Coinciding with the Société’s 150th anniversary year is another significant date for one of Jersey’s most notable architects and engineers, Adolphus Curry. The 29th of June would have been Curry’s 175th birthday, and all those years later, we are still trying to piece together more information about this “ingenious” man.
One person dedicated to this quest is Trudy Mirza who was struck first by Curry’s beautifully designed architecture and then reeled in by the man himself and his contributions to the Island as a whole. Trudy is compiling a catalogue raissonné – a comprehensive, annotated listing of Curry’s entire body of work – and has been appealing to the public for further details about him.
Born in 1848, Curry was himself a member of the Société where he played a key role in the creation of the Museum and also oversaw the preservation of many of the Island’s historic buildings.
I sat down with Trudy to find out more about this enigmatic Victorian figure.
MM: How did you come to be so interested in the engineer and architect Adolphus Curry?
TM: When I first arrived in Jersey, I was struck by all the buildings which use tiles on the exterior in a really original and unique way. Good examples in town include 2-6 Queen Street and 66-70 Bath Street. A bit of investigative work showed all the tiled buildings have been designed by Adolphus Curry. I was intrigued and decided to learn more.
MM: Curry is known to have designed several iconic buildings in Jersey, what do we know about his career and does his work have any signature architectural style or features?
TM: I have been amazed to discover how much Curry accomplished in Jersey. He didn’t just design and conserve buildings, he was involved in everything- railways, harbours, licensing, rubbish disposal, sewers, etc. He helped organise town fêtes, donated free dinners to the Ragged School, was a founder of the Jersey Athletic Association and kept prize-winning collies and poodles.
Curry was a really versatile architect who was able to work in many different styles. There are definitely features – like the tiles I mentioned earlier – which make Curry buildings recognisable. Whilst he certainly designed some iconic buildings, I think focusing on these works slightly distorts the reality of his huge contribution to modern Jersey.
MM: Within your research you’ve been trying to uncover more about Curry, how has this public appeal been going and have you discovered anything new about him?
TM: I’ve had a terrific response from the public but am always hoping for more! Victorians were such splendid letter writes I feel sure there must be a cache of Curry correspondence just waiting to be discovered somewhere in Jersey…
MM: How would you characterise Curry’s influence in Jersey and why do you consider it so important that we keep his memory alive?
TM: I think Curry’s influence was huge. He was extremely popular, and his work was considered ingenious. In the week before his death in 1910, there were daily updates on his health in the newspaper which shows that people were concerned about him.
I think Curry deserves more credit for the important role he played in creating modern Jersey. He was clearly a well-loved, modest man of great energy who had a sense of fun and who worked hard to make Jersey a better place. In my mind, that is precisely the sort of person that should be recognised and honoured.
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Written by Martha Macdonald