My Great Grandfather, William H Lovell leaves Guernsey for Australia (aged about 2) with his father, and the family, all hoping to prospect for gold.
Lovells can trace its roots back to 1879 and has provided a first class service for property in the Bailiwick of Guernsey ever since. Our attention to detail, traditional values and level of service has remained unchanged whilst the company has always invested in the latest technology designed to make the experience of your property transaction one to remember.
After setting up a shop and store in Melbourne with the help of his father, William travels to London aged 17, to train with Gregory and Co. (furnishers) of Regent Street.
He then returns to Guernsey to set up a cabinet maker’s business in Victoria Road with a Mr W Ralls.
William sets up a new shop in Foss Arcade, Trinity Square, St. Peter Port with Mr R S Cox (the second son of Mr J S F Cox of the well‑known Arcades establishment) under the style of Lovell Cox, specialising in cabinet making, furnishing and auctioneering.
Advertisements for Lovell Cox as ‘House Agents’ first appear in local Almanacs, quite often in Guernsey French!
The business grows rapidly and Lovell Cox purchase and relocate to larger premises at 7‑9. Smith Street (now Marks & Spencer).
Around this time, Smith Street undergoes huge changes with buildings on both sides of the street being rebuilt and or upgraded and developed including our current premises (No. 11 Smith Street), and the former Post Office at Nelson Place (now vacant).
Forest Lane becomes the home of the factory and the Cabinet makers’ shop, the upholsterers’ shop, polishers’ shop, even a disinfecting chamber for bedding and mattresses – all conveniently backing onto the new Smith Street shop.
Modern machinery, driven by steam power, produces much of the furniture sold in the showrooms, although some fine ranges of Japanese, Chinese and Indian novelties were sold, including Satsuma, Taizan, Kaja, Miari, Awaji, Kishin and Owari art pottery, Benares brasswork, bamboo and wicker goods and other Eastern embellishments of the period. The business also expands into sales of carpets, general ironmongery, beds and a whole lot more including lamps, curtains, fire screens and brasses.
References to our ‘Estate Agency’ services start appearing in articles in local journals.
The business purchases larger pantechnicons, housed in premises at Park Street, St Peter Port, all horse drawn at this stage, of course!
William becomes a co‑founder of the Balfour Cockburn Lodge and also takes up office in the Mariners’ Lodge and the Sarnian Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners.
He also becomes a pioneer of the ‘Early Closing Association’ (an early attempt at offering a better ‘work‑life’ balance for employees of the time!), thereby conferring a benefit upon his employees which few had previously enjoyed.
He is also elected as a Douzenier of Canton No.2 district of St Peter Port and is one of the inaugurators of the local Chamber of Commerce.
William becomes Provincial Grand Warden of a local lodge.
The property side of the business becomes much larger, with bigger adverts appearing in the The Star (now the Guernsey Press) along with Almanacs for house agency instructions, inventories, valuations and auctions.
William dies aged 71, leaving his wife (who remains a Consultant to the firm) and two sons, master W D M Lovell, who carries on the business and master B E Lovell (Basil, my grandfather), who becomes a Chartered Surveyor whilst training in London.
The Great Depression years from 1929 to around 1933 prove a major struggle for the business. Around this time, only ourselves and I. C. Fuzzey are practicing Estate Agency in Guernsey.
In 1939 Lovells Celebrates its Diamond Jubilee at The Hotel de Normandie. A copy of the original Menu, souvenir publication and Press article reporting the event still exists in our archives today.
The party includes William Lovell (my Grandfather) and Basil Lovell, who jointly manage the firm at that time, with other senior staff present including my uncle Barry Lovell (son of Dudley Lovell), Mr and Mrs S Adamson and Mrs R Woodward.
The youngest party‑goer, (master) Barry Lovell, proposes a toast to His Majesty King George VI.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we have little information of how the business survives the war years. Suffice to say it somehow does so, along with the vast majority of the Island’s businesses – which says much for the character of the Guernsey people.
