Benest's of Millbrook
Stewart Benest in 1976 with a competition winner - picture Jersey Evening Post
The store was founded at Lisbon House in 1888 by William Le Bas Benest and celebrated its centenary in 1988 with the publication of a book, The Benests of Millbrook - One Hundred Years by Jack Lawrence Benest. Five years later the family sold their popular store, along with it's sister store Fineprice, on St Clement's Coast Road, to the CI Traders Group.
Lisbon House (previously Lisbon Cottage) was built in 1840, as Millbrook began to develop as a residential area, by George Bisson. He quickly went bankrupt and the shop was then run by Rachel Gallichan, a 'grocer and tea dealer', followed by J Bartlett, in 1857, and a number of others. In 1881 the occupier was Philip Val, a grocer from Grouville.
The shop's business developed on the back of home deliveries by horse and cart to customers living nearby.
In the second half of the 20th century the store was known as S G Benest and Son, the S G Benest being Sydney George, and his son, Stewart Nicolle Benest. It was during Stewart Benest's ownership that the store grew steadily from a small shop into a supermarket; it always retained the personal touch, however. Stewart's cousin John Benest managed the business with him during this period.
Sydney George was the son of the founder and he built up the store's business over more than 50 years, including the difficult period during the German Occupation.
John Benest recalled his time in the business in the St Lawrence Millennium book St Lawrence - A celebration of our parish. He would call on customers with their orders. At Leda House the Laurens family would give him a glass of milk and a welcome bottleful to take home each week. Close to Benest's, on the corner of Rue du Galet, was Le Gros Tobacconist and Barber, with a barber's striped pole above the door and a painted sign on the corner of the building advertising Muratti's High Class Cigarettes.
This was the company which presented the Muratti Vase, which is competed for annually by the island football teams of Jersey and Guernsey.
The hairdressing business moved further down La Rue du Galet and became Le Miere's. It was later to move to the flower shop, Millflora, run for many years by Bernard Hooker. This business replaced Machon's cycle shop, which was a popular meeting place for cyclists before and after World War 1.
To the east of Benest's was Homestill, bought by the family in 1959, and then, on the corner of the lane, Millbrook House, where Bill Hibbs ran a general store from before World War 2 and through the Occupation. He retired after the war, but it was not until 1968 that the Benests purchased the site from the Le Gros family, to expand their operation. A dispensing pharmacy was added in 1952, as well as a sub-post office, which had previously operated from Walker's newsagents shop further along the road.
Jerripedia founder Mike Bisson recalls the store in the 1950s and 60s:
- "My mother was a friend of Stewart and Dorothy Benest, and living close by at what we called Boulevard Avenue, but others include within Millbrook, we used to do most of our shopping at Benest's. I recall Stewart as a very hands-on manager, always on the shop floor greeting his regular customers. My mother, my brother and I had only to step inside the doorway to hear Stewart's 'sergeant-major' voice booming out a welcoming 'Hello Peg!'. John Benest was much the quieter of the two cousins, beavering away eagerly in the background.
- "The business was always innovative, but this could lead to problems. The establishment of a wholesale wine and spirits businss on the corner of the lane leading to the shop's car park at the rear, in what had been Millbrook House, led in the late 1960s to a conflict with the Licensing Assembly, but as I recall it the Benests triumphed in their attempt to run retail and wholesale licensed outlets from the same premises.
- "I had my first holiday job at Benest's in the mid-60s, stacking shelves for 2s 6d an hour.
- "As the Le Riches Group grew and converted their stores into supermarkets, Benest's faced increasing competition, but it was not until 2003 that the business, then under control of Stewart's son Simon Benest, eventually sold out to their main competitors.
- "I also remember very well Walker's newsagents shop, which is still trading today. In the 1950s it was run by Mrs Walker, and formed part of a house called The Glen. You had to be very careful when you entered the shop because there were two steps down immediately inside the door. I was a regular customer calling weekly for my Eagle comic and a tube of sherbet."
- Descendants of Philip Benest and Jenny Le Bas, the Benest family tree
Across the road from Benest's was the Coralie Hotel, built on the site of Lincoln House, owned by Tim Pallot, a former Centenier and Deputy. At the foot of Mont Felard, the Mont Felard Hotel was built on the site of Richmond House. It was turned into a hotel in 1947 by William Turner and he sold it to the Alker family four years later.
In the 1980s it was bought and run by Hughie and Joyce Behan, who also turned West Park Pavilion into Behan's West Park.