Detailed history of Colomberie House

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The house viewed from the back before demolition

A house formerly on La Motte Street called La Maison Colombier probably gave the name to the road Colomberie. On Peter Meadow's 1737 survey of the Bay of St Helier the surrounding land is shown as an orchard.

Uncertain date

It is not known exactly when the house was built. The survey of 1997 dated some elements at 1750, but the first firm evidence comes after 1769, as in January of that year Matthew Gosset bought over half an acre of land from Philip Matthew Brohier. It was a slice across the west side of a large garden between the streets now known as La Motte and Colomberie.

Matthew's sister Jane, wife of Captain Richard de Carteret, benefited and Richard contributed towards the purchase. Matthew and Richard built the house at their joint expense for Richard and Jane to be life tenants. The building was well advanced when the legal agreement was recorded in December 1771.

High quality

Richard and Matthew had the house built to a quality unknown in 18th Century Jersey, as the survey 200 years later has revealed. A circular dovecote or Colombier, constructed with the house, stood at the front. The house was grand enough to warrant the term 'Chateau'.

There were two wooden fire surrounds of English style, finished with stone coloured paint, containing fine sand to simulate stone. No expense was spared, and the property was constructed and finished to an extremely high standard. The body was of granite, while the trim, chimney breasts and stacks were of high quality English brick. Portland stone was used for sills and fire hearths. A small quantity of French marble was used.

Unusually for Jersey, large amounts of lime mortar were used for stonework and plastering. This would have been imported, making it expensive. All the structural carpentry was of Baltic pine, apart from the oak window lintels. The joinery had been done by English craftsmen. The work was done to a very high specification; for example, the floorboards were planed on the underside as well as the upper surface, even though the undersides would never be seen, and the boards tongue and grooved, edge pegged every 14 inches, and fixed by secret nailing, a most painstaking method. Even in London buildings of the highest quality, the hidden wood surfaces were left with a sawn or even axed finish, pointing to very discerning clients for whom money was no object.

An early plan of the property

Central staircase

Entering the building at ground level, there was a central staircase hall, study, dining room, kitchen and butler's pantry. The main entrance faced north and was protected by a canopied portico, demolished shortly after 1800. In the cellar was another kitchen, scullery, cellers and other services. The basement was a four square plan. The two northern basement rooms had stone floors, the south east room an earth floor. The south west room had brick vaulting and some stone shelving along the west wall.

On the first floor was the drawing room, master bedroom, and two other rooms, one probably for the butler. The south-east and north-east rooms, and probably the others, had fireplaces of a bolection mould design. The nursery, children’s and maids’ rooms were on the second floor. Since the roof had been entirely reconstructed around 1914, evidence for the original attic was sparse, but there may have been further rooms with dormer windows, and this seems likely given the number of children Clement Hemery had living there in the 1830s.

The entrance hall was timber panelled, which was painted to imitate Portland stone. The staircase and galleried landing were of elaborately detailed mahogany. Colomberie had ‘barley sugar’ balusters on the stairs, which are rare in Jersey houses. The study was papered in blue and white chinoiserie wallpaper. This was hand blocked in sheets measuring 27 by 22 inches, with a matching border. During the survey a whole wall was found with the original wallpaper in place, dating from the 1760s, and unique in Jersey.

A sketch of the first-floor layout prepared for Sir John Soane

Gate lodges

A plan of St Helier dated 1781 shows the house with a pair of gate lodges for a formal entrance on La Motte Street.

Abraham Gosset the father of both Matthew and Jane died in 1785. This may have meant a move for Richard and Jane, to Abraham's house, and a sub tenant for Colomberie.

In May 1786 Matthew Gosset bought a strip of land carved out of the plot to the south-west of the house. He and Thomas Pipon, son of Thomas, put up buildings there, presumably the laundry. Thomas invested on the understanding the house would eventually be sold to him, and it was, in October 1799. Thomas Pipon was Lieut-Bailiff from 1795 to 1801. He died in Brighton in 1830 aged 85.

By this time Matthew Gosset was dead, and his son, also Matthew, Viscount of Jersey, was his heir. Jersey law did not permit the inheritance of real estate by will, so he inherited everything. However, a partition had been agreed in the family and Colomberie House was then given to his younger brother Abraham, who sold it the same day to Thomas Pipon for £2,000. (This was so he would have some provision from his father’s estate). The house was surveyed and plans drawn in 1800 for Pipon. The survey was done by Thomas Mills, who was either a military draughtsman or a local surveyor.

