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Piers and Lin du Pré are the owners of the Fleming 55 Play d'eau, based in Beaucette Marina, Guernsey in the Channel Islands at N49° 30’.197 W002° 30’.350.

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Memories on a postcard from Jersey

Piers’ grandfather, James Wilfred du Pré
had his original Luce’s premises at
42 King Street, St Helier
click to enlarge

Since 1460, the du Pré family has lived in Jersey.

Yet, in 1928, my father, Derek du Pré, having worked at Lloyds Bank Jersey for two years, was posted to their Southampton branch. He was just twenty and didn’t want to leave his beloved Jersey.

Dad loved sailing and adventures, but his parents believed it to be a good promotion. Unhappily he left Jersey and as he was to find out later in life this action was to sever the family’s 500 years of history and connection with this jewel of an island.

Luce’s Eau-de-Cologne

My grandfather, James Wilfrid du Pré, had a scent-making company with his brother Harold. Luce’s was at 42 King Street, St Helier where Harold, a perfumier of outstanding talent, perfected Luce’s Eau de Cologne winning gold medals in Cologne much to the extreme annoyance of his German competitors.

Harold also created Eau-de-Cologne in stick form, calling it Frozen Eau-de-Cologne. Perfect for ladies to keep in their handbags and dab on glowing foreheads in hot weather.

Pipettes and flasks

Luce’s was sold and is currently a clothing shop
click to enlarge

As children, my two sisters and I remember the wonderful smells in the shop and the laboratory at the back where perfumiers, huddled over pipettes and flasks, created perfumes for ladies many of which made the journey from the mainland just for their Luce’s perfume.

Sadly, the business began to decline in the 1960s, finally being sold to Elegance which subsequently was also consigned to the great graveyard of failed companies in the sky.

No 42 is now a clothing shop. Its original and intricate shop front replaced with sheets of plate glass.

When I asked its manager if I could tour the building I was told that although the upper floors had never been touched in decades and were a delight to behold, Health and Safety forbade non-employees from the building. You can guess what I thought.

To stand and stare…

Royal Square, St Helier, Jersey
click to enlarge

As Lin and I stood and gazed at 42 King Street, once a thriving perfume business spilling exotic smells into King Street and now just a clothing shop, memories flooded back. I said quietly, half to myself, ‘I wonder what happened to the old pump organ on the top floor that grandfather use to play, and I wonder what happened to those prize-winning recipes for Eau-de-Cologne?’

St Helier’s Royal Square

Lin and I walked into St Helier’s Royal Square where I was reminded of Dad’s story of the Victory V embedded in the granite walkway.

Apparently, during the Nazi occupation of Jersey in the second world war, parts of Royal square were being repaired. Never noticed by the occupying forces, even as they trooped over the square, a victory V was laid and remains to this day.

Liberation Square

The Victory V laid into the granite of Royal Square
which the occupying Nazi forces never saw
click to enlarge

As we returned to the marina, we walked through Liberation Square and stood looking at the sculpture, commissioned and erected to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jersey’s liberation from Nazi occupation.

Originally designed to show islanders releasing doves of peace, it came under considerable criticism. The outcry was that any doves would have been eaten by starving German soldiers. The sculpture was altered to show islanders raising the British flag as had happened on the day of liberation.

Central Market

I mustn’t forget that we’d been to Central Market in Beresford Street. This is a large indoor market and always ablaze with colour. In the centre is an ornamental fountain which completely froze in the late 1880s. To preserve the goldfish that swim in the fountain, they are removed in winter and kept warm.

Opened in 1882, the high domed victorian Central Market is in full use everyday with 45 stalls of flowers, fruit and vegetables, butchery, bakery and wine.

The sculpture in Liberation Square
click to enlarge

You’ll also find Jersey-specific goodies, such as Des Mèrvelles (Jersey Wonders – small rich cakes), De Nièr Beurre (Black Butter, an apple preserve from the cider-making industry), and, of course, rich Jersey milk, butter, and thick double cream which, in Guernsey, is known as skimmed milk.

You may also find a bulb of the exotic Amaryllis Belladonna, originally from South Africa, but brought to Jersey where it’s now grown and known as the ‘Jersey Lily’.

Jersey’s fish market is a few doors down the road in a separate building, and is abundant with fish and shell fish caught locally by Jersey fisherman.

‘Nuff said

I find I could go on and on reminiscing about the old bus turntable, the mailboats and Captain Large, the crane that used to lift our old Wolseley 12hp car (NPL 403) from the mailboat to the shore, the shame that Portelet Bay now an array of stark white blocks of flats across its cliff top, and the spoiling of St Helier’s harbour with multi-coloured apartments.

But enough is enough. Maybe that’s why I’ve come to live in Guernsey, instead.

