40 people who have shaped the Island
By any standards Jersey has been a remarkably successful island, punching well above its weight internationally and producing a level of prosperity matched by few other small communities. Jersey’s success is a combination of circumstances and people. This paper identifies 40 people who over the centuries have helped to make Jersey what it is today. It is a summary of a longer paper 40 People who have shaped Jersey by Mark Boleat, based on extensive research into the history of Jersey but heavily influenced by his colleagues in the history section of the Société Jersiaise.
Most of those listed had a significant impact in the Island. However, a few are included who were notable for what they did away from Jersey but who are firmly identified with the Island. Here, it must be recognised that in many areas of activity – such as sport or acting – people need to leave Jersey in order to become famous. The list excludes many famous people born and educated in Jersey but who had little or no impact on the Island. Sir William Haley, former Editor of The Times and Director General of the BBC, and the actor Kenneth More are good examples of such people.
There are a few legitimate discussion points on the list –
- There are some omissions simply because the people responsible for certain important events are not known.
- The Occupation helped to shape Jersey in so many ways. Ultimately, Hitler was responsible for this and arguably should be included.
- Which artists should be included? Ouless, Le Capelain and Blampied featured Jersey in their paintings and are included. Sir John Millais may be better known but other than his famous painting of Lillie Langtry, Jersey features little in his work, but he has still been included.
- Just how strong does a connection with Jersey have to be? Victor Hugo is included although he spent just three years in the Island before being expelled. He clearly liked Jersey and the Island seems to have claimed him as one of their own so he is included. Harry Vardon is included as undoubtedly the most famous sportsman to come from Jersey, but his career was entirely outside the Island.
- Major Peirson is included but he is famous just for what he did on one day, being killed on that day and featured in Copley’s painting. But every community needs at least one hero.
- There are just four women in the list, but this reflects that the list is historic, and the reality is that Jersey, like other places, was male dominated until recently. Balleine’s biographical dictionary records just six women (one of whom, Hilda Balleine, was his sister) out of 290 and Corbet’s biographical dictionary, covering the 20 th Century, has just 22 women out of a total of 212.
- The list is confined to people who are no longer alive.
The 40 people are listed in categories but this categorisation is subject to many qualifications, partly because eminent people often make huge contributions in more than one area. The two Bailiffs (Carteret and Coutanche) are in the list because they were politicians and not as Bailiff as we know the role today. Gerald Durrell can count as an author, businessman and conservationist. Sir John Le Couteur can count as a politician and scientist as well as having a distinguished military career.
The brief biographies in this paper are not original but draw primarily on six sources –
- The two-part Biographical Dictionary of Jerseyby George Balleine(Staples Press, 1948, republished by La Haule Books, 1993).
- A biographical Dictionary of Jersey Volume 2 by Frances Corbet and others (Société Jersiaise, 1998). In effect this is a continuation of Balleine’s study, covering the 50 years from 1948 to 1998.
- A concise history of Jersey, by Colin Platt (Société Jersiaise, 2009).
- Balleine’s history of Jersey by Marguerite Syvret and Joan Stevens (Phillimore, 1998).
- Jerripedia .
Some of the biographies are accompanied by pictures of things in Jersey associated with those named, including statues, castles and parks.
40 People who shaped Jersey, chronological list
Bishop Geoffrey de Montbray, 1029-1093, established current parishes
Wace, 1100-1174, poet and historian
Peter de Préaux, 1150-1212, French knight
King John, 1166-1216, English monarch
King Edward III, 1312-1377, English monarch
Sir Walter Raleigh, 1552-1618, Governor of Jersey 1600-1603
Jean Poingdestre, 1609–1691, writer
Sir George Carteret, 1610-1680, Bailiff
Philippe Falle, 1656-1742, historian
Marie Bartlett, 1677-1741, benefactor of the General Hospital
General Sir George Don, 1756-1832, Governor of Jersey 1806-1814
Major Francis Peirson, 1757-1781, soldier
Sir John Le Couteur, 1794-1875, politician, writer and agricultural scientist
Abraham Le Cras, 1798-1869, political campaigner
Victor Hugo, 1802-1885, writer
Pierre Le Sueur, 1811-1853, Constable of St Helier
Jean Le Capelain, 1812-1848, artist
Philip Ouless, 1817-1885, artist
John Lecaudey, 1821-?, agriculturist
Charles Le Cornu, 1829-1911, agriculturist
Sir John Millais, 1829-1866, artist
Joseph Sinel, 1844-1882, scientist
Jesse Boot, 1850-1931, and Florence Boot, 1863-1952, philanthropists
Lillie Langtry, 1853-1929, actress, producer and socialite
Thomas Davis, 1867-1942, philanthropist
Harry Vardon, 1870-1937, golfer
George Balleine, 1873-1966, historian
Edmund Blampied, 1886-1966, artist
Lord Coutanche, 1892-1973, Bailiff
Claude Cahun, 1894-1954, surrealist artist and photographer
Cyril Le Marquand, 1902-1980, politician
Arthur Mourant, 1904-1994, scientist
Frank Le Maistre, 1910-2002, writer and Jèrriais advocate
Ralph Vibert, 1911-2008, politician
Norman Le Brocq, 1922-1996, politician
Gerald Durrell, 1925-1995, conservationist and author
Colin Powell, 1937-2019, civil servant
King John, 1166-1216
In 1199 John claimed the English throne when his brother Richard II died. His territories included Normandy. However, the throne was disputed and in a subsequent war King Philip of France conquered Normandy. King John wanted to keep the Channel Islands as he retained his claim to large parts of France, and the Islands were strategically important. In fact, the French occupied Jersey in 1204-06 and 1216-17. On both occasions John used his naval power to recapture the Islands. By retaining the Channel Islands, strategically located near the coast of France, and given the periodic wars between England and France over the next 600 years, in effect King John committed England to supporting Jersey with military expenditure and to maintaining the support of the people of Jersey.
