Friday : Fish & Chips in St. Helier, Lots of Steps and the Old Library

My final full day in Jersey started with another morning in the library, one of my most productive places. The people of the town are very lucky to have this library given how spacious and organised it is. There were a range of different characters at the library during the week, with numerous students trying to get work done, some clearly enthusiastic local historians and perhaps most excitedly, a succession of people using the photocopying and printing services which is what the poor reference librarians seemed to spend most of their time dealing with. That included the poor lady who wanted to print a document out, but was told it was 43 pages long and would cost £4.30. That was quite a saga, I was disappointed not to know what she was printing as at one point she was only going to print half of it, which seemed an odd compromise.

I thought that for lunch I’d pop to Halkett pub, another owned by the Liberation Brewery, who operate a fair number of pubs on the island. The problem, for me anyway, with this ownership of so many locations is that the brewery doesn’t produce very much beer that I find particularly exciting, primarily just three quite generic beers. They don’t seem to have any guest beers in their pubs, which meant I tired of them quite quickly, with no dark options other than Guinness.

For food, I went for the traditional fish and chips with mushy peas, which was served promptly and well presented. The mushy peas were slightly odd, they were certainly squished, but they were also quite firm, likely overcooked in a microwave. However, since I had been given nearly an entire lemon, I managed to bring some life back to the peas by squeezing most of the juice into them, which made my lemon mushy peas quite tasty. The batter was rich, the fish flaked away and the chips were also suitably fluffy, all in all an sufficiently delicious lunch. I also liked the sensibly sized tomato ketchup and mayonnaise sachets they brought over, providing a generous amount of sauce without needing to faff about opening several smaller ones.

It’s quite brave marking the name of a business, in this case the Jersey Savings Bank established in 1834, onto the side of a building as it’s quite a challenge to remove it if they moved.

There’s a stone on the floor marking the site of Charing Cross prison which was here between 1693 and 1811 and there’s an image of the building visible above the writing. Previous to the opening of the new facility, prisoners were sent to Mont Orgueil Castle which wasn’t entirely efficient as the Royal Courts were in St.Helier. The Charing Cross prison was paid for by taxing all French vessels 5 shillings for trading with Jersey, but it closed in 1811 when a new prison was opened in Gloucester Street.

The area is all rather less prison like today.

The town’s Post Office and it’s good to see that the facility is still opening, given the rate of closures in the UK at the moment.

I have to remember that as an experienced walker (specialising in flat) I have to take the opportunity to walk rather than get the lift, even though there were a lot of steps here. I noted the sign mentioning about “taking your breath away” and was pre-worried about the situation. It had also started to pour with rain which wasn’t entirely ideal.

This plaque notes that this was the site of Mont de la Ville before the Fort Regent set-up was built here in 1804, but more on that in a moment.

Starting up the steps.

And more steps.

And some more steps. I felt like Dave Morgan on one of his hill climbs. Although I took longer and was more annoyed about the situation than I imagine he would have been.

The views from the top, primarily of the car park, which wasn’t quite the beautiful vista that I had been hoping for.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Fort Regent, which was built in the nineteenth century as a military fortification. During the German occupation they added some bits, a reminder that this was a real military installation in use in living memory (albeit not my living memory). After the Germans left the building was used for storage, before a decision was made in 1967 to turn it into a leisure centre.

This plaque inside of Fort Regent, marking the last duty of the Royal Militia of Jersey, who were the oldest sub-unit of the British army, but then they were abolished in 1953.

Dolmen are neolithic sites, of which there are a few in Jersey, with this one being found at the site of Fort Regent, what was Le Mont de la Ville. It’s now located in a garden in Henley-on-Thames, but there have been some calls recently for it to be returned. On this, I personally think (not that it has got anything to do with me) that these stones should be returned to Jersey so that they’re in context. It’s not as though they’re in a museum in the UK where their history has been respected and explained, they’ve effectively just dumped the stones in a garden.

These are two siege guns that were found buried in the West Bastion in 1970 during the reconstruction of the site.

The inside of the fort and there’s an odd feel to the arrangement, it’s part leisure centre and part historic monument with it seeming an odd building to use for this purpose. This would have made a formidable museum, but at least it’s accessible to the public. It’s also currently the town’s Covid centre, so that’s handy.

This was outside the entrance to the boxing section of the site and someone walked by and said hello to me, I’m suspecting that they just assumed I was a champion boxer.

The rain clouds had started to fade away by the time I had finished my explorations of the building, with the views looking a little more impressive. The meander back down was easier, although there were several flights of steps to descend.

The gold statue of King George II dressed up as Julius Caesar which was placed here in 1735, designed by the sculptor John Michael Ruysbrack. It’s perhaps a little excessive, but it’s become something of an icon of the town, although I wonder that the locals thought a few hundred years ago when it arrived.

The Royal Arms which were above the former Royal Courts.

Alexander Coutanche, the Bailiff of Jersey between 1935 and 1962, one of the things that he is known for is reading out to those gathered out in Royal Square that the Channel Islands were to be liberated from German occupation.

This balcony is where that liberation announcement was made, on 8 May 1945.

Also in the Royal Square, this is a memorial to those who died during the First World War. It’s the heart of a standing stone from Guillemont in France, where in September 1916 the Jersey contingent suffered its largest losses.

This is Royal Square, the gold statue of the King at the far end, and the balcony and other plaques on the right hand side of the photo.

I started this post with a comment about the town’s library, but this is where it began between 1742 and 1886, the first library in St. Helier. It was also one of the first public libraries, generously funded by the Very Reverend Philip Falle who not only gave money, but also his private collection of books.

Finally, after four minutes of trying to get back inside the hotel with the most hopeless touch screen reader perhaps ever brought to the market, I finished with a Beached Whale from the Stinky Bay Brewing Company. It’s a pale ale which was a little lacking in any depth of taste, although there was some citrus to the arrangements.