T. B. Davis
On 23rd July, 1935, the Prince of Wales came to Jersey to open
the Howard Davis Hall, Victoria College and unveil the portrait of King George V by
John St. Helier Lander. This painting had been acquired at the Paris Salon Exhibition the previous year by Jerseyman Thomas Benjamin Davis. It was characteristic
of Davis' generosity that he then also decided to provide a lecture hall in which to
hang the picture.
The Howard Hall built of granite from Ouaisne, matched the gothic
style of the older College buildings. Inside there was seating for 238, almost exactly
the number of boys at school when the building was opened. The paneling and woodwork were of teak, and the clock an exact replica of that at the Greenwich Observatory.
T. B Davis, one of Jersey's great philanthropists, was born at Havre des Pas,
Jersey, on 25th April, 1867, son of a ship's carpenter. As a boy he was in the choir
of St. Luke's Church. At fourteen he went to sea as apprentice in a sailing ship. The
snapping of a rope in rough weather cast him adrift in an open boat at night in the
North Sea- The following day, he was picked up by a Norwegian vessel 'Urda' which
later put him ashore at Cowes. He reached Jersey on a Sunday morning, so went
straight to his old church - where he found his Memorial Service in progress! There
are not many who have observed their own memorial service - clearly T. B. Davis
was destined for a long and eventful life.
In his early thirties he went to South Africa, living initially in Port Elizabeth. He
worked and saved hard and within a short time purchased a stake in a stevedoring
firm Over the next decade he gained control over the wharfinger business from Port
Elizabeth to Dar-es-Salaam.
His great wealth was most generously used. He found and endowed the fine University College of Science in Durban. He presented a training ship, the 'General
Botha' to the Union Government. At the outset of the Second World War he established a fund of £100,000 to help dependents of South Africans serving in the
A major tragedy in Davis' life was the loss of his younger son Howard Leopold,
who was killed during the Battle of the Somme in the First World War. Most of Davis'
benefactions in Jersey were in memory of Howard.
In November 1927, the States of Jersey unanimously agreed to accept as a gift
from Davis, the house, farm buildings, and some 40 vergees of land (then known as
'Parkfield'), situated near Trinity Church. A Deed of Covenant stated that the
bequest was made on the understanding that the Howard Davis Farm should be
used as an experimental center for the development and study of agriculture and for
the instruction in this science of young Jersey people and other interested parties.
Today, the farm also houses the Jersey Agricultural Department's Headquarters
In 1939, the Howard Davis Park in St. Heller was opened, this also being a gift
to Jersey by Davis who had purchased the property known as 'Plaisance' and
employed Mr. J. A. Colledge, a famous landscape gardener, to lay out the grounds
in the form of a park. A statue of King George V was erected within the main entrance,
(the nearby flagstaff is the spinnaker boom from the racing yacht 'Westward'), and
a Hall of Remembrance established in the grounds. The Park is much
admired by visitors and locals alike, providing as it does a quiet haven amidst the
bustle of the busy town traffic and a feast for the eye with over 60,000 plants in full
color during summertime.
One of Davis' greatest loves was sailing and in 1924 he purchased the 323 ton
schooner yacht 'Westward'. She had been built and designed by the famous American yachting firm of Herreshoff, Rhode Island in 1910, having both American and
German owners before Davis acquired her. She was constructed with an all steel
hull of LWL 97 feet, designed and built for speed. During the inter-war years,
'Westward', with Davis at the helm, won many great races in competition with King George V's 'Britannia'. T.B. Davis died in south Africa in 1942 and
despite efforts made by his family to find a new owner for the 'Westward', she was
eventually scuttled in the Hurd Deep oft Alderney in 1947. A special set of stamps on
this famous schooner will be issued in two years time.
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