King Edward III, 1312-1377
Edward was crowned King of England in 1327. In 1337 the 100 Years War between England and France began, with obvious implications for Jersey, an English Crown possession lying just off the coast of France. There was a French raid on Jersey in 1338, which prompted a strengthening of defences, but also the granting of special privileges. In 1341 Edward granted a charter to Jersey which confirmed “all privileges, liberties, immunities, exemptions and customs in persons goods moneys and other things…….without hindrance or molestation”. Later charters expanded these privileges. They were to form an important part of the framework which contributed to Jersey’s prosperity, in particular by allowing goods to be exported from Jersey to England free of duty. This was to prove hugely beneficial to the knitting and cider trades and later to cod fishing, shipping and shipbuilding.
Sir Walter Raleigh, 1552-1618, Governor of Jersey 1600-1603
Walter Raleigh was appointed Governor of Jersey in 1600. Unlike some other Governors he spent time in Jersey and is credited with modernising its defences, particularly Elizabeth Castle. Raleigh’s record in Jersey has been described by A C Saunders: “He remained in the Island, subject to periodical visits to the mainland, until near the end of 1602, shortly before the death of the Queen, and his departure was a great loss to Jersey. During his Governorship he had fostered trade and introduced a registry for title deeds. He took great interest in the affairs of the Island, and, when possible, attended the sittings of the Courts.” He also suggested that Raleigh greatly encouraged the cod fishing trade. Raleigh was deprived of his governorship in 1603, charged with high treason and sent to the Tower. Raleigh’s later life included ill-fated expeditions in the search for the mythical El Dorado, following the last of which he was subjected to a show trial and beheaded.
Further reading: A C Saunders. Jersey in the 17th century, 1931.
General Henry Conway, 1721-1795, Governor of Jersey 1772-1795
Henry Conway combined a political and military career. In 1772 he was made Governor of Jersey but did not visit the Island until 1778. The American War of Independence raised tension between Britain and France, which in turned raised the threat of France attacking Jersey. Conway was appalled by the state of the Island's defences and started a programme of building 23 “Conway towers” - Seymour Tower, the only square one, and 22 round towers include La Rocco, Le Hocq and Archirondel. Although frequently called Martello Towers, they predate the development of true Martello towers and differ from them mainly by being built with local granite rather than brick. Conway was so highly regarded in Jersey that in 1785 he was gifted a dolmen which he transported to his estate in Henley on Thames.
Further reading: William Davies. “General Conway”, Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise, 1995.
General Sir George Don, 1756-1832, Governor of Jersey 1806-1814
George Don had a distinguished military career, following which he was made Governor of Jersey in 1806, a time when Jersey faced the threat of an invasion from France. He strengthened the Island’s defences, including establishing a signalling system, and carried on the work of his predecessor, General Conway, by beginning the construction of Fort Regent and completing work on the Conway towers. Don’s principal achievement was the construction of a road system, which was designed for military purposes and which largely remains in place today. Following serious flooding in 1812, when the sea wall in Grouville was breached, he rebuilt the entire sea wall from St Helier to Gorey. He also took a keen interest in the general welfare of the Island and frequently sat in the Royal Court. A huge statue of Don was unveiled in the Parade in 1885.
