Janvrin's Tomb

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Janvrin's Tomb


Ile au Guerdain, a rocky islet in Portlet Bay, cut off from the
shore at high tide, is better known as Janvrin's Tomb

Ile au Guerdain at low tide

Philippe Janvrin was captain of the Esther. He and his crew often sailed to France, to trade with the French.

But when the plague became epidemic in France, no ships from France were allowed to land in Jersey. When Philippe returned from France, Esther and her crew had to stay moored in Bellecroute Bay.

On his second day of quarantine, Philippe died, but his body could not be brought ashore because of the plague. Instead he was buried on Ile au Guerdain in Portelet Bay. Today it is still remembered as Janvrin's Tomb.


Philippe Valpy dit Janvrin (1677-1721) was the third son of Jacques Valpy dit Janvrin of St Brelade and Marie Le Couteur. Born in St Brelade in 1677, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Philippe Orange, in St Brelade's Church on 27 September 1710.

The following extracts give the story of his death and burial. Jean d’Auvergne's contemporary diary says:.

"While an order was in force that every vessel that came from certain ports must go into quarantine, because of the plague at Marseilles and in other parts of France, there arrived from Bordeaux and other places a vessel named the Esther of which Mr Philippe Janvrin was master, meaning to spend its period of quarantine beneath the house of the Seigneur of Noirmont. As the said Janvrin died on board, and no one, not even his relations, wife, or children, dared to go to him, permission was given by the Court with the consent of the Lieut-Governor to bury him on a little islet, called the Ile es Guerdains, only three persons to carry him in the boat, the Minister and people to remain on the hill. When the signal was given, the Minister read the usual service for the Burial of the Dead".

The entry in the burial register at St Brelade runs:

"Mons Philippe Janvrin, returning from Nantes, and being forced to undergo quarantine in the harbour of Belle Croute, died at the end of two days on board his ship. The Court ordered that he should be buried on an islet called the Ile au Guerdain, and he was buried thus on 27 September 1721".

The inscription on his tombstone ran:

"Here awaiting a happy resurrection lies the body of Philippe Janvrin of St Brelade's, who having been attacked by an ordinary fever, while returning from Nantes to Jersey, died in his vessel on 25 September 1721 aged 44 on the second day of quarantine, which he was obliged to undergo, because of the plague which desolated part of the Kingdom of France. The Magistrates of the isle having ordered that he should be buried in this spot, Elizabeth Orange, deeply touched by the death of her dear and faithful husband, has caused this tomb to be erected as a sad and pious monument of her love and to preserve his memory".

He had five children, Philippe (1713- ), Jacques (1715- ), Jean, Elizabeth, who died young, and another Elizabeth (1718- ). Guidebooks state that his body was later removed to St Brelade's churchyard, but there is no entry of this reburial in the register nor is there any trace of his tombstone in the churchyard. If left on the islet, the stone was probably destroyed, when 90 years later the tower was built during the Napoleonic wars.

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