Jersey’s Markets – Serving the community for over 200 years
2003 was the 200th anniversary of the market moving to its present site from the Royal Square, ‘Le Vièr Marchi’ - the old market place - in 1803. Jersey’s Central Market is the vibrant heart of St Helier, the Victorian covered market replacing its predecessor in 1883.
Jersey’s Public Markets were first established in the late 1500s and are an important and integral part of our heritage and a source of pride to the people of Jersey. Markets are special places and here is a piece of Victoriana of unique quality and ambience.
Where to find the Markets
Click the map above to visit our Maps page for downloadable maps of St Helier and the whole Island.
The Central Market is open Monday to Saturday 07:30 - 17:30 (but closes at 14:00 on Thursdays), and between the 36 market stalls cover almost every retail experience - everything from antiques to flowers, fresh vegetables to jewellery.
The more modern Beresford Market (or Fish Market as it is more commonly known) is justly popular for its high-quality produce and the atmosphere generated by its hard-working fishmongers. The Fish Market also opens Monday to Saturday 07:30 - 17:30 with early closing on Thursday.
Tel: +44 (0)1534 448180
The Central Market, St Helier, and Beresford Market - the ‘Fish Market’
The Central Market is colourful and always busy - and no wonder!
Sheltered beneath the high-domed roof, the splendidly exuberant fountain is always surrounded with a stunning array of over-flowing flower stalls, their fragrance floating on the air. All around there are fresh fruit and vegetable stalls full of local and imported produce. There are several butchers, bakery and cake shops, with a variety of specialist suppliers around the perimeter where you will find wines and chocolate, a delicatessen and the dairy shop, as well as other unusual goods - all combining to create a cosmopolitan and modern covered shopping area with a difference.
Here, you will surely be able to find those traditional, if strange-sounding, dietary desires of islanders - des mèrvelles - Jersey Wonders, (small rich cakes); de nièr beurre - Black Butter, (a traditional apple preserve, a legacy of the cider-making industry); and a bag of mixed, dried beans with which to cook pais au fou - beans in the oven, or Bean-Jar - a warming winter dish, in which the essential ingredient is a pig’s trotter, to make the rich gravy. You can still buy the ideal accompaniment - a traditional ‘cabbage loaf’ - bread baked wrapped in cabbage leaves. The dairy provides the products of the famous Jersey cow - milk, cream, butter and yoghourt - or you might like to try the flavours of the delicious ice cream.
Among the other shops you will find gifts as well as more mundane articles; items for needlework and knitting; antiques and modern knick-knacks. You can buy garlic and ginger; freshly grown herbs; a pot of Jersey honey, or a bulb of the exotic Amaryllis Belladonna, brought from its native South Africa to Jersey where it flourishes as the ‘Jersey’ lily.
The Market is the home of the Trading Standards Office, which has officers responsible for inspecting sales equipment such as petrol pumps and bar optics, as well as scales. They also monitor the standard, quality and safety of goods and packaging, and the legality of merchandising. The clock-face is above ‘Weights & Measures’ - formerly known as the ‘Queen’s Weights’ and the historic function of the department. You can check your personal height and weight, details of which are discretely given, written on an official slip of paper!
The Post Office
Next door is the Post Office, where Jersey’s own stamps can be purchased, as well as all the usual services. The 19th c. hexagonal Penfold pillar-box reminds us that Jersey was the first place ever to have posting boxes which were introduced in 1852. This one is conveniently placed for the shopper, as are the public toilets nearby.
A changing cast of individual characters over time has given the market part of its charm - they all know each other and many of their regular customers, too, and often there is friendly banter. It can be chilly in winter, despite the addition of some windbreaks along the railings, so the stallholders wrap up well - hats and mittens are in evidence, and no doubt there are hidden thermal layers too!
Emigrants settling in the island from Portugal and regional Britain and Ireland as well as France, Italy and other places have added their accents and flavours to the atmosphere.