Sir George Carteret, 1610-1680
George Carteret made his name as an English naval officer. The English Civil War broke out in 1642 and Jersey was divided between Royalists and Parliamentarians. In 1643 King Charles I appointed Carteret as Bailiff and Lieutenant Governor. He quickly turned Jersey into a Royalist stronghold. In 1649 Charles was executed. Jersey duly proclaimed his exiled son, Charles II, as King. In 1651 the Civil War ended, and the Commonwealth, headed by Oliver Cromwell, attacked Jersey. Carteret surrendered in 1651 and was removed from office. After the Monarchy was restored in 1660 the King appointed Carteret Vice Chamberlain of the Royal Household and Treasurer of the Navy. In 1664 the King gifted him and fellow courtier Sir John Berkeley land in America that he named New Jersey. There is a statue of Sir George outside the Sir George Carteret pub in St Peter.
Further reading: George Balleine. “Sir George Carteret ”, Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise, 1957. “The New Jersey Venture”, Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise, 1964.
Lord (Alexander) Coutanche, 1892–1973
Alexander Coutanche served with distinction in the First World War and left the Army in 1920 with the rank of Captain. He was elected to the States in 1922, appointed Solicitor-General in 1925 and Attorney-General in 1931. He did much to reform and update court proceedings, including the introduction of English as the court language. He was appointed Bailiff in 1935 and when the Occupation began in 1940, he was appointed Governor in addition. He chaired the Superior Council, effectively the body responsible for the administration of the Island. He had the difficult task of managing the relationship with the German occupying forces and leading the administration of the Island. Jersey faced significant challenges after the War. Coutanche was prominent in the fundamental reform of the composition of the States in 1948 and the framing of a number of significant new laws.
Three military men
Peter de Préaux, c1150-1212
Peter de Préaux was a Norman knight who served English Kings, in particular King Richard in his conflict with France between 1194 and 1199. In 1199 King John, who had succeeded his brother Richard, handed the Channel Islands to de Préaux. In 1204 Philip Augustus of France gradually took control of Normandy, the final capitulation being at Rouen in June 1204. Peter de Préaux duly was forced to cede control of his properties to Philip Augustus. Subsequently, de Préaux returned to support John, thus giving to England in 1206 the Channel Islands of which he was also Governor. It is clear that Peter de Préaux was a key figure in the events which led to Jersey’s ultimate allegiance to the English Crown, something over which the people of Jersey had no say.
Philip D’Auvergne, 1754-1816
Philip D’Auvergne was a naval officer who also became a Doctor of Law and a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1793 France declared war on England and D’Auvergne returned to naval duties. Based in Mont Orgeuil, D’Auvergne was successful in protecting communications in the Channel and frustrating a potential invasion of the Channel Islands by the French. D’Auvergne also organised a secret service, known as La Correspondance, which engaged in espionage, economic warfare and supplying rebel groups in France. D’Auvergne’s work was recognised, being promoted to Vice Admiral.
Further reading: Philippe Le Geyt dit Rauvet. “Philippe D’Auvergne ”, Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise, 1947.
Major Francis Peirson, 1757-1781
In 1778, the French formally sided with the Americans secessionists in the American War of Independence This contributed to the growth of activity by Jersey-based privateers, which in turn led the French to consider attacking Jersey. In 1781 a force of 1,500 men invaded. A French patrol detained the Island's Governor and persuaded him to surrender. However, Captain Aylward, commander at Elizabeth Castle, and Major Peirson, based at St Peter’s barracks, supported by the Jersey Militia, instead counter-attacked and defeated the French, although Peirson was killed in the process. Peirson is regarded as a key figure in Jersey’s history. However, he spent less than a year in Jersey and it was his death, the Copley painting of his death and the Peirson Pub that have made him so prominent. The painting hangs in the Tate Gallery in London. There is a copy in the Royal Court.
Further reading: Louise Downie and Doug Ford.1781: The Battle of Jersey and death of Major Peirson.Jersey Heritage, 2012.
Three Business people
Charles Robin, 1743-1824
Cod fishing in North American waters is one of the defining characteristics of Jersey’s economic history. Charles Robin was the most prominent person in the industry. In 1766 Robin discovered that some of the best cod-fishing grounds in the Atlantic were on the Gaspé Coast. Robin returned the following year and chose Paspébiac as one of the drying sites and established a tiny port as the headquarters for his company. The American War of Independence from 1775 to 1783 disrupted the trade. Robin returned to Jersey to engage in privateering and he also fought in the Battle of Jersey. After the war with America was over Charles returned to Paspébiac, formed Charles Robin & Co, and rapidly built up a big business. Robin also established a shipbuilding industry in Paspébiac. There is a monument to Robin at St Aubin.
Further reading: Alan Le Rossignol. Charles Robin – the Jersey Codfather . ELSP, 2017.