At the end of 1800 Thomas retired and sold the house to Clement Hemery senior (1747 – 1809) veteran of the Battle of Jersey. He must have paid at least £2,000 for it, but that may not have seemed much to a man who gave £1,000 to each of his many children in his will seven years later. It remained in the Hemery family as their principal residence for the next 110 years.

A drawing produced by Sir John Soane

Clement Hemery and Sir John Soane

Sir Nikolaus Pevsner says 'Soane was the greatest English architect of about 1800 and one of the greatest in Europe'.

Around Christmas 1809 Clement Hemery junior (1776 – 1851) asked his brother in law, the Rev Philip Le Breton, to call on Sir John Soane in London. He left the plans Pipon had had prepared. Soane asked for elevations of the front and back, and these were supplied on 10 February 1810, with a letter asking for plans for modernisation of the building.

The text of the letter is as follows :

Jersey 10th Feby 1810
Sir
I have herewith to commit you a sketch of the front and back of my house which you informed the Rev Philip Le Breton about six weeks ago, when he left the ground plans with you, was necessary in order that you might be enabled to modernize it. The alterations I require are these :
  • To increase the dining parlour and new model the windows.
  • To increase the drawing room and likewise to new model the windows. This I am apprehensive will be attended with more difficulty than the altering of the dining parlour owing to the lowness of the beams on that story. I therefore leave it to you to join the two rooms in one by means of folding doors, or to take from one to add to the other if you think the height will admit of it.
  • To contain a back staircase for servants.
  • To lay out the ground in the back of the house from which I am removing a coach and outhouses which I propose rebuilding on a piece of land separate from the house.
  • To have the plan of a new portico in front of the house in lieu of the old one which has been removed.
You have above the changes I have chiefly in view, besides which I shall thank you to point out such others as may strike you after having examined the plan, and should you require further explanations you will please write to me for them. As the season of the year for beginning this job is now advancing, I will be obliged to you to let me have your plan as soon as possible, forwarding it to me directed as at foot.
I am sir
Your most obedient serv.
C Hemery
Care of Charles Ward Esq
Southampton
The portico as proposed by Sir John Soane

Entertainment

Clement was seeking more space to entertain. He planned to rebuild the coach house on separate land, probably on the opposite site of La Motte Street. In 1798 Jacques Hemery had purchased land on the north side of La Motte. There he had built Hemery Row, but land remained on the west and this was given to Clement.

The original drawings in the Soane Museum are ref 46/4/1 – 8, with an entry in Journal 5 for 5 May 1810.

Three months after Clement's letter Soane sent five pages of plans to Jersey on 5 May 1810, care of Mr Ward at Southampton.

The level of Soane's involvement with the remodelling of Colomberie, and how many of his suggestions were actually implemented, was a subject of intense debate when the house was slated for demolition in the 1990s. Various experts on both sides of the argument gave opinions, and various deductions were drawn. The detailed examination of the house before demolition produced much evidence that had not been known before. Before this, there were three major theories about Colomberie and Soane, which it is interesting to examine, as it may help another building in a similar situation some day.

  • The first was that Soane suggested changes, but these were not fully implemented. It was also suggested that Clement, as a canny Jerseyman, only implemented some of them, to save money. (Although, if he wanted to save money, why employ one of Europe's finest architects in the first place?)
  • The second was that many changes were made, but were much altered and destroyed later in the house's history.
  • The third was that Soane's suggestions were largely implemented and changed the appearance of the house significantly, inside and out. This was the least popular opinion at the time, but was actually the one borne out as correct after the house was stripped. The details of what Soane contributed to the house are listed below, and the later changes were found to be comparatively minor, mainly new fireplaces in some of the rooms, and some redecoration.

The drawings that survive in the Soane archive are only initial working drawings, and only one letter survives from Clement Hemery. Other communications may have passed between client and architect with more details. Because the initial drawings do not match the current layout of the building, this strengthened the opinion that not much of Soane's scheme was actually implemented, but this cannot be proved from the scant paper records.

The recording of the house actually found many details attributable to Soane, leading to the belief that many more suggestions of his became reality around 1810. Details in Soane's style included mouldings on joinery throughout the house, a marble fireplace in the study, and an extremely bold and colourful scheme of painted panelling on the plastered walls of the dining room, which was considerably enlarged, and a new butlers pantry and service access added. Windows were enlarged and carried down to floor level, allowing for tiers of panelling. The dado was of Pompeian red, and the mouldings of the skirting and chair rail were picked out in green and flesh pink. Above the dado were buff panels with red and green borders, in red frames. The mouldings of the window shutters were picked out to match. There was a moulded plaster cornice of upright leaves, and a ceiling plate in the form of a running S scroll.

