Life in the north-east

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The treasure is its landscape, its old buildings and fortifications, its traditional farmhouses, the history of oyster fishing, its gardens, landscapes, and above all, the memories of Islanders who remember the parish as once it was.

St Martin’s Treasure is a parish project that has been taking place over the winter months, and continues until the autumn. Its co-ordinator, Antony Gibb, described it as ‘a list of all that is wonderful about St Martin’.

Similar lists were completed by parishioners in 1964 and again in 1989. Now, 20 years later, the project of completing this ‘parish scrapbook’ is being carried out for a third time.

The group of parish volunteers go out and gather what they can: stories, photos and all sorts of information about what happens – and what has happened – in the parish.

The volunteers are members of sub-sections each specialising in one aspect or another of parish life and times, be it the geological structure, including the unusual features of Rozel’s conglomerate, or the buildings of the parish, or harbour works and fortifications, or the life of parishioners in years gone by, as revealed by photos and memories.

Another group is looking at plants and gardens, such as the ones at Rozel Manor and Château La Chaire. Another group is collecting myths and legends – lanes, for example, along which it might be unwise to walk at night for fear of what scary thing one might meet along the way.

Then there are the personalities who lived in the parish or who are associated with it, such as the Hawaiian princess who lived at Chateau La Chaire, or Lieutenant Pitcher VC, to whom there is a memorial inscription in the parish church.

‘Simply, we are gathering together all the things that people find interesting and enjoy about the parish, and trying to record them,’ Mr Gibb said.

‘It is an ongoing record, and what is really interesting is seeing what appeared interesting in 1964, and in 1989, and what is going to be interesting in 2009 – the comparison of how things have changed.’

The group hopes that by the end of this year, there will be a ‘Parish Treasure’ in bound form, and also a website, on to which people can go and look things up things of interest.

‘We are only a group of interested parishioners,’ he continued. ‘We are not part of the States, not part of the Société, not part of anything! We are just people who care about the parish, and want to talk to people and find out things. We hope that our results won’t seem earnest and boring – we want the Treasure to be interesting and lively.’

In parts, the completed project would have similarities to the Parish Millennium Book, he said, but it would be far more detailed.

He added that the changing use and appearance of buildings was an important aspect. Life had changed dramatically in Jersey in recent decades because of the rise of the finance industry, so it was important to record parish memories from the time before ‘finance’ arrived.

St Martin Deputy Bob Hill, who is a member of the group studying the history of buildings in the parish, said he was brought up in St Martin as a child, some 60 years ago, and he could still remember who lived where and what farms looked like then. He had his own recollections of growing up on a farm, in which his bedroom was on the floor above the cider press, and all the neighbouring buildings were working farms.

Many farmhouses were now at the centre of small residential estates, he added, and a passer-by would never dream that there was an old farmhouse in the middle of the new houses.

Mr Gibb, brought up on the farm Les Grandes Rues, was often taken as a child to see – with appropriate reverence – the space in the upper story of a barn where the secret radio was kept during the Occupation.

‘We are more interested in the people’s recollections of buildings and the way they associated with them,’ he said, ‘rather than the places themselves. We are more interested in how people respond, or responded to their homes, and the stories attached to them, than the architectural details, the sliding sash windows and the number of wonderful mouldings.’

The old buildings team are visiting as many properties as they can between now and the autumn, just to chat with the present inhabitants. Each member has a letter of accreditation from the Constable, so if the door-bell rings and the householder opens the front door to find a strange man on the doorstep, he can ask to see that, and be reassured that the stranger is not there for any other reason.

The public – both parishioners and other Islanders with knowledge of the parish – are invited to telephone Mr Gibb and the members of the Parish Treasure organisation if they have any memories that they would like to contribute to the project.

Mr Gibb added: ‘We want to put our information into a form where it can kept safely for another 20 years – by when another group might be along to do the same thing once again.’

If you have any memories or information you would like to add try one of the following contacts.

• Antony Gibb Tel (day) 863922 (eve) 863211, e-mail

• St Martin Constable Silva Yates Tel (day) 853951, e-mail

• Deputy Bob Hill Tel (eve) 861019 e-mail

• G Le Cocq Tel (eve) 854234

• Mary Billot Tel (eve) 851400, e-mail

A serene Rozel in the early 1930s

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