Jersey day three
16.04.2018 - 16.04.2018
Attending to business
What a difference a day makes!
The same view as yesterday, but in better weather
Today was the day when I needed to attend at the Judicial Greffe to swear the oath in order to be granted probate. But with a bit of time to spare before the appointment we were able to have another leisurely breakfast before checking out of the hotel, leaving our luggage to be picked up later.
Statue in Liberation Square
The sunshine had returned so we took the opportunity to get some photos in Liberation Square of the Liberation Sculpture, which stands there. This was erected when the square was created in 1995, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Liberation in 1995. It was the subject of great controversy at the time.
When the design was first revealed by the Occupation and Liberation Committee, people were astonished and very unhappy that the group of people was shown releasing a number of doves of peace. The Committee explained that they had decided to change the brief to commemorate 50 years of peace, but islanders had been anticipating a sculpture to represent 50 years since the Liberation. Apparently many remarked that if any doves had been around at the end of the Occupation, they would probably have been caught and eaten by the hungry population, rather than released. People also commented that there was no recognition of the military aspect of the Occupation so a serviceman in battledress and boots was added to the group. The artist, Philip Jackson, explained that his original idea had been to have the figures waving a flag, which would be much more in tune with the public's understanding of the experience of Liberation, but the committee had decided to change the brief to one of ‘peace’, and so the dove motif had been introduced. As a result of the public protests the revised design incorporated a giant Union Flag.
Although we were still early for my appointment we decided to find the Courthouse, which is in Royal Square, a few minutes’ walk from the hotel. This is the former market square, and until 1751 was known as Le Vier Marchi, the Old Market Place. Incidentally you see here the use of the local French dialect, derived from Norman French and known as Jèrriais. More on that later …
Today the square has a rather French appearance, due in part to the pollarded trees. It was the site of many of the island’s historical events, including in 1781 the Battle of Jersey, when invading French troops were put to flight by the island’s militia.
A gleaming golden statue stands in the centre. This is George II, who for some reason was portrayed in Roman dress by the sculptor John Cheere when it was placed here in 1751. It is of gilded lead and stands on a granite plinth close to where the old market cross stood until the Reformation. All distances in the island are measured from this statue. Laws are disseminated by the Viscount from a stone at the western side of the plinth and the Proclamation of Accession of a new Monarch is read from a platform erected in front of the statue.
The statue from the front
A visitor to the island in 1798 had one perspective on why the king should be dressed as a Roman:
‘At the head of the Market Place, upon a pedestal, stands a gilded statue intended to represent George II - the attitude of which is so graceless, and the countenance so unlike, that it has been found necessary to inscribe upon the stone the name of the personage it was meant to exhibit. The fact is - the States of the Island were duped by an old gentleman of the name of Gosset, who wanting a piece of ground to render a house he was building more commodious - offered, for the grant of it, a statue of His Majesty to adorn the publick square. The proposal was accepted and the figure was brought over from England. The site had been previously prepared, and iron rails placed round, to keep off the rude hands of curiosity. A day was fixed for displaying to the Inhabitants the brazen image of their Monarch - it was conveyed to its eminent station under the inscrutable cover of a blanket - the publick eye became eager to behold the Royal Effigy - the signal was given and the veil withdrawn - when instead of the British King - Jersey had conspicuously placed in its capital - the statue of a Roman Emperor.
Mr Gosset - the patriotic donor conceiving that his countrymen might be easily duped, and he perform, at a cheap rate, his part of the contract, purchased this old figure of Julius Caesar at a sale, for its weight in lead, and added to its ancient dress the decoration of the Garter - as a sure insignium of the expected Monarch - and a certain proof against discovery. But a lady who had recently returned from Rome, visiting the island soon after the erection of this valuable treasure, recognised, to the great mortification of the natives, the "very stamp and image" of her old friend in the Capitol.’
