Home to Jersey’s first playhouse and the Asylum for Aged Women
In the continuing series recounting the history of different areas of the Island, the Jersey Archive's Trude Foster takes a look at La Chasse and Regent Road
La Chasse and Regent Road, which surround Fort Regent, lie within the Fief de la Fosse. They contain some of the earliest properties in St Helier, pre-dating Fort Regent by many years, and were originally known by other names.
La Chasse was once known by the intriguing and rather exotic name of La Rue de Madagascar. The reason for this has never been entirely clear. It has been suggested by Joan Stevens and others that there may have been an inn with that name on the site. Pre-1830 contracts generally refer to the street as La Rue de Madagascar but some record it under both names, presumably for clarity during the period when it was changing from one to the other.
Regent Road has also gone by several different names. On the 1834 Le Gros map it was recorded as Regent Street, but it has also been called La Rue de La Froid Vente, translated as road of the cold wind, because of the way it faces. Philip Ahier also suggested that the street was once known by that name at the top end and La Ruette de la Comedie at the lower end because of the theatre which stood there.
The Regent Road Theatre or the Theatre Royal as it was known stood roughly in the area once known as Old Theatre Place. This appears to have been situated in the area now covered by Regency House Apartments.
The theatre was Jersey’s first dedicated playhouse although there had been other small ventures before this. It was the brainchild of two Englishmen, Henry Lee and his great friend James Shatford, the manager of a touring company based in Salisbury. Lee left the partnership early on and James Shatford carried the project through to completion.
It took several years of trying before a player’s licence was granted. The theatre opened in the late summer of 1802. Contemporary newspaper reports would seem to suggest that it was a rather luxurious affair.
The venture continued until 1814 and James Shatford’s death. The building passed to Jean La Mottee and then Matthew Amiraux. Nicolas Bott acquired half the building in the 1830s and in 1837 he insured it, the building being described as being built of stone and hung with tiles.
La Chasse had its part to play in the Battle of Jersey.
The street contains a plaque dedicated to resident Edward Combs or Coombs, who was the man who ran to tell Governor Corbet that the French had invaded on 6 January 1781.
A volume of testimonies from the trial of Governor Corbet reveal that both Edward Combs a young officer and his father, also Edward, appeared as witnesses for the defence of the Governor at his trial in London in May 1781.
Edward Combs described how the Governor spoke to him out of the window and that he was only half dressed. Combs was ordered to take a horse and ride to Grouville to raise the regiment but Clement Hemery arrived and was sent instead. He talks vividly of how Hemery was barely out of the stable before the French arrived to take the Governor.
Beau Regard was an interesting property that once stood in Regent Road. It is now demolished but the original gates survive. They contain an inscription in Latin by Horace, which translated reads: ‘This corner of the world beyond all others shines upon me.’ It is attributed to Jean Geffrard, a prosperous merchant who inhabited the house in 1831.
On 6 January 1831, which was the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Jersey, Jean Geffrard married Anne Pirouet the widow of Josue Hocquard. They were both in their 60s. It may be that Beau Regard with its magnificent views was acquired as their new marital home. Behind the gates of Beau Regard there is now a mural giving an indication of what the view may have looked like in 1831.
Beau Regard later became the Asylum for Aged and Infirm Women. The gates of the institution once contained a sign giving visiting hours with the inscription ‘Celui qui donne aux pauvres prete a L’Eternitie’ or ‘He who gives to the poor is ready for eternity’ on the collecting box which gives a clear message that good works are the way into heaven.
This institution was set up by a group of ladies who were concerned for the health of a blind widow who had been refused entry to the hospital. She was not Jersey born but she was too weak to be sent back to England on the boat.
Newspaper reports dating from the 1850s would seem to suggest that this lady may have been named Philippa Way. She was the widow of a gardener and had lived in Jersey for many years. She was eventually admitted as lifelong resident of the hospital after a public outcry in 1857. A bazaar was held to raise funds for her and several worthy Jersey people contributed funds and goods for sale.
The first official meeting of the Home Committee was in early 1860. The account books of that time are full of entries listing contributions and the money collected from their donations boxes.
The unusually named Cascida Cecila Le Sueur was one lady who was a recipient of care from the home. She was an unmarried lady who moved in when she was in her 50s. She had been an invalid for many years because of kidney trouble. The records of residents describe when she came into the home, what she brought with her and who was contributing to the cost of her care. The Home for Aged Women, now the Glanville Home, relocated to St Mark’s Road in 1964.
Among the prominent features of Regent Road are the steps which now lead up to the apartment building. First official mention of the steps was 10 December 1874 when it was decided to build a wall to separate parish property from Jersey Eastern Railway. So they were possibly built between 1872 and 1874 and have been a feature of the area from this time.
A building at La Chasse which is remembered fondly is the Forum Cinema. It had entrances on both La Chasse and Grenville Street. Many people remember the Compton organ, which is now installed at Fort Regent, and its famous organist Mr Edward O’Henry, himself a resident of the area.
Contained within the building was The Deep nightclub which was popular during the 1960s. A 1967 advertisement for Go-Go dancers promises them full board in a hotel, flights to and from the Island and the princely sum of £8 a week for the right girl with a bubbly personality.
This article only touches on some of the stories of Regent Road and La Chasse. If you would like to find out more, the Jersey Archive will be hosting a talk at 10 am on Saturday 21 July as part of the Le Gallais sponsored What’s Your Street’s Story? project.
- The Archive is open from 9 am to 1 pm on Saturday to encourage you to come and find out more about the history and people of your area. If you would like to book your place on the talk please call Jersey Archive on 833300. Parking is limited because of building works.