Soane installed the new service stair in the north-west corner of the house, as Clement had requested in his letter, decorating the entire stairwell with red marbled painting. The skilfully handled trompe d'oeil painted dado panelling in the study may be another Soane addition, but could be earlier. Plain pine panelling was painted to represent bevelled and fielded panels in moulded frames, all in walnut.

An impressive new front door and a four-column portico in Portland stone was approached by a flight of six steps. There was a previous portico, and two previous front doors before 1810, the first with a flat topped canopy, and the second with a pedimented fanlight. Soane changed all the sash windows on the two main floors, increasing their height by 18 inches.

On the first floor the main alteration was the creation of a large drawing room, with a small room alongside, maybe for smoking. The original decoration scheme for this room has been lost. On both the ground and first floors Soane replaced narrow architraves with wide ones.

Clement Hemery's drawing of the house before the portico was added

Nineteenth Century

There were other additions to the house later. In 1834 the St Helier town map of Elias Le Gros shows the house with east and west wings and a carriageway from La Motte. The west wing linked to outbuildings and the eastern addition was the library wing, with a door from the study, next to the fireplace. The library walls had been painted with luxuriant vegetation, and the ceiling cornice bore the same bold colours on its mouldings as were seen in the dining room.

Clement Hemery the diarist mentions the Library in the late 1830s. There is a painting by Cope showing his father Clement in the Library at Colomberie.


Clement Hemery in the Library at Colomberie, painting by Cope c1840

The new wings indicate the space needed for Clement's growing family and the library spoke of gentrification.

When the house was built, it was on the edge of the town; by 1834 it was hemmed in by other properties. It was unlike the other merchant houses of the Royal Square as it had a big garden. During the Regency and Victorian eras there were minor changes, such as new fireplaces and wallpapers. The main staircase and landing were twice decorated with expensive flock wallpapers, once in around 1850, and the second time with William Morris style paper around 1900. In August and September 1841 other alterations are recorded as taking place.

Clement Hemery the diarist (1811 – 1877), the son of Clement Hemery junior, inherited on his father's death in 1851. However, he had not lived there since buying a house in Windsor Crescent in 1838. Ann and Julia Hemery, Clement's sisters, lived there with their brother Edward. In 1877 Clement William Hemery, the son of another brother, Peter Hemery, who had in turn inherited it, sold the house to Ann and Julia. Around this time some of the front garden was sacrificed for a new house, 28 La Motte Street. This was sold by Clement William to his uncle Charles Hemery in 1888, after the death of Ann.

Census returns

The census returns conducted every ten years from 1851 to 1901 reveal some of the names of the servants who lived at Colomberie. There were also other servants who lived out, such as Joseph Le Cornu, who was coachman and gardener to Julia for 28 years from the 1880s.

The 1851 census lists at Colomberie House : Ann Hemery, annuitant (mother of Ann Margaret) Ann Margaret Hemery, Julia J Hemery, Ellen Mary Hemery, and four servants - Mary Swatridge aged 34, ladies maid, born in England; Betsey Robert aged 38, cook, born St Mary, Jersey; Mary Ellis aged 30, house maid, born in England; and Jeremiah Blackler aged 29, footman, born in St Helier. The census places Colomberie between 19 and 23 Colomberie Street.

In 1861 Ann Susan and her daughters Ann Margaret and Julia Jane are living at Colomberie with four servants, Jeremiah Youlton Blackler, manservant aged 39, now married to Mary Reid Blackler, nee Swatridge, housekeeper, aged 44, born at Weymouth, Jane Ann Minson, 41, cook, born St. Mary’s Jersey, and Louisa Pepperell, aged 21, housemaid, born in England.

The 1871 census lists the sisters Ann Margaret and Julia Jane living with four servants, Jeremiah and Mary Blackler still with them, as butler and housekeeper respectively, Jane Le Masurier, aged 30, cook, born in Grouville, and Elizabeth Pallot, aged 24, housemaid, born in Trinity parish, Jersey.

In the 1881 census the sisters were living at Colomberie with 3 female servants, Jane Le Masurier, who was with her in 1871, aged 40, born in Grouville, Sarah Ann Bateman aged 29, born in England, parlour maid, and Mary Lawrence aged 39, born in St. Helier, house maid.

