History

 

It is known that St Helerius came to Jersey in the Channel Islands in 525 A.D. and lived at what is now known as the hermitage on L'Islet (now Elizabeth Castle) until his murder in 553 A.D. Little is known of the intervening years but it is thought that the Parishes were formed and named at some time in the tenth century and in c. 1155, King Henry II established the Monastery of St Helier on L'Islet in memory of St Helerius. At the 1299 Assize, St. Helier is mentioned several times and is referred to as being there from 'time immemorial' and was thus by this time well established

It is also clear that by this time, each Parish was divided into a number of Vingtaines and that each Vingtaine had certain rights and privileges. The Vingtaines of the Parishes, with one exception were all rural areas of their respective Parishes. The Vingtaine de la Ville however was and is different. La Vingtaine de la Ville covered a town with different needs to those of its rural counterparts, like paved streets, harbour facilities and sewers etc. La Vingtaine de la Ville therefore set about electing two Procureurs (who would be charged with obtaining these facilities) and held meetings along the lines of the Parish Assemblies. Indeed La Vingtaine de la Ville was almost a Parish within the Parish of St. Helier. By 1572, La Vingtaine de la Ville de St. Helier was one of 4 Vingtaines into which the Parish of St. Helier was divided.

At the Assize of 1299, having had the use of the area for many years, the Communaute of the Vingtaine was awarded full ownership of La Mont de la Ville (Town Hill) (except for free warren (hunting) which was retained by the Seigneur of Samares et de la Fosse). In 1619, the Royal Court records that the inhabitants had made regulations regarding the use of the common land there for the grazing of sheep and the collection of gorse. In a court case between the Seigneur and the Vingtaine, culminating in the 1681 verdict of the Privy Council, the Vingtaine was given complete rights over La Mont de la Ville and the Seigneur forced to give up his right of free warren. He was not a happy man as he was held to have forfeited this right by neglecting to exercise it!

In 1804 Le Mont de la Ville was bought from the Vingtaine by the British Government for £11,280 which established the fund now administered by the Procureurs of the Vingtaine. In 1806 General Don laid the Foundation Stone of Fort Regent, which was being built on the Town Hill as a defence against the threatened French invasion. In 1813 the Vingtaine was divided into two Cantons; Canton de Haut and Canton de Bas.

Vingtaine billet (bank note) (front)The Vingtaine continued to raise money for the paving and repair of roads and the building of culverts to carry the streams that to this day run in to St Aubin's Bay. This money was raised in several ways. The Vingtaine had income from rentes and rents but this was by all accounts fairly small compared to the expenditure being incurred in the massive capital projects undertaken by the Vingtaine. The other way the Vingtaine raised money was to print their own!

Vinhgtaine Billet (bank note) (back)There are records of several different issues made over a period of many years. The pictures show the front and rear of one such issue. The money raised in this way was put to use in building (amongst other things) the harbours and Commercial Buildings (Quay des Marchands). It is a testament to the Procureurs, that during the whole of this 19th century phase in the development of the town, at no time did the Vingtaine go in to debt. The Vingtaine also charged property owners to pave the area in front of their properties. Thus gradually the town streets became paved with the familiar granite paving and kerb stones which give St. Helier so much of its character.

From the early part of the twentieth century the Parish of St. Helier and (what is now) the Public Services Committee took over the maintenance of the roads. The harbours built by the Vingtaine or by others under the direction of the Vingtaine were constructed on the understanding that they would become the property of the States on completion. Thus although the Vingtaine procured the building of the harbours it was the States which took on the running and maintenance of them and that continues today under the Harbours and Airport Committee.

Today the role of the Vingtaine as provider of infrastructure for the town has all but gone. However it still plays an active rôle in the molding of that part of the townscape of St. Helier that lies within its boundaries. Many plaques have been erected to commemorate famous people who lived in the Vingtaine and events that have shaped the town. The Vingtaine has also played a significant part in the erection of several features within the Vingtaine designed to enhance the area in which they stand. And finally the Vingtaine has purchased Allix's Shipyard site to be preserved as an open space and has acquired the archway at Beau Regard in Regent Road where there is a mural showing the view as it might have looked in the early part of the 19th century. For more information on these and the other plaques and features erected by the Vingtaine click here or on the "plaques" link in the navigation bar.

A map showing the boundaries of the Vingtaine is available by clicking here.

The Vingtaine is currently administered by two Procureurs.

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© 2002 La Vingtaine de la Ville de St Helier