Clare Street — Cannon Street

by Anita Fell

Introduction — My Approach to the Research.

For over 50 years I have researched the history of specific houses and districts both in the UK and Jersey. This involves reading up on background histories to put the findings in context and then examining a range of maps, photographs and, most importantly, original documents such as deeds, census returns and insurance records as well as published sources including newspapers and street directories.

Research sources and material in Jersey are centred on the Jersey Archive, the public library and the Société Jersiaise library and photographic collection. All three organisations are well staffed by helpful experts. You cannot rely on a single source such as census returns, street directories, rates books etc, as there are often conflicts in data. Most important of all is that any academic research on this topic needs to be combined with a physical exploration of the area of interest as only then can the documents make complete sense.

Approached in this way, research has the capacity to find real substance and interest in areas which may at first have seemed rather unpromising. Hopefully, this is the case here.

So what are the problems you encounter? Firstly it is time consuming, addictive and — worst of all — easy to go off on a tangent. You need good eyesight and a magnifying glass to decipher small print which is frequently illegible. Jersey research entails specific problems such as the necessity of a working knowledge of French, as all legal documents such as deeds/contracts in the Royal Court, as well as early newspapers, were in French. Census returns were often re-interpreted in view of their obligatory submission to the UK, so a house name such as Blanc Pignon would be entered as White Hall. Similarly people’s names were often anglicised. Researchers also need a degree of intuition, and infinite patience. You must ignore hearsay evidence (see my comments on Cannon Street) and be sure always to cross-check a variety of original documents.

This article is a small part of more comprehensive research started in 2008 on the history of property development in Jersey and a demonstration of how to use a variety of sources. I have edited out much of the background information I had included from published sources such as the reasons for immigration as this is already available elsewhere — please see attached bibliography for further information.

The Cannon Street Area

The area researched is bordered now by Clare Street, Savile Street, Cannon Street and Aquila Road.

This paper examines how it developed from an expanse of undeveloped sand dunes into a densely built up site of residential and commercial buildings.

The aim of the study was to discover whether the area had been developed as an optimistic speculative investment or whether it aimed to satisfy an existing pressing need for more housing, and accommodation for small scale industries. Among the questions that arise are: who was the original landowner, and did he buy or inherit his property? Property speculation has always been a gamble and the eventual outcomes can be contrary to what one might logically predict. With this in mind, what were the factors that shaped the development? Who was actually occupying the buildings and how were they employed? What are the most interesting buildings that remain? Such questions can usefully be applied to any area but they need to be pursued within the context of an historical framework.

The research focuses on two specific properties: Clare House on Clare Street and the Albert and Agnes Flats on Cannon Street, and the investigation into these properties is supported with information on some of the adjoining properties and the wider area.

The Evidence from Historic Maps

The area in question lies on the northern edge of the historic town centre and is depicted as sand dunes on the Meade map of 1737. The accuracy of this map is a little questionable. The western side of what is now Parade Gardens is shown already built up, and isolated buildings and gardens are shown on the east side. The study area is high-lighted in yellow and a small building is shown on the western side, on the edge of what would later become Saville Street. The function of this building is unknown but note that it predates any military activity in this location.

By the time the Richmond map was surveyed 40 years later, the site of Parade Gardens was again shown enclosed by established development along its western edge. In the meantime development had progressed on the eastern side, and the hospital had been built in Gloucester Street. A small building within the study area is again shown, at the south-western corner, in same position as before. Around the turn of the 18th /19th century part of the dunes had been leveled for use as a parade ground by the military. Cannons were said to have been stored in sheds on the eastern side of the parade, hence the name Cannon Street, and it is plausible that the isolated building that appears on the Meade and Richmond maps had been adapted for this purpose.

In 1810 a map of St Helier was published in the Jersey Magazine to show the extent of new development that had occurred in the previous 15 or 16 years. The original key is shown to the right of the map. Once again a building is shown on the north side of Cannon Street and it is depicted at the western edge of the plot. Whilst the map is not dimensionally accurate, and is somewhat distorted, it does illustrate the fact that while development to the south of Cannon Street had become consolidated during this period, little had changed in the area to the north, where the thoroughfares along Savile Street, Aquila Road and Clare Street were yet to be created.

