Halkett House

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Halkett House


The King Street frontage of Halkett House

This article by F J Willy first appeared in the 1963 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

Edmund Nicolle, in his Town of St. Helier, writes that the Maison de la Motte was Government House at the time of the Battle of Jersey. After that time, however, Halkett House became Government House and remained so until Lieut-Governor Halkett in 1822, bought Belmont on St Saviour's Hill, and Halkett House was sold by the Government on 11 June 1825. A drawing of Halkett House can be found in Volume XI of the Bulletins, illustrating an article by R Hottot, and it shows "Old Government House as it was in 1813 facing King Street".

An 1800 plan of Halkett House ...
... and a clearer copy of the left hand section, showing a meadow behind the garden, opposite where the Central Market now stands

Remaining elements

As Hottot wrote, elle existe encore, quoique mutilee. In fact, it stands behind the front of what was Woolworth's store in King Street. The ground floor has been taken out and is now occupied by shop counters; the upper floors are used as store rooms. The facade of the house was taken, a long time ago, pour deployer les splendeurs d'un bazar American, but the granite chimney stacks remain, as on the drawing, though the top four or five feet of one has been cut off. The existing window spaces also correspond in number and dimensions, though they are now inside the building (on the first floor) and are used as doorways.

A plan of this building has recently come to light in the Government Archives at Mount Bingham. It was drawn in 1800 and is headed "Survey of House and Ground purchased for Government at St Helier's Jersey containing 1 acre 2 roods 16 perches 9 yards 8 feet. 1800."

It shows the house, with terrace, stables and garden behind, and with two meadows beyond. The property is cut by two main streams. Between the stables and garden is the Grand Douet, which flows down from the north, parallel to Janvrin and St Saviour's Roads; it then swings west flowing as seen on the accompanying plan, on to Charing Cross and then out into the Harbour. The other stream, beyond the larger meadow, is a branch of the Grand Douet stream; it flows under Tunnel Street, across Belmont Road, under Minden Place and Burrard Street, and out to sea at Gloucester Street. In 1800, both were open streams; today they run underground.

There are several other points of interest about this plan. Burrard Street, not opened until 1817, followed the general line of the north-east edge of the larger meadow. Waterloo Street, which dates from 1825, lies between the smaller meadow and the garden sheds. A wall on the south-east side shuts off the property from the street, which ran outside the wall as far as the end of the garden and then ran off to the north-east along the line of Hilgrove Street, according to Momonier's map of 1799.

Built over

The whole area shown on the plan is now built over. The front of what was Woolworth's store occupies the space on the plan in front of Halkett House. The stables have gone, as have the terrace and sheds. In fact, another house was built behind Halkett House, on the site of the stables and terrace. It was the windows of this house that caught the eye of a member of the Historical sub-committee when looking at a photograph taken looking down from Fort Regent, in the Tourism Brochure for 1962, and which set off this enquiry. Incidentally, the Société Jersiaise Museum was established in Halkett House in 1876 and remained there until 1882.

However, certain problems remain. Nicolle says that the Maison de la Motte was Government House at the time of the Battle of Jersey, but, was it Government House for long before that? Peter Reade's Map of St Helier in 1737 shows a house on the site of Halkett House as being the Lieut-Governor's dwelling house.

In any case, when did the Governors move from Elizabeth Castle? Does the original plan, drawn by Peter Reade, exist today? It would be interesting to check the copy of Reade against the original.

These two photographs taken from Fort Regent show the roof of the former Halkett House, which is still standing but largely incorporated into the commercial property surrounding it, formerly the Woolworth store. The roof of the building and its four chimney stacks are in the centre of both 21st century photographs. The picture on the left shows the top of the King Street facades of what were Woolworth (left) and Burtons The taller building behind Halkett House in the left picture was built in the 19th century and the lane running to the left of them was called Rue de Dinan.

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