There are 45 tenanted stalls under the supervision of the Market Inspector who is responsible for the day to day running of the market, and its cleanliness. The administration is part of the States’ Environment and Public Services Department. It is a much-loved institution which attracts many visitors and provides local shoppers with a friendly focus to the shopping centre.
The Market opens early each morning from Monday to Saturday. A bell is rung daily at 5.30pm (2.00pm Thursdays) to warn shoppers that the gates are about to close.
Both the Beresford and Central markets have cafés and fast, fresh food counters, and naturally, there are a number of pubs, wine bars and restaurants in the vicinity.
The streets in the neighbourhood make up a ‘gastronomic quarter’ of the town, and culinary delights are spread island-wide.
Then as now
A guide produced in 1833 said “...the Market, which for order, arrangement and plenteous supplies is scarcely excelled in any quarter of His Majesty’s domains, is well worthy of a visit”. This is as true today as when it was first published.
Beresford Market - The ‘Fish Market’
Across Beresford Street is the walk-through Beresford Market, better known as ‘the fish market’. Built in 1841, restored in 1873, 1936 and again in 1972, this market is much smaller now than in past decades, reduced to 10,000 square feet, but it still provides a feast for the eyes as well as the table with fresh local fish, and other imported varieties.
Only a strict vegetarian could resist the pleasures of lobster, crab or prawns, although not everyone fancies every kind of shellfish, or fish such as octopus and squid ! There are locally farmed oysters and mussels; shiny, striped, fresh mackerel; fish of all kinds according to season - all manner of piscean pleasures - everything from king prawns to kippers!
Picture the Past
An old photograph on the wall pictures demure ladies in long skirts and straw boaters - remember, however, that these were the fish-wives, with sharp knives - and sharp tongues, no doubt! They are surrounded by conger eels, a much prized catch, once the prerogative of medieval kings who taxed the poor fishermen. The firm, oily meat was regarded as a delicacy. Ancient skills, perhaps introduced by the Viking invaders or their descendant Normans, meant it could be salted and dried, and preserved throughout the winter when fishing was difficult. In the 17th century, the Island was described as the ‘Kingdom of Congers’.
Local fishermen, having sold the best cut of meat - the entire tail - were left with just the bony conger’s head - and a jaw full of teeth that could still snap when severed from its body! But the conger’s head is the chief ingredient for the fish soup, rich and full-flavoured, which local tradition decrees you must decorate with a scattering of marigold petals. (Calendula).
Here you will find the fish that made the Jerseymen’s fortunes, in the days when the merchants’ little ships crossed the Atlantic for cod. The fish were salted, dried in the open-air and packed in barrels for export all around the Atlantic shores - to Spain and Portugal, to
South America and the West Indies, where the fish was a staple commodity used for trade in sugar, coffee and mahogany, which in turn was brought home to Jersey. Salt codfish is still popular, particularly with the people of Portuguese and Madeiran descent who have settled here over the past fifty years or so.
As well as fishmongers, there are other specialist shops - one with luxury foods and cheese, and fine wines and spirits to enhance your menu, another is a supplier of every need for the angler - so you could catch your own!
The Central Market - opened on 9th September, 1883
The Halkett Place market site was redeveloped in 1881 - the year of the centenary of the Battle of Jersey. An architectural competition was held, and construction took place over two years to the plans of T W Helliwell, of Helliwell & Bellamy, of Brighouse in Yorkshire. The market, which covers an area of 33,600 square feet, is enclosed within railings set in gabled granite arches. There are seven gated entrances. The ironwork was supplied by J Dyson of Elland, another Yorkshire firm. Thirty-seven cast iron pillars topped with coats-of-arms set in ornamental struts support the octagonal glazed roof. Modern, light-weight panels now replace the original 80 tons of glass, but still admit the light, creating a bright and airy space. Goods are shaded from hot sun by slates which cover the south-facing pitches of the roof.