The original owner, James Hemery Janvrin, was a member of the notable Janvrin dynasty of ship owners and merchants and in the early 19th century he invested in the development of this large, roughly rectangular plot of land. James had acquired rights to the land from a partage d’heritage of 26/3/1814 from Francois Janvrin. Over the next 25 years the whole of this land was developed, as can be seen on the Le Gros map published in 1834.

The History of the Development

Janvrin divided the plot lengthways (east to west) and retained the ownership of most of the northern half. This was used for the creation of a prestigious looking mansion named Clare House. It had granite built stables along what became Savile Street and was set in a large garden that ran the whole length of Clare Street. The garden was narrower than the house because some properties on the Aquila Road frontage, then called John Street, intruded into the otherwise rectangular shape of the site. The house was probably built in the 1820s [see below] and at the time it was conceived the location must have seemed very attractive, as it was convenient for town but located in an open, almost rural setting. However, the situation changed within just a few years. There is no evidence of Janvrin living in the property, and such a house might have been built to serve the booming rental market fuelled by the influx of half-pay officers, artisans and labourers attracted from England because, amongst other advantages, it was 30% cheaper to live in Jersey.

After the end of the war with France, soldiers from the garrison and the naval squadron left the Island, resulting in deflation. In 1819 the Constable of St Helier reported in the local press on the mass unemployment and low wages. The wave of immigrants in this period was welcomed, as it stimulated a building boom and an improvement in the demand for goods and services. The local newspapers throughout the 1820s and 1830s carry numerous adverts offering land suitable for building and credit was readily available to facilitate development.

The 1834 Loi sur le Retrait Foncier has a useful preamble which explains how property was subject to feudal rights so could not be bought outright for cash: people could only buy or lease through the mechanism of ‘rentes’, a sort of mortgage based on the price of wheat which bound them into a perpetual annual payment. This inflexible system was specific to Jersey and was unsuited to the needs of property speculators, but it benefitted local landowners and seigneurs.

The southern part of Janvrin’s land holding was fronted by Cannon Street. Claims that the properties along this frontage had military derivations have yet to be substantiated. A newspaper account in the 1930s states “Cannon Street previously housed the troops and the ‘Parade’ saw the same troops at exercise.” In the Jersey Weekly Post on 29 May 1937 there is a contemporary photo of old buildings in Cannon Street being demolished and this is captioned: “These buildings were at one time artillery barracks, afterwards they were the Ragged School premises and latterly Smith’s mineral water factory”. But the implication that the cottages were built for military use seems to be an unsubstantiated conjecture.

In the unpublished, comprehensive research notes by R. Mayne on the military history of Jersey (available in the public reference library) he lists all the British regiments that were stationed in Jersey from 1677 onwards. He describes in detail the location of all the barracks around the island as well as accommodation in temporary billets that were rented in winter months whenever necessary at times when the island was thought to be under threat. The only mention of Cannon Street in Mayne’s notes is on p.43 where he states that the Artillery Park that had been established at Westmount “…was replaced by that in Cannon Street when the Parade was levelled mainly for the use of the artillery in the early 19th century”. An artillery park was simply a compound where artillery and associated material could be stored.

The drill of the Jersey militia was established in 1799 at the time of the threat of war with France. According to Colonel Le Couteur the tallest and strongest young men aged between 13 (later 15) and 17 were chosen for the artillery and were trained for only two hours a week from 6 to 8 am. In 1801 the hospital on Gloucester Street was returned to its intended use as a poor house and for caring for the sick. This was after a period when it had been temporarily requisitioned by the military for use as barracks. This shows that by the early 19th century the pressure for residential accommodation for soldiers was decreasing.

In a separate chapter of his research, which deals with artillery, Mayne details all the British battalions sent to Jersey from 1756 and describes where they were quartered. These troops were in addition to the local corps of about 1,000 men that was raised in 1806 and retained until c.1820. Their task was to man and service the cannons. The local militia served part time — they lived at home and continued with their normal jobs. Temporary visiting garrisons were accommodated in residential barracks, the sites of which are all verified and do not include Cannon Street. It makes sense that land in Cannon Street could have been used by the military because of its convenient location near the parade ground. But it is likely that if any buildings were erected these would have been relatively impermanent structures such as stores for cannon, munitions and other equipment, and possibly stables. No evidence has been found, however, to support the notion that purpose-built houses or barracks were ever erected for the military in this area.

