Some aspects of Education in Jersey 100 years ago

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Education in Jersey

100 years ago

This article was first published in the 1968 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise. The article was not by-lined and the author is unknown

The late 1860s seems a period worth studying from the point of view or education in Jersey, as certain trends leading to the development of the system as we know it today were already apparent, yet some of the old traditions lingered on.

Church control

The monopoly of the Church of England had long been broken but public elementary education was still provided and controlled by the churches. Secondary education, as that term was generally understood up to 1946, had begun at Victoria College, founded in 1852, and at several private schools opened somewhat earlier. But this was only for boys, be it noted. Yet efforts were still being made to revive the ancient Grammar Schools of St Anastase and St Mannelier. The freedom to teach without a licence from the Ecclesiastical authorities, won by George Ahier in his fight with the Dean in 1787, had been put to such good use that by 1868 more than 70 private schools were listed in the almanacs of that year.

Although it was still 25 years before the law making education compulsory was to be introduced, the number of schools functioning and their size suggests that a big proportion of the children of the day must have received some schooling. The iniquitous system of "Payment by Results" had been introduced and the Public Elementary Schools still received the grants they earned by this system from the Board of Education in London; the States of Jersey took over these payments in 1872.

Technical education had begun, notably in two establishments at Gorey, the Royal Naval Training School founded in 1860 by Capt de Sausmarez RN, and the Industrial School at Haut de la Garenne, where the aim was to make bad boys good by teaching them a trade. As might be expected in Jersey at that time, a number of private tutors offered instruction in navigation and mathematics. There were also innumerable teachers of music, but only five of dancing; a great many of languages, both modern and ancient - the latter even including "Chaldee", and two of riding. The list forms an interesting commentary of the accomplishments then considered desirable for young ladies and gentlemen.

A more detailed account of six or seven schools of different types, based as far as possible on contemporary records, will serve to illustrate the trends referred to.

Victoria College

Victoria College, at this time under its third Principal, Dr Cleave (the second lasted less then a year), had 12 masters and some 170 boys aged from eight to eighteen. The school was divided into two departments, first, that of Classical and General Literature, in which the subjects taught were Greek and Latin languages; composition; Ancient and Modern History; Arithmetic; Mathematics; Drawing; French and German. The second department was that of Modern Literature and Commercial Instruction, comprising English Language; composition; History, especially of England and its Colonies; Geography; Arithmetic; Mathematics; Drawing; French and German. Fees in the Classical department were £8 per year for boys under 12 years of age, £12 for those over this age; in the Modern or Commercial section they were £6 and £8 respectively. Four of the masters, including the Principal, held their classes in the Hall, three in the wing, now the de Quetteville Library, and five were lucky enough to have classrooms on the ground floor.

The standard of work was very high, especially in the Classics :-

"In Dr Cleave's time the school enjoyed an extraordinary measure of success at the Universities. The distinctions gained by Old Victorians at Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin and Durham were probably more numerous than those obtained by the old boys of any other school of the size of the College. The list comprises six Fellowships, seventeen University Scholarships and Prizes, 23 First Class Degrees and 24 entrance scholarships."

Yet not many of these seem to have made any mark on life in Jersey. Some who were born in Jersey, of Jersey parents, followed careers in England, chiefly in teaching, the Church and at the Bar, while others went overseas, often as engineers or planters. Moreover, the admission registers of the period contain an even larger proportion of English names than at the present day, and many of these followed their fathers into the Army and Navy and the Indian Civil Service. It appears that the Jersey farmer's son had not yet aspired to Victoria College and the "great" Jerseymen of Victorian days were either educated at English Public Schools or had been at Victoria College before or after this particular period. G O Balleine left in 1861, Lord Portsea (Bertram Falle) entered in 1869, while the first Old Victorian to become Bailiff of Jersey, C E Malet de Carteret, did not go there until 1879.

An idea of the type of careers followed by young Jerseymen of the time can be gained from the later history of some of the eight sons of Mr George Messervy, of Mont Cantel, who entered College between 1852 and I874. Unfortunately the original admission registers cannot be found and the printed extracts are not complete. The eldest, George Frederick, joined the Home Civil Service and was posted to the Colonial Office. Alfred, the third, was the bright boy of the family. He won three gold medals at College, a scholarship to Oxford, the Taylorian Scholarship there and came down with a First Class Degree. After being an assistant master in several English public schools he became Rector of the Royal College, Mauritius.

