Interview with 9th Earl of Jersey
An interview from 1966 by Ted Vibert in Jersey Topic
I was late for our appointment. In a way it wasn't altogether my fault for I had set out in good time to meet Lord Jersey at Radier Manor. But it was only when I was at Longueville that I realised that I had no real idea where Radier Manor was. I decided to ask-and was directed to a farm called Radier. As I drew up I felt that this wasn't the sumptuous home I had heard about. It wasn't.
I was directed to another farm called Radier and it all became rather confusing. But eventually I found Radier Manor and Lord Jersey, who accepted my apologies with an air that made me feel this had happened to him hundreds of times before.
The home of the 9th Lord Jersey is simply beautiful. It is set deep in the heart of the Jersey countryside in the parish of Grouville. From the house you look down a lovely little valley and you can see Noirmont far away in the distance. As we were climbing the stairs to his office we stopped to admire the view from a third floor window. It was then that I noticed how the new chimney at La Collette spoiled his view. I asked him how he felt about this. He sighed, shrugged: "In five years time they could probably have had a nuclear power station and done without it" he said.
And so to his office, which is part of the art gallery in which hang paintings of all his ancestors. The whole room reeked of history, and at one end was his desk, the biggest one I have ever seen, covered with papers and pamphlets and magazines, many connected with breeding the Jersey cow.
First in Jersey
Yes, it is true he said that he was the first Lord Jersey to settle in the island or even visit it. The title was created in 1697 and no one really knew the reason why Jersey had been chosen. The actual title was "Earl of the Island of Jersey in the County of Southampton". The mother of the first Lord Jersey was put in charge of the daughters of James II, the future Queens Mary and Anne, when he abdicated, and she brought them up at Richmond Palace with her own children.
"I have often wished we knew why the Jersey title was chosen" he told me. "We've delved into it and I've approached the Société Jersiaise and all other likely sources of information, but there is nothing at all in the records". He added: "The Villiers family were settled in Leicestershire soon after the Conquest. The great Duke of Buckingham, favourite of James I and Charles I, was also a member of the family".
He first came to the island in 1947 looking for a summer house. He added: "We found Radier and immediately fell in love with it. I was then living in Wimbledon, having given the family home at Osterley Park to the National Trust. On my return from Jersey I found that the LCC were going to take over my house by compulsory purchase, so I was virtually homeless. I decided to come and live in Jersey."
It is a decision he in no way regrets. "I love living here" he says. "I feel part of the island now".
Farming and the Jersey cow are one of his big interests in life, although three years ago he sold most of his herd of 50 milking cows, which were considered among the best cattle in Jersey. He has just returned to the island from a visit to New Zealand where he attended the World Jersey Cattle Bureau Conference, of which he is now president, and at which he read a paper prepared by himself and Thomas Blampied on "The Jersey Cow and its Island Home".
He is particularly saddened by the way in which other parts of the world have been allowed the lead in breeding the Jersey cow. He says: "We are being left well behind by many other countries where they have adopted modern scientific methods of progeny testing and breeding. By selling our best bulls a few years ago we gave these countries the chance to overtake us. It would have been a much better idea if we had sold the semen but kept our top class bulls".
He has some strong things to say about the average Jersey farmer."Most of them adopt the attitude that what was good enough for their fathers and grandfathers is good enough for them. This is not the way to progress. This stubbornness which refuses new ideas, this inherent distrust of anything modern, could well be the end of the Jersey farmer".
He could see only one bright spot on the horizon - the fact that so many young farmers were going abroad to see how things are done overseas and are going, or had been, to agricultural colleges in England. "If they can get hold of the reins early enough, they could save Jersey agriculture even at this late hour," he said.
He would like to have had some of the Jersey farmers with him in New Zealand, he said. There they would have seen a completely dynamic approach. "This would, I think, have shaken them out of their sleepiness".
Other than his interest in farming Lord Jersey is also a financier. He is a member of the board of the Jersey General Investment Trust, St Clements Housing, Kleinwort Benson (Channel Islands), and United Dominions Corporation. He is also chairman of the company that runs Hotel L'Horizon and the British Hotel in Broad Street.
It was time to go for we had talked well into the afternoon. Before leaving I slid in one more question. I asked: "Have you ever had any political aspirations in Jersey". He smiled and shook his head. "I don't like 'I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine' sort of bargaining that happens so much in all politics - I prefer small committees to judge a question on its merits and then to get on with the action".
And as I drove back I felt that this was a pity. Men of the intelligence and calibre of Lord Jersey should be guiding our destiny.