The development of the southern half of Janvrin’s plot along Cannon Street was more fragmented than in the northern section where he had built Clare House. The western part was given over to a number of small properties grouped around a courtyard, which survived until the 1930s. The remainder of the Cannon Street land was split into four separate plots which were rented or sold for development. An example is the site of what is now the Albert and Agnes flats, which was sold to George Ching in 1839.

All Saints Church 1835

There were plenty of springs and streams of uncontaminated water in this area, unlike the polluted streams in the town centre, so the area was an attractive location for the manufacture of beer, cider and soft drinks. All Saints Church, which lies nearby to the west, is not shown on the 1834 map, but its land boundaries had been surveyed in 1792, when the intention was to create a cemetery. The church building was completed in 1835.

On the south side of Cannon Street was Parade Yard, also known as Irish Yard, which was a group of small cottages built around a courtyard.

Parade Yard, or ‘Irish Yard’ (courtesy JEP)
Demolition of Cannon Street properties in 1937.
The Cannon Street Frontage of Parade Yard in 1963

The poor reputation of Parade Yard as slum housing continued until the 1960s when it was finally demolished. Parade Place, which was the original name given to what we now know as The Parade, was one of the centres of the cholera outbreak in August 1832. There were 341 deaths over a ten week period, and this was followed by a further outbreak in 1849. The first meeting to set up a water company did not take place until 1847, prompted by the increasingly insanitary condition of the town.

Further to the north, along the east side of Savile Street, a row of workmen’s cottages had been built by Edouard Pixley and his son, and other low-cost houses were being constructed on a speculative basis in the newly laid out streets to the north and east. By 1838, as reported in Le Constitutionel, the Parade Gardens had been spoiled by vandalism and the dumping of rubbish, and most of the trees and perimeter walls had been destroyed by ‘urchins’. The gardens were described as an open sewer. This seems an unpromising area in which a large dwelling such as Clare House might flourish — it is one of the few substantial houses to have been built in this part of the town. By the middle of the 19th century the area to the immediate north of the town centre had become a densely developed, predominantly residential area providing homes mostly for working class people, interspersed with some more generous terraced houses and with small workshops and commercial premises. Higher quality houses were to be found further to the north and east, for example in Stopford Road, Rouge Bouillon, and David Place.

By 1847 Thomas Turner, who had established the New Market Brewery in 1819, had built new premises for his brewing business on a parcel of land on the north side of Clare Street that he had acquired in 1838. He then fell into bankruptcy. In the following year Robert Randall (1811- 1898), who was the maltster at the Minden Place Brewery, bought the Clare Street premises for his son, Charles Walter Randall (1850–1919), who was also in the business.

The Clare Street Brewery, later to become Randall’s Brewery, was thereby established. It is worth noting that at this time, other establishments that involved beer-brewing, cider-making and soft drinks manufacture were modest in scale and usually employed only about three or four men. The demand for beer rather than cider reflects the influence of English immigrants. One of the conditions of Randall’s purchase of the Clare Street Brewery was that a house had to built on the property within one year, and this became No 10 Clare Street, the residence of the brewery manager. One of Robert Randall’s sons, William Albert, was still living there in the 1890s. Robert Randall had also acquired the Minden Street brewery by 1877, and in 1886 he bought Clare House and took up residence until his death in 1898. The brewery premises were largely rebuilt in the 1930s, and the five-storey tower dominated the junction of Clare Street and Aquila Road for many years.

In recent decades the south side of Cannon Street has been redeveloped with States housing and the brewery premises on the north side of Clare Street have again been rebuilt to provide offices for the company. A beer and keg store was constructed on the former garden of Clare House, utilising the pre-existing garden walls. Properties along much of the Cannon Street frontage were purchased by Randalls in the 1970s and Clare House itself was adapted for use as offices by the brewery. It is in this period that the outbuildings at the rear of Clare House and the adjoining buildings in Cannon Street were modified and adapted to provide additional storage facilities.

Randalls buildings in Clare Street

Clare House

The property contracts for this area refer back to a partage d’héritage in 1833, when James Hemery Janvrin shared his property between Daniel, Francois and Jean-Louis Janvrin. His bequest included a house on Rue d’Egypte dating from 1785, buildings on the Esplanade, a mill, no.11 on the quay etc. It also mentions Clare House, though not by name, in these terms “a house with a courtyard in front… bordered on the west by the Rue de Commune de Melesches and on the south by Cannon Street and bordered by …other gables and buildings”.

