The story of Thomas Benjamin (TB) Davis is well documented. A self-made businessman he became one of Jersey’s most famous benefactors. His son Howard Leopold died at the Somme in 1916 and his better-known gifts to the Island are named for him.
In recent years there has been much consternation amongst the public that the Millennium Park, planned for the Gas Place area, is still at the consultation stage. Of course in these sedentary times it would not occur to those in that area to walk the few hundred yards south to Howard Davis Park. Lack of parking there ensures that, apart from occasions where a concert is taking place, the main use is as a short cut for workers walking to and from town. On summer weekends a few families may lounge around but, by and large, the place is empty. It is well known that TB Davis gifted the park to the people of Jersey, but less well known are the circumstances. These circumstances were related first-hand by Davis himself to Alexander Coutanche, Jersey’s legendary Bailiff. So unless TB was spinning his friend a yarn we can take the story as being true.
Where the statue of George V now stands once stood the grand house called Plaisance, owned by one Sir Bertram Falle. One day the young TB and a friend were fooling around in the private grounds and were caught and brought before an indignant Sir Bertram. As punishment he set them both to work, dispatching TB to the cellar to blacken and polish boots and shoes. On his release TB warned Sir Bertram, in choice language, that one day he would buy Plaisance and demolish it brick by brick.
Years passed, Sir Bertram died and in 1937 Plaisance came onto the market for £25,000. TB, who lived alternately in Jersey and South Africa, duly bought the property and had it demolished. Upon visiting the site he saw that the cellar was still intact and gave orders that, notwithstanding it was to be filled in anyway, that it should be dismantled. The famous landscaper Colledge was commissioned to lay out the gardens and Howard Davis Park was opened to the public in 1939.
Today all that remains of the original property is the former billiards room, now a memorial hall. TTS do not – as their signs suggest – provide the facility (TB did that already) but they maintain it beautifully. To the south the walled gardens are a haven for those who seek respite from the traffic and the town. The American War Cemetery contains the remains of allied servicemen who died in and around the Island during WW2. Behind George V is a flagpole – this is the mast of TB Davis’ famous racing yacht Westward which was scuttled in the Hurd Deep in the 40s for want of a buyer.