Piers
from the Saloon of
Play d’eau
Fleming 55

You can get in touch with us any time by using our Contact Form.

The fountain is the centrepiece
click to enlarge

The most lovely flowers abound in the market
click to enlarge

Vegetables galore spill onto the floor
click to enlarge

The fish market is just down the road.
Literally, from the sea to the stall in hours
click to enlarge

7 comments to Memories on a postcard from Jersey

  • Hil

    I love this blog.Beautiful writing,wonderful images,rejuvininated memories(oh golly,how strong-and accompanied by many tears)and fantastic photos too.What will happen to all this history-there is so much that nobody knows.Thank you for sharing all of that.Incredibly special.x x

  • Michael

    Hi Piers and Lin
    I myself just don’t have the time with 5 very active grandchildren and other many other activities to contend with to write or read blogs but luckily David came accross this blog somehow! Of special interest was the picture of Luce’s which I also remember visiting to see my grandfather at work!
    Don’t worry too much about the links with the island being severed: we continue to spend the months of May to October at Beacon Hill and both families come over for their school holidays as they have done for the last 15 years. As they leave each year, they automatically request a booking for the following year. During the winter months, we get over for a week a month but with 3 grandchildren (6, 10 and 13) living 10 minutes away in the UK we want to enjoy them as much as possible as they grow up. Nina, my elder daughter has lived in The Hague for the last 10 years but her eldest, Max, now 18 , post A levels and 6’5” has been living with us whilst preparing for drama school and going for auditions at RADA etc!
    All the grandchildren know Jersey like the back of their hands and there will be no question of selling up when we shuffle off this mortal coil, so don’t worry. In fact Max took me to the Atrium of Morier House to see the portrait of our most famous relative who wrote the Jersey criminal code! I myself am actually quite well known in the island as I am Chairman of Save Our Shoreline ( visit our website which will explain all and Facebook where you will see some super pictures of the island. I was also mentioned in the Jersey Hansard (indirectly ) recently and I have regular meetings with Ministers and I know the Chief Minister quite well; so don’t worry too much and I am sure that Guernsey has its charms despite being more heavily populated per square foot than Jersey and facing the wrong way sun wise! It was a pity that your dad ( my godfather) didn’t return to the island like mine otherwise you would also be able to keep the family interest going.
    Best wishes to you and all the family
    Michael

    • Hi Michael. Thank you so much for writing such a lovely commentary and update on the family’s doings. So good to know that the du Pre name is being continued in Jersey keeping the history alive.

      Who was the family relative that wrote the Jersey criminal code?

      We have many of our family coming over this summer, and if we cast off form Beaucette for Jersey, can we call you to meet up?

      All the very best – Piers and Lin

  • Jill Harris

    Thankyou for your wonderful memories. I am approaching my 80th year, an exile in Cornwall but I treasure the warm wafts of scent as I passed your shop, as clear in my mind now as then. And yes. I have often wished for a stick of Eau de Cologne for my handbag. I am trying to find Luces Jersey Eau de Cologne but think it is a lost cause. Was there anything more delightful than progressing a litytle further on to de Gruchy’s Arcade and the tea room next to ‘hats’. Can you just imagine carpeted stairs in any of the plastic shops available today. I miss my Island more than I can say but it is gone I am afraid and in its place is something tawdry and not worth a remembrance. That is your family’s true legacy. We remember. Lasting memory is not for the Jersey of today but it will return. Thankyou. My Aunt and Uncle were Sweets of Colomberie. Do you remember the scent of the wallflowers wafting down from Howard Davids Park? Jill Harris

  • Hil

    How wonderful to discover someone who loves and knows Jersey as well as we do. Reading Jill’s comments brings back even more memories. How I would love a stick of frozen eau de cologne too! My sister and I used to practise upstairs amongst all those glorious scents… and we sometimes had tea with our grandmother in those tea rooms-never to be forgotten. I remember so many scents of blossoms, the fuschia hedges, the warm pink granite, the cowrie shells at la coupe, diving of the slip of St Catherine’s breakwater, the smell of vraic, tea at Mrs Amy’s, going out in Dad’s rowing boat, Dodo…Many, many memories that will never be erased and are extremely precious. Do you remember the taste of new Jersey potatoes? Even that taste has been reduced. Thank goodness for our memories and thank you, Jill, for writing. Hilary.P.S. I am Piers’ sister.

  • James Butler

    You ask what happened to Harold’s recipes, his cousin my grandmother Olive Butler nee Cooke was guardian of them. I remember spending hours reading them. Eventually I believe she gave them to Gareth Dupre

    • Dear James. How very exciting to know this. Thank you so much for responding. How did you manage to find our website? I will contact Gareth’s sons to see if they have the recipes.

      Again, thanks so much for responding. Do you live in Jersey? Piers du Pre

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