, in 1820 seven ships, in 1836 seventeen and in 1874 no less than twenty-nine ships. This was at that date Jersey`s largest fleet, with De Gruchy, Renouf, and Clement in second place with twenty-one ships. The Robin firm was to reach its pinacle of expansion in 1882, when its fleet numbered thirty-three ships. The founder, Charles Robin died in 1824 and had as successors his three nephews, sons of Philip Robin. He had, however, been disappointed that none of them wished to remain in Gaspé as he had done, but depended upon managers and agents, as did most of the other Jersey firms. Nonetheless, they continued to prosper, despite the departure of three of these managers to set up their own firms. This `golden era` was, for them, as for the de Gruchys and many others in Jersey, soon to end. Note: From the early 19th century the original, but by then greatly eclipsed, Cape Breton Island firm, was known under the name of "P. Robin and Company" and that of Gaspé as "Charles Robin and Company" Both are here called merely "Robin and Company" : Lee, David, The Robins in Gaspé, 1766-1825, (Ontario: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1984), 13, 14, 15, 17, 42, 43, 63, 99, inter alia; Almanach du Constitutionnel, (1820, 1836) 89, 67, respectively, and Almanach de la Nouvelle Chronique, (1875), 103, 106, 108. Also Syvret and Stevens, Balleine`s History of Jersey, (Chichester: Phillimore and Company, 1981), 174.
  24. Ragg, Rev A E A , A Popular History of Jersey, (Jersey: W Guiton, 1895)
  25. William Laurence de Gruchy, (1838-1920), Antiquary and Jurist: Laurence, as he was called, was educated at Rugby and Gray`s Inn. He founded in January 1873, La Société Jersiaise, in conjunction with his friend, the future Jurat Augustus Asplet Le Gros, to whom he was related by marriage, through the Hortons of La Fosse. A captain in the militia, he devoted many years to collating and annotating the French and Latin texts of L'Ancienne Coutume de Normandie, the 13th century code upon which Jersey law is based. His work, published in 1881, was for many generations one of the principal sources of reference for Jersey`s legal fraternity and was adopted as a Law text-book by Caen University. Further publications included papers on religious edifices in Jersey, land measures in the Channel Islands, church life in Jersey, (which he wrote under the pseudonym of Caesariensis) and Jersey, My Reminiscences, (Jersey Society in London, 1915). He was, before 1886, one of three benefactors of the church in his adoptive parish of St Brelade, defraying "a third [each] of the cost of the total restoration of the [Fishermen`s] Chapel: the other thirds being borne by Miss Le Couteur, of Belle Vue, and Mr G. de Quetteville of Noirmont". Miss Le Couteur of Belle Vue was Harriet Le Couteur (1819-1894). His wife, the poetess Augusta de Gruchy, had designed the chapel`s east window. In 1876, he became Constable of St Helier, overlapping with his father, for three years, in the States of Jersey, before becoming a Jurat of the Royal Court. He followed also, in 1876, in the footsteps of his father as a committee member of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce and inherited, in 1881, his father`s banking responsibilities. Unfortunately, he appears not to have had the time needed, after attending to his public duties, to fully oversee his firm`s banking and business interests. His brother Philip Henry, who could have assisted him in either sphere, had both force of character and business acumen. However, they seldom agreed on matters and were often not on talking terms. The lack of close supervision of Philip Gosset, the bank`s managing partner, was, to put it mildly, unfortunate. However, Laurence de Gruchy was but one of three directors of the ill-fated bank, none of whom were aware of Gosset`s private dealings. Financially ruined by events in January 1886, he passed his latter years in London, where he was an active member of the Jersey Society in London, becoming its Vice-President: Balleine, G R, A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey, Vol I, (London: Staples Press, 1948), 205-6; Family information.
  26. De Gruchy, W. L., Summaries of the Events in our...Lives,(unpublished manuscript, (1893), in the possession of the author of these notes). Note: Jersey Shipping Lists show that Mr Lemprière of Rozel, (the Revd. William Lemprière, Seigneur of Rozel), had become a partner in Robin and Company, which would account for his refusal to sign. Furthermore, this furnished him with insider knowledge as to the Robin loan, which he may well have assisted in securing, as both his grandmothers were Gossets!
