The Terminal Terminal (Jersey Airport 1937 terminal)

So you know that thing where I go on holiday and then, in line with family tradition, I show you my holiday snaps? Well, I’ve just been to Jersey. I wasn’t sure that I was going to get an article out of it at all. There are no railways there any more, and the remaining stations aren’t overly remarkable.

La Corbière station, Jersey. Photo by Daniel Wright [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via this flickr page

The ferry port is (sorry, Jersey) quite undistinguished. The main bus station in St Helier is modern and useable, but isn’t really much to write home about in the looks department.

Liberation Bus Station, St Helier, Jersey. Photo by Daniel Wright [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via this flickr album

Neither is the visual identity of island bus operator Libertybus, while its bus stops tend towards the bleak (if there’s anything more than just a road marking, that is).

A Libertybus Enviro400 at Liberation Bus Station, St Helier, Jersey. Photo by Daniel Wright [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via this flickr album

It was only when one of my buses passed through Jersey Airport that something really caught my eye. I took a quick snap of the arrivals terminal, thinking it would act as a reminder to go back another year to get some decent pictures. Normally, I wouldn’t bother you with an amateurish snap taken through the back window of a bus:

Jersey Airport arrivals terminal. Photo by Daniel Wright [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

…but this may be the only photograph of Jersey Airport’s arrivals terminal I’ll ever take. It has an upcoming appointment with the wrecking ball. It’s not a well-photographed building at all, so you’ll have to bear with me and click on the links in this article which will take you to some photos which aren’t available for straightforward reproduction here.

The terminal opened, serving both arrivals and departures at that point, in 1937. It was the work of architect Nigel Norman and engineer Graham Dawbarn, slightly preceding their work on Elmdon Airport terminal near Birmingham (detailed in this earlier article), although in all likelihood the two jobs overlapped. Jersey’s new airport replaced its previous ‘airport’ which was, in fact, a beach on the south side of the island.

As first constructed, Jersey Airport’s terminal had a tall central tower of five storeys (the top one being a control room) flanked by two single storey wings with viewing balconies on top – you can see it via this link. The interior was all stylish Inter-war Modern, as you can see in this picture of the main entrance hall, and this picture of the check-in area. A Jersey States coat of arms celebrated the airport’s opening, and this survives on the land-side of the building today.

Jersey States coat of arms, and construction date, on Jersey Airport arrivals terminal. Photo by Man vyi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After only three years, however, the airport found itself under occupation by the forces of Nazi Germany, along with the rest of the island. Following liberation, tourism boomed on Jersey, and the single storey wings gained a second storey in the 1950s, at the same time as a new control room and an extension of the airport’s runway (see a picture via this link). By the end of the 1960s the two wings had completely remodelled, gaining another storey in the process and including a new restaurant and bar. With rounded ends, these sort-of Streamline Moderne additions more-or-less blended into the original Modernist building, but the taller side wings fundamentally changed the balance of the building and it looked somewhat less elegant than it did when first built. That was nothing compared to the next phase of developments, which would eventually lead to some absolutely hideous modern additions being plonked right on top of the old building in a completely unsympathetic manner (see a picture of the building in this condition here).

A brand new extension to the terminal opened in 1997. This Postmodernist building (see it here) was dedicated to departures, with the 1937 terminal then being fully turned over to handling arrivals. Before long, however, the 1937 terminal found itself under threat. In 2010 a separate new control tower for the airport was completed, moving control operations away from the 1937 terminal. The tower is a very attractive and futuristic piece of architecture. It was designed in-house by Jersey States itself (a rare recent example of a government in the British Isles (if not the UK) producing some nice-looking transport design), and clad in silver-coloured aluminium composite panelling.

The new Jersey Airport control tower. Photo by Dan Marsh (Flickr: Jersey Airport control tower) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Construction of the new control tower allowed the modern floors on top of the 1937 terminal to be removed in 2011-12, returning the building to approximately its 1960s appearance which it retains today. This was done not so much because the later additions looked so awful, but on safety grounds. The terminal is close to the runway, and this can restrict aircraft pilots’ views of the runway. When visibility is low, due to fog, they cannot see enough of the runway to make a safe landing, leading to flight cancellations. The writing appeared to be on the wall for the terminal, with the airport’s management announcing in 2011 that the terminal would have to be demolished and a replacement built, further away from the runway.

Then, in one of those exciting last-minute-listing-before-demolition events, Jersey’s Minister for Planning and Environment granted the 1937 terminal listed building status in January 2014, and told the airport authorities to think again. Although it initially appeared that consideration was being given to listing the terminal at Grade 1 (the highest possible), by the time the decision was made, it was actually listed at Grade II.

The airport authorities looked at moving the runway, rather than demolishing the terminal, but rejected the idea on cost grounds. For a short while there was an impasse, but Jersey’s planning minister announced in March 2014 (just two months after the terminal was listed) that it could be demolished. A condition of that approval was that the building  be subject to a full survey so that a record of it could be preserved (the survey brief is available via this page).

For two years, however, things went quiet, until in July 2016 Jersey Airport unveiled plans for a £65m redevelopment of the airport and a replacement for the 1937 terminal, further away from the runway (more details here). Demolition was due to start in 2017. Well, I have to tell you that it was earlier this month when I was in Jersey, and the 1937 terminal was still there, but I don’t know for how much longer that will be the case.

The terminal still looks very stylish on the outside, in the way that 1930s airport terminals always seem to, even if it has been altered quite considerably from its original appearance. Still, if you know what you’re looking for, the original shape of the building is fairly easy to discern. The interior has long since lost most of its original features, but the form of the original main entrance hall can still be made out. The twin staircases and large window with horizontal bars are notable survivors and scream Inter-war Modern. You can explore it in this Google Maps photo sphere:

If you want to see the real thing though, I suggest you make your visit soon.

Bibliography and Further Reading

The Island Wiki for Jersey hosts a lot of information about Jersey Airport, as well as a particularly impressive photo gallery of the airport, and its terminal, through the decades.

States of Jersey listing page for the 1937 terminal at Jersey Airport, here

The history of Jersey Airport at Jersey Airport’s official website, here

…and anything else linked to in the text above.

How to find Jersey Airport’s 1937 terminal

It probably won’t be there for long, but at the moment you can see where it is by clicking here for The Beauty of Transport‘s map

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