[from the Island wiki]
And from the side and rear
An article in the Evening Post of 1930 ridicules this and other speculation about the origin of the statue (it had also been claimed that it was on old ship’s figurehead, as though such a thing would have been made of lead, or found among the debris of a shipwreck):
‘Lead statues, usually of a classical nature, were considered highly decorative and desirable objects of art during the 17th and 18th centuries. A nobleman's park was incomplete until it bristled with them. A statue such as that in our Square was quite in keeping with the tastes of the day, and the subtle flattery of depicting King George II as a Caesar went, as will be seen later, straight to the heart - and purse - of that valiant little monarch.
To the many who wonder why King George should be represented as a Roman Imperator, one must reply that fashion, then as now, blinded men's eyes to absurdities. Just as tomb epitaphs had to be composed in the pompous and pedantic Latin of Oxford, so had the worthies, whom the epitaphs described, to be decked out in the guise of the ancient Roman.’
[again from the Island wiki]
Crests on the former Corn Market
On the southern edge of the square is the old corn market, now the registry office, and the former military police HQ. There is an attractive sundial on the wall of the latter and an old police alarm. As the sign explains, this was installed in 1901 and was ‘one of eight such alarms which covered the town of St Helier. Each box contained a manually operated telephone with detachable ear piece, writing platform and batteries. The telephone lines terminated at the town hall. On the formation of the States of Jersey telephone service in 1923 these police alarms were abandoned.’
Sundial, and police alarm on the old police HQ
The court buildings are on the eastern side and were formerly the public library. The sign over the door still reads ‘Biblioteque’, which somewhat confused me.
But I soon found where to go and the process of getting the Grant of Representation went smoothly, assisted by the friendly Chantelle. We then dropped the paperwork off at the relevant bank nearby, and were free to enjoy the rest of the day, with our flight home being not until early evening.
A walk by the sea
With the weather so lovely we decided to walk along the Esplanade to get views of Elizabeth Castle out in the bay.
St Aubin's Bay and Elizabeth Castle
Elizabeth Castle was built in the 16th and 17th centuries, on a tidal island about half a mile out to sea, when the increasing power of cannons meant that the existing fortification at Mont Orgueil was insufficient to defend Jersey, leaving the port of St Helier vulnerable to attack by ships. The islet is 60 yards wide and about 500 yards long and can be reached at low tide by a causeway of shingle across the sands. For 400 years it was home to a priory. The monastic buildings were taken over by the Crown at the Reformation and surviving buildings used for military purposes. Construction of the castle began in 1594, and continued in the first years of the next century under the then governor of Jersey, Sir Walter Raleigh, who named it ‘Fort Isabella Bellissima’ (the most beautiful Elizabeth) after Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth Castle, causeway still covered
Elizabeth Castle, tide going out
It was first used to defend the town at the time of the English Civil War. Charles II visited the castle in 1646 and 1649, staying in the Governor's House there, and was proclaimed King on the death of his father, Charles I, by Jersey governor Sir George de Carteret despite the abolition of the monarchy in England. But in 1651 Parliamentary forces landed on the island and bombarded the castle with mortars. The destruction of the mediaeval Abbey church in the heart of the complex, which had been used as a storehouse for ammunition and provisions, forced Carteret to surrender and Jersey was held by Parliamentarians for nine years. The parade ground and surrounding buildings were later constructed on the site of the destroyed Abbey church.
By the start of the 19th century Elizabeth Castle was considered no longer able to protect the island and Fort Regent (which we didn’t have time to visit) was built on the hill above St Helier to replace it.
Elizabeth Castle at low tide -
you can see the amphibious vehicle that ferries visitors to the castle
The tide was on the way out and the causeway just clearing but we didn’t feel we had enough time for the walk out and back, so just took lots of photos from the beach.
Elizabeth Castle at low tide
We had a break for coffee in a café overlooking the bay and then strolled back to Liberation Square where we had lunch in the same bar where we had eaten on our first day here, The Square - a Reuben sandwich for Chris and smoked salmon one for me, both excellent.
A visit to the museum
Welcome to the Jersey Museum
After lunch we visited the Jersey Museum, devoted to the history of the island. At the ticket counter my eye was caught by the Welcome sign, which was in dual language – English and Jèrriais. I promised to tell you more about the latter. Jèrriais is the ancient language of Jersey, still spoken today by around two thousand people and closely related to the Norman language spoken by a minority in mainland Normandy. It is often referred to as Jersey-French, but that is a misnomer, because it is not a Jersey version of French, but rather a Jersey version (or versions, because words vary from parish to parish) of Norman French. Some of the words are Norse in origin, such as hougue which means mound, but most, like this welcome sign, are closer to French. The Island wiki has the words of the British National Anthem in Jèrriais:
‘Dgieu sauve not' Duchêsse,
Longue vie à not' Duchêsse,
Dgieu sauve la Reine!
Jouaiyeuse et glorieuse;
Qu'ou règne sus nous heutheuse -
Dgieu sauve la Reine!’
After paying for entry (£9.95 each) we watched a short but very well-made film which took us from Neanderthal times to the Liberation of 1945. This is available on Vimeo and as it is publicly available there I trust it is also OK to share it here:
We then went to look at the exhibitions. As we went in we saw a display about Lillie Langtry, who I was surprised to learn was born on the island.
Lillie Langtry's dressing case
The main area, called the Story of Jersey, had some interesting artefacts but we found the arrangement rather confusing as we seemed to move from prehistoric times to the occupation and back to Victorian times, rather than following events chronologically - but maybe we just got lost! Of most interest were the old films from the 1930s and audio of people speaking Jèrriais, and I loved a 14th century brooch that I would happily wear today, its design was so pretty.
14th century silver and gilt brooch
Stained glass from the Fishermen's Chapel, St Brelade
There was also an area devoted to the 1980s, the time when the well-known TV series Bergerac (which neither of us has ever watched) was filmed here. This was both unnerving (to see the first decade of our marriage considered as ‘history’!) and interesting. As the intro to the exhibition explains,
‘It was a decade of huge contrasts. There was lots of greed and selfishness and widening gap between the rich and poor, but at the same time, people took action to help look after the planet and each other.
The 1980s were a decade of people power and individuality. World-changing events were led by public opinion and the need to change an unfair world. The most momentous of these changes was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, reuniting a divided Germany. International protests and campaigns led to the eventual release of anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela. The world was changing and people became much more aware of the need to look after it.’
We saw displays about the impact of AIDS, major political events, the Great Storm of 1987 which battered the British Isles, and even Bergerac’s car, a 1947 Triumph Roadster.
1980s disco scene, and Bergerac's car
Attached to the museum is an old house, the Merchants House, which I personally found more interesting than the museum exhibits. Here you can visit all the rooms, furnished as they would have been in 1869. Rather unusually, they are displayed as if set out for auction, as the house was formerly owned by a doctor who tried to sell off all his possessions to meet his extensive debts, so each piece of furniture, ornament etc., bears a lot number, and the descriptions provided in each room read like an auction catalogue.
As the museum’s website explains:
‘On the evening of 27th August 1869, a momentous decision was taken by the family that lived at No 9 Pier Road. Dr Charles Ginestet persuaded his wife Jeanne that they should abandon their beautiful home and flee to France to start a new life. They would be leaving behind friends and family but also a nightmare of debts and legal proceeding.’
In the Merchant's House
As you walk round the house ingeniously placed screens play footage of actors in the role of various family members, talking about their lives and their feelings on having to leave their home. As I understood their story, the doctor had been widowed and remarried, bringing his new wife to live in the family home. His grown-up children, still living here, seem not to have been impressed by her and the changes she brought, and blamed her for the debts run up by her husband. The whole thing was very cleverly done and intriguing.
By the time we left the museum there was just time to have a coffee before collecting our bag from the hotel and catching the bus to the airport. This was rather small and appeared to have no seating in the departures area other than by the gates, which were inaccessible until your flight had been called, or in bars and restaurants – so we felt forced to have a beer!!
The flight home went smoothly and despite a slight delay in taking off we landed more or less on time at Gatwick. Using the Gatwick Express and the Tube we were home by around 9.00 PM after a successful and enjoyable few days in Jersey.