Controversy over building of Town Arsenal
In the Jersey censuses of 1851 and 1861 many individuals are described as ‘half pay officers’ in the British Army or the Royal Navy.
The concept of half-pay allowed officers of the British Army and Royal Navy to be put into semi-retirement during periods of peace, when fewer commands were available. While his services were not immediately needed, the officer would receive half of his original pay. This ensured that the officers would be supported while they waited to be recalled to active duty.
The population of Jersey in 1851 was approximately 57,000, with the bulk of immigrants coming from England and its colonies. They were attracted to Jersey by the climate, cost of living and its close political affiliations with Britain. It was free from any taxation, imported goods were free of excise and it was relatively close to home for many.
Many of the immigrants came to live in the areas of town such as Rouge Bouillon which gained a reputation as a desirable part of St Helier and attracted wealthy residents, not just from Jersey, but from various British colonies.
The exclusive nature of this part of town was threatened when, in 1910, the States decided to purchase a piece of land in Rouge Bouillon to build a new town arsenal. This led to an outcry in the neighbourhood and a petition was lodged at the States Greffe on 8 November 1910 carrying the signatures of 68 residents. The petition argued that ‘the district of Rouge Bouillon has always been considered one of the most attractive suburbs of St Helier and all of the houses which have been built there (many of which are of considerable value) have been so built on account of the quietness and seclusion of the neighbourhood and the absence of noise….the establishment of a Military Arsenal …will be very detrimental to the prosperity of the neighbourhood….would be disastrous…..as it would constitute a permanent source of annoyance to the inhabitants’. Unfortunately for the residents, Henry Nicolle Godfray, Treasurer of the States, appears to have had a vested interest in the project, as he owned the proposed site and lived opposite at a house called Beau Sejour - now the Savoy Hotel. The petition was unsuccessful and the arsenal was subsequently built and used until after the Occupation, when the building was converted into the current Fire Service headquarters.