John Lecaudey, born 1821
John Lecaudey was a successful farmer who can take much of the credit for the development of Jersey’s potato industry. Lecaudey pursued the idea that Jersey, with its warm climate and mild winters, and warm soil on south facing côtils, would be the ideal place for growing very early potato crops. Lecaudey put his idea to farmers, who welcomed it, and agreed to follow the variations in planting technique he had suggested, including the very liberal use of guano, a natural fertilizer of the excrement of birds. He then travelled widely to buy seed, to meet importers and shipping agents and to arrange for the exportation of the new earlies consigned direct to London. He opened the first potato store specifically for packing and exporting the new earlies. The industry rapidly took off with a huge benefit to the farmers and the Island generally.
Further reading: Durtnall, K P.“John Lecaudey and the export of the first Jersey early potatoes” in the Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise, 1991 .
Charles Le Cornu, 1829-1911
Charles Le Cornu had a distinguished military career before becoming a deputy in 1875, following which he oversaw the construction of the new markets and the road through Beaumont. His interest in agriculture saw him acting as a judge at the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society's shows at the age of 22 and he was secretary of the agricultural section for ten years from 1857. In 1864, he was responsible for the introduction of the Herd Book, in which all cattle in the Island have subsequently been registered. He served as the Society's president from 1870 to 1872, was an active member and judge of the Royal Agricultural Society of England and wrote three pamphlets on the farming industry in Jersey. He was a founding member of the Société Jersiaise, and president from 1882 to 1905.
Abraham Le Cras, 1798-1869
Abraham Le Cras was born of a Jersey family in Salisbury. He became a political agitator, investigating with great industry the Island’s constitutional history, his basic argument being that Jersey was subject to the English Parliament and Crown in much the same way as the Isle of Wight. He founded and edited two weekly newspapers, the English and Foreign News and Jersey Patriot, which gave him a platform for his policies, which were essentially against the whole of the Island's legal and political system. He stirred up the English Parliament to assert the powers in respect of Jersey that he was convinced existed, resulting in two Royal Commissions. In 1856 he published Manorial Rights in Jersey and in 1857 The Constitution of Jersey. Le Cras did not succeed in what he aimed to do, but he did succeed in putting a number of important issues firmly on the agenda.
Sir John Le Couteur, 1794-1875
John Le Couteur, as a very young army officer, played a major role in the War of 1812 between Britain and America. After returning to Jersey in 1817 he involved himself in parish politics and was responsible for the introduction of the tarmacadam process on the parish roads, probably before it had been used anywhere else. He was Constable of St Brelade for nine years from 1826, and was responsible for the purchase of the Island's first lifeboat, the construction of the new road from St Helier to St Aubin, the removal of Militia cannons from the churches, the construction of arsenals and the abolition of Sunday elections. Le Couteur had many interests and was a competent artist. He undertook a sustained scientific study of wheat and produced several books on agriculture. He founded the Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society and was its Secretary. He gave valuable information to the 1859 Royal Commission on the duties of the Vicomte, the administration of the prison and the laws of the Island.
Pierre Le Sueur, 1811-1853
Pierre Le Sueur studied law in Jersey and Paris and began practising law in Jersey in 1837. He was elected Constable of St Helier at the age of 28 in 1839 and was re-elected four times. His record included building a substantial network of underground sewers, there previously having been no sanitation at all in some of the poorer districts of St Helier. He also widened some of the streets, introduced naming and numbering of streets, established a fire service and prosecuted slum landlords. Le Sueur dealt firmly with bread riots in 1847 but, recognising that a real problem existed, also established a fund for the relief of distress. Le Sueur was also active in the States, being appointed Treasurer in 1846, and his skill as a lawyer meant that he played a major part in drafting laws. After years of overworking, Le Sueur died suddenly in 1853 at the age of just 41. After his death an obelisk was erected in his memory in Broad Street, which today is a significant, although not very attractive feature, of the town.
Norman Le Brocq, 1922-1996
Norman Le Brocq was active during the Occupation, openly declaring his communist sympathies, helping Russian prisoners and assisting with hiding escapees. He was instrumental in establishing the Jersey Democratic Movement and the Jersey Communist Party. He was elected as a deputy in 1966, twice was defeated and then served three successive terms from 1978 to 1987. He served conscientiously on many committees and was widely respected for his integrity and hard work. He campaigned on a number of key issues including pay for States members, a minimum wage, an Island-wide police force, free healthcare and compulsory education until the age of 16, all of which were eventually achieved. He was President of the Island Development Committee and instrumental in producing the first Island Plan.
