Homes plan for former naval training school in St Martin

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Proposals have been submitted to turn an old dormitory building – which has more recently been used as a farmhouse – and a former gatehouse into a three-bedroom cottage and a one-bedroom cottage at Seymour Farm, Mont Mallet.

Both buildings would be repaired and restored using a ‘conservation-led approach’ that would include input from the Historic Environment Team – which has concluded that the development of the listed buildings would be ‘positive and beneficial’, taking into account the current ‘poor condition’ of the old barracks and gatehouse, which have been empty for several years.

The designs for the cottages – drawn up by Godel Architects – include modern wall linings and windows, to improve moisture prevention and thermal management, as well as the removal of several partition walls.

However, if the application is approved within the next few months any building work might be delayed to allow further surveys to be carried out to see if bats and birds are currently using the abandoned buildings. An Initial Ecological Assessment carried out by Nurture Ecology Ltd found that both buildings had ‘potentially’ suitable cracks and crevices for both creatures, but said that further survey visits needed to be held between May and September this year.

The site, which is in the green zone, was home to a distinctive structure more than 150 years ago, when a fully-rigged training ship was constructed in the grounds to be used by a newly formed naval school.

The education facility was set up by Captain Philip de Sausmarez and led by Commander Charles Burnley, whose wife had inherited Seymour House.

The school trained 150 boys at a time, teaching them seamanship over ten months on a course that covered net-making, compass reading, rifle practice and rope-making.

For seven years the school was considered a healthy success, earning praise from visiting officials during regular inspections. One sour note in its history came in 1867, however, when three boys ran away from the school, stole a boat from Fliquet Bay and set off for France. After their escape failed – rough weather forced them to take refuge on the Ecréhous – they were spotted by passing fishermen and brought back to Jersey for punishment.

The school was closed in December 1869, despite appeals by the States of Jersey, as a cost-cutting exercise by the UK government.

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