A Messervy family history

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Messervy of St Martin by Charles Langton

Derivation

The origin of the name is conjectural, but there seems a reasonable possibility that it was derived from the obsolete Norman word Messervyr, meaning ‘ill used’.

The alternative mentioned by Francois Victor Hugo in La Normandie Inconnu is a corruption for Mac Carthy. No substantive reason is given for the assertion. It is interesting to note, however, that in several parts of America the surname is spelt Mesharvey, which is suggestive of a corruption of the Scotch MacHarvey.

[Editor’s note: It is now generally accepted that the derivation from Messervyr is the correct origin of the surname]

Originally of St Martin’s parish, where one of the members lived in 1309, the family continued to thrive in the south and east of the island. There were three distinct branches residing in close proximity but, contrary to the statement in the Armorial, there is no evidence whatsoever to prove a source of common origin.

[Editor’s note: The author is unfairly dismissive of the content in the Armorial, There is every reason to believe that all Messervys in Jersey were descended from a common source in the 13th century or earlier, and none to suspect that different branches were descended from different immigrant families.]

Messervy of La Chesnee, Faldouet

The eldest line became extinct at the death of Jean Messervy in 1558 and the branch was carried on through Richard Messervy, jure uxoris Seigneur of Bagot until 1692.

The seniority eventually evolved on a third branch, who successively lived in St Martin and St John, where they survive to this day.

Messervy of Anneville

Descendants of Gregoire Messervy of Anneville, 1495, who are still represented in the Faldouet area.

Messervy of St Martin

Descendants of Philip Messervy, 1595. This branch laster moved to St Brelade, where they became extinct, but a junior section was carried on through Philip Messervy, who emigrated to St George’s Bay, Newfoundland, at the end of the 19th century, and in his turn founded an extensive line that spread to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

The earliest heraldic evidence appears in the Roll of John Gbibbon, Bluemantle Herald. The manuscript is undated, but must be 1625 approximately, because of the reference to the purchase of Rosel by de Carteret from Perrin.

Gibbon states:

”When I lived in the Isle of Jersey I tooke these following Armes from an antient mappe: Messervy Or 3 cherries gules 2 and 1”

These arms were apparently used by Jurat Richard Messervy ( -1579) Seigneur jure uxoris of the fief de Bagot or Gorges, which previously belonged to the Dumaresq.

It is stated that registration was effected at the College of Arms by the Procureur General Daniel Messervy in the 17th century.

The manor of Bagot did not long remain in their possession, because at the end of the 17th century it passed to the Bandinels on the marriage of David Bandinel with Rachel Messervy, heiress of Jurat Philip Messervy.

When the old Bagot Manor house was demolished in 1934 an old granite coat of arms showing De Bagot and Messervy was disclosed under the plaster and kindly presented to the museum of the Societe Jersiaise by the contractor.

And it is interesting to note that this Rachel Messervy presented a silver plate to the Church of St Saviour.

For a brief period they were connected with the adjacent fief of Longueville.

Financial problems

As a result of financial difficulties Hugh Nicolle was forced to pass the manor in 1590 to Aaron Messervy, Benjamin La Cloche and Thomas Herault. But before 1612 La Cloche bought out his partners, and founded a seigneural line that continued for the following two centuries.

The fief es Verrans, situated partly in St Helier and partly in St Saviour, together with the pre du Rocquier were purchased for 700 ecus in 1621, but sold 21 years later by Maximilian Messervy to Thomas Poingdestre, Rector of St Saviour.

In 1541 the Advocatge General, Clement Messervy, died or was killed by a blow from John Henryson on the fief of Noirmont, which caused a good deal of contemporary comment.

And some years later an equally unfortunate occurrence happened when the Procureur General George Messervy, younger son of the Seigneur of Bagot, was found dead at St Ouen, subsequent to intensive disputes with the de Carterets.

