Situated at the top of St Aubin's High Street, Hotel La Tour offered some of the best views of the harbour, fort and St Aubin's Bay. It closed after the 2011 season and at the beginning of 2013 planning approval was given for the demolition of the hotel and its replacement by five homes.
Dating back to the 17th century, Hotel La Tour was originally a merchant's house and until 1751 was owned by the Martel family, who founded the famous Martell cognac brand. The distinctive tower was added in the mid-19th century and, perhaps due to its breathtaking views over the old port, La Tour first became a hotel in the 1920s.
Before it closed it had 30 rooms over three floors, with all but three rooms having views of the harbour.
From the hotel's former website
The oldest house in the High Street?
The merchants and ship-owners of St Aubin, using the sheltered anchorage, built their houses (including La Tour) close to the shore from early times, with buildings dating back to the early 17th century. The original south facing house is over 300 years old.
La Maison Martel
In the mid 18th century the house was La Maison Martel. The owner, Philip Martel was a relative of the famous Jean Martel (1694 - 1753) who emigrated to France and established the famous Martell Cognac brand that still bears his name. He also exported vast quantities of hand-knitted Jersey stockings. Philip Martel went bankrupt in 1751 and the house (which is currently Hotel La Tour) was sold.
Mr Brines' Ropewalk
In the 19th century, La Maison Martel was owned by Mr William Brine who also owned the house to the east of La Tour, La Corderie and the land down to the sea. The name La Corderie recalls the rope-making industry, so vital in the age of sailing ships. The land in front off the buildings along the cliff was the ropewalk.
St Aubin's School
Miss Esther Brine, the daughter of the prosperous rope-maker, married schoolmaster Philip Le Maistre. He established a private grammar school for boys at La Tour, with an excellent reputation. In 1851 there were 10 pupils in residence and by 1871 there were 28 boarding pupils as well as day boys, requiring three assistant masters as well as five domestic servants to look after them.
The Building of the Tower
The name, La Maison Martel, was still being used in the mid-19th century. When Philip Le Maistre took residence, he added the distinctive tower or belvedere and the house became known as La Tour. The Tower was used as a look out and a place from which to sit and enjoy the stunning views.
An old boy remembers
A young Percy Armytage attended Mr Le Maistre's academy when his family came to live at Noirmont Manor, which stands just beyond Belcroute Bay. Percy Armytage CVO went on to become a distinguished member of the Royal Household towards the end of Queen Victoria's reign. He was involved in many Royal events such as the Jubilee and became gentleman usher to King Edward VII, eventually organising the coronation of King George V. In his memoirs he remembers Le Maistre as, "very kind and good" and, "as fine an inspiration as any headmaster could be". He recounted how each senior student had their own study at what is now the hotel. He visited the hotel again in 1924 and was delighted to be able to pick out his window with a view!
The sons of Philip and Esther Le Maistre were all academics, four also being reverend gentlemen. One of the brothers, the Reverend George John Le Maistre was perpetual curate at the former St. Aubin's Chapel, now the Anglican Church of St. Aubin-on-the-hill, as well as taking over his fathers school. The school was eventually taken over by a well known Cambridge scholar, Jerseyman John Este Vibert, and continued under his headmastership until his death in 1895.
The property then changed hands, being bought by builder John William Dart, using an inheritance from his grandfather. Mr Dart converted the school's former washhouse and laundry into an ornate cottage, Bentcliffe, across the road.
From 1900 to 1920 La Tour was occupied by a tenant. During the 1920s it became a hotel, although it was used as a nursing home during the 1930s.
The hotel was modernised and became popular holiday accommodation in the heyday of the Island's tourism industry, the 1950s and '60s.
Notes and references
- ↑ It is amazing that 11 years after the hotel closed a Google search reveals that it is still listed on a number of hotel booking websites as if it were still operating. Almost as amazing is that a review of earlier content in 2022, resulted in the updating of this page, which was created in 2011, and also suggested that the hotel was still operating
- ↑ The website address, hotellatour.com, is now for sale for $2,500
- ↑ Most would argue that the heyday of Jersey's tourism industry was the 1970s and '80s