Local craftsmen played their part, with Jersey granite being used for the fine exterior where the arched stone gables are topped with fancy iron finials, providing attractive façades on two streets. Beresford Street, named in honour of the 19th century Lord Beresford, who was the last Governor of Jersey; (since when, a Lieutenant Governor has been appointed), and Halkett Place, and Halkett Street, running parallel, east and west of the market, were named in honour of Sir Colin Halkett, hero of the Peninsular War and Waterloo, and a long-serving Lieutenant Governor of the island in the years of peace that followed.
200 year-old gates
Two original pairs of gates were placed in the south entrance to the old ‘Pork Market’, in Hilgrove Street, and in the east, Market Street, entrance. Look for these gates which are works of art, decorated with colourful birds, animals and bunches of grapes dividing the iron bars. These are the work of local iron-founder George Le Feuvre, (the name means ‘the smith’) to the design of Philippe Le Sueur, the States’ Architect, and were made for the earlier market on this site.
Another local man, Abraham Viel, installed the fountain, cast at the Glasgow Sun Works foundry of Geo. Smith. It is unique and extraordinary: fifteen feet high, three tiers cascading into a deep pool below, with delightful cherubic figures leaning on water-jars, ready to disturb the gold-fish with their paddles. Some like to toss a coin into the fountain’s pool - perhaps with a wish - and the money is gathered up in aid of local charities.
The fountain, originally placed to provide a water source, (thought to be on the site of an old vivier or fish pond on private land), creates a colourful focal point which delights visitors of all ages. Take time to explore all around the market to find the wonderful black and white photographs taken on glass plates which show the market in its early days, with the fountain gushing, or clad like a wedding-cake in winter ice!
The Central Market is bounded on the south by Hilgrove Street, later to become nick-named ‘French Lane’ from the numbers of Breton farm-workers that gathered there. At that time, many of Jersey’s shopkeepers would have spoken French as readily - or more readily - than English.
The official language of Jersey had always been French – the laws, government and business were all conducted in French, and it was only in the 19th century when more people travelled that English gradually became more prevalent, first in the town, but by the mid-20th century, was universally understood - although not the first language of everyone!
Many families who had settled in Jersey over the centuries had come from France - Huguenot Protestant refugees, and French Loyalists fleeing the guillotine at the time of the Revolution; these new residents contributed much to the island and its prosperity.
‘French Lane’ remains, narrow and cobbled, but there are only the haunts that were frequented by these seasonal workers... and their ghosts...
St Helier - a Mediaeval market place
The mediaeval town of St Helier grew up on the seashore long before there was a harbour, with its back to the heights of the Town Hill, Le Mont de la Ville, which overlooked it, and provided grazing for sheep as well as a ‘lookout platform’ long before it was fortified. The Parish Church of St Helier grew over the years to serve the occupants of the small town, with narrow roads and houses clustered around an open space which was roughly triangular in shape - today’s Broad Street and Royal Square.
The first shops would have been stalls set up in this area, which was part of the Fief du Prieur du L’Islet, possibly at the behest of the Prior who would have been an important figure, and one to benefit from granting such a privilege. In time, the market was probably licenced by the King, and in the days of Edward I, II and III, represented by Justices who regularly visited the Islands replenishing the Royal Exchequer as they confirmed ancient privileges, liberties and franchises, including markets and fairs, and licence to trade, as well as fulfiling their judicial rôle.
The Corn Market
Gradually, trade was focussed around the Corn Market - the Halle au Blé - which was rebuilt near the church at the end of the market place, replacing an old wooden shed, at the end of the 17th century. This was done at the expense of Suzanne Dumaresq, Dame de la Haule, in exchange for permission to build a house above it. The fine granite vaulted arches remain, and the building is now used as the Registrar’s Office. The Corn Market ceased when imported wheat became the norm, rather than home-grown.
Le Vieux Marché - The old market place
At the eastern end of the market place (now the Royal Square) lived Jean Chevalier, a Vingtenier (parish official) and Surveillant (church warden) who kept a diary of events during the English Civil War when the future King Charles II twice visited Jersey during his exile, and when the market place would have thronged with Royalists and courtiers. Known as ‘Lé Vièr Marchi’ in the vernacular, the old market continued for a long time in the space which today we know as the Royal Square.