Cyril Le Marquand, 1902-1980
Cyril Le Marquand took a keen interest in the economics and politics of Jersey from an early age. During the War he moved to England and became Assistant Director of Animal Foodstuffs at the Ministry of Food. He returned to Jersey after the Liberation and became a founder member of Jersey Progressive Party. He campaigned for the reform of the States in 1948, when rectors and jurats were replaced by elected senators. He was elected a Deputy for St Helier later that year. He quickly became a leading States member. In 1957 he was elected as Senator. He became President of the Finance and Economics Committee and also subsequently the Policy Advisory Committee from its inception in 1973 to 1978. Together with Ralph Vibert, he played a leading part in helping to secure a favourable position for Jersey when Britain joined the European Economic Community in 1972. He is generally credited with taking the key steps that led to the development of Jersey as an international financial centre, in particular by removing the ceiling on interest rates.
Ralph Vibert OBE, 1911-2008
Ralph Vibert qualified as an advocate in 1934. During the War he served as an army major, an instructor with the Special Operations Executive. He returned to Jersey after the War and served as Solicitor General from 1948 to 1955. He was elected a Deputy for St Brelade in 1957 and a Senator in 1959. He was President of the Defence Committee for many years and went on to lead three important and complex committees simultaneously: Constitution, Legislation and Establishment. As President of the Constitution Committee he effectively represented Jersey’s interests in the negotiations that led to Britain joining the European Economic Community in 1972, a development that had the potential to cause huge damage to the Island. Following the death in office of Senator Cyril Le Marquand, he was appointed President of the Finance and Economics Committee.
Six Historians and writers
Wace was born in Jersey between 1090 and 1110 but while still young was sent to Caen in Normandy to be educated. Wace wrote poems in an Anglo-Norman language including turning Geoffrey of Monmouth’s work of fiction in Latin, History of the Kings of England, into a 16,000 word Romance poem Roman de Brut, adding a wealth of detail such that the poem is regarded as an important link in the Arthurian legend. The language in which he wrote is variously regarded as a dialect of the Norman language, a dialect of Old French, or specifically the precursor of Jèrriais. Writers in Jersey have looked on Wace as the founder of Jersey literature. There is a granite memorial stone to Wace in the States Building in the Royal Square. This includes a quote from the Roman de Rou that expresses the poet's pride in his place of birth – English translation – “I say and will say that I am Wace from the Island of Jersey ”.
Further reading: Maistre Wace – Proceedings of a colloquium held in Jersey September 2004 . Société Jersiaise, 2006.
Jean Poingdestre, 1609–1691
Jean Poingdestre studied at both Oxford and Cambridge universities, being a Greek scholar and probably studying law as well. Between 1669 and 1676 he was Lieutenant Bailiff of Jersey. Poingdestre was the author of the first history of Jersey Caesarea – or a Discourse on the Island of Jersey , a book based on extensive reading. A first draft of the book was completed in 1682. The book was passed on to Philip Falle who drew heavily on it for his An account of the Island of Jersey, published in 1694, which gave due credit to Poingdestre. Poingdestre’s own work was belatedly published by C. Le Feuvre for the Société Jersiaise in 1889. There is a monument to Poingdestre in St Saviour’s church.
Further reading: Philip Stevens. “Jean Poingdestre”, Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise , 2014.
Philippe Falle, 1656-1742
Philippe Falle studied in London and then at Oxford and Cambridge. He was ordained in 1677, returned to Jersey in 1681 and had a rather chequered career in the church. He became a member of the States and in 1692 was sent as one of two representatives with a petition to the King for improved defences to protect the Island from the French. Realising how little the English knew about Jersey, he set about writing An ac count of the Island of Jersey, published in 1694. This drew heavily on Jean Poingdestre’s Caesarea or a discourse of the Island of Jersey . Falle was instrumental in establishing a public library in Jersey, offering both books and a modest amount of money. The library was opened in 1743, shortly after Falle’s death, in what became Library Place. The new library in Halkett Place has in its entrance a plaque recognising Falle’s contribution.
Victor Hugo, 1802-1885
Victor Hugo is widely regarded as one of the greatest French writers. His literary career lasted over 60 years and covered all forms of writing. His best-known works are the novels Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris . Hugo was keenly interested in politics, campaigning for universal suffrage, free education for all children and the abolition of the death penalty. After Louis Napoleon seized power in 1851, Hugo was declared a traitor to France and in 1852 he moved to Jersey, joining a significant number of French republican refugees, known as the proscrits. The proscrits used to meet at the Dicq, close to where Hugo lived. There is a plaque on the rock at the Dicq to commemorate Hugo. A reaction against the proscrits resulted in Hugo moving to Guernsey. The political controversy died down and in 1860 Hugo was welcomed back to the Island. In a speech he said: “I will tell you what I love about Jersey: I love it all” and: “There are two things which make a people both great and attractive, and these are liberty and hospitality; hospitality was the glory of ancient nations, liberty is the splendour of modern nations. Jersey wears both these crowns; let her guard them.”