In 1891 the census records her niece, Kate Lindon, staying with her. There are two servants, Jane Le Masurier, aged 47, born in Grouville, cook, and Rosina A Carter, aged 21, born in St Helier, parlour maid. Jane Le Masurier had been the cook at Colomberie since at least 1871.

In 1901 Ethel Wilder her great niece is visiting, and there are three servants, Martha Broomer, aged 24, housemaid, Elizabeth Moole, aged 25, parlour maid, and Charlotte Stentiford, widow aged 48, cook. All these three were born in Jersey.

The Hemery family pictured at the front of their house

Parties

The recollections of family members of this era speak of many parties and entertainments being held at Colomberie. The first floor drawing room was called the Golden Drawing Room because of the gilt Louis XV furniture in it.

In December 1863 the Submarine Telegraph Company had laid their cable in Colomberie Street, but on 22 September 1865 the cable was damaged by the workmen employed by Miss Hemery as they were laying a gas main. It took eight days to find the fault, at first thought to be on the sea bed, which disrupted communication between Jersey and France.

The will of Ann Hemery, widow of Clement, who died in 1865, gives us a glimpse into Colomberie House : ‘The two marble tables in the drawing room I give to my son Clement, with the looking glass standing between them. The portraits of the late uncle James Hemery by Opie, and those of my father and mother by Howard, I desire to be considered heirlooms and always to remain in the senior branch of the family. My likeness and that of my dear husband now in the drawing room I give to Ann and Julia to dispose of after their death.’ (These paintings are still in the family.) As well as a library, there were globes, at least one of which would have been of the earth. There were also greenhouses on the site.

Julia Hemery, like her siblings, seems to have been a great entertainer. Both Ann and Julia had entertained tremendously in their heyday – Jersey was full of families in a small area, and there were always parties and entertainments going on. Only when Ann grew older they did slow down. Certainly for Julia’s parties at Colomberie musicians would play in the gallery, and she would come down to receive the Governor, and conduct him to the drawing room on the first floor where he would receive all the other guests with her.

In her obituary her abilities as hostess are stressed, saying that although in recent years her great age and increasing infirmities obliged her to withdraw from society, there are 'many who still recall the kindly and generous hospitality so widely extended, not only to a large circle of relations, but to friends and acquaintances of every degree. To many the name of Colomberie House is inseparably associated with happy gatherings that stand out among their brightest memories'

Roof replaced

On her death in 1911 Julia Hemery left it to her niece Julia Mary Hodges who sold it in January 1914 to Thomas Richard Blampied. He was the grandfather of Jurat Peter Blampied, who owned it at the time of demolition. He let it on a long lease to the Girls Collegiate School soon after that. So after the Hemery family lived there it was never a private home again. After Thomas Blampied purchased the house in 1914, he replaced the roof with a simple hipped construction, reusing the Penrhyn slates of the original roof. Changes were made to make it suitable for the schools use. A new wing was constructed on the west of the house, housing a kitchen, scullery, bathroom and toilets for the school. On one of the floorboards was found the signature of the carpenter Perchard, dated September 1918.

The minstrels gallery had been removed when the house was converted to a school. Apart from that and repolishing the original staircase survived until 1997.

Mr and Mrs Griffiths ran the school for some years. Betrand Mather took over as principal in 1974. He was succeeded by Louis Omer. In 1981 the school asked to surrender the lease on the grounds that the facilities there no longer matched those found at modern schools. On 14 December 1984, having failed to find other accomodation, the school closed. Colomberie house became offices.

Collegiate School photograph in 1927

Pupil’s letter

In a letter published by the Jersey Evening Post on 23 May 1996, M Richards, a former schoolgirl at Colomberie, said: 'I well remember beautiful gardens, tennis courts and lovely building in which we were taught our lessons. It brings back many happy memories'.

Throughout the school years other changes happened. The large chestnut tree in the grounds was cut down. The last traces of the dovecote were demolished in the 1960s when La Motte Chambers were constructed. The house was by now a shadow of its former self, with half the garden built over with offices, which obscured the orginal front view of the property.

In 1986 a 22-year lease was agreed with accountants Coopers Lybrand Deloitte giving them rights to demolish. Jurat Peter Blampied, of the Croft, Samares, was the owner of the building through Manip Ltd, and was once a senior partner of Coopers and Lybrand Deloitte, whose offices were at La Motte Chambers, next to Colomberie.


