19th CENTURY COTTAGE REMAINS UNDER THREAT
La Fantaisie, a 200-year old Cottage Ornée in St Saviour remains under threat despite a States decision to protect it. Urged on by Save Jersey's Heritage the States threw out an attempt by Deputy Lyndon Farnham to "de-list" it. After a three hour debate the proposition was overwhelmingly defeated by 27 votes to 15.
The charming building is owned by the Seymour Hotel Group and sits in the grounds of the Merton Hotel. Despite protests from the company, Jersey's Planning & Environment Committee officially listed the house last year.
Deputy Farnham, who has since left the States but who, at the time of the Debate had responsibilty for the Island's tourism industry, wanted the States Assembly to reverse that decision because, he claimed, it is inhibiting plans for the whole site. In a comprehensive report, the Environment and Public Services Committee challenged the Deputy's claims and set out new evidence that the cottage is much older than originally thought. Where Deputy Farnham believes that it was constructed around 100 years ago, the Committee has discovered paperwork which suggests that La Fantaisie was actually built in 1819. In February 1823 John Hammond wrote to his uncle, Nicholas Hammond, in Maryland, USA: "Since James’ last [letter], many changes have taken place in the family; we were then still together at Petite Ménage; but now we are greatly dispersed owing to two marriages – that of my brother James; the other of my brother Thomas. After James’ return from France he disposed of Petite Ménage to some advantage and now occupies a small cottage he built about 4 years ago at a small distance from Town, which he calls Fantaisie.” The Committee's historic buildings team has also discovered that, much later, La Fantaisie was the home of Bailiff John Hammond, whose portrait hangs in the Royal Court. He lived there from 1864 until his death in 1880. Thirteen years later, his grandson sold the property to Captain Henry James Fairlie. Fairlie sold it to Philippe Robin in 1899 but it was sold back to him in 1915. Merton Hotels Limited purchased La Fantaisie in 1937 and it has been in their ownership since that time.
In its report, the Planning Committee goes on to make a powerful defence of its listing of La Fantaisie last year, against the wishes of Seymour Hotels. "In outward appearance, La Fantaisie has the superficial characteristics of an Edwardian house, with its mock timber-framed dormers and tiled roof. There is a modern addition to the west, built in 1982. But the curious external verandahs supported by cast-iron columns are inconsistent with Edwardian design and the interior of the house points to a much earlier origin. All buildings can be dated by a careful assessment of their layout, their construction, the architectural treatment of features and details, and the use of materials. These can be compared with similar features and characteristics from buildings where the date is known. The detailing of the fireplaces, doors, and windows in the original part of La Fantaisie place the date of the house firmly in the early 19th century. But the general shape and form of the house is quite different from the classical villas and terrace houses which were commonplace during this period. It is clear, on examination, that La Fantaisie is an early example of a house in the Cottage Ornée style, an architectural style which became popular in England at the end of the 18th century as part of the wider interest in romanticism and the Picturesque. Few houses of this period in the British Isles have survived, and those that do are usually protected; many are now tourist attractions. An example of this type of historic property is Houghton Lodge in Hampshire, which is now used as a hotel.
When it was first built is likely that La Fantaisie was thatched, as this material helped to create the picturesque, rural and romantic image that was so fashionable and desirable at that time. The way in which the dormer windows have been constructed, and subsequently modified, supports this view, as do fragments of straw that have survived in the roof space. A very similar building, called Manor Cottage, and now demolished, stood near to Samarès Manor and is thought also to have been built by the Hammond family who were Seigneurs of Samarès from the mid-eighteenth century. This cottage is illustrated in Figure 12. It appears that the exterior of La Fantaisie was remodelled about 100 years ago, when the roof was recovered in tiles and extensions made to the west and to the north. It is likely that this work was undertaken when the two cottages to the south (Fantaisie Lodge and Fantaisie Villa) were rebuilt by Phillipe Robin, as there are close similarities in construction and materials. Robin also owned La Fantaisie at that time.
In the light of the foregoing, there can be little doubt that La Fantaisie is a building of very considerable interest in architectural and historical terms, not just in the Jersey context but in a wider sense, and fully merits its designation as a Site of Special Interest.