A history of Millbrook

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What's your street's story? - Millbrook


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Millbrook in the 1890s


This article is based on the second presentation in the Jersey Archive 'Street Story' series in March 2016. See also our summary of the first presentation

Millbrook is in a country parish but is on one of the busiest roads in the island.

Watermills

As the name suggests, it was one of the centres of milling in the island, with a number of watermills formerly situated on the stream running through Waterworks Valley. It also seems to have been the residence of many miulitary and retired military personnel, as well as some important islanders, including one of Jersey's most generous benefactors.

On the 1795 Richmond Map Millbrook is still very much an undeveloped rural area. St Aubin's Road had yet to be built and there was only a smattering of housess with the area dominated by agricultural land.

On the 1849 Godfray Map the Millbrook we know today has begun to appear. St Aubin's Road was by this time the main route from the west of the island to town, and there had been a dramatic increase over half a century in the number of buildings at Millbrook.

Luxury houses

The location was outside of town but near enough for easy access to amenities, and wealthy people began moving there and building some luxurious houses. One of these was bought by Jesse and Florence Boot in the 1920s.

The house was built for businessman Frank Walker in the 1910s. He bought a house called The Poplars (Les Peupliers) from the Le Riche family in 1903 and had the building demolished and replaced with one that he called Kamberes. Before the Le RIche family the property was owned by Philippe Denize and his son Philippe, whose names are shown as owners on the Godfray Map.

Jesse Boot bought the house in 1921 and renamed it Villa Millbrook. He and his wife had a massive influence on the Millbrook area, as well as other parts of the island.

Construction work on the garden in 1936

Coronation Park

After the death of her husband Florence Boot gifted the land at Millbrook for Coronation Park. In a letter to the Bailiff, Alexander Coutanche, in 1937 she wrote:

"I would like to offer the garden that I have made at Millbrook as a Coronation gift to Jersey. I know you want the beauty spots to be preserved for all time for the present and future generations, and it is on consideration that it is kept as an open space for ever that I offer it as a resting place for older people and a recreation place for the young ones - not for bicyclists or games, but simply for rest and refreshment with music only."

St Matthew's Church

This was not Florence Boot's only act of philanthrophy in the area. In February 1840 Francois Jeune, Dean of Jersey; George du Heaume, Rector of St Lawrence, and Philippe Filleul, Rector of St Peter, bought a piece of land from William George Le Gallais for £62 8s 6d. Their intention was to build a church on the land in order to cater for the increasing population in the area. This became known as St Matthew's Church.

The administration of the church was not without controversy. In the early days it was not decided who had permission to appoint clergy for the church. In December 1885 the Rev P N Bisson was appointed by the Rectors of St Lawrence and St Peter to be the new priest at the church. However, they did not agree this with the Rector of St Helier, who wanted the Rev Isaac Bibby to succeed the former incumbent, the Rev Hammond.

The outcome was that when Mr Bisson arrived on 23 December to say Mass, he was met by Mr Bibby and was promptly arrested by the Centenier of C Le Gros, of St Lawrence, for breach of the peace. The case went to court, where the presiding Magistrate dismissed it, saying that this was purely a civil matter and should not have been brought before him.

In 1931 Jesse Boot died after a long illness. His widow decided to pay tribute to him by offering to completely refurbish St Matthew's Church.

To complete this work she turned to the renowned French glass worker Rene Lalique, who was a neighbour of hers in her property in southern France. He, together with the highly regarded architect A B Grayson, who was responsible for many notable local properties, set about transforming the face of the building.

They remodelled both the interior and exterior, creating in the process one of the most interesting and significant buildings of the 20th century in Jersey. The interior of the church is unique and is a source of great interest for visitors to the island. The glasswork has become internationally famous, and it contains what is thought to be the only glass font in an Anglican church.

The church before it was redesigned

Schools

In the late 1800s there was a school attached to the church. The first mention of St Matthew's Mixed School in the almanacs is from the year 1888. The headmaster at that time was Charles de St Paer.

In 1900 Mr de St Paer left to take charge of the new parish school in St Martin and his replacement was Edward Carter. At that point the number of students attending the school had steadily increase, with 160 on the register. Mr Carter left in 1902 and his place was taken by D M Jones.

With the opening of parochial schools around the island attendance at St Matthew's dropped significantly with only 70 pupils by 1907. In 1912 the decision was taken that the school would close and reopen for under-tens only. Miss Dolbel took over as headmistress and remained in that position until the school closed for good in 1920.

There is another mention of a school in the Millbrook area. In the late 1840s Frederick Burchell, a half-pay officer, insured 'a newly erected dwelling house, wherein a school is kept, stone, brick and slated, situate at Millbrook'. The policy also covered the 'furniture and books in the school room therein'. It is not clear exactly where this private school was situated.

Driving problems

St Aubin's Road is a major reason why Millbrook has developed as it is today. Thousands of cars use the thoroughfare every day, and the history of the road shows that issues with driving are not new.

The honorary police records of St Lawrence begin in the mid-1860s and they are littered throughout with tales of bad and irresponsible driving. On 7 June 1869 James Minchinton was driving imprudently along the road and went through a gap near the slip at Millbrook, causing Miss Leigh to fall. He was reprimanded for his actions by the judge who heard the case.

And drink driving is also not a modern phenomenon. On Christmas Eve in 1879 Elias Quenault had clearly been out celebrating rather too much. He was driving a carriage with two horses while he was drunk and was stopped by the police for driving erratically through Millbrook. He resisted violently and was arrested as a consequence of his actions.

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