A ground-floor plan of the original house

Demolition of Colomberie House

A first informal approach about possible demolition and redevelopment was made in 1987, which was refused. They applied again in October 1988 and were refused on 15 December 1988. However on the 22nd of the same month, after a site visit, the Island Development Committee changed their minds to allow demolition, provided a 'suitable structure' replaced it. But they neglected to inform the applicants. Representatives went to see IDC President John Le Sueur on 1February 1989 and were surprised to learn of it. He told them it would be allowed, saying: 'Don't worry chaps, the committee is actually going to allow demolition of the building'.

The decision was not communicated in writing, but was confirmed after they wrote to the planning office after the meeting.

Other historic properties for which the IDC permitted demolition at this time were Government House, the Hue Street Cottages and Castle House in Castle Street, in what was later described as 'the astonishing lack of concern for our heritage by the IDC of the day'.

On 18 December 1989 Le Sueur wrote to say they were standing by the decision, although he later claimed this decision could have been reversed by the committee. Indeed, on 1 February 1990 the committee changed its mind yet again, this time without Le Sueur, and now would not allow demolition. The owners were upset by this further change, and decided to resort to legal action after an appeal against the committee’s decision failed.

On 3 February 1992 an action began in the Royal Court. Coopers and Lybrand actioned the IDC over its refusal to demolish, after having given them qualified approval in 1989, provided a building of suitable design replaced it, but a year later, after being made aware of its importance, changing their minds again and saying it should be saved. Advocate Jonathan White acted for the tenants.

A newspaper report of the protest march

Grade One status?

There was no listing scheme for historic buildings at this time in Jersey, and it was reported that Colomberie House might become a Grade 1 listed building if there were.

The Court expected to hear from Stephanie Nicolle for the IDC to argue that new information had come to light in that period. However, nothing new of any substance had appeared. Advice about the building from Jonathan Ratter and other representations were with the committee on 19 December 1988 - three days before they decided to demolish. The only new information was about the claims to do with Sir John Soane, which were considered negligable.

Advocate White accepted they had a right to change their minds, 'but the Court had to decide whether the committee's proceedings were satisfactory and whether the decision was one which the committee could reasonably come to, having regard to all the circumstances.'

He said the committee failed to act consistently as required by the law, and permitted Coopers and Lybrand to act to their financial detriment, failing to give adequate notice to them to respond when it was considering a change of mind. It took into account matters it shouldn't have, such as the campaign to save Government House, which had considerable publicity in the Jersey Evening Press. (Coopers had spent £29,000 on plans and £4.4 million on the Royal Trust building as a stopgap measure).

Commissioner Francis Hamon sat with Jurats Michael Bonn and Mazel Le Ruez – who had been a pupil at the Collegiate School at Colomberie.

In court John Le Sueur could not give an explanation of the committee's change of mind. It was reported that the newly appointed IDC architect and urban designer Philip Geoghegan had tried to change the mind of the committee, saying that ‘for a building of this quality and in relatively good condition' he saw no justification on commercial grounds, adding that it stood at the end of a vista. The Jersey Evening Post reported the result of the court process, after 5½ days of hearings, on 26 March 1992 – the Royal Court allowed demolition on the grounds that the IDC were unreasonable. The IDC will not appeal, there being no legal grounds for it. The costs to the IDC were £38,000.

The Court were not judging the architectural or historial merits of Colomberie, they had to decide whether the IDC had treated Coopers improperly.

Campaign to prevent demolition

Senator John Rothwell tried to persuade Jurat Peter Blampied not to allow the building to be demolished. Many other people objected by writing to the press, including former pupils of the school.

Geoffrey Grime, senior partner said: 'There are better examples of this type of architecture' adding that he believed the costs of renovation would be substantial, and that redevelopment would increase the floorspace substantially.

Mary Philips, the Jersey historian, said: 'Legally because of the mess the IDC made, the decision was right, but there is a public interest here'

The Court said of Le Sueur: 'their decision might not have been the same had the president not been so instrumental in his emphatic statements and positive encouragement'.

If the IDC had consistently opposed demolition from the first, Colomberie House would still be standing today.

The Jersey Evening Post of 5 March 1992 reported that a campaign to save Colomberie House would be launched by Senator John Rothwell. The paper wrote : ‘I am going to fight it. Colomberie House must not be demolished. Its a building of special quality and unique architectural and historic value and I'll go to any lengths to save it. We cannot afford to sit back and let these things happen around us. Its monstrous.'