Further reading: Philip Stevens. Victor Hugo in Jersey,Philimore, 1985.
George Balleine, 1873-1966
George Balleine was ordained in 1896, serving in various positions in London until he retired in 1938. During this time he also developed a love of history, publishing significant works on the Church of England. In 1913 he moved to Jersey to a property inherited from his uncle. During the Occupation he held a number of positions including Rector of St Brelade. In 1939 he was appointed honorary librarian at the Société Jersiaise with the task of cataloguing its historical material. This set him on the path of writing Jersey’s history, which he did for the next 20 years. He is best known for his History of the Island of Jersey, published in 1950, which quickly became accepted as the definitive history of the Island.This book has subsequently been revised, expanded and updated by Marguerite Syvret and Joan Stevens under the title Balleine’s History of Jersey.
Frank Le Maistre OBE, 1910-2002,
Frank Le Maistre was from a long-established St Ouen family. After leaving school he worked in a lawyer’s office and then for the Jersey Department of Agriculture at the States Farm. He spoke and wrote Jèrriais all his life. During the 1930s and the Occupation he produced articles for the Chroniques de Jersey under the pen name Marie la Pie. He was editor of the quarterly bulletin of L’Assembliée d'Jèrriais from 1952 to 1977. He collected hundreds of Jèrriais words and phrases from all the parishes and produced numerous literary works and histories. The deep knowledge of linguistics which he acquired enabled him to compose his Dictionnaire Jersiais-Français (1966) and collaborate on the English-Jersey Language Vocabulary (1972). He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Caen and was awarded the OBE in 1976.
Jean Le Capelain, 1812-1848
Jean Le Capelain, an entirely self-taught artist, developed an individualistic style, with an emphasis on atmospheric effects. When Queen Victoria visited Jersey in 1846 Le Capelain was commissioned by the States to prepare an album of paintings for her. He produced 25 water colours, six of the visit itself and 19 of local scenery. These were put into a book The Queen’s visit to Jersey. Le Capelain worked from a studio at the top of the Calvados Hotel at the corner of Church Street and Hill Street. He developed TB and died in 1848 at the age of just 36. His pictures today are in the Museum, the Town Hall, Rozel Manor and the Barreau Art Gallery. Le Capelain House, at Castle Quay, is named after him and is alongside Millais House, named after Sir John Millais, another prominent Jersey artist.
Philip Ouless, 1817-1885
Philip Ouless was the son of Philippe Ouless, the leading auctioneer in the Island. He studied painting in Paris and soon established himself as a marine, landscape and portrait painter. He received numerous commissions from ship owners and masters, benefiting from the 19 th Century boom in shipbuilding. As well as the new paddle steamers, Ouless painted early racing yachts. He recorded the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to Jersey in 1846 in eleven watercolours, which were published the following year. He published a number of other albums of local views including Scenic Beauties of the Island of Jersey(1840), The Death of Major Peirson (1881) and The Écrehous(1884).Ouless also recorded a number of events, particularly shipwrecks, which were reproduced in the Illustrated London News. Philip Ouless was not only an accomplished artist, but he was a pioneering photographer. His son Walter Ouless (1848-1933) became a portrait painter.
Sir John Millais, 1829-1886
John Millais was born in Southampton of a prominent Jersey family. Most of his early childhood was spent in Jersey, to which he retained a strong devotion throughout his life. He quickly showed promise as an artist and by the age of 16 he was firmly established. His early pictures were of historical scenes. Subsequently he was one of the founders of the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and then he turned to portrait painting, becoming one of the most successful English portrait painters of the age. His output was huge with at least 350 large easel paintings and numerous black and white drawings. Between 1870 and 1882 he concentrated on landscape paintings, usually depicting difficult or dangerous terrain. Millais painted a famous portrait of Lillie Langtry, the Jersey-born actress, a painting that enhanced the reputation of both painter and subject.
Edmund Blampied, 1886-1966
Edmund Blampied was a born artist. At the age of 17, he went to London to study at the Lambeth Art School. Initially he developed expertise in etchings and drypoints. He was also a lithographer, caricaturist, cartoonist, book illustrator and artist in oils, watercolours, silhouettes and bronze. In 1938 he returned to Jersey and remained in the Island throughout the Occupation, during which time his output was continuous notwithstanding a lack of materials and inability to obtain commissions for his work. He designed stamps and banknotes for Jersey and also designed two stamps issued in Britain in 1948 to mark the third anniversary of the Liberation. Many of his works depicted rural life in Jersey. His scenes of collecting vraic from the beaches of the Island using a horse and cart were, he said, his signature tune. He also wrote poetry in Jèrriais.
