A history of the Baudains family and benefactor Laurens Baudains

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The Baudains family and

benefactor Laurens Baudains

This article by the Rev J A Messervy was first published in French in the 1903 Annual Bulletinof La Société Jersiaise. It has been translated by Mike Bisson

Don Baudains

There are without doubt few people in Jersey who have not heard of Don Baudains, destined to facilitate from time to time access to English universities for less fortunate young people.

But how many possess more than vague notions about the donor himself and his family? The majority of Jersey historians, it is true have spoken about the donations and the will of Laurens Baudains, but none has researched who he was, to which family he belonged, what motivated him to take his generous initiative, etc.

We have always wished to try to repair this omission, and although our research was not as fruitful as we would have liked, we hope, nonetheless, that this short article will make one of our benefactors a little better known and appreciated.

Baudains family

We speak first of the Baudains family in general, a name which appeared in some of the most ancient manuscripts concerning our island. A document of the 17th year of the reign of Edward II (1323) mentions Roger Baudyn and Philippe Baudeyn, of the parish of St John.

Johan Baudeyn, also of St John, figures on a list of sermentes or jurors of that parish, in the Assize Roll of the fifth year of the reign of Edward III (1331). In 1410 Mathiot Baudain, on behalf of his wife, the daughter of Philippot Harenc, was one of the tenants of the Fief es Verrants at St Saviour.

According to two contracts, of 1475 and 1493, Cardin Baudains and Perrotine, his wife, daughter of Jean Sebire, were settled in St Martin at this time.

A contract of 1482 mentions John Baudeyn of La Falesse. We cannot say is this is la Falaise, St Mary, or that in St Clement.

Another contract, of 1499, speaks of ‘the mother of Jean Gallie, son of Jean, who was the daughter of Jean Baudeyn, ‘the elder’ of St Clement.

It is also known that there was a Fief es Baudains at St Clement. Perhaps it is less well known that a cross called Croix es Baudains was in the Vingtaine du Nord at St John. Clos de la Croix es Baudains is mentioned in a contract of 1528.

In the Inquisition of 1515 we find Droyet Baudein and Hesmon Baudein (Drouet and Edmond) and a little later Druet Baudewys et Edmond Baudewys, evidently the same. We have reason to believe they were from Grouville.

The preceding shows that several branches of the Baudains family were established in different parishes in the 15th century and that the spelling of the name varied muich; one finds it written Baudeyn, Baudayn, Baudayns, Baudwys, Baudein etc. The current spelling – Baudains – does not appear to have been settled on until the 18th century.

We add that a family of this name was established in Guernsey from the end of the 15th or beginning of the 16th century; probably originating from Jersey, it became connected with several of the main families of the sister isle, such as Le Marchant, de Saumarez and de Quetteville.


When one studies the history of Jersey families in the 15th and 16th centuries it is striking that virtually every family had one or more priests among its members. But probably none before the Reformation had as many as Baudains.

We have found at least seven of them:

  • Sire Jean Baudains, priest, living 1505
  • Sire Thomas Baudains, one of the principals of the parish of Grouville in 1539, died about 1543. In 1545 Richard Baudains, eldest son of Michel, and George Baudains, shared the inheritance of Sire Thomas.
  • Sire Augustin Baudains, of St Martin, 1496; he gave his name to a chapel described by De la Croix.
  • Sire Richard Baudains, ‘’Procureur du Tresor’’ of the parish of St Clement, 1554; one of the Procureurs of this parish in 1570; he was also Promoteur of the Ecclesiastical Court in 1557. In 1580 a child younger than Thomas Baudains and Clement Baudains shared the estate of Sire Richard.
  • Sire Julien Baudains of St Martin. An Acte concerning him of 1537 has already been printed in the Bulletin in 1900. (The Attorney-General and assistant Denonciateur must prove concerning John Perrotine that in a night ambush he stripped Sire Jullien Baudain and took his jacket, had and purse.) In 1569 Edouard Baudains of St Martin, principal here, and Pierre Baudains, son of Nicolas, shared the estate of Sire Julien.
  • Sire Regnauld Baudains, of St Martin, is mentioned as ‘nephew of Sire Augustin Baudains, deceased, in 1551. He was one of those who, despite the injunctions of the Royal Court, remained hostile to the Reformed religion for a long time.
  • Augustin Baudains, monk. He was from Grouville. Augustin Baudains, ‘who was a monk’ was presumed dead in 1582. He does not appear to have stayed long in Jersey after finishing his studies at Coutances. He should not be confused with Sire Augustin Baudains, of St Martin, mentioned above.

St Martin branch

Three of these ecclesiastics can be seen to have belonged to the St Martin branch, which is the main subject of this article, that which gave to the island Laurens Baudains, the benefactor of scholars.