Charles, the only one to be mentioned in Balleine's "Biographical Dictionary", became an architect and civil engineer. After holding numerous public appointments overseas, including that of Director of Public Works in several West Indian Islands, he returned to private practice in Jersey. He was largely responsible for the restoration of Trinity Manor. Henry became a tea planter in Ceylon and later managed sugar plantations in Demerara, and gold and diamond mines in British Guiana. Another, Walter John, was employed by the Colonial Bank in Trinidad.

Much of the Prize Day of 1868 followed the pattern that is so familiar today; Headmaster's report, announcement of distinctions gained by Old Victorians and of the prize winners in the school, and then speeches by members of the Governing Body. However, the Lieut-Governor urged the boys to pay great attention to spelling and congratulated them on their behaviour in public. He then presented to the College a painting by W W Ouless, an Old Victorian who was then a student at the Royal Academy Schools. The painting, done when he was 16-18 years of age, had been bought by the Assembly of Governor, Bailiff and Jurats. The Dean, Corbet Le Breton, also spoke of the great promise of Ouless and reported that he had written about him to John Millais, RA who replied that he, too, was impressed by Ouless's potential talents and that he had invited him to come and work in his (studio.

St Mannelier and St Anastase

In I868 the committee of the States, appointed four years earlier to decide the future of these schools, had not yet come to a final conclusion and the two Regents, the Rev Robert Philip Mallet, of St Mannelier, and the Rev George Poingdestre, of St Anastase, were still enjoying their emoluments, although the former had had no pupils since 1863 and the latter none since 1860. Mr Mallet blamed the opening of Victoria College and of public elementary schools for this state of affairs; Mr Poingdestre also blamed the elementary schools but not Victoria College. Mr Mallet had told the committee that he was willing to give up his post and close down the school in exchange for a pension of £120 a year for life, based on the value of his office which he estimated thus :-

30 quarters of wheat rentes: £36
14 vergées of land @£3: £42
House, outbuildings and garden: £50
Total: £128

Mr Poingdestre only asked for £60 as St Anastase had but three vergees of land and he valued his house at not more than £30.

On 29 February 1968 the Committee came to the States with a recommendation that the schools be closed and that Mr Mallet be given a pension of £80 for life and Mr Poingdestre one of £45. The matter was hotly debated and finally the Rector of St Mary proposed an amendment instructing the Committee to try again to see if they couldn't make the schools succeed. This was carried by 14 votes to 13. whereupon several members of the committee resigned and the States meeting broke up dans un grand brouhaha.

It seems a pity that these schools came to an end when they did, for they had obviously done much good work. A former pupil of St Mannelier writes:

"I have only the most pleasant recollections of my school time there, and intense gratitude for the very careful and thorough way in which all the boys were taught. It had had the advantage of having in succession three very able men as Regents. The Rev John Ahier, afterwards Rector of Trinity and father of Mr John Patriarche Ahier, who was for many years editor of the Chronique; the Rev Clement Le Hardy (of the old family, now extinct in Jersey, of the Le Hardys, Seigneurs of Melesches), afterwards Rector of St Peter; and the Rev Robert Philip Mallet, son of the then Rector of Grouville. Mr Mallet, also an Oxford graduate, had had in his youth a wide and varied experience of life, including a visit to New Zealand and a long tour of Italy, then a rare event for a Jerseyman. There was included in the school curriculum what must have been very rare at the time, a course of natural science. For one special feature of his teaching I had reason afterwards to be very grateful, he insisted on thorough grounding".

Mr Mallet was also a scientific and advanced agriculturist :-

" ...he was the apostle in Jersey of the use of liquid manure and his new model pigsties, affording the animals all possible sun and air in fine weather and all possible shelter in cold and wet, had many visitors, but apparently few copyists ... So the farm was an object of never-failing interest, and so were the birds, trees and insects all about us ".

All of which goes to show that Mr Mallet, as a teacher was far in advance of the educational ideas generally prevailing in his time.

