A group of business men who were building and running hotels in some of the well known south coast towns, including Bournemouth, Weymouth and Torquay, decided to exploit Jersey’s growing popularity as a holiday and convalescing resort. They formed a company in collaboration with two Jerseymen, a merchant, Mr Frederick Carrel and a Jurat (Judge), Joshua Le Bailly, who was president both of the local chamber of commerce and the Mercantile Union Bank.
The site was a property known as La Fregoniere, a large house of some grandeur enclosed by lush green trees, a meadow with a small herd of Jersey cows and a large cider apple orchard – this was the period when cider making was one of Jersey’s main agricultural industries. All in all the property extended to nine acres for which £4,000 was paid in 1862.
In August 1863 when architects decided the house could not be incorporated into the proposed hotel project, the site was levelled and building work started. It was not until November 1864 that Mr J Amy, a master carpenter, completed the roof so as to allow work on the interior to commence.
Eventually the Imperial Hotel opened for business on 1st September 1866, with Mr W J Lovegrove, a keen photographer as the first manager. The photograph, dated November 1866, was taken by Mr Lovegrove with a home made plate camera.
But the Hotel de France was far too grand an establishment and closed in 1880. For the next 60 years it became Maison St Louis, a Jesuit College for students studying theology, philosophy and science.
The German forces occupied the island in 1940 and Maison St Louis became a training school for German NCOs. When Jersey was liberated in 1945, the property remained empty for eight years. It was then purchased by the Reynolds Family and opened in 1954 under the present name, the Hotel de France. The current owners, the Parker Family, purchased the hotel in 1971 and extended it considerably over the following years. New wings were constructed, together with extensive conference facilities, banqueting kitchens and a new indoor swimming pool and spa.
Over the last decade, the Hotel de France has undertaken a continuous series of major refurbishments, resulting in the splendid establishment as it stands today. The original first-floor reception, for instance, has been moved to its present ground-floor position.
2006 saw the opening of the Ayush Wellness Spa, the first Ayurvedic Hotel Spa in the United Kingdom, dedicated to the principles of Ayurvedic therapies and luxurious spa treatments. This six treatment room spa has its own Indian physician and a staff of both Indian and Western therapists. To complement the spa is a swimming pool complex with an infinity pool, hydrotherapy pool, hot and cold plunge pools together with a sauna, steam room and a gym.
The Hotel de France has also a reputation for a friendly but professional service, welcoming the challenge of sustaining and increasing the awareness of a unique destination, one which draws many guests back year after year.