Chateau La Chaire Hotel & Restaurant
La Vallee de Rozel, St Martin, Jersey, JE3 6AJwww.email@example.com
AboutIn 1986 the hotel was acquired by the Hatton Hotel Group and work began to provide en suite facilities for every bedroom which meant reducing the number to 14. The most luxurious now have spa baths and four poster beds and some of the bedrooms now also lead onto balconies.
A ground floor bedroom was taken over as an extension to the dining room with the walls being lined in oak panelling, and a new conservatory added to provide an extra area where lunches and dinners are now served. From this side of the hotel there are excellent views of the gardens and valley below.
The building as a whole is full of character with the atmosphere of a manor house. The bar is lined with oak panelling and has a fireplace as one of its features and the spacious Rococo lounge is particularly splendid with some of the finest mouldings to be seen in the Island. With cherubs and intricate scrollwork these are said to have come from a chateau outside Paris.
The hotel restaurant is open to residents and non-residents with a blend of French and English cuisine. Local seafood is especially well represented on the menu with everything from lobster, crayfish and langoustine to mussels, scallops, turbot and brill when in season. There is also a well stocked cellar.
The hotel is set in 8 1/2 acres of woodland at the end of Rozel Valley which although a little dense these days and steep sided being in a valley they offer an attractive walk and some great views over the bay of Rozel.
The grounds were once the finest gardens of their day being created in 1841 by Samuel Curtis, the famous botanist and a former director of Kew Gardens. He was also the person who first built a house on the site of La Chaire. The name means 'pulpit' and was used to describe a large rock overhanging the hillside. Little trace of this remains as it was demolished during the Napoleonic wars so that Rozel might be commanded by a battery of 24 pounders. However the site of the gun emplacement is still clearly visible.
Samuel Curtis was born in Walworth, Surrey on August 29, 1779 and by the beginning of the nineteenth century had established a nursery garden of considerable importance.It was also from here that he decided upon the publication of floral work to be illustrated from nature using full-size coloured plates of surpassing excellence.
From 1827 to 1846 he also directed the 'New Series' of the Royal Horticultural Society's Botanical Magazine with specimens from his gardens being featured in the colour plates.Painted by 2 well-known artists of that era, these plates are now in the library of the British Museum in South Kensington.
Samuel Curtis first saw La Chaire in the summer of 1841. He instantly knew this was the location he had been searching for to create his subtropical plant paradise. His search had taken him all over the British Isles, from Inverness in the north of Scotland to Dorset on the south coast of England. Until he reached La Chaire, no one location had the right combination of climate, geography, topography and geology that Curtis had been looking for. At La Chaire he found a narrow, verdant, steep-sided valley running in an east-west direction. At the eastern end of the valley lay Rozel Bay and the sea with stunning views across to St Malo and mainland France. To the west the valley wound its way through, what appeared to Curtis on first sighting, to be mountainous country which sheltered La Chaire from the full force of south-westerly winds sweeping in from the Atlantic.
A swift-running stream filled the valley bottom, emptying itself onto the shingle beach of Rozel Bay. The south-facing side of the valley was positively Mediterranean in aspect, a steep and rocky cliff face with sun-baked soil and some natural terracing. The north-facing valley side was not quite so steep and covered with lush vegetation comprising evergreen oak, Quercus ilex and Jersey elm, Ulmus x sarniensis. It had the warmth of the Mediterranean coupled with the humidity of Chile or Tasmania.
Curtis judged correctly that frost would be virtually non-existent and the bedrock, (unlike the rest of Jersey which was granite), was a soft purple conglomerate, or pudding stone, which could be penetrated and disintegrated by tree roots into soil eminently suited to the growing of subtropical shrubs. Curtis had indeed found his garden.
Curtis started work on La Chaire almost immediately, although he did not move permanently to Jersey until 1852. On the south side of the valley he built a small square house under the cliffs shelter and began creating a series of paths and terraces leading to the summit. At the summit was a rocky outcrop, where during the Napoleonic wars a gun battery had been built. This outcrop became known locally as the "Pulpit" rock, and it is said that Curtis preached the gospel to his gardeners, toiling away on the slopes below him, from this point. Whether this increased their productivity no one knows, but the gardens of La Chaire certainly begun to take shape relatively quickly. Letters sent by Curtis to Hooker at Kew during 1841-42 talk about the planting of deep shelterbelts of æIlexÆ, (evergreen oak, Quercus ilex), at both the eastern and western extremities of the garden.
Samuel Curtis died in La Chaire on January 6 1860 and he and his daughter Harriet are both buried at St Martins Church. Towards the end of the 19th century the property was bought by a Mr Fletcher who planned grandiose alterations. He pulled down Curtis' house and built the present one in its place. He also organised a complex system for watering the gardens.
The Fletchers lived there in great style with the house having marble floors and its own private ballroom; however after some time the house and gardens deteriorated due to financial problems. After the first world war the property was bought by a Mrs Rose but by then there were few survivors of the Curtis regime. One of these was the outstanding pink Magnolia - now on adjoining property - which is the largest of its kind in Europe.
In 1932 La Chaire was bought by a Mr A V Nicolle and during his tenure the garden once again became a place of beauty with Mrs Nicolle seeking expert advice from Kew.
During the German Occupation the house was empty with one gardener in charge. He was disgusted when the Germans dug up, for transportation to Germany, some of the prized trees, a Magnolia Campbellii amongst them. However many of them had their roots damaged in the operation and it is thought that they never flourished in their new home. There is also a story that a wartime plane lies buried somewhere in the grounds.
After the war La Chaire was bought by Major and Mrs Henry Wigram who were the first to change its use to a hotel. After a season of operation they were joined by 2 other members of their family, Major and Mrs C Clyde Smith.
The hotel was sold a few years later and from then to the present day has had a number of owners and has also changed use for a period back to a private residence. It was turned back into a hotel by Mr Nigel Humphreys, Mr John Brewster and Lady Ducros who ran it until 1986 when it was bought by the Hatton Hotel Group.
The gardens make an interesting walk for holidaymakers and locals as well as providing an excellent view of the Ecrehous and coast of France.The grounds are also home to a variety of birds and wildlife including Kingfisher, Nightingales and Red Squirrels.