These houses were built for entertaining. Samarès Manor is the only historic estate open to the public in Jersey. To that end, there’s plenty of entertainment to be had! You can tour the house; eat, drink and be very happy in the Herb Garden Café which breaks out under a verandah; stay in The Barn, The Forge, The Coach House or Farmhouse Apartments; walk the grounds; shop in the shop; and get married on the lawn.
The grounds are rich and varied. There’s the Japanese Garden with a pagoda and lake. The Walled Gardens contain the Herb Garden; Rose and Lavender Garden; and Fruit and Vegetable Garden. There’s the Willow Labyrinth and an ancient dovecot, or “colombier” as it’s called in Jersey French. In 1924, English businessman Sir James Knott, founder of Newcastle Pearl Shipping Line, bought the 5.7 hectare estate for £100,000 as his retirement home. He employed 40 gardeners to create the gardens. There are still eight gardeners employed on the estate.
The current 72 year old incumbent (Sir James’s widow Elizabeth remarried and had a son), Seigneur Vincent Obbard, lives in a first floor apartment in the house. Samarès Manor is long and low and colonial looking with green shuttered windows. Its architect is unknown. The island isn’t renowned for record keeping. “Much of Jersey’s history is conjecture,” says our Blue Badge guide. While there’s been a house here since 1250, the building today is mostly 18th century.
The low ceilinged three bay entrance hall has yellow walls and a stone flagged floor. “Historically, the Seigneur had the right to salvage. Legend has it that this Italian stone floor came from a wreckage!” There are photographs of The Queen dating from the 1980s and 90s on the bolection fire surround. “The Seigneur pays her a homage in Jersey French each time she visits the island.” The atmospheric three bay dining room is accessed off the hall. It has Grinling Gibbons style carved panelling. Two jib doors cut into the panelling lead through to the service quarters. The ceiling is smoky brown. The brown furniture is, er, brown. Even the wooden chandelier is brown.
“Dong! Dong! Dong!” Grandfather clocks chime at random times throughout the house.
An English oak staircase leads up to a short long gallery. The spacious drawing room is on the first floor and has a higher ceiling due to the particularly low vaulted chapel below. Three bays wide by four bays deep, the drawing room is two rooms combined. A Corinthian pilastered and columned screen decorates the join. It’s pure ocean liner plush with a deep piled carpet, sofas, club chairs and a painted Steinway mini grand. “Look at this painting of the island of Brecqhou. It shows it before the Barclay brothers built their huge house.” The twins live in a castle designed by Quinlan Terry on one of the smallest of the Channel Islands.
“Boom! Boom! Boom!” A marquee is being set up outside for a wedding. Somebody’s testing the speakers.
Gothic pointed windows on the front elevation announce the presence of the ground floor chapel to the outside world. Vincent Obbard hosts a carol service in the chapel each Christmas. It’s actually the undercroft of what was a two storey Norman building. The tour is complete. Our guide explains, “’Salse Marais‘ means ‘salt marsh’ in Jersey French.” The name evolved into Samarès.
“We are family!” The wedding band has arrived.