38, High Street

20th November 2015

From the Star 9 December 1904. 'Cohu's new establishment in High Street.' What is now Burton's and Townhouse was once a very grand residence.

After having been for many years in the Grange Road, opposite the College gates, Mr and Mrs Cohu have removed their high-class dress and mantle and millinery establishment to High-street, and are now occupying the premises which were so long in the occupation of Mr Thomas Turner. These premises up to a few months ago were used by Mr Le Messurier who has gone elsewhere. Since his lease expired the premises now occupied by Mr and Mrs Cohu have undergone extensive alterations which have adapted them most perfectly to the purposes to which they are now devoted. The newly-restored premises it might be stated here were thrown open to business only last Monday. The first thing which strikes the visitor is the two large windows, each of which consists of one huge sheet of plate-glass. The back of these windows is ornamented with handsome screens of the same pattern as those used in the leading Parisian millinery establishments and at Redfern's, in London. Moreover the side of each window is handsomely decorated in Lincrusta Walton. The shop itself is a splendid apartment, deep and lofty, and amply lighted by many windows. At the end of the shop a cosy office to counting-house has been fitted up. The counter which runs around the shop is of solid mahogany and relects much credit upon Mr I C Fuzzey, of Mill-street, at whose establishment it was made.

The workrooms are at the rear of the shop, and separated from it by a yard. These workrooms were formerly stores, but by judicious alterations and panelling them around with light-coloured wood two large, well-lighted and warm apartments have been adapted. Here, yesterday, in the upper of the two workrooms between 20 and 30 young women were busy dressmaking under the directions of two women, each of whom have been with Mrs Cohu for 25 years. One of these attends to the bodices, the other to the skirts. The lower work room is devoted to the millinery and cutting-out departments.

One of the most interesting rooms in the splendid old house now occupied by Mr and Mrs Cohu—once the official residence of the Governors of Guernsey—is the showroom which is over the shop. This department, it may be stated, is under the direction of a young London lady whose services have been specially engaged to superintend it. Needless to say that the goods are most attractively displayed, and that the utmost attention is shown to all who pay the show room a visit of inspection.

Apart from business purposes this room should prove a great attraction to all who combine love of dress with admiration of the antique. For it must be known that the room, with practically no alteration, is the same as it was 125 years ago. The ceiling is a work of art. As for the fireplace, with its white and coloured marble, and carvings in wood, it is undoubtedly one of the finest extant in the British dominions. So lovely is it considered by a well-known lady here who takes intense interest in the archaeology and ancient history of the island that she has had the fireplace photographed to be reproduced in a London art newspaper. The room is panelled all around, and the skirting boards and cornices have all been carved with the same exquisite taste which charcterises the work of the artist who executed it throughout the house—from basement to top-floors. 

Then, again, the room has a great historical association. As we have said before the house was formerly the official residence of the Governors of Guernsey. In the year 1786, on the 7th June, Prince William Henry, then a midshipman, and afterwards William IV, came to the island with his vessel, HMS Hebe. In honour of the occasion a grand ball, without supper, was given by the gentlemen residents of Guernsey. The ball took place in the apartment now occupied by Mrs Cohu's show room, Prince Henry conferring the honour upon several young Guernsey ladies by dancing with them. The Governor at that time was Lieut.-Col. William Brown.¹

A few more notes about this rare and beautiful house may be of interest.

In the 17th century the house belonged to Pierre Henry, son of Abraham, who had married Marie Bonamy. Their daughter, Marie Henry, who was eventually their sole heiress, married William Brock, son of William, who in 1724 or 1726 seems to have turned the old tenements into stores and added new ones. In 1761, as appears from documents—corroborated by the initials W B, 1761—which existed on the pump in the yard, the actual dressed stone house was erected. For this purpose it is said the stones which had been prepared by Mr Andros for rebuilding his house at Anneville were purchased.  Marie Brock inherited the house and married Jean Le Marchant, and it is due to the good taste of this couple that the interior of the house was so beautifully decorated throughout, and which remains to this day a monument to their artistic instincts. The house was afterwards sold.

The original granite pillars and porch (with shield in centre) of the doorway were removed when the ground floor of the house was turned in to a shop, and may now be seen at the entrance of the mission room next door to Mr F G Fuzzey, Bordage.

In every respect Mr and Mrs Cohu are to be congratulated upon acquiring this fine and historical old building. We trust that their enterprise of bringing the shop into line with the requirements of the day and adding a high class drapery department to their well-known and largely patronised millinery and mantle establishment will meet with the success which it is due to it.

The alterations to the workroom and general contract were carried out by Mr T Cohu.

The use of these apartments as the Governor's residence was commonly held as fact but has yet to be proved by documentary evidence. Edith Carey wrote a letter to the newspaper following the publication of this article. She suggested that the ball of 1786, which took place on the second visit of Prince William Henry, was held at the Assembly Rooms, which had been in operation for around six years at that time, and that the ball to celebrate William's first, surprise, visit, in 1765, might well have been held at the High Street house. She relates the well-known story that in 1765 the proprietress of the only inn in the town, shocked at the unexpected arrival, sent the royal visitor to the Lieutenant-Governor's house. He (Sir John Mylne) thought that his house in the Bordage was inappropriate for such a grand visitor, and sent him on again to his 'friend Dr Saumarez at the Plaiderie,' who lived in the house 'now known as Broughton's Hotel,' that is, the present Moore's Hotel. 

The news of the Duke's arrival having spread through the island, the town was hastily decorated, and a ball was given on the same evening. Possibly in this instance tradition may be right in saying that it was held in the house in High Street, then occupied by Mr William Brock. All I know of the ball is that the Duke opened it with Mrs Brabazon, a lady whose maiden name was Charlotte Le Marchant, and who was sister to his hostess, Mrs Matthew de Saumarez. [The Star 12 December 1904.] 

The granite-fronted house, now Turner's 'Victoria House,' was once belonging to the Brock family, having been built by John Brock, who also erected John Elisha Tupper and John Collings' houses, now the Yacht Hotel. The front of Turner's house, of blue granite, had an elegant doorway pillared with an escutcheon on the lintel containing the arms of the Andros family. This stone font was worked at St Sampson's for the family of Fouaschin [EC: Andros, TMW De Guérin's note] for the erection of a house of note at their family seat at Anneville. From some cause or other their intention of building the mansion [was abandoned] after all the front ashlar stones had been prepared. The stones were purchased by Mr Brock and they were used for his house in High Street, which was afterwards bought by Mr P Grut, Davey &c. The doorway was subsequently sold and erected at the Bordage, where it now forms the principal entrance to the furnishing warehouse of Mr A Masters, belonging to Mr Elias J Guerin of Mount Durant. [From the Lukis MSS, Edith Carey's Scrapbook 2, c 1864.]


¹ See At their Majesties' Service, by Richard Graham, Sark: Gateway Publishing, 2015, for William Brown and John Mylne as Lieutenant-Governors.