Claude Cahun, 1894-1954
Claude Cahun was born Lucy Schwob, adopting the name Claude Cahun in 1914. Cahun's works encompassed writing, photography and theatre. She is best known for her self-portraits which were theatrical in nature with various guises such as aviator, angel and Japanese puppet. In 1930 Cahun published her autobiographical work, compiled in conjunction with her lifelong partner Suzanne Malherbe, who had changed her name to Marcel Moore. Cahun was active in politics, protesting against the rise of Hitler and fascism in France. Cahun and Moore had a long association with Jersey, and in 1937 they settled permanently in the Island. Throughout the Occupation they were active in distributing anti-German leaflets including to the German troops. In 1944 they were arrested and charged with listening to the BBC and inciting the troops to rebellion. They were sentenced to death but the charge was commuted and they spent a year in prison before the Liberation.
Further information: Louise Downer. “Sans Nom” Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore. Heritage Magazine,2005.
Marie Bartlet, 1677-1741
Marie Mauger married Francis Bartlet, an English-born merchant who had settled in St Aubin. Bartlet successfully built up a trading business. He died in 1734 and having no children left all of his assets to his widow Marie. She continued the trading business and died a wealthy woman in 1741. Her will left a large amount of money to be used, among other things, to build a hospital for the poor. There were lengthy disputes over the terms of the will and the builders did not start work until 1765, over twenty years after her death. However, the completed building was soon commandeered to house troops. It was 1793, over fifty years after her death, that the hospital was first used for its intended purpose. The States erected an obelisk over her grave in St Brelade’s Church and a portrait of her is in the Committee Room at the hospital.
Thomas Davis, 1867-1942
Thomas Davis, or TB Davis as he was always known, went to sea as a young man, established a stevedoring business in South Africa and eventually returned to the Island of his birth a rich man. Davis donated land to the people of Jersey as a public park, named the Howard Davis Park in memory of his son Howard, who lost his life in World War I. Davis also gifted the Howard Davis Farm in Trinity to the States of Jersey on the understanding that it should be used as an experimental centre for the development and study of agriculture and for the instruction of young Jersey people and other interested parties in the science of agriculture. Following discussion with the family The Howard Davis Farm Trust was launched in 2009 to provide direct financial assistance for appropriate training, research and projects in every aspect of agriculture and horticulture.
Jesse Boot, 1850-1931, and Florence Boot, 1863-1952
Jesse Boot transformed Boots the Chemist, founded by his father John in Nottingham, into a major national retailer. In 1885 he visited Jersey for health reasons where he met and married Florence Rowe. Florence subsequently played a major part in the development of the business and was strongly committed to the welfare of staff. Crippled by arthritis, Jesse Boot sold the company in 1920, and in 1928 he and his wife retired to Villa Millbrook in St Lawrence. Boot donated huge amounts to charitable causes, particularly in his home city of Nottingham. However, he also made major gifts to the people of Jersey including the FB Fields. He paid for the building of the school at La Motte Street and provided the land adjacent to FB Fields for the new St Nicholas Church. After her husband's death, his widow commissioned the rebuilding of St Matthew’s Church at Millbrook with interior fittings by Rene Lalique. She also donated the land surrounding the church to be laid out as a park - now known as Coronation Park.
Joseph Sinel, 1844-1929
Joseph Sinel began his working life at Voisins where he rose to become manager. However, he always had an interest in natural science. He left Voisins and set up in business as a taxidermist. He rapidly established a reputation as a marine biologist and established a biological station at Havre des Pas. He played a major role in reorganising the Jersey Museum and was its curator from 1907 until his death in 1929. During the last 20 years of his life he turned his attention to prehistory, took an active part in the explorations made by the Société Jersiaise, and contributed numerous papers to the annual bulletins of the Société. He also engaged in psychical research, publishing a number of papers on the subject.
Arthur Mourant, 1904-1994
Arthur Mourant quickly demonstrated a brilliant academic mind. He graduated with first class honours in chemistry from Oxford University and obtained a PhD for a treatise on the geology of the Channel Islands. In 1935 he established the chemical pathology laboratory which became the States Pathology Laboratory. He qualified as a doctor in 1943 and developed an expertise in blood groups. In 1954 he published his major work The Distribution of Human Blood Groups . In 1978 Mourant returned to Jersey, ostensibly having retired. However, he continued his academic work on blood groups, publishing two books and numerous papers. He became very active in the Société Jersiaise, playing a major role in its work on archaeology. There is a bronze portrait of Mourant in the entrance to the Société Jersiaise and a portrait of him in the Société’s members’ room.