Clare House

The house was presumably built after 1814, as there is no mention of it in the previous contract of that date when James inherited the land from Francois Janvrin. However, the next contract shows it was already in existence in 1833, and it is shown as established on the 1834 map. The exact date of the house has not been confirmed with certainty but there is a possible clue in The Gazette de Jersey of March 1828 which contains an advertisement for a new house to let. This describes a ten-room house with garden in front, situated a little above The Parade.

As originally constructed, Clare House had ten rooms, and the fact that few other houses at this time could satisfy this description is clear from an examination of the Le Gros map. While the connection between the advertisement and Clare House cannot be definitely proven, it is highly probable. The staircase details exactly match those of a house at Les Niemes in St Peter, which was built by Philippe le Feuvre in 1829 and the door architraves and other details such as the windows and porch are clearly contemporary. A date in the late 1820s therefore seems highly probable.

The exterior of Clare House was clearly intended to convey the impression of a prestigious three storey dwelling suitable for a wealthy family. In reality the house was more show than substance and it is difficult to see how some of the later occupants fitted into its rather limited accommodation.

When it was first built the house would have been relatively plain in appearance, in keeping with architectural fashion at the time, and much of the external lined render is still visible on the rear elevations. Although this appears to be a large property when seen from the front, this is something of an illusion, as the three-storey part of house is only one room deep, and additional accom-modation was provided in two projecting service wings at the rear. The Le Gros map indicates that there was a greenhouse attached to the south gable, and at the front of the house was a large garden. Beyond this, further to the east, lay another, narrower part of the garden, which stretched to Aquila Road and was enclosed by granite walls on all sides. To the rear of the house, and following the line of the western and southern boundaries, were two two-storey ancillary buildings, the larger of which was used for stabling. These were in vernacular style, built of stone with pantiled roofs. This rear service courtyard was separated from the domestic accommodation by a wall which ran from the western end of the greenhouse to the eastern end of the outbuilding that lay to the south.

At the time of the 1841 census, Clare House was occupied by a doctor, Jean Le Gros, together with his wife Mary and their four children. They had one servant. Although the location had by now become less desirable for wealthy incomers, it may have been seen as ideal for a local doctor/general practitioner. Living in town offered the benefit of a growing catchment area for potential patients far greater than a house in the countryside could provide.

An advert of 1842 for the sale or rental of a property in Trinity on behalf of Mrs Le Gros confirms Clare Street as the family address. The advert also gives Mrs Le Gros’s maiden name as Dorey. This is significant as by 1851 Clare House was occupied by two households: Susan Dorey, age 75 (presumably a relative of Mary) and her daughter Susan du Heaume, who was a shopkeeper; also Francis Touzel, a cabinet maker with his wife and four children. Note that in 1851 in this district there were 750 people in 115 houses; 4 houses were uninhabited and none were in the process of being built.

James Janvrin retained ownership until 1854 when he sold it to Jean Le Gros, the previous tenant, but again with rental in mind, not owner occupation. At this time the doctor was living in a more modest house at No 1 Clare Street, just across from Clare House. By 1881 Clare House was occupied by Robert W. Swetterham, age 43, who was a major in the 2nd Cheshire militia, born in Ireland, and his wife Amelia, 36, born in Malta. They had six children between the ages of three and thirteen, who were born in England or Ireland. Also resident was an Irish housemaid aged 42, a French cook aged 50, a head nurse aged 45 and an assistant nurse aged 18.

In 1886 Harold Ernest Folingsby Le Gros, the grandson of Jean Le Gros, who had inherited Clare House, sold it to Robert Randall, the brewer. The 1891 census confirms the occupant as Robert Randall, widower, age 79, a brewer born in Yeovil, England. Also living there was his unmarried daughter, aged 43, his grand-daughter aged 15, Eleanor A Le Lacheur, who was born in St Peter Port, Grace Tinckam, age 76, his sister in law, born in St Helier, and one female servant aged 34 from London. In 1899 William Randall moved into the house following the death of his father. The property was still being described in the deeds of this time as “A certain house ‘Clare House’ with a greenhouse, buildings, courtyards and gardens adjoining”.

