The Parade was once the drilling ground for the island's garrisoned troops in the early 19th century and is now one of St Helier’s most popular public parks.
Before the General Hospital was built close by, this was an area of sand dunes outside what was then a very small town, but starting to grow. The west end of the town had first began to be developed around the 1660s. By the 18th century the rise in population prompted the building of the General Hospital, which was originally more of a poorhouse than a hospital for the treatment of illness as it is today.
Construction began in 1765, following a bequest from Marie Bartlet, the widow of a wealthy St Aubin merchant. She gave 50,000 livres to build the poor house. A separate gift of land on the sandhills outside St Helier from Philippe Bandinel, Seigneur of the Fief of Mélèches, provided a location for the building.
As soon as the hospital was completed in 1768, it was requisitioned as a barracks by the British Army. At the time of the Battle of Jersey in 1781, troops from the 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, one of the regiments who defended the Island during the battle, were billeted there. It is possible that these were the first troops to use the Parade as a drilling ground because at some point in the late 18th or early 19th century part of the sand dunes next to the hospital building were levelled and turned into a formal parade ground.
The original hospital building was partially destroyed by an explosion of gunpowder in 1783 and the rebuilt hospital was gutted by fire on 18 July 1859. On 16 October 1860 the foundation stone of the new hospital was laid. The storage of gunpowder and munitions in the area is reflected in the naming of Cannon Street. There was a row of sheds for storing cannon along the north east side of the Parade - the location of the present day Cannon Street.
Once the Parade was established, buildings soon sprung up around it. On the 1834 plan of St Helier by Elias Le Gros,buildings can be seen on the south and north east sides with Elizabeth Place to the west. The 1795 Richmond map shows no properties in the area.
The declaration of War between Britain and France in 1803 saw the Island under threat and in 1806 General George Don was appointed Lieut-Governor. He immediately embarked on a programme of improvements to the Island’s defences and road network. He was also responsible for improving the discipline of the militia, rebuilding the Island’s sea defences and advancements in farming. General Don left the Island in 1814. In 1872 the States commissioned Alfred Pierre Robinet, a French Sculptor who had settled in Jersey, to produce a monument to Don’s memory, in recognition of his contribution to the Island. The monument was eventually unveiled on 29 October 1885 and is still located in the middle of Parade Gardens.
The Napoleonic period saw a large influx of British people to Jersey. These included military personnel, builders, engineers and labourers to assist with the fortification works. Many individuals decided to stay on and make their home in the Island. The needs of a growing population led to the construction of All Saints' Chapel on one side of the Parade. The parish of St Helier donated land to the trustees of All Saints’ on 1 April 1833 on which to build the church. Construction was completed in 1835.
The rising population also needed a supply of fresh water and one of the town’s public water pumps, the Pompe de Bas, was located in this area. Unfortunately the public pumps and their unsanitary conditions were instrumental in spreading disease among the population and in 1849 a cholera epidemic struck St Helier. The records of Mr Picot, a funeral director of the time, reveal that in September 1849, of the 100 or so burials he was involved with, over half were cases of cholera. In one month alone four members of the Alicette family of 9 Parade Place succumbed to the illness. On 15 November 1849 Mr Sinnatt, another funeral director, recorded that there was a general day of thanksgiving “for the disappearance of the dreadful cholera”.
One prominent resident of the Parade was James Holloway, a builder who came to the Island from Devon. He lived at 6 Parade Place with his wife Phoebe and family. He seems to have done quite well for himself, as the Public Registry records contain several contracts for his purchase and sale of houses. By the time of his death he and Phoebe owned property in Queen’s Road, King Street, Stopford Road and Bellozanne. The Public Registry shows that he and Phoebe bought their property in Parade Place on 13 July 1869. It was bought from Francis, Charles and George Touzel, who had acquired it in 1860 following the décret (bankruptcy) of Nicolas Perchard.
The 1871 and 1881 censuses list the family still living at 6 Parade Place. However, in 1884 a disaster struck, as records show that a fire started at the premises. The family seem to have escaped unscathed and James died a few years later in November 1888. The house could not have been that badly damaged as the 1891 census shows Phoebe still living there along with her son-in-law and two servants. By 1901 Phoebe had moved to Wellington Place in the far more fashionable Stopford Road.
General Don’s monument is not the only one located in Parade Gardens. The gardens are also the home of the bust of Philippe Baudains, who was Constable of St Helier for 21 years and an extremely active member of the States during the 19th century. He lived in the vicinity of the Parade and introduced more than 100 bills to the States including the introduction of voting by ballot.
In contrast to General Don, whose monument was not unveiled until 53 years after his death, Philippe Baudains’ monument was erected in 1897 while he was still alive. This was an unusual tribute by the Island, as it was more common to honour individuals after their deaths.
The Cenotaph is the third and most important of the Parade monuments. It was erected by the States in the 1920s and now stands in remembrance of the Jersey people who were killed in the first and second world wars.
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