The Butter Market - the Marché au Lard - was opposite the Corn Market, and nearby were the butcher’s stalls, the Halle au Viande, or ‘shambles’. In 1668 the market was paved for the first time. Saturday was the busy market day, with goods being brought into the town from outlying areas. The church bell rang to announce the opening of the market. The market opened at 6.00am in summer, 8.00am in winter.
The opening of the Corn market was indicated by the ringing of a bell by the Market Inspector. Strict regulations were enforced concerning the price of wheat which was linked to an official rate. Measures of capacity were specified for grain, apples, coal and liquids - the cabot, demycabot and sixtonnier, and pots, quarts, pints and noggins. Farmers had always weighed their produce on a balance using real stone weights. La verge, the yard, was standardised at three feet, rather than four - but in those days there were only eleven inches to a Jerseyman’s foot!
Bakers were obliged to make loaves of regulation size and the price was fixed. Butchers had to obey the terms of their licence, and were forbidden to smoke in the Meat Market. A system of fines to be levied for infractions was laid down in Law. Taverners were charged to keep at least two beds for strangers, and not to permit drunkenness or fighting, not to serve the poor, vagabonds or idlers, but to inform the police of any rowdy behaviour. The Bailiff or his Lieutenant had the onerous duty of tasting all wine before it was offered for sale!
In the market place
The fine houses facing the Royal Court, Les Maison du Marché, were built at the end of the 17th century by two generations of the Patriache family. The two public houses and other buildings in the area are of a similar age. Some house-holders provided an area for the market stalls along the front of their property.
The statue of King George II (cast in lead to save on costs, and gilded), was placed in the centre of the Square in 1751. It was given a new pedestal of best Jersey granite in 1819. It is on the site of the old market cross, (which has long since disappeared), the stone platform is a reminder of the time when the Vicomte (a States’ official) would read out proclamations in the market place.
Prisoners, marched to the Court from the old castle at Gorey, guarded by halbardiers, would await trial in a wooden cage nearby. Punishment - for offences including adultery – included flogging, from the Court House to the Church door ! There was a pillory in the market, and stocks in the churchyard awaited any beggars who came from another parish. More serious criminals would be hanged on the hill to the west of the town, known as Mont Patibulaire - ‘Sinister Hill’. In 1648 two ‘witches’ were strangled and burnt in the market place, such were the superstitions of the age. A prison was eventually built in the Town, and gradually conditions improved.
Battle in the market place
On 6th January, 1781, the French were routed in the Battle of Jersey, the action taking place all around the statue of the King in the market place. This famous victory is remembered with great honour - the pub in the corner of the Royal Square is named ‘The Peirson’ after Major Francis Peirson, the young hero who refused to surrender, but paid for the victory with his life. A stray musket ball lodged in the King’s statue was not discovered until it was sent off to be re-gilded for the Millennium ! The familiar outline can be seen in Copley’s famous painting ‘The Death of Major Peirson’ in the Tate Gallery, and which is reproduced in miniature on the Jersey £10 note.
Copies of the painting of “The Death of Major Peirson” can be seen locally. In the Royal Court, by William Holyoake, and a smaller, earlier picture by P Wright in the Town Hall.
The Picket House
With an ever-increasing garrison of British troops during the years of the Napoleonic wars, it was necessary to install a Picket House to maintain order, and this attractive little brick building with its elegant colonnade to shelter the guard remains in the corner of the Royal Square. It is now a Police Station.
Elie Le Gros’ fine sundial picked out in colour is the only public memorial to a talented man, mathematician and inventor, civil engineer and cartographer, whose best known work is a detailed, early 19th century map of the ever-expanding town. It is interesting that the inscription is in English. The population was increasing, with many half-pay officers and others settling in the Island. A Town Crier was available - and at one time there were two - to make public announcements, in both English and French.
To market, to market...
