History of the Saumarez Building.
The original house was built in 1721 by William Le Marchant, a member of one of Guernsey’s leading families of the time. He journeyed to England with his wife, Elizabeth Knapton and travelled by canal to collect materials and furniture for his Guernsey home. William’s coat of arms and those of his wife are engraved in the gateposts of the east drive and over the front door of the building.
In 1783 the property passed by marriage to James, First Baron de Saumarez, who served with great distinction in the Royal Navy. He won renown for his courage and seamanship in the Baltic and Guernsey’s waters and was second in command to Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. He became Vice Admiral of England.
The house was greatly enlarged and improved by James’ grandson, the British Ambassador to Japan, who made it the beautifully balanced mansion that it is today by adding wings to the east and west of the main building. The result is the nearest resemblance to a French chateau in the island and is not to be missed both during the day and at night when it is beautifully floodlit. He also laid out the park with fine gardens, paths, a stream and a lake During the first two decades of the twentieth century; the building was used by successive Governors of the Island, as their official home.
In 1938, the States of Guernsey bought the property from the family and as a temporary measure the building was used as the States Offices until the early years of the German Occupation of the island.
The German Labour Corps, Organisation Todt, occupied the building for the rest of the war years and are reputed to have done a great deal of damage and stripped it of its fine furniture and fittings.
Soon after the liberation of the island, the States of Guernsey allowed the local St. John Ambulance Brigade to use the house as a Home for the Elderly, particularly those returning after their evacuation to England. The house was known as “The Hostel of St. John” and the opening ceremony was carried out by the Bailiff of Guernsey, Victor G. Carey, on 14th June 1945.
During the early 1960’s management of the Home became too much for the St. John Ambulance volunteers and administration of the Home became vested in an independent elected Board of Management who continue to run the Home as a Charity registered in Guernsey.
In 1994 the name of the Home was changed to St. John’s Residential Home, but its aims and philosophy remains much the same.
In 1996 replacement of the original external fire escape became necessary, wet rot, dry rot and death watch beetle have been found and a programme of refurbishment and enhancement of facilities for the residents was begun. This continues today.