Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Brooks' Journey to Jersey

A week's holiday in the delightful Channel Island of Jersey recently allowed us to do some on-site family research. John and Elizabeth Brooks appear to have moved from London to Jersey during the 1830's. The reason for this move are far from clear. Was John's radical printing press getting him into hot water? Was it a commercial decision as John turned more to wholesale stationary? Or was it to aid the convalescence of their daughter Harriet?

The notes made from Elizabeth Brooks’ diary show that she was visiting Jersey from the middle of the eighteen thirties. This period also ties in roughly with the time we stop finding books printed by her husband John Brooks from his Oxford Street premises. The census of 1841 shows John, Elizabeth, daughter Harriet and their son Vincent’s first wife Mary all living in the High Street of St. Aubins in the south west of Jersey. Elizabeth’s diary tells us that Harriet was christened on 13th May 1841 in St. Aubins although we could find no official record of this event.

The next diary entry of note refers to ‘taking Millbrook Cottage Xmas 1845’. Millbrook is on the south coast of Jersey just outside St.Helier. A librarian at the Société Jersiasie informed me that, at this time, the Millbrook area was just starting to develop with fashionable houses set amongst the sand dunes. This move closer to St.Helier links in with John Brooks’ purchase of some property in the Caledonia Place area of St.Helier, down on the dock side. The descriptions found in the Jersey Almanacs change over the years but list John Brooks as either a Wholesale Stationer, Paper Merchant or a Paper Bag Manufacturer, but always in Caledonia Place (pictured below). His son-in-law Samuel Buttfield is also listed as a Merchant operating from two doors down the street.
Caledonia Place St.Helier
The Brooks’ then made a move into St.Helier itself and in the 1851 census we find them at King’s Cliff. Again, according to the librarian, a very smart and very English part of town. We know that they lived at number eight but on our brief visit we were unable to locate which house this was. However the picture below should give you an idea of the area. King's Cliff (now Lower)

At 5.30 am on 11th January 1855 Elizabeth Brooks passed away at the age of 66. She was buried at the Almorah Cemetery a short distance from the house. One of the first places we visited was this cemetery but our grave hunt proved fruitless. Two days later the ever-helpful librarian at the Société Jersiaise searched her records and found a cemetery map and grid reference. That afternoon, crawling on all fours, we uncovered Elizabeth's headstone hidden engulfed by a holly bush. The picture shows us taking a rubbing of the headstone once we had given the tree a good trim. Grave rubbing Almorah

1861 finds John Brooks living with his daughter Harriet’s family in Buckingham Lodge, Duhamel Place, which is pictured below.
John Brooks made it to 84 years and 9 months before passing away at mid-day 12th January 1867. He joined his wife’s side, in Almorah and we hoped to see his named carved below that of his wife. Unfortunately the lower part of the headstone was too badly worn to read anything.Buckingham Lodge Duhamel Place

When John died he was living at 16 Regent Road and had been there with Harriet’s family since at least 1865 when he wrote his Will. With Regent road running in the shadow of St. Helier’s Regent Fort the house at first appears nothing special. However, reading a plaque on a neighbouring building describing the views of open country across to the coast that such properties enjoyed back in the eighteen century made us realise that this was the back of the house. Walking through an archway away from the road we viewed the house in it’s fully glory (trying to imagine it without the car park and secondary flats that have been build on the back garden). In it's day it must of been one of the finest houses in St.Helier.
16 Regent Road St.Helier
On John’s death the business passed to his son Frederick. Records from the Jersey archive hint at trouble in 1875. These legal documents are handwritten in eighteen century French legal jargon and have been a pain to translate. From what we can just about comprehend in 1875 the business was in debt and all the Brooks children, Vincent, Frederick, Harriet and Thomas, renounced their inheritance to escape the effects of bankruptcy.

Of John and Elizabeth's four children, Vincent stayed in London carrying on the printing business that later turned into Vincent Brooks, day and Son. Frederick, who had previously been out in Quebec, settled down in St.Helier to run a boarding house first at number 6 and then at number 3 Elizabeth Place. Harriet’s husband Samuel Buttfield died at the age of 43 and she returned to London to be mentioned in Frederick Vincent Brooks’ biography who wrote “it is a joy to know [she] is still living as Mrs Buttfield at Bush Hill Park, Enfield.” We have no trace of Thomas except from an old family tree which has him married to a ‘Kitty’.

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