Near the Royal Square, old names of streets such as Coin-ès-Anes recall the places where donkeys were kept, or pigs in another corner. Church Street, sloping between the buildings, acquired the name Rue Trousse Cotillon, suggesting that it was necessary “to tuck up petticoats” rather than trail in the mire ! Crossing the road to the market place from the church must have been unpleasant, with an open watercourse adding to the stickiness created underfoot in those days of horse transport. It was filthy!
The market place grew too large and busy, causing disruption - such as pigs careering around the cemetery - and there was a lack of dignity and decorum outside the Court House and Church. A new site had to be found as the population continued to increase and the town grew in size. In the days when produce came live to the market, it would have been noisy too, with poultry and other livestock competing with the cries of the vendors.
1803 - The New Market
The noise - and the smell - became a nuisance, and so the authorities - the Comité du Marché - eventually found a spacious site on marshy ground which was purchased in 1796 from the Fiott family, and the first formal market was built in 1803, funded by seven lotteries.
In those days the market was an open-air affair, with shed roofs on hefty pillars of local granite forming an arcade surrounding the gated compound. It was modelled on the market in the City of Bath. According to John Stead’s Picture of Jersey written in 1809, “It forms an extensive oblong, the front is an elegant entrance of three gates, four massy stone columns with an iron palisade running the whole length of the area... the whole paved with Swanage stone... order and cleanliness prevail throughout”. Thomas Lyle described it as “one of the finest markets in Europe”. There were forty stalls which were let according to a Law of 1808, for a rental of 6d per day - in old Jersey money. The market was open daily.
Meat - on the hoof
The cattle market which had long been conducted on the seashore below the Town Church now moved into the town, and was held nearby, first in the open, an area which is now Cattle Street, and later, in a closed yard. Minden Street multi-storey car-park is now on the site of this cattle market.
Strict laws on the importation of cattle were introduced to ensure the purity of the island’s breed of dairy cattle. In the heyday of small, familyrun farm-holdings, every farmer kept a few pigs which were milk-fed and the highly-prized meat was in demand, with part of the market being designated ‘the Pork Market’. All fishermen were bound to sell their catch in the market.
A Market for all seasons
A separate market was held at St Aubin, the first record being in 1583. Monday is recorded as being the market day there. A market was built there in 1771, and reconstructed in 1826 with the proceeds of lotteries. There was also accommodation for the St Brelade Fire Engine and lock-up cells for prisoners. Part of the premises were later demolished to allow the railway track to be extended. The remainder, much rebuilt, is now a bank.
During the Governorship of Sir Walter Raleiigh a ‘soldiers market’ had been established at Gorey, at the gate of Mont Orgueil Castle. There was also a market for Elizabeth Castle. From the 17th century, knitted goods were also sold in the market - thousands of pairs of stockings being bought by merchants for export to France and Spain, and waistcoats for the English market. Islanders became expert knitters, and that is one of the ways in which Jersey gave its name to the world.
The pound in your pocket
From the bartering and exchange of mediaeval times, the use of currency gradually became commonplace. French coins were introduced by the merchant traders - the écu and smaller coins, doubles and liards, mixing happily with shillings (called chelins), pennies, ha’pennies and farthings. The British garrison were paid in British coin which was brought to the Island in ships. Travellers used whatever came to hand without ever needing to exchange it. The market place handled a wide variety of money from anywhere and every-where, valuing the metal content and weight, whether gold, silver or copper. There were duits and florins from Holland, Spanish reales, as well as golden guineas. At one time in the 18th century there was a riot caused by the devaluation of the liard. During the wars there was a shortage of French money, so coin tokens were issued by many traders.
By the 19th century the States had adopted British Standard currency, although it was some time before the exchange rates settled down. As the States tried to relate to both the French Louis d’Or and the new British standard £, there were thirteen Jersey pennies to a shilling! Looking back to the ancient hoards of coins, from the Bronze Age, Gaulish, Roman and other early valuables found buried in the Island, to the currency and notes produced by the Island’s authorities for almost 200 years, it is remarkable to see how the Island of Jersey has responded to economic changes.
The market place has also evolved to meet changing needs, and now celebrates over 200 years of serving the community, with the regulation and sale of fresh produce available to all throughout the years.