Until the late 19th century the States Assembly had no Chamber of its own so it met in the Royal Court, which has been housed on the site of the present building since the 12th century.
The present States Chamber was opened on 21 June 1887, the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne. In 1876 a proposition had been lodged ‘au Greffe’, providing for the establishment of a States Room above the strong-rooms being constructed to the east of the Court House. The States decided to offer a prize for the best plan submitted. In 1885 the States adopted the prize winning plan by the Architects Messrs Ancell and Orange of 3 Staple Inn, London. Although based in London, Mr Orange was a Jerseyman, the son of Captain Orange of 11 Gloucester Street.
The first meeting opened at 10am and in the absence through illness of the Bailiff Sir George Bertram, the Assembly was presided over by the Lieutenant Bailiff Jurat John Picot in the presence of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor Major General Henry Wray. After the reading of a telegram of congratulations to Her Majesty, on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee, the Assembly then proceeded to vote a Loyal Address, which had been composed by Deputy HE Le V dit Durell. The States then adjourned and proceeded to St Helier Parish Church where a service of thanksgiving was held, conducted by the Revs JJ Balleine and A Bellot. The Dean of Jersey, the Very Reverend William Corbet Le Breton, father of famous actress Lillie Langtry, was unable to attend through ill-health. The day was declared a public holiday and there were numerous festivities arranged for the public.
Layout of the Chamber
The chairs occupied by the Bailiff and Lieutenant-Governor are at the front of the Chamber. The Bailiff’s chair is 7 inches higher to indicate that he has precedence over the Lieutenant- Governor in the Assembly. The Greffier and Deputy Greffier of the States sit at the desk in front of the Bailiff facing the Members of the Assembly. The 3 categories of elected Members sit together in blocks of seats around the Chamber.
Members of the public are welcome to attend meetings of the States and there is a public gallery which overlooks the Chamber. Journalists from the local news media sit in one of the side galleries and BBC Radio Jersey (which broadcasts the proceedings of the Assembly live on 1026 Mhz) has a small studio overlooking the Chamber.
Very few changes have been made to the States Chamber since its inauguration.
In 1919 a granite tablet to the memory of Sir Walter Raleigh (Governor of Jersey from 1600 to 1603) was erected in the Gallery at the expense of the Société Jersiaise. During refurbishment works, the tablet was moved in order to allow the creation of a new sound-proofed booth for use by BBC Radio Jersey. The granite was of sufficient thickness to allow it to be split to create an identical tablet commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Liberation which was installed as a gift from La Société Jersiaise in 1995.
The Banner of Arms of the Sovereign of England above the Bailiff’s seat was placed in position on the occasion of the visit of HM King George V and HM Queen Mary to the Island in 1921. The banner was designed by Major NVL Rybot and made by the Royal School of Needlework, using the 3 gold leopardised lions on a red background which appear on the Public Seal granted to the Island by King Edward I in 1279.
In 1927 the Chamber was first lit by electricity.
In recent years a sound recording system has been introduced to allow the broadcasting and recording of the proceedings and to enhance the sound quality for Members and those in the public galleries. In 2004 an electronic voting system was introduced with Members having 3 buttons on their desks to vote pour (in favour), contre (against) or to abstain.