Much as he was not born into one of the leading houses of the island, Laurens Baudains was nonetheless part of an ancient and respected family of farmers and merchants.

His great-grandfather, Cardin Baudains, was established in St Martin in 1475, very probably on the Fief du Roi.

Laurens Baudains the elder, grandfather of the donor, became the ‘’Sergenté’’ and nominated in his place Collas Badier as Sergent of the Fief du Roi in St Martin in 1534. He only had one son, Edouard, who was a farmer and merchant and appears to have received an education before the middle of this century. The following Acte proves this:

”9 February 1566, Edouard Baudains, who was irreverently before Justice in a prosecution, spoke to the Court in English, Latin and French as a joke, did not recognise his obligations before the King’s Justices, for which the said Edouard, for his irreverance, is condemned to a fine of 30 sols.”

The same Edouard Baudains gave to the public treasury of St Martin a goblet and silver cup for the use of Ste Cene. There is reason to believe that he bought the Fief Guillaume Payn at St Martin,

Laurent Badains, the benefactor, was one of the younger sons of Edouard. The Actes in which he is mentioned do not make clear whether he was the second or third son, his name appearing sometimes as one, sometimes the other.

He was born about 1545. There is no detailed information about his youth but according to an Acte de Catel of 1572, he was involved in his father’s business. It is wrong, as stated by several authors, including that of the Armorial, to say that he was a clergyman. We have not been able to find proof that he was ever a schoolmaster. The only public functions he seems to have exercised were those of Constable's Officer of St Martin from 1587-96.

It was in this role, no doubt, that in 1587, along with his father, who was one of the Principals of the parish, he signed a settlement between Edouard Payn, Constable, and the parish of St Martin.


But if he was not a clergyman, he had certainly received a good education, and was more interested in intellectual matters than his contemporaries in general.

Laurens Baudains married twice. With his first wife, Collette Mallet, he had a single son Laurens, who died without issue in the flower of youth shortly after his marriage to Sara Dumaresq,

Was it the premature death of his only child which gave Laurens Baudains the first inspiration for his generous donations?

One can suppose that such a great ordeal could not be unconnected with the goal he conceived to devote part of his fortune to provide his island with a college. Perhaps also the fact that such an establishment had already been founded in Guernsey made him jealous.

For a long time the need for a good secondary education establishment had been felt in Jersey. It is convenient to say a few words here about the ignorance which reigned in the island, even within the middle class, at the end of the 16th century and in the early years of the 17th.

Without doubt the schools of St Mannelier and St Anastase could give an honest education at least to the children of the well-to-do; but the administration of these schools and the instruction they gave left a lot to be desired and one could complain that their badly chosen locations spoilt their functioning. Without doubt there were also in each parish the ‘small schools’ intended to teach children reading, writing and numeracy.

But these means of education had become insufficient for the growing population of the island; in brief the level of popular education was very low. For proof one only needs, among others, these two examples taken from the Rolls of the Court.

  • 1601 – to establish which of Laures Vibert Jnr and Jean Hamon was guillty of a counterfeit signature the Court orders that the Constable of St Mary and the Constable of St John each bring six of their Constable’s Officers who are able to write, or if insufficient can be found with this ability, their number can be supplemented with any who are not their parents, and brought before the Court on Saturday.”
  • 1616 – Edouard Regnauld, Chef-Sergent of St Mary, said that he could neither read nor write. The Court ordered him to find someone capable to replace him.

Now the Chefs-Sergbents and Constable’s Officers of this era belonged to well-to-do families of the parishes; it is therefore surprising to find so frequetly illiterates among them.

Besides, the shortage of secondary education establishments was so great, and so few goung people were sent to universities in France or England to finish their studies, that it was necessary to nominate as Rectors of the parishes of Jersey clergymen from France or Guernsey. For example, in 1596, the date of Laurens Baudains’ first donation, seven of 12 Rectors, another was the son or grandson of a Frenchman, one was a Guernseyman and only three were Jerseymen. We add that if the island had a lack of indigenous clergymen, it also had a great shortage of doctors and surgeons; the few of these there were were mainly foreigners.

It is thus easy to understand that a kind-hearted man, a friend of education, should set out to do anything within his means to remedy such a humiliating state of affairs. Lacking direct heirs, he chose his native island as principal heir, and assured it of a more liberal education.

First donation

The first donation of Laurens Baudains was made to the States, representing the public of the island, on 7 October 1596, and consisted of 18 quarters of wheat rente and Dannemarche Mill in St Lawrence, better known now as Scholars Mill. The revenues derived should, according to the intention of the donor, have been used to create and maintain a college ‘for the instruction of the young in grammar, the Latin language, liberal arts and sciences’.