The elaborate and rather clumsy external decorative render on the house was probably part of a refurbishment undertaken by Willliam Randall when he moved into the property after his father’s death in 1898. Other alterations, such as the entrance screen, and replacement windows on the main façade, are also of this period. Following the conversion of the house for use as flats and later on for offices for the brewery, a number of minor internal changes were made, and some of the fireplaces were removed. Externally the rear wings were connected by a two-storey flat-roofed extension, the front was transformed into a car park and the rear courtyard became a brewery yard, a function that it retains to this day.

The potential appeal of such a house to tenants was damaged almost from the day it was built — it was soon surrounded by small industrial premises and densely packed working class cottages, many of which quickly deteriorated into slums. This was a common problem in the 19th century as the rapid expansion of towns resulted in what had seemed to be quiet rural outskirts being rapidly overwhelmed by poor quality development. Low incomes enforced flimsy construction and poor maintenance, often patching rather than replacing. Houses were frequently one-offs or built in terraces or rows where even the size of individual houses varied. Many were built in an ad hoc way with minimal investment and skill, sometimes by the actual labourers who were to occupy them. Builders learned their skills by experience rather than formal training. The concept of planning permission was unknown at this time and cottages were crammed into any available space behind street frontages, resulting in courtyards infilled with a variety of modest dwellings.

There were no large scale industries such as coal mining or textile factories in Jersey as in the UK. The fact that people usually lived within or next to their work premises is confirmed by census and insurance documents. For example in February 1840 Philip de Gruchy, a cider manufacturer, insured “on his dwelling house & cider manufactory adjoining and communicating situate in Clare Street, brick stone and tiled, in his own occupation — £200. On his household goods therein — £100. On stock & utensils in trade therein — £200”. Industries were mainly small scale often undertaken at home, examples being dressmaking, baking, laundry and shoemaking.

Cannon Street

In the 1841 census the Cannon Street houses are un-numbered. There are about 28 separate households of mainly working-class families but a few had independent means. In the latter category were people such as Sophia Lear Lotherington who, in 1830, had insured the household goods in her dwelling house in Cannon Street, which was built of brick, stone and tiles, for £300. What is significant is that her policy showed she was not insuring the house itself, which confirms that she was a tenant; but she also owned and insured Vine Cottage in Upper Halkett Place, which was occupied by Mr Rebillet, and also a small adjoining house which was occupied by lodgers. It was quite common for people to buy properties to rent out so as to provide a regular income, whilst renting another house to actually live in.

An advert in the newspaper L’Impartial in January 1845 which offers Nos. 2 and 4 Cannon Street for sale mentions that they have gardens behind, showing that some of the areas behind the street frontages had not yet been filled in with courtyards of cottages and workshops. The 1841 census shows that most of the inhabitants of the street worked as masons, carpenters, seamen, dressmakers or labourers. Such was the itinerant nature of these residents that only three of the same families are still living here by the time of the next census in 1851.

The 1851 census reveals evidence of a very eclectic population. There is a recurring pattern of the head of the household being born in England or elsewhere but marrying a Jersey partner and having children born in Jersey. Only three heads of households in the street originated in Jersey. All the residents were working or had private means and many were employing others. Children were usually working by the age of 13. The majority were incomers from a range of locations including America, Corfu, Ireland as well as England, Guernsey and Alderney.

At the Cannon Street brewery, near Lempriere Street, was an Englishman John Brown who was employing four men. He had been living here since at least 1841, with Nicolas Brown, his father, who was also a brewer from England. Next door or in part of same house was John Helon, another brewer, aged 20, with his wife and baby.

Adjoining the brewery was Janvrin’s Square (the name reflecting the original owner of all this land) which housed two families. The rest of the inhabitants along the street towards the Parade area were increasingly large working class families with numerous children. One family was that of John Picot, a shoemaker. He is of interest because by 1891, living with a wife and three children at 4 Cannon Street, was Thomas Picot, aged 63, who described his occupation as ‘strolling musician’ — a rare method of employment in census listings. Another person of note was Jane Le Cronier, a widow, aged 42, with her five children and one female servant. She was described as a landed proprietor and had been living here since at least 1841 with her husband John, then aged 40, who was a merchant. She was still living in the house at №6 Cannon Street in 1881, then aged 82, and was then the oldest resident in the street. She was living on her own means with her unmarried son John, a railway clerk, and her daughter and grand-daughter.