Further reading: Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society , 1999, Vol 45.
Gerald Durrell OBE, 1925-1995
Gerald Durrell, after a short time working in a zoo, joined a number of wildlife collecting expeditions. He began writing to earn some money. His book My Family and Other Animals,publishedin 1956, made him a notable author and brought him public recognition as a naturalist. Durrell's growing disillusionment with the way zoos of the time were run, and his belief that they should primarily act as reserves and regenerators of endangered species, made him contemplate founding his own zoo. After a long search for a suitable site, in 1959 Durrell founded the Jersey Zoological Park in Les Augres Manor in Trinity. In 1963 Durrell was instrumental in founding the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust (now Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust), to cope with the increasingly difficult challenges of zoo, wildlife and habitat management. In the 1970s the Trust became a leading centre for captive breeding. Today, Durrell is internationally acclaimed for its contribution to the professional training of zoologists and conservation biologists, particularly those from developing countries.
Bishop Geoffrey de Montbray, 1029-1093
The parishes are an integral part of Jersey. The boundaries of the parishes have been little changed for hundreds of years. In 1331, the earliest year for which there are reasonable estimates, all the parishes had a population of between 500 and 1,000. It seems clear that the parishes were originally established so that each had a coastline and that they were of broadly similar sizes in terms of population. So clearly whoever drew the map had a significant impact on the structure of Jersey, which remains to this day. It has been suggested that the five central parishes (St Saviour, St John, St Mary, St Peter and St Lawrence) date back to around 475 AD. It is also clear that the parishes evolved over a period of time such that by 1331 they were well established. Geoffrey de Montbray may well have played a significant role. He was consecrated in 1049 as Bishop of Coutances, whose remit included Jersey, a position he held until 1093.
Further reading: N L Myers. “The origin of the twelve parishes”, Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise , 1978.
One public servant
Colin Powell OBE, 1937-2019
Colin Powell began his career in Northern Ireland where he was an economic adviser to the Government from 1963 to 1968. In 1969 he was recruited to fill the new role of Economic Adviser to the Government of Jersey. He quickly made his mark including publishing in 1971 the Economic Survey of Jersey,the first ever detailed analysis of the Island’s economy. He was appointed Chief Adviser to the Government in 1992, a position he held until 1998. Subsequently, he continued to work for the Island in many ways, in particular by chairing the Jersey Financial Services Commission. He is widely credited with shaping the financial service industry so it both served the Island and operated in accordance with international standards. He was active in internal financial fora, and in so doing considerably enhanced Jersey’s standing internationally.
Harry Vardon, 1870-1937
Harry Vardon learned his golf as a teenager at the Royal Jersey Golf Club. In 1896 Vardon won the first of his six Open Championships. During his career, Vardon won 62 golf tournaments, including one run of 14 in a row. Vardon was also well known for the Vardon grip, or overlapping grip, the grip most popular among professional golfers. In 1974, Vardon was chosen as one of the initial group of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame. In 2000, Vardon was ranked as the 13th best golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine. His most prestigious medals, including those from his six British Open Championships, are on display in a tribute to him at the Jersey Museum. There is a statue of him at the entrance to the Royal Jersey Golf Club in Grouville.
Lillie Langtry, 1853-1929
Emilie Charlotte Le Breton was the daughter of the Dean of Jersey and Rector of St Saviour, the Rev William Corbet Le Breton. She was well-educated, speaking English, French and Jèrriais, and by all accounts was beautiful and someone who always attracted attention. In 1874 she married 26-year-old Irish landowner Edward Langtry. Lillie quickly attracted notice for her beauty and wit. One of the celebrities she met was the artist John Millais. His portrait of Langtry raised the profile of both artist and subject and gave Langtry the nickname, the "Jersey Lily". Lillie became much sought after in London society. From late 1887 to June 1880 she had an affair with Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. This was followed with an affair with Prince Louis of Battenberg, father of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Lillie moved back to London and, at the suggestion of her close friend Oscar Wilde, embarked on a stage career, which caused her to attract more admirers. Lillie turned her attention to horse racing, becoming a successful owner, particularly through her horse Merman. In 1906 Lillie returned to the stage in vaudeville and is also credited with inventing the concept of the “red carpet”. Her gravestone is in St Saviour’s cemetery.
Further reading: Sonia Hillsdon.The Jersey Lily – the life and times of Lillie Langtry. Seaflower Books, 1993.