A Jersey Archive history of Millbrook

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What's your street's story? - Millbrook


Millbrook-lavoir.jpg
The lavoir over the brook which divides St Lawrence and St Helier


This article is based on a Jersey Archive Street Story presentation

The story of Millbrook reflects different aspects of Jersey life. A study of the area sees themes such as water, war, important people and religion all captured in a local community.

Milling

On an island, fresh water is a vital resource and Millbrook is an important part of the Island’s supply. Two streams define the parish of St Lawrence’s boundaries. In the west side between St Peter and St Lawrence and in the east between St Lawrence and St Helier. This second stream is called Le Douet de my Grève and became known as Millbrook, hence the name of the area.

As the name suggests, until the 19th century the stream was a centre for milling in the Island. In the middle of the 19th century the Jersey Waterworks Company and then the Jersey New Waterworks started purchasing mills and land in the area and Waterwork’s Valley began to develop.

A lavoir or abreuvoir can be seen in the area where the brook has been channelled. This was used as a communal washing-place for clothes and linen and a drinking place for horses. It was built in the 19th century and was formed by enclosing a section of the Millbrook with granite walls. Interestingly the stone used in building the lavoir changes as you cross from St Lawrence to St Helier.

On the 1795 Richmond Map. Millbrook is largely undeveloped. There are a few houses, but a sandbank dominates the area and St Aubin’s Road had yet to be built.

It was not until the start of the 1800s that Millbrook really began to change. As the population in Jersey increased, people moved out of town and nearby areas began to expand. With General Don’s arrival in the Island the road network began to improve and St Aubin’s Road was a key component in this system.

One of the most significant problems facing landowners in Millbrook was the infiltration of the sea. Before the sea wall and Victoria Avenue were constructed people’s properties were the first line of defence against the elements. There was a sandbank running from St Helier to St Brelade, however, this was under attack both from the sea and from people taking shingle for their own use.

In 1827 an Act of the States was introduced which tried to stop this undermining of the sandbank. It said that the main road was in constant danger of being submerged as a result of the shingle being taken. If anyone was caught taking shingle or sand from this area they were subject to a fine of 200 livres.

Half Way Hotel at Millbrook in 1850

Redoubt

St Aubin’s Bay was also a prime area for another sort of attack. Much like the rest of the Island, defensive works can be seen all along the coast guarding against invasion. A fortification was built on the site now occupied by a number of houses at Rue du Nord, just next to Coronation Park. According to Jersey Place Names, a fort was built in 1795 and then a redoubt was built in 1817 and named as the Volunteer’s Redoubt.

The redoubt was not in active service for long but was occupied for a number of years by a military presence. In a book held by the Archive written by an anonymous Englishman in 1857, he describes the Volunteer’s Redoubt as being disarmed but the barracks kept in good order.

In the 1841 census it was occupied by William Haywood, aged 56, who was registered as a pensioner and was presumably a pensioner from the armed forces on half pay living in the Island with his family.

By the 1871 census a new family were safely ensconced in the Redoubt and this was the family that would be linked with it for the next few generations. Benjamin Hudson, a 70-year-old Chelsea Pensioner and his wife Harriet who were both born in England are recorded as living in the property.

Ten years later Harriet was still living in the Redoubt, by this time a widow and listed as a washerwoman. By 1891 a new family had moved into the property with James H Goldsmith a 43-year-old Battery Sergeant-Major of the Royal Artillery taking residence. He lived with his wife Mary and six children.

Mary Goldsmith, James’ wife, was the daughter of Benjamin and Harriet Hudson. Evidently she had met her husband, possibly in Jersey when he was garrisoned in the Island, before moving with him to different garrison points including Alderney and Castle Cornet before moving back to the property in which her family had resided.

After James’ death Mary finally bought the property in 1922 from the Crown for £500. It was eventually split among Mary’s children and new houses were built in the space that it previously occupied. There was also a garage on the site, which was called Goldsmith’s Garage.

Seafield House

Another property in the area is Seafield House, which today is a listed building. It is situated opposite the entrance to Waterworks Valley. It was originally built in the early 1800s for Francois Giffard, a man who was described by a contemporary as the leading banker, merchant and smuggler of Jersey.

The house was sold to Michel Le Gros in 1821, before passing it to his son Jean and his grandson Gervaise. Gervaise Le Gros was a leading Island figure in the 19th century, becoming an Advocate in 1853 before holding the office of Greffier, Vicomte and Jurat. In 1869 he bought the Fief de Mélèches and became a Seigneur.

As a powerful man in the Island it would seem somewhat foolhardy to cross him, which makes it extraordinary that in April 1867 Jane Marett and Elizabeth Gruchy decided to dig up and steal the rhododendrons from his garden. For this relatively minor incident they received a penalty of 8 days hard labour in the Prison.

The house was later sold to Maxwell Blackler Douglass and his widow lived in the house during the Occupation until it was requisitioned by the Germans in 1943. It was used as a Soldatenheim for the rest of the Occupation.

St Matthew's Church is in the foreground of this Philip Ouless print

St Matthew's Church

Millbrook is home to one of the most distinctive churches on the Island. In February 1840 Francois Jeune, Dean of of Jersey, George du Heaume, Rector of St Lawrence and Philippe Filleul, Rector of St Peter bought a piece of land to build a church in order to cater for the increasing population in the area. This church became known as St Matthew’s Church.

In the 1930s St Matthew’s Church gained a new lease of life. Florence Boot, Lady Trent, offered to redesign the interior of the Church in memory of her late husband Sir Jesse Boot.

To complete this work she turned to the renowned French glass worker Rene Lalique, who was a neighbour of hers in Southern France. He, together with the well known and highly regarded architect A B Grayson, set about transforming the church.

The interior of the church is unique and its glasswork has become internationally renowned. It contains what is thought to be the only glass font in an Anglican church.

Florence Boot also contributed another extraordinary act of generosity in the Millbrook area with the gift to the Island of the land next door to the church to create Coronation Park. The land was offered in 1937 and was finally gifted to the States of Jersey in 1953 and £7,500 was given for its upkeep.

Sydney George Benest outside Lisbon House in the 1920s

Benest's

One of the iconic shops in the area of Millbrook is Benest’s of Millbrook. The Benest owned and ran the shop for over 100 years.

Lisbon House, the site of the original Benest’s shop, was bought by William Le Bas Benest in1888. The shop was later to expand and include the properties of Homestill, also known as Mont Felard Cottage, which was bought by the company in 1959 and Millbrook House, which was purchased from the Le Gros family in 1968.

The history of Lisbon House as a shop goes back further than the Benest family. In 1840 George Bisson bought the piece of land now occupied by Benest’s. By the time that he went in to bankruptcy in the mid-1840s a house had been built on the plot.

Before the Benest family took over the running of the property in the late 1880s different people can be seen running the shop as a grocer. In the 1881 census, Philip Val, a 23 year old grocer from Grouville, was living in the property.

Going back 10 years further Gustave Thorel, a Frenchman described as a grocer master employing two men, ran the shop. As far back as 1851 Rachel Gallichan was living at a Lisbon Cottage, which is presumably the same house, and is described as a grocer and tea dealer.

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