The later census returns through to 1911 show that there are more Jersey-born residents but the cottages are becoming more overcrowded, with multi-occupation and lodgers.

On the south side of the road was Parade Square, with a predominately Irish population, hence its alternative name ‘Irish Yard’. Some homes consisted of a single room. There was little change to the physical fabric of this group of houses until the early decades of the 20th century, when there were increasing concerns about the poor quality of much of the older housing close to the town centre. Slum clearance began in Cannon Street in the 1930s, and continued in both Cannon Street and Clare Street in the 1960s. In Cannon Street Nos 16 and 18 had been adapted for use as a mineral water factory by A E Smith and Son, and in the 1930s these and the adjoining properties were demolished and the Albert and Agnes Flats were built on the site, though the mineral water business was re-established on the ground floor [see below]. In the same period the north-western corner of Cannon Street and Savile Street was redeveloped to provide garage premises, a scheme that involved the demolition of most of the courtyard of cottages that had existed there since the early 19th century.

Albert and Agnes Flats

Albert Smith originally worked as a French polisher but he decided there was more potential in the soft drinks trade and he founded his business in about 1894. He bought premises on the south side of Cannon Street from Charles Le Masurier in 1907, adjoining the house where he and his family worked and which he had acquired from the Jersey Joint Stock Bank in 1877. Aerated mineral water became increasingly popular. By 1933 Smith had developed his business into a fully fledged company which also incorporated ice-cream making.

Newspapers of the mid 1930s carried reports and articles on the need for slum clearance including graphic details of the appalling living conditions in parts of the town. Although States’ houses had been built, the old slum houses they had been intended to replace had not been demolished and had been re-let. In the Medical Inspectors’ report of 1936 there is a section on housing which comments that the States had sanctioned the building of 300 new houses under the £600 scheme. (This gave States’ grants to builders to construct homes within this price). It comments that the power of demolition should be introduced because houses that had been condemned were still left standing. It stated that there were few decent houses available for less than 15/- to £1 a week, which was almost half the wage of a working man.

When Albert bequeathed his house and business to his son Edward Joseph Smith in 1936, Edward immediately bought three buildings from John James Ching. These were on the north side of the street and were described in the deeds as “a small house, courtyard in front, shop and buildings at 12 Cannon Street and 2 houses or ‘cottages’ joined together with shops, courtyard and land in front which were numbers 14 and 16”. John Ching had inherited these properties from his ancestors through a sequence of partage d’héritage transfers dating back to George Ching who had been a Centenier of St Helier in 1834. He had bought the land from Jean Louis Janvrin in 1839. It is clearly no coincidence that Edward Smith’s wife was Annie Victoria Ching.

Having bought the cottages, Edward planned to demolish them and take advantage of the subsidy provided in the 1934 Workmen’s Dwelling Act to obtain funding to build a block of residential flats over new ground floor accommodation for his business. On 16 January 1937 the Jersey Weekly Post reported discussions in the St Helier Parish Assembly about a proposal to widen Cannon Street where it bordered the property of E Smith, at Nos. 12, 14 & 16. The Parish was clearly expected to buy the land needed to widen the street. The Constable read out letters from Mr Smith and from the Ministry of Health in Whitehall, whom Edward Smith had consulted about his plans for workmen’s flats. The Ministry had approved it, but suggested it would be advantageous to widen the road to permit more light and air for the dwellings. Centenier Grant did not consider Cannon Street needed widening and said that the Lempriere Street corner, the property of the late Mr Tostevin, was the place that needed alteration. Centenier Cuming queried whether the new alignment would nullify what had already been done at Parade Corner and asked whether other owners in the street had been consulted.

The general opinion was that the Parish should take advantage of the situation to improve the street, as the price was fixed and reasonable and Smith had the right to build what he wanted, so he could go ahead anyway and it would cost the parish more to alter the road later. Mr Le Quesne said that Cannon street was now one of the main arteries into Burrard Street and the markets. There was an important business there therefore there were always vehicles being loaded, so any widening of the street would be welcome. The Public Health Committee were insistent that a greater width was very necessary in view of the proposed flats, so he urged the parish to adopt the plan. The proposition was agreed.

