If you’ve wandered the lanes at the foot of Queens Valley Reservoir, you’ll have noticed this structure on the side of the road and probably thought ‘they should do something with that’. Thanks to the generosity of the Wheeler family, the site may now have a new lease of life under the stewardship of the National Trust for Jersey. They been gifted the building, Le Bourg, a German electrical substation, together with an adjacent agricultural field by Mrs Sue Wheeler in memory of her late husband Laurence Wheeler.
The small but distinctive building known as a “Schalthaus” (“Switchhouse”) was one of three constructed in the Island, but is the last remaining example as the others were demolished in the late 1970s. Designed by the Swiss company Brown Boveri, the building was constructed using a mix of hollow brick, red brick and reinforced concrete, in a Swiss Alpine style, in the hope of remaining inconspicuous. Its purpose was to facilitate the distribution of electricity from the coal fired power station at Tesson Mill to the quarry at Les Maltieres and the Grouville area as a whole.
(Extract from Daniel Clark’s Historical Report for the CIOS).
The building has fallen into a state of disrepair over the years being most recently used for agricultural storage including standing potatoes. However, a number of generous Islanders have already helped to raised £30,000 towards immediate repairs and it is hoped to instigate a programme of refurbishment in the near future. Longer term the Trust hopes to identify a new purpose for the building which will safeguard its historic integrity as well as deliver a sustainable future which benefits the Island. A little Airbnb perhaps?
Charles Alluto, CEO of The National Trust for Jersey, commented:
“The National Trust for Jersey is very grateful to Mrs Wheeler for donating this important historic building to the Trust, together with the generous donors who are helping to fund emergency repairs. Whilst we already care for a number of Occupation structures, we were keen to ensure that this particular building was safeguarded given its distinctive architectural style, rarity and landscape value. It is one of those buildings which everyone knows of but very few appreciate its purpose or history.
We very much see this as a long term project and look forward to working with the Planning Department to find a solution to its future care and maintenance”