Fireplaces from Colomberie House for sale

Reputation challenged

The Senator was astounded that Coopers and Lybrand Deloitte wanted to demolish a building of such value, particularly when they had an international reputation for preserving important buildings. 'I think it’s shameful that a company with such a huge reputation worldwide and with a property division that preserves buildings of historic value, can possibly allow their branch in Jersey to commit such an act as this'.

Issue number 7 of 'Le Gardien' the magazine of Save Jersey's Heritage, published in April 1992, had as its headline 'Colomberie House Must be Saved'. It reported meetings between Senator Rothwell and Deputy David Crespel, with Grime and Blampied, which followed meetings in March between Coopers and IDC chief executive John Young, at which Coopers said they would consider leasing the house to the States for use as a public building.

A leaflet was circulated by Save Jersey's Heritage, containing information and evidence from Donald Hankey, of Gilmore Hankey Kirke, made available to the IDC and used in the court case. An introduction was written by Alistair Layzell, chairman of SJH. The President of the SJH, Marcus Binney, said of the house: 'Its an extremely fine building and of particular historical interest because it is a rare survivor among large town houses in St Helier'

There were negotiations in October 1992 about the States’ possible purchase of the house. In January 1993 John Le Sueur said the price sought was out of the question. The IDC rejected that proposal, and their offer (called 'desultory' by Grime) was in turn rejected by Coopers.

The Jersey Evening Post of 6 August 1993 reported that the IDC were seeking £1 million from the States to purchase the property, and restore it as offices. IDC committee Vice President Harry Baudains said agreement had been reached for a price for the property of £500,000, with another £500,000 estimated for the restoration. It was suggested that it could be used as IDC offices for their property services department. This was strongly opposed by the Finance and Economics Committee, Senator Pierre Horsfall calling it expensive office space.

Architects instructed

In 1994 Coopers instructed architects to draw up plans for the site. The architects had designed the Royal Bank of Scotland building. The proposed replacement was larger than Colomberie but not the maximum size which would have been allowed on the site.

On 20 April 1995 the newspaper reported that demolition was nearer, as the owners had submitted plans for a three-storey office building, incorporating an underground car park. Planning chief officer John Young was unable to say whether the committee might try to reopen negotiations to buy the property. This potential purchase was never actually debated by the States, being withdrawn by the IDC on the day this was due to happen.

Manip had tried to sell, at a price of £420,000 for the freehold and £65,000 for the unexpired portion of the Coopers lease. Jurat Blampied noted that the price was dramatically less than the commercial value of the site. He also noted that he considered the restoration estimate of £500,000 too low, as the building was damp, had wet and dry rot and needed a new roof. He doubted anyone would want it, as the floor space of 3,000 square feet was arranged very inefficiently. The ground and first floor rooms had very high ceilings, but the second floor rooms (presumably originally the servants rooms) were very cramped with low ceilings.

The major stumbling block had been over the car parking spaces in front of the building. Coopers wanted to retain 16 dedicated spaces, arguing that without them the value of the lease on La Motte Chambers, which they currently occupied next door to Colomberie, would be adversely affected. The IDC had offered places in close proximity. Mr Grime said the time to sell had now past.

On 21 April 1995 an eleventh-hour campaign was launched to save Colomberie.

A JEP cartoon showing the Queen Mother and Prince Charles leading the protest march

Trust fellow’s report

On 7 March 1995 Ptolemy Dean, a fellow of the Soane Monuments Trust, visited the house. He found a substantial amount of Soane's proposed improvements had been realised. These included the portico, and all the windows, which had had their sills lowered and distinctive thin glazing bars added. He found the house in reasonable condition with no visible signs of major leaks. It was structurally sound, with only minor repairs necessary.

His report is summarised as follows – the house has been compromised by an office block which covers all the original front garden. There are four chimneys at the east and west ends made of brick. There is a slate roof with cast iron gutters. The porch, pillars and diagonal paving are of Portland stone from the mainland – the porch is not exactly as Soane designed it, but the four columns and the proportions of the porch are. The shallow steps have typically thin tread nosings, and the porch had a flat lead roof.

The windows were modified in line with Soane's suggestions, with the removal of the old-fashioned architraves and keystones. They also appear to have been enlarged. The string courses were omitted (presumably to allow the retention of original quoins – a typical Jersey feature). The ornamental carved sills were omitted. Thin glazing bars had been fitted, with crown glass. The orginal glazing bars would have been twice the width.