Leonard Bennett was the architect for the building. It is in a simple art deco style, steel framed and clad in concrete, and comprises two sets of six flats within one block, each set being served by a separate entrance and staircase. Bennett had been asked by the Home Office Air Raid Precautions Dept in 1936 to build gas and bomb proof air raid shelters. He was regarded as the local expert in this subject and was designing some for the new housing estate at Bagot at the same time as working on this project.

The cottages were duly demolished and construction of the flats commenced. However, on 20/11/1937 the Evening Post reported an Order of Justice/an action for damages against William Henry Allen, contractor, by Edward Smith with reference to the Cannon Street Stores and Flats. Smith said the building was not being built in accordance with the plans by Bennett, but Allen said it was Bennett’s fault. Allen said he was being expected to build something different from what he had anticipated and that he had not realised the implications of his signing a £1,000 indemnity clause. Smith wanted Allen to abandon the contract they had signed on April 10th 1937 and not to intervene further on the property either personally or through his staff unless he guaranteed that the contract be fulfilled according to its terms. Allen was also to pay £500 compensation, plus the cost of this action and plus damages.

The matter was eventually resolved and the flats were occupied by 1939, but the onset of war was unsettling and by 1940 most of the original occupants had already left and were replaced by new tenants. Edward named the flats after his parents Albert and Agnes. The ground floor was occupied by his mineral water business, with shops in front and stores at the rear, with vehicle access through wide doorways.

Edward’s problems were not completely over as during the Occupation his factory was requisitioned by the Germans for the production of armaments. In August 1946 Edward transferred the property on the south side of Cannon Street to A. E. Smith & Son Ltd and in September he sold to the Anglo American Oil Company “a certain shop or store with 2 entrances called 1 & 2 stores joined on the north by the garden of Clare House & east and west by the premises forming part of the building occupied by A.E.Smith Ltd and on south by Cannon Street”. He added eleven clauses of conditions to the contract, including retaining rights of access for maintenance to the covered well in the courtyard behind the flats. The flats were bought by Randalls in 1972, and have recently been refurbished.


Research reveals how a seemingly unpromising area such as this can reflect changes in the social and economic life of Jersey. It is typical of the rapid expansion of St Helier in the early 19th century that such plots of land were developed on an ad hoc, spontaneous basis with no thought of integration into an overall town plan. This had later implications for the implementation of sanitary and housing reforms. Profit was the primary motive for development so expensive complementary undertakings resulting only in social benefits were strongly resisted by the government, as the States was dominated by landowners. The building industry had a prominent position in the economy and previously agricultural areas close to town were rapidly transformed within only a few decades.

The site is unusual for its initial lateral division resulting in contrasting working class and middle/upper class residencies. This plot of inherited land was developed as a speculative investment and shows how location and timing are crucial factors in success. The optimistic construction of a prestigious house set in its own grounds at a time when such properties were in demand was soon compromised by being in a rapidly deteriorating location bordered by working class cottages and small scale industries. Although Clare House still exists, its garden has been infilled with a warehouse and most of the properties to the south of it have been rebuilt.

This area still has a mixture of residential and industrial uses in close proximity and although brewing no longer takes place here, it is dominated by Randalls’ warehouses (now owned by Greenalls). Previous assertions about the origins of Cannon Street as being built for the military have not been verified by research. The flats on Cannon Street are significant as it is one of the early examples of States-supported multi-storey social housing in Jersey. They are still in use and have been updated.

Anita Fell 2016


PRIDE register of contracts passed before the Royal Court

Census returns 1841–1911

Register of decrets

West of England insurance registers

Jersey Times Almanacs

British Press almanacs

Evening Post almanacs

Listes du rat [rate books]


Testaments and wills


Aubin, C.N. A glossary for the historian of Jersey. 2011.

Boleat, Mark. Jersey’s population — a history. 2012. [available on-line]

Stevens, Joan. Victorian voices. 1969. Societe Jersiaise.

Kelleher, John D. The triumph of the country. 1994.

Planning records –P&E Dept, South Hill

Phillips, Mary. Poor people. 2001

Various original documents in the Jersey Archive such as the debtors’ and prison records.

Hunt, Peter. Jersey: a crown peculiar. 2005

The architectural assessments were undertaken by Stuart Fell.

Acknowledgements to Societe Jersiaise, Jersey Archive, the Public Library, the JEP and Google maps.