On June 28th 1940, only a year after the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, German bombs and machine guns rain down on St Peter Port, killing 22 people and badly wounding 33 during a night of bombing over the Town of St Peter Port. On the 30th June, German forces land at the newly constructed Villiaze airport which only opened for commercial use on the 5th May 1939.
A larger invasion force follows within days and the Channel Islands begin five long years of occupation.
About 17,000 people, mostly women and children, are evacuated to the UK, to be replaced by about 11,000 occupying German troops.
Lovells’ two horse drawn wagons are pressed into service to remove furniture and effects from dispossessed home‑owners, as the invading force arbitrarily sequester local houses as accommodation, often with only 24 hours’ notice.
The population swells further with almost 7,000 European prisoners, used as forced labour by the invading force. My uncle (Ian Lovell’s) hand written account of that time, plus that of my father Ben (Bernard) Lovell, make for moving reading and tell of a difficult period as the two boys and many others in their early teens, struggled to make ends meet; not to mention the very considerable effort on the part of their parents to try and spare them much of the hardship. However, like all boys, they manage to find fun and have many positive experiences despite the privations of the times.
D‑Day eventually arrives with much celebration but with the Island having lost its former supply lines from occupied France, food begins to run out.
With their weight down to 7‑stone by winter of 1944 and with their parents also very frail, on Christmas Day, my Grandparents manage to cook a rabbit for dinner but little else.
On 27th December, the Red Cross boat The Vega arrives with relief parcels including bags of flour, many sent from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. My father and Uncle go to The Manor Stores (then known as Luff’s Corner shop) in St Martins to collect their rations.
Finally, liberation by UK forces comes on May 9th 1945 – henceforth this date being celebrated every year as Liberation Day.
The post war period sees a gradual recovery of confidence and our first single colour property adverts appear in the Press Directories.
Having read Estate Management at Queen’s College Cambridge and initially pursued his career in Bournemouth at the offices of Rumsey & Rumsey, my father Ben Lovell returns to the island and the family business.
After the war, the Island has to recover its financial position and therefore suffers many years of relatively high taxation. By 1960, it remains uncompetitive in that regard but eventually in that year, Income Tax is cut from 5 shillings and 4 pence to four shillings in the £1, i.e.20%.
With UK tax rates rising, many wealthier newcomers arrive from the UK to settle in Guernsey, as do the first Channel Island’s offshore financial institutions, which sets the Island (and indeed our business) on the path to rapid growth.
Tony Aylmer becomes a partner with Ben Lovell, later retiring in 1989.
We celebrate our Centenary. Overseas business opportunities are explored about this time in Malta, Freeport, Majorca and Menorca.
In the same year, Ben Lovell is elected to The States of Deliberation, topping the poll in St Martins. He becomes President of Guernsey’s Liquor Licensing Committee and a member of several Government departments including The Board of Health, The Post Office Board and The Committee for Horticulture.
Ben Lovell is elected as a Conseiller. He also becomes Vice President of Advisory & Finance, President of Income Tax and President of Housing during his political career.
I join the family firm, having qualified as a Chartered Surveyor in London and worked at the offices of international property agents Jones Lang Wootton (JLW, now JLL) and then King & Co. Ironically, both firms have now been merged under the JLL banner.
Ben Lovell resigns from the States of Deliberation.
11 Smith Street undergoes a major refurbishment, with all new floors and staircases being introduced into the original Victorian shell.
We repeat the process almost 20 years on with a further refurbishment, although not quite as comprehensive as that undertaken in 1992.
The new interior now allows for even greater use of computer technology, including fast internet and email services – all basic essentials in these more modern times.
As we’ve been in the past, we’re here to offer assistance to anyone with a property‑related challenge, be it a simple house sale or a more complicated commercial property headache. With 14 staff in Commercial & Residential Property and a presence right in the heart of St Peter Port, we are very well placed to offer an excellent service. Please do feel free to contact us at any time.
In the meantime, I hope this account of our history has been interesting.
Best regards from all of us here at Lovells,
Chris Lovell MRICS