The north elevation had the same changes. The west elevation was largely obscured by 19th and 20th Century additions.

The quality of the interiors was marred by long-term general neglect, scruffy decoration and institutional lighting. However the interior was in generally very good condition, with high quality fittings.

The basement was a four square plan. The two northern rooms had stone floors, the south-east room an earth floor. The south-west room retained original 1770s brick vaulting and some in situ stone shelving along the west wall.

On the ground floor Soane's secondary staircase survived. The thin handrail was typical, and it had simple plain timber balusters. South of this the small lobby to the former back door survived, the door itself was an older thicker one with sunken field panels. Roll mouldings had been added to it later to make it look up to date.

The south-facing, three-bay eating room was not implemented, as the central wall which would have been removed to create it was structural.

The fireplace in the north-east room was a Soane design. It had coloured marble panels edged with grey marble strips in a typical Soane double reeded moulding. The other fireplaces on the ground floor were later. The joinery on the ground floor was also a Soane survival, an unusual form of his standard thin reeded mouldings. The front door, internal doors and shutters all display this pattern, compared with the original 1770s joinery found on the main staircase and some surviving earlier doors with sunken fielded mouldings.

On the first floor the curving walls were not carried out, but two rooms on the south side were modified, with the south-west room becoming three bays wide, thus reducing the south-east room to one bay.

The double doors requested by Clement Hemery were implemented and the joinery has the same roll moulded detailing. Soane had suggested a new three-bay room on the floor below.

The fireplace of the enlarged drawing room is a late 19th Century replacement, whereas those of the south-east and north-east rooms are a bolection mould design dating from the 1770s. The secondary staircase is as shown on the Soane design, modified from the east/west dog-leg flight shown on the 1800 survey. The window joinery has the same reeded roll mouldings.

The second floor is much the same in the 1800 survey and in Soane's designs. His main alteration was to the staircase in the north-west corner, which was implemented in slightly modified form. This floor contained many original partitions. There was some water penetration in areas of the attic. The coach house and the other outbuildings had been demolished.

The gatepiers were of granite, with iron railings topped with acanthus leaves. These were probably later than 1810, and the railings on either side appeared modern. The rear elevation looked good at the end of Grenville Street.

It illustrates how many houses were upgraded to meet ever higher levels of civility at the start of the 19th Century. Clement Hemery desired to bring his house up to date, and it must have been one of the most advanced houses in Jersey – maybe influencing others. He wondered how Clement heard of Soane. The report ends with the statement 'Its loss would be a tragedy for Jersey'.

Marcus Binney summed up the building like this: 'Clement Hemery took some inspiration from Soane but employed local builders to implement a simpler and less expensive scheme' (This was later shown to be largely wrong)

The house is demolished

Application rejected

On 5 July 1995 it was reported in the press that the planning application had been rejected, the Planning and Environment Committee said that the three-storey building was too big and too far forward on the site, using what had previously been the courtyard space, and not satisfying the Court ruling for a well-proportioned town house. Senator John Rothwell feared it was only a stay of execution. Coopers were taking legal advice.

On 9 December 1995 new plans were submitted by architects Nigel and Biggar and Partners, which were closer to what had been suggested. On 1 February 1996 the Planning Committee paid a visit to Colomberie.

News of the impending demolition was widely reported - an article by Tim Richardson appeared in the March edition of Country Life, commenting on the loss of heritage. Jamie Wooldridge wrote to Prince Charles to help, and an article with a photo appeared in the Daily Telegraph and the Times on 18 June 1996. On 2 July 1996 Save Jersey's Heritage placed an advert in the architecture page of the Independent. Another article, and letters for and against demolition, appeared in the Times in July 1996.

The JEP of 19 June 1996 reported that Jurat Blampied was unswayed by the Prince of Wales. He stated that the house had no significant architectural merit, being a simple rectangular building, in which the windows seem out of balance. Another Soane 'expert' Professor Fielden, had said that the building was not what Soane had intended, and he would have been 'horrified' at the result.

The planning application was listed in the paper on 26 June 1996.

There was a speedy reply to Jurat Blampied and Professor Fielden's comments from the curator of the Soane Museum, Margaret Richardson, and John Harris. A letter printed in the JEP on 25 June was headed: 'Shame on you Jurat Blampied' She disagreed that it was not what Soane would have wanted, or that he would have been 'horrified'.

On 27 June Alastair Layzell stated that Coopers Lybrand 'will be remembered as being guilty of the worst kind of architectural vandalism'.