  27. As in 15; also local church records. De Gruchy writes "that the opening of this account [Le Boutillier Brothers`] was done in defiance of the wishes of [my] father, [William Philippe de Gruchy], who preceded [me] as a member of the Board of the Bank." Unsurprisingly, he records: "there was a considerable amount of business opposition and hostility and personal coolness between...the members of [my] family and the firm of Le Boutillier Brothers." Note: The bank had, however, already bought or acquired by the 18th November 1885 the remaining ships and what survived of the Le Boutilliers` business. Local and Canadian assets of value had, though, not been included: Almanach, Chronique de Jersey, (1886), Shipping List; British Press and Jersey Times issues, 3rd and 4th Sept. 1886, cited in Labey, Trevor, Broadlands, Grouville. Part 1: 1851-1887 - the Du Heaumes, in Ann. Bull. Soc. Jersiaise, 2009, 64.
  28. This firm should not be confused with that existing in 1768, run by Jean de Ste Croix, father of Aaron, whose grandson, Philippe, became in 1828, with Philippe Nicolle, a partner in the original Jersey Banking Company--see 15.
  29. As in 15. Also, De Gruchy, W L, Summaries of the Events in our ...Lives: see 26
  30. He was, in the weeks immediately preceding the crash, in Germany on holiday with his wife: De Gruchy, W L, Summaries of the Events in our ...Lives: see 26
  31. De Gruchy wrote of the Le Boutillier Brothers` initial advance, that "this advance was...made behind the backs of the majority of the bank directors, by means of acceptances signed by the manager [Gosset], one being used to take up another as they successively fell due. No note of the transaction, it is said, appeared on the Bank ledgers".
  32. Philip Gosset, (1831-1912), Managing Partner, 1863-1886, Jersey Banking Co: Gosset was the son of Isaac Hilgrove Gosset, merchant, of Nos. 3 and 4, Commercial Buildings, 1831-1849, by Julia Nicolle, his wife. The Gossets, Huguenot refugees who settled in Jersey in the late 17th century, had become by the mid-18th century successful merchants and shipowners. To Gosset`s forbear, Abraham Gosset, goes the questionable credit of having procured for the Island in 1751 the statue of King George II, that stands in the Royal Square. Descendants in the early 19th century included many distinguished officers of the Army and Royal Navy, most of whom settled in England. To those among them who remained in Jersey, I H Gosset`s mid-19th century foray into the mercantile world, was history beginning to repeat itself. However, both he and his wife were drowned in a shipwreck in 1850, shortly before their son, Philip, came of age. It was probably then that Gosset was taken into the Jersey Banking Co., which his late mother`s family had co-founded in 1828. When the Nicolles` mercantile interests began to decline in the early 1860s, a new partnership was needed for their bank. Gosset thus became in 1863 a partner with William Philippe de Gruchy, as "Gosset, de Gruchy and Company". Despite the initial success of this partnership, Gosset, who had become the owner of Bagot Manor, seems to have never had sufficient funds to support either his lifestyle or ambition.
  33. The Revd. Francis de Gruchy, MA, later Rector of St Peter.
  34. The Clement family, not unsurprisingly, particularly resented, as a result of these circumstances, the revived Robin firm. This probably allayed any scruples Mr Clement may have felt in his dealings with the successor firm. Mrs Clement-Robson related to the author of this article that selling entire cargoes of fish remained difficult throughout 1886. As the barrels still bore the old "De G.R.C" brand on their sides, Mr Clement had the "De" `scuffed out`, causing it to resemble the Robins` "C.R.C." and then sailed aboard one of his remaining ships into an Italian port, asking for the port`s Robin agent. He demanded cash in exchange for the cargo, and departed before the ruse was discovered.
  35. Almanach de la Nouvelle Chronique de Jersey, (1897)
  36. Jean, Jersey Sailing Ships. The 20th century firm, Clement and Company, is, however, mistakenly called De Gruchy, Renouf, Clement and Company, this being its former name.

Gallery

The staff of A de Gruchy and Company photographed together for the centenary on 21 June 1910

Click on any image to see a larger version

Personal tools
other Channel Islands
contact and contributions
Donate

Please support Jerripedia with a donation to our hosting costs