Incidentally, the British Press and Jersey Times in a leading article advocated the closing of these schools and the use of the balance of their revenue, after duly compensating the two Regents, to provide scholarships to Victoria College for boys who could not otherwise afford the fees. A suggestion that was not finally adopted until 19I9.

Private schools

Many of the 70 or so private schools already mentioned can have been little more than "Dame" schools, especially those for girls, but amongst the boys' schools there were half-a-dozen of real substance, conducted by graduates and giving a genuine secondary education. Mr de Gruchy, already quoted, says in the same paper :-

"Much careful teaching was given in two large private Secondary Schools kept by University graduates. One, Adelaide House (in Roussel Street) was kept by Mr Carter, a scholar of St John's, Cambridge, and the other by Dr Thompson and his brother, the Rev George Thompson, both distinguished graduates of Trinity College, Dublin".

In fact, the claim made by Dr Thompson in his advertisements, for St James's Collegiate School, Royal Crescent, to be a "Preparatory Academy for the Universities and the Naval and Military Colleges" was fully justified by its results at this time. In 1867 six of its pupils had entered Sandhurst, one Woolwich and one Cambridge University; in July 1868 three more passed into Sandhurst, one into Woolwich and yet another gained direct entry into the Home Civil Service. An account of the Annual Sports at St James, in the Chronique de Jersey of 3 June 1868, is prefaced by an editorial on the value of compulsory games and in praise of Dr Thompson and his methods. Clearly these sports were a major social event, with the officers and band of the 43rd Regiment of Light Infantry present; all the ladies were wearing "Their gayest and best dresses". The Colonel of the regiment acted as Chief Judge and the twenty or more events went on until 7 pm.

Another private school of substance was "Pembroke House Boarding and Day School" established in 1843 at 44 David Place by Mr F Patterson, who states in his advertisements that it was "Built expressly for a First Class Scholastic Establishment. Surrounded by gardens and a large playground." 44 David Place is still called "Pembroke House" but the gardens and playground now appear to be part of the Convent FCJ].

Outside the town, there was St Aubin's Grammar School, Principal the Rev George Le Maistre, sous-maitre the Rev William Le Maistre with resident masters for English and French. A pupil from this school passed into Sandhurst in July 1868. Beaumont had a "Classical, Mathematical and Commercial Boarding School", Principal Mons Boyer, and this also had resident masters for French, English and Drawing. Oxenford House School, St Lawrence, which survived until comparatively recent times, had just been opened under the joint Principalship of P Neel, BA and W E Davey, BA and again their announcements emphasised that there were resident masters.

In the east of the island there was Mr Philip Le Feuvre's school at Eden House, St Clement, founded about 1840. The late Mr Godfrey Labey Gruchy went to this school in the seventies and although, in his own words, "after numerous and well-deserved floggings, got expelled", he and Mr Le Feuvre remained firm friends. In fact the latter left to Mr Gruchy some Jersey furniture from the school and the only known surviving copy of a coloured prospectus. Thanks to Mr Gruchy's daughter, now Mrs Lucille Pirie, part of this prospectus, already reproduced in the Bulletin of the Jersey Society in London of May 1948, is set out below :-

Mr Le Feuvre's School


Including education in the English and French languages, and Latin exclusively for the purpose of rightly understanding their Etymology, Writing, Arithmetic, Book-Keeping, Commercial Technicalities, Geography, History, the Scriptures, Geometry, Algebra, Trigonometry, Mensuration, Land Surveying, Astronomy, and other branches of Natural Philosphy.

  • Yearly boarders, seven years of age - Fourteen Pounds per annum, with an increase of One Pound for each additional year
  • Weekly boarders, seven years of age - Twelve Pounds per annum, with an increase of One Pound for each additional year
  • Day boarders half price of weekly
  • Day Pupils, seven years of age -Seven Shillings per quarter, with an increase of One Shilling for each additional year

When Pupils have attained their thirteenth year no further increase is made in the terms.

A regular course of Classical Studies, Instrumental Music, Drawing and Washing, are extras.

School requisites - such as all printed School-Books, Maps, Writing Models, Astronomical, Chemical and other Philosophical Apparatus, Pens, Ink and Fire in winter - Two shillings and Six Pence per quarter extra. In these School Requisites are not included Copy and Ciphering Books, Pencils, Slates and Drawing Materials, which are charged for unless provided by the parents.