On 3 July the plans, the ninth set of drawings, were before the Planning and Environment Committee.

On 5 July the Jersey Evening Post asked various people their opinions on Colomberie House. Six were against demolition, two were for, and one had no strong view on the subject. Judging by the letters received by the paper, this seems to represent the public opinion at the time, that at least two thirds of people opposed demolition. The plan received over 70 written objections.

Planning consent

Finally on 18 July 1996 planning permission for the new building was granted. It was agreed that some of the architectural features of the house would be saved and an archaeological investigation would be carried out on site.

Lindy Hemery from Australia, a descendant of Clement Hemery, visited the building on 2 August 1996.

The campaign seemed to bring many grievances to the surface, such as the tension between new businesses coming to St Helier and the heritage of Jersey, and for at least one person the distaste of having English people give opinions on Jersey matters. Helier Clement wrote in the paper on 30 September 1996, stating that people everywhere were talking about Colomberie, but he was getting tired of it, and objected to English people writing to the paper about it.

The Gardien no 21, of September 1996, reported that the 'Colomberie campaign goes on' A major exhibition was to be staged in the Arts Centre in October, for a week, starting on the 7th, entitled 'Soane Revisited and the Colomberie House Connection'.

It was reported that David Hemery, another descendant of Clement's, had contacted Jurat Blampied, to plead against demolition.

In December 1996 it looked as if demolition would take place in the New Year, and there was a call to open the property to the public before this happened.

The building which stands on the site of Colomberie House today

Protest march

Save Jersey's Heritage organised a silent march to protest against the demolition of the house, which took place on Sunday 23 February 1997 at 3 pm. 400 people, including States members, and the Bailiff's wife Lady Bailhache, marched in support. After Marcus Binney wrote to her in December, the Queen Mother asked the Bailiff to keep her informed about the fate of Colomberie House. This, plus the support of Prince Charles previously noted, was made the subject of a cartoon in the paper on 22 February 1997, in which the Royal pair lead the silent protest march!

Despite this, and appeals from Senator Stuart Syvret, Senator John Rothwell, and St Helier deputy Simon Crowcroft, Jurat Blampied did not change his mind, and formal permission to demolish the house was granted on 8 March 1997.

The Gardien no. 23 of April 1997 reported that 'the end is in sight'.

On 16 July 1997 the process of recording and archaeology began, with demolition due on 4 August. Architectural recording was by Warwick Rodwell, the archeological exploration conducted by Neil Molyneux, of the archeology section of the Société Jersiaise. Stuart Fell, conservation architect and urban designer at Planning and Building Services said that the work would reveal a great deal about the history of the house.

Warwick Rodwell's interim report was dated 5 August 1997. Investigation and recording were carried out from 30 June to 3 August. First all the modern partitions and fittings were removed. Floor plans and a cross section were drawn, and an extensive photographic record was made. After being recorded, fireplaces and panelling were removed to reveal the evidence behind them of earlier features. It was found that enough traces of wallpaper and paint survived to reconstruct the interior décor of the house from the 18th Century onwards.

Front elevation of Colomberie as it was in 1810

Traces of the demolished Library wing were found in the grounds, and chimney flues noted in the boundary wall, indicating that some fireplaces were below ground level. An excavation found two infilled basement rooms under the Library and a rainwater cistern.

The West end of the house had a 20th Century service wing attached, and traces of earlier structures, and another infilled basement was found here also.

Many features were removed – all the windows, (including shutters, panelling and stone sills) window frames, doors and door frames, interior wood panelling, Georgian and Victorian fireplaces, a marble fire surround, sections of the staircase, architraves, skirtings, picture rails, the pillared porch, and some strips of 18th Century Chinoise wallpaper. All of these were of a very high standard and would be kept in store until used to restore other houses.

'We are taking virtually everything out of the interior because it is so well made' Mr Fell said. So much was removed that Warwick Rodwell noted in his report that 'Colomberie House could, potentially, be recreated on a fresh site.' Some of the fixtures were sold to Islanders for their use in building restorations.

A curious circular structure was found in the garden, perhaps the one seen on the 1800 plan.

A photo of the demolition of the house appeared in the JEP on 22 August 1997, and short articles also appeared in the Times and the Telegraph several days later.

On 5 February 1999 the wrappings came away to reveal the new Colomberie House. It is called La Motte Chambers, at 22 Colomberie, owned by Abacus. The tenant in 2010 was RBC Wealth Management.

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