It was agreed that this donation should be referred to Queen Elizabeth. This formality was undertaken and on 19 April 1597 the States were informed that her gracious approval had been given to Laurens Baudains. This patent, which does not appear to have been registered in Jersey, allowed others to add to this donation up to 200 quarters of wheat rente.

The first step had been taken and work started. But the public showed no inclination to join in this charitable work and the subscriptions which were counted on were lacking.

However, the college began to take shape; on 6 May 1598 the States appointed the first Master, or Principal, Edmond Snape, Minister of Mont Orgueil Castle, who accepted the role on a provisional basis, his ministry not allowing him to devote all his time. Curiously we do not know where the college was provisionally located. Mr Snape soon left Jersey; there is no need for us to enter into detail over his differences with the States over his payments.

On 11 October 1599 the States decided that 20 quarters of wheat rente from the revenues of St Mannelier and St Anastase should be allocated to the funds of the new college. It appears from the outset the new institution had to cope with insufficient resources and the difficulty of finding a competent Regent.

On 9 August 1600 the question arose in the States of ‘the new college built in the town’ (one should not hasten to conclude that a special building had already been built) and the ‘two most advanced scholars who took the place of the Regent’ after the departure of Mr Snape. On 16 October the same year the two scholars in question, Jean Pallot and Jean Mallet, were authorises to continue their roles as ‘sub-Regents’ for the time being.

On 14 January 1602 the States discussed a letter from the Governor recommending the temporary merging of the new collete with St Mannelier, until the revenues of the Don Baudains could be devoted to the construction of the acutal College; but all decisions were adjourned pending the venue promised by the Governor.

We should not forget to mention that Dannemarche Mill often had need of repairs which absorbed part of the available funds. On 27 March 1602 ‘the Rectors and Constables are ordered to exort those with funds in their parishes to contribute to the repairs to Dannemarche Mill dedicated to the education of their children’.

A short time after, on 6 December 1603, William Steward, ‘a Scottish gentleman’ was appointed by the States to take charge of the College ‘until the following Michaelmas’ and Bailiff Paulet was asked to find, with the minimum delay, an appropriate place for the College. It seems that it had frequently changed location.

From this appointment until 1606 there is no information available about this establishment. But apparently the affairs of the College went badly and after the departure of Mr Steward around October 1604, were more and more neglected. The only existing indication is a recommendation made to the States by the Deputy-Commissioners in 1606 that a principal was needed for the town college.

But two further years passed and nothing had changed. Either through negligence or lack of resources the very existence of the college was threatened.

Second donation

It was then that Laurens Baudains, no doubt wishing to give a new impetus to an expensive project, decided to intervene. Perhaps he was assured of the support of other charitable people. Whatever, on 17 October 1608 the States were asked to establish a commission to collect the promised subscriptions and given the names of those most interested.

Laurens Baudains stated with regret that his dontaion, perhaps too modest in the eyes of some, had been little appreciated, even negligibly. He announced his intention to make a second donation to the public on condition that the States accept and register certain Articles or Statutes which he believed to be indispensable to the good running of his College.

The States having indicated their acceptance, Laurens Baudains announced that he was adding to his first donation 15 quarters of wheat rent and 200 ecus ‘to assist the building of the college’. At the end of this remarkable sitting, Pierre Guillaume, whome Laurens Baudains apparently had in view for the position, was nominated Regent of the College for a year. He carried out his functions for several months beyond the stipulated year, but when he left his post around April 1610, we cannot see that the States had appointed a sucessor.

Must it be concluded that the College ceased to exist from this date? Such a belief is acceptable because the Rolls of the States, which we have followed up to now, are silent on this question. The public appeared no more disposed to support the project initiated by Laurens Baudains and the States were without doubt not in a position to become involved.

What must have been the disappointment of the donor in the face of this collapse of his charitable dream! But defeated in his hope of establishing a College he conceived a project to put to another use of similar nature the revenues from his donations.

Few Jerseymen then went to English universities. The distance, the length of travel and above all the costs were obstacles to surmount. It is true the States had already assisted several young men to study at Oxford or Cambridge, and the Rectors for their part had contributed in a similar way, but these contributions were not fixed and had an uncertain charactre.

Support for students

It is this which now attracted the attention of Laurens Baudains and he decided to ask that the revenue from his donations would now be employed solely to support young students, well qualified but without the necessary funds, at English universities.

He then approached King James I to obtain the incorporation of a council charged with administering the revenue from his donations as well as those which could later be added.

The government agreed to this request by Letters Patent dated 13 September 1611 at Westminster, and communicated to the States on 9 January 1612.

But Laurens Baudains was no longer there to celebrate the success of his initiative. He died two and a half months before the signature of this document.

Going back several years we complete what we have discovered about the private life of Laurens Baudains by adding some details relating to his second marriage.

He married at St John on 19 June 1603 the widow of Simon Malzard, son of Helier, Thomasse Esnouf, with whom he had no children. The Esnouf family was at this time one of the principal of St John and consisted of several important branches which had supplied Constables of the parish and a Jurat.

The Malzards, also counted among the ancient families of St John; Nicolas Malesars was Jurat in 1324 and Simon Malzard was Constable in 1540.

From her first marriage Thomasse Esnouf had two children, Simon and Rachel Malzard, of whom Laurens Baudains was the meneur or tuteur (effectively guardian – Ed). One of their parents, Jean Malzard, was schoolmaster at St John in 1606. Rachel Malzard married Jean Coutanche in about 1619.


Laurens Baudains did not enjoy his new home for long; he died in 1611 and his wife followed him quickly to the same grave, as shown by the tragic simplicity of the registry of burials in St Martin:

”1611: Laurens Baudains died on 26 June about 11 o’clock. The following day, the 27th, Thomasse, wife of Laurens, died at 11 o’clock. They were buried the following day, the 28th.”

His will, dated 20 February 1611, was approved at St Helier on 13 July 1611 by Martin Romeril, deputy to the Recorder of Wills.

The inventory of his possessions and his will are mentioned but not ratified on 4 July 1611, and on 13 July the same year Helier Faultrart, Rector of St Martin, delivered to Martin Romeril, the ‘last will and testament of the late Laurens Baudeyn’ with the oaths of Mr Faultrart and Jean Falle that it was the true testament of the said Laurens. This document is printed in the ‘’Chroniques de Jersey’’. One can see that it contained considerable legacies to the poor of the island, St Martin’s Church and different members of his family.

The succession of Laurens Baudains passed in the end to the children of his brothers and sisters. The principal heir was Laurence, only daughter of Jean Baudains, elder son of Edouard and wife of Michel Sarre. This line, which possessed the Fief Guillaume Payn, has been represented in Jersey until recent times by the Payn family, of Taillis, St Martin, recently extinct. Other heirs were Jean and Nicolas Baudains and their sisters, children of Nicolas, brother of Laurens. But eventually, with the exception of the house and household of Laurens Baudains at La Ville Bree, of which we will speak further, almost all the Baudains legacies were reunited in the Payn family.

As proof of the preceding, here is a resume of certain contracts:

  • 2 September 1625: Nicolas Baudains, younger son of Nicolas Baudains, son of Edouard, passes his share of his father’s estate to Abraham Payn and Jean Badier for 19 quarters of wheat rents, including the house and household called Maison de Caen and La Noe, St Martin, on the Fief du Rou, to the south west of the house of Jean Noel, which plot was from the estate of Laurens Baudains etc
  • 4 March 1626: Abraham Payn, son of Edouard, obtains from Daniel Sarre, elder son of Michel and the late Laurence Baudains, his wife, the houses, land, woods etc of the said Laurence
  • 17 April 1626: Abraham Payn obtains all the inheritance of Michel Sarre and his widowhood from Laurence Baudains, his late wife; the said Payn will deliver to Marguerite Payn, his daughter, on the day of her marriage, a cow, and to Elizabeth Sarre, granddaughter of the said Michel, a cow and 60 ecus when she comes of age.

As we have said, the house where Laurens Baudains lived was at Ville Bree, St Martin, on the Fief de Rozel; it was part of the possessions of his mother, Susanne Hicques. The house and adjoining land passed to Jean Badier, son of Martin, who in turn transferred it to Jean Syvret. His grandson, George Syvret (later Advocate and Greffier) relinquished it to Clement Messervy (son of Abraham, son of Edouard) and to Marie Fauvel his wife.

The descendants of Clement Messervy occupied this property until 6 February 1790, the date on which it was sold by Mr Clement Messervy to Mr Jean Messervy, grandfather of the current owner.

As with many houses of the 15th and 16th centuries, the ancient home of the benefactor of scholars had an exterior stone staircase, leading from the courtyard to the upper floor. It stood on the site of the present stables, a little to the north of the new house of Jean Messervy, and was demolished in 1874.

In conclusion we can say that the idea of Laurens Baudains for the construction of a College was taken up half a century later by George de Carteret, Bailiff and Lieut-Governor. He also had at heart to progress education in Jersey and made some sacrifices to this end. He also was faced with the indifference, even hostility of his contemporaries and Jersey had to wait nearly two centuries for the final realisation of their generous project.

If history shows that Sire Jehan Hue was the founder of St Mannelier, it is equally true that we should attribute to Laurens Baudains the honour of having been the founder of a College in Jersey.

Finally we express the wish that the memory of Laurens Baudains should not be completely forgotten by generations to come. We don’t think we are wrong in stating that there is nothing in Jersey to remind the public of the generosity of this man. Every country remembers its benefactors by erecting monuments or publishing monographs. Why are we so slow in Jersey to go down this road?

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