Jersey's Public Library was founded by the Rev Philippe Falle, who was born in Jersey in 1656. He was sent to England to school and he went on to study at Oxford University. He was ordained into the ministry of the Church of England, returning to Jersey in 1681, where he became Rector of Trinity for the next six years.
Tutor to Governor's son
The Governor was Thomas, Lord Jermyn, who appointed Falle as tutor to his son. He went with his pupil to England, and it was two years before he returned again to Jersey. He was then appointed Rector of Saint Saviour.
An active States Member he was sent as one of two representatives with a petition to the King for improved defences to protect the Island from the French. Realising how little the English knew about Jersey, he set about writing An account of the Island of Jersey, the greatest of those islands that are now the only remainder of the English dominions in France, with a new and accurate map of the Island. The book was published in 1694.
Books for Clergy
Two years later Falle wrote: "...considering the want of good and usefull books among the clergy of this Island, which straitened as they are, they are not well able to purchase, I greatly augmented a collection which I had begun some years before, designing to give it towards the erecting of a small library in the Island."
Books for the people
By 1734 his vision had expanded: "Nothing is more wanted in this Island than a Public Library, the place being out of all commerce of the learned world, and the clergy, through meanness of their income, under a disability of laying out much money upon books. And such a library should not, I think, be solely appropriated to the clergy, but free and open to the better sort at least of the laity, and be furnished accordingly. Reading would give our gentlemen juster notions of things, enlarge their minds, and render them more useful and serviceable to their Country.
"There is already some advance made towards this, by the promise of more than 2000 volumes in most kinds of good literature, the execution of which promise is only suspended till a convenient place can be provided for the reception of the books."
Life in England
Falle spent much of his working life in England, as Chaplain to King William III, and later as Prebendary of Durham Cathedral. He moved to Shenley, just to the north-west of London, in 1709, where he remained until his death in 1742. He worked on an enlarged edition of his Account of the Island of Jersey, in addition to other writings.
The States of Jersey initially declined Falle's offer of books but when land was identified near the Town Church by the Old Rectory, and a foundation stone laid in 1737, the library was on its way to being established in what became Library Place. It took a further six years for the dream to become reality, and the library was finally ready for use in 1743, a year after the death of its founder.