La Valette, St John, is a typical 18th century Jersey farmhouse, which has been owned by the National Trust for Jersey since 1965. It had apreviously been in the Le Masurier family for 175 years, having passed to them by marriage from the Pinels, who owned it in the mid-17th century.
Not large or exceptional
The Trust describes the property:
- "The importance of La Vallette lies in the fact that this property is neither exceptional or large, but is simply an example of the sort of farmhouse lived in by a Jersey family of the 18th century, well enough established to be proprietors, but never extremely wealthy. It is surrounded by its own land and is situated not far from the cliffs overlooking Bonne Nuit Bay".
- "La Vallette means a little valley and many houses were constructed in hollows for shelter. The house as it now appears is dated 1797, with a dower wing of a generation later. But this façade was superimposed on to a 17th century house, that of the Pinels.
- "The ground floor room, west, originally the kitchen, has a granite fireplace with lightly decorated corbels, retained as kitchen fire designs had not altered, and the crane (spit from which to suspend cooking pots) is still in position. This and the gable ends of the house, and the sturdy granite chimneys, are consistent with a mid-seventeenth century date.
- "On the north there is a typical Jersey round arch, and immediately under the great shoulder stone, the initials CP are incised. These probably represent Clement Pinel who died in 1696, but he could have put his initials on a feature which had existed for many years before that. This arch may be in its original position, or it may have been demoted from being the front door in the south façade during the 1797 restoration.
- "Some chamfered window lintels from the earlier house have been re-used at later dates. They would have been discarded as old-fashioned when larger sash windows were incorporated. The existing windows probably date from that time and they have an early type of latch.
- "The chimneys are of a sturdy design and incorporate Witches’ Stones. These stones were in reality drip stones which were inserted in the thatch at a period when all houses in the countryside were thatched. The thatch was tucked under these stones, which prevented the rain from running down the chimney under the thatch. The Witches’ Stones or Pierres de Corchieres, as they were usually referred to, were so-named in a belief that they were intended as a resting place for witches on their nocturnal flights.
- "The front door porch is simple and pleasing, having Tuscan pillars without bases, a vernacular effort at making a classical feature. The actual front door appears to be contemporary. The doors leading from the hall to the two principal rooms are interesting, with contemporary fielded panelling and a side 'contre huis' which could be opened on occasions when a wider door was required. Such a design is not unknown, but it is uncommon within the interior of a house.
- "The stairs are simple and undecorated; underneath them is a large granite trough in which pork used to be salted for winter use, and this is quite a usual place in which to find such a trough.
- "The dower wing bears the date 1826 and the initials of Charles Le Masurier and Elizabeth Sophie Rondel. This is a very early and rare example of two Christian names carved on a date stone. Here again the actual front door and the interior woodwork are good examples of their date showing the changes in fashion during a quarter of a century. This wing is single storied and was clearly meant to be a ground floor living room and bedroom for the dowager.
- "The mushroom-shaped stones (Pierre de Haugard) in the front garden were stack stones used for raising a haystack off the ground and to save it from damp and rodents. The outbuildings have a large number of pigeon holes, for the breeding and keeping of pigeons.
- "At the entrance to the property, is a wooden stile in the form of a cross fixed on a granite pillar. This allowed pedestrians to enter the property whilst the gates were kept shut to prevent the cattle and sheep escaping."
The exact details of the transfer of ownership of La Vallette from the Pinel family to the Le Masuriers are somewhat obscure. The National Trust for Jersey website, a Pinel family website and the Jersey Datestone Register give conflicting information.
What seems clear is that in 1790 the house was owned by Elizabeth Pinel (1767- ), whose ancestry can be traced back in St John to Clement Pinel, who was born in about 1490.
Elizabeth was the daughter of Thomas Pinel, son of Clement and Rachel Le Mottey. The identity of Thomas' wife is not known. Elizabeth married Charles Le Masurier (1770- ) of Trinity on 8 June 1791, so the date of 1790 given on the National Trust for Jersey website for the transfer from the Pinels to the Le Masuriers in 1790 seems premature. It also conflicts with one of the property's datestones, which gives the initials of Charles Le Masurier and Elizabeth Pinel and the date 1796, not the 1797 given by the Trust for the property's restoration.
No information has been discovered on Charles' ancestry, but Charles and Elizabeth had a son Charles, who married Elizabeth Sophie Rondel (1798- ) of Trinity, the daughter of Philippe and Elizabeth Le Riche. It is their marriage or acquisition of La Vallette in 1826 which is marked by another of the property's datestones.
All of this conflicts with the information on the Pinel family website that Philippe inherited the property directly from his grandmother and that his mother was another Elizabeth Pinel. This information appears to be incorrect.
Philippe married another Pinel, Nancy (1821- ) in 1850, who was the daughter of Philippe Pinel and whose ancestry can be traced back through another Pinel branch to Clement Pinel.
Philippe and Nancy had a son, Philip, who founded wine merchants Pinel and Le Masurier with Nancy's brother Jean. This was to become Ann Street Brewery.