Peace does not seem to have been restored between the two families because almost continuously from 1620 to 1639 there were disputes between the Messervy owners of the Moulin de Ponterrin and the de Carteret seigneurs of Trinity, which culminated in a Privy Council appeal against de Carteret erecting a mill immediately adjacent to Ponterrin.

Civil War

It is not clear whether the Messervys adopted the Parliamentary cause during the civil war, through political conviction or personal enmity with de Carteret.

Several families were more influenced by feuds than anything else, and as the Royalists, on their ascendancy destroyed local records because they contained derogatory remarks, we are left in uncertainty about the personal attitude of many of the combatants.

The Messervys do not appear to have suffered any particular losses, like the more prominent leaders, and eventually decided to make their peace.

On 17 August 1649 Charles II wrote to Sir George de Carteret stating:

”Philip Messervy had been received into our grace and favour, as he professes heartily sorry for his past delinquency and promises to be loyal and obedient in the future.”

Edouard Messervy lived at a house called La Pierre de Trois Milles in St Saviour, which has not been identified. He was Attorney-General from 1622 to 1634 and shortly before his death was succeeded by his brother Clement. This latter appointment appears to have been unfortunate, because he was superseded in 1653, the same year as his election.

Their services to the States have been varied and considerable, and include, among other positions, 11 Jurats, two Attorney-Generals, five Solicitor-Generals, four Rectors, nine Constables as well as Greffiers, Advocates and Denonciators.

Daniel Messervy

Passing on in time we come to the three Daniel Messervys who, apart from any individual claim, deserve mention because for a considerable time they produced confusion among genealogists.

Daniel Messervy very nearly became Seigneur of St Ouen shortly after the death of the last de Carteret in 1725. It happened, however, that the manor eventually passed to his elder sister-in-law and thence to Le Maistre.

During the period 1769 to 1771 Daniel Messervy kept a delightful diary which gives us very excellent information about local conditions of the period. The daily entries of events are written in an impersonal manner.

His chief dislike seems to have centred round Major Moses Corbet ‘who had no distinguishing feature except bad manners’. Corbet eventually became Lieut-Governor and his exploits at the Battle of Jersey and subsequent court martial seem to indicate that Messervy must have had a shrewd sense.

Daniel’s great friend was the celebrated Dr Shebbeare, the political writer who suffered calumny but eventually became acclaimed in Parliament and retired on a pension granted by them.

Daniel Messervy seems to have spent much of his time at the Privy Council fighting legal battles with ‘that clamorous woman Mrs Meloit’. And he must have been in a constant hurry because on occasions, notably 1758, he used to cross from England to Jersey in the lobster boats to save time.

No mention of the Messervy family would be complete without reference to the late Rev and Madame Messervy who, for the best part of 40 years, devoted their energies to producing accurate local pedigrees.

Their indefatigable work produced a great deal of order out of the chaos that had previously existed, but was never completed, so their mantles fell upon me.

I hope in time, with the assistance of Major Rybot on the heraldic side, to evenually complete the work and eventually produce the first ‘Visitation of Jersey’.

Author

Charles Langton’s articles on Jersey families, many of which are now included in Jerripedia, were published in 1939-40 in The Islander, a publication which ceased in the early days of the German Occupation, never to return. It is not known what happened to Charles Langton, but no later examples of his family history work appear to have been published.

He was almost certainly the same Charles Langton, described as ‘of Jersey’, who wrote The Langtons of Langton-Lincolnshire, which was published in 1930. This Charles Langton is believed to have been born on 31 July 1888, the son of Charles Edward Langton and Elizabeth Maria Wilkinson. He was descended from Thomas Langton, a merchant taylor in London in the early 17th century, and Joane Downe.

He married Edith Hermione Frazer Maddox on 30 June 1910 and they had a daughter Edith in 1916. It is possible that the Langtons, who had moved to Jersey from England, returned before the Germans arrived in the island and perhaps did not return after the war ended. Although his articles continued to be published after the time of the evacuation, it is possible that they had been written before his departure and left with the publisher of The Islander.

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