The system

Is a scientific combination of plans adopted in the best schools, with such modifications as have been suggested by experience. Its leading features, or the objects it aims at, are to make study pleasant to youth, to call forth the latent energies of their mind by leading them to think, and to enable them, by studied simplicity in the means employed, to perceive the rationale of processes in so plain and striking a way as to make the impression indelible.

In a special manner it is Mr Le Feuvre's constant endeavour that his pupils should acquire a just sense of Religion and Morals; to this end, amongst various other means, the charms of Vocal Music are daily made subservient. Further information on the mode of teaching any particular subject, will, on enquiry, be given with pleasure at the School.


Have been erected expressly for a School Establishment, on a gently rising ground, with a southern aspect, well sheltered by groves and hills. Their proximity to the sea, while it ensures the salubrity of the air, is convenient for bathing in summer: and the shore - like the neighbouring heights, which command extensive and delightful scenery - is available for the occasional enjoyment of an agreeable and healthful walk.

So far as locality, school and domestic comforts and convenience, and the elegant simplicity of all its arrangements can go, this establishment is as eligible as parents well can wish.

Each pupil is expected to bring a Bible; and each boarder a knife, fork and silver spoon.

Few modern educationists would quarrel with Mr Le Feuvre's aims. Perhaps the execution of them was sometimes faulty, at least in Mr Gruchy's case, as his "latent energies" were often applied to the school clock, hence the beatings. Eden House, as it stands today on St Clement's Inner Road, looks quite unchanged from the sketch on the cover of the prospectus.

Public elementary schools

There were 16 of these in St Helier at the time including, to give them their full titles, the Jersey National Free School for Boys in Upper Don Street and the corresponding Girls School in Grove Place, the heads of which were Jonathan Smith and Mrs Smith respectively, and the British and Foreign School for Boys and Girls in Aquila Road, Headmaster J Hale. Other schools were attached to the churches of St Mark, St James, St Paul, St Andrew and St Luke, while there was a Roman Catholic school in Vauxhall. One which received constant mention in the Chronique was the St Helier's Ragged School, founded in 1847 in Phillips Street. The issue of 21 January 1868, reports:

"One is accustomed to treats given to the pupils of a school but it has fallen to the first Ragged School in St Helier to pioneer a new kind of benefit for those it influences - a tea for the parents of its pupils. The Hall was decorated with garlands of flowers and greenery and with banners inscribed with slogans which seemed to merit the attention of the parents who, we hope, will retain a good memory of the occasion and, above all, of the good advice they were given."

The next month, February, the twenty-first annual meeting of subscribers was held in the Prince of Wales Rooms. This was a grand affair, with Mr Robert Pipon Marett, then Procureur-Generale de la Reine, in the chair. There were speeches by the Rev J Le Neveu, the Rector of St John; R Douglas, the Minister of St Paul's; R Hardy; J Lemon; Jurat Neel and others. The pupils of the school were present throughout, were publicly examined in various subjects and after all this were still sufficiently resilient to sing. The report for 1867 stated that 222 pupils had been admitted during the year, of whom twelve left to "go into service", five to enter other schools and 27 just gave up. The school was in charge of Mr and Mrs Bryan, who taught Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, with Sewing for the girls. Mr Bryan had also started evening classes, in which the numbers had reached seventy, for those unable to attend during the day. As to finances, receipts amounted to £154 15s 7d and expenditure to £l98 6s 3d the shortfall of £43 l0s 8d being attributed to two causes:- The rising cost of living, which had obliged the Committee of Management to increase Mr and Mrs Bryan's joint salary from £60 to £80 per year and subscriptions were £16 less than in the previous year.

The oldest "Public" schools in St Helier, the "National" schools, opened in 1808, were evidently in a bad way a hundred years ago. It has not been possible to find out why this was so but the report for 1872 begins with these words:-

"Owing to circumstances there has been no published report of the schools for four years past. The Committee entered upon the responsibility of the present year with a very gloomy and discouraging prospect before them - almost fearing the necessity of closing the Institution after a most useful career of upwards of sixty years."

However, the Committee did not allow despondency to dull them into inactivity and set about raising the money to repair the buildings, by means of a special subscription list. In the midst of this activity they were encouraged by the receipt of a legacy of £250 and the schools were happily set on their feet once again.

Outside St Helier there were Parochial Schools at Trinity, Gorey, Grouville, St John, St Aubin, St Saviour, St Peter and St Ouen. The last parish also had a Wesleyan School which earned very good reports from the Inspectors and favourable mentions in the press of the time.

Technical schools

The Jersey Industrial School for Boys, Gorey

Mr Philip Ahier states that the idea of this school originated with the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society in 1852 and indeed one can see the mind of Col Le Couteur in it. There was, however, a long delay in carrying out the idea before the buildings were finished in 1866 and the school opened in 1867, when the boys from the old Hospital school were transferred to Gorey.

The Almanacs state:

"The object of this Institution is to provide a home for the moral, intellectual and industrial training of boys who, through poverty, parental neglect or any other cause, are deprived of the means of education and are in danger of contracting idle and disorderly habits."

Some of the rules of the school are of interest :-

11 The instruction shall include the reading of the Holy Bible; Scriptures; general reading; writing; arithmetic; Geography and the elements of Geometry. There shall also be given daily instruction in domestic employment, and in one or more kinds of useful industry suited to the age and strength of each boy but especially in spade husbandry. As a general rule, half of each working day shall be devoted to the industrial training of those boys who have reached a proper age.
13 The boys shall be allowed intervals for exercises and recreation to the amount of not less than three hours a day, and shall be taken out beyond the boundaries of the Institute from time to time in charge of one or more of the masters and teachers.
14 The food shall be of the plainest and most economical description but wholesome and plentiful. The dietry shall from time to time be regulated by the Committee with the advice of the Medical Officer.
15 The clothing shall be of no particular fashion but decent and comfortable and such as may be worn by the child of any respectable working man."

Admission to the school was between the ages of seven and eleven and boys were not to be retained after fifteen except in special circumstances.

In October 1868 the Dean of Jersey held a public examination at the school for the prize founded by Col John Le Couteur, on this occasion a silver watch. There were six candidates, all of whom had to be over twelve years of age: the winner was Mallet, aged thirteen. The Dean praised the next four so highly that Col Le Couteur gave them all consolation prizes. One feels rather sorry for No 6.

The Royal Naval Training School, Gorey

Some mystery surrounds this establishment. The earliest reference to it is in the British Press and Jersey Times Almanac for 1863 which states :-

"This school was founded in the early part of 1860 by Capt de Sausmarez RN under the superintendence of Commander C Burney RN, commander of the Speedy. Master Mr W Pawley. Thirty boys are educated and trained as Pilots and thirty in Ship Drill."

A later edition (1869) of the same Almanac states :-

"There is a complete staff of Schoolmasters and Seamanship and Gunnery Instructors. 150 boys are yearly trained there for the Royal Navy in all branches of a young seaman's duty."

It has not yet been possible to make a search at the Public Records Office for information about this school but, on external evidence, it seems unlikely that this was a purely Royal Navy Establishment for the following reasons :-

  • Nowhere is there any reference to it by name as "HMS" as is customary with other Royal Navy Shore establishments.
  • The "Superintendent", Cmdr Burney, was not appointed to the school but, according to the Navy Lists from 1867 to r870, to HMS Dasher, "additional for Training Establishment at Gorey,"
  • No mention is made of the school in the obituaries of Capt de Sausmarez and Cmdr Burney published in the Service Gazettes.
  • Among several objects towards which the States of Jersey, according to Philip Ahier had begun to allocate funds from 1836 he mentions "The building of the Naval School at Gorey".

There is, happily, no mystery about the physical existence of the school or where it was situated. The accompanying reproduction of an old photograph, from the collection in the Museum, shows the masts and all the rigging of a ship set up in what can be clearly identified as the garden of a house at Gorey, known, significantly enough, as "The Old Cadet House"; it is on the track leading to the Victoria Tower. This house was the quarters for the Officers and staff, and part at least of the boys' dormitories is now Seymour Farm nearby, where a typical Naval building of mid-Victorian days forms the main house. Capt F Ahier says that, when his father bought the place in 1908 there were no internal communications on the first floor; to get to their bedrooms, the family had to go up an outside staircase at the end and walk along the open verandah which still remains.

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