Le Franc Fief

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Jersey houses

St Brelade:

Le Franc Fief


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Three of the datestones at Le Franc Fief


A 2016 satellite view of Franc Fief shows that the area is very sparsely developed, unlike the rest of the parish of St Brelade

Although this property in La Rue du Conet, St Brelade is almost certainly not older than the 18th century, it is strangely included in the first volume of Old Jersey Houses by Joan Stevens [1] , which is devoted to houses built before 1700. There are two 18th century datestones, which Mrs Stevens was unable to decipher, in the first volume of her work. She does slightly better in the second volume, although, as the Jersey Datestone Register confirms, she still makes a mistake with the one she attempts to identify.

The description of the property varies between Franc Fief Farm and Le Franc Fief and there is no explanation of how it it has apparently been divided between a number of different households over the years.

Renouf stones

The fireplace lintel is inscribed MR 1717 AF, which the author says is for M Renouf and Amelia Falle. It is actually inscribed for Matthieu Renouf and Anne Falle, who were married in St Saviour in 1702. This stone departs from the normal practice of the time of dividing surnames into syllables - Renouf should have been RN.

The more familiar 'RN' was used 43 years later when a stone inscribed MAL ARN 1760 was erected on the first floor. It is shown incorrectly in the first volume as 1707, but corrected in the second [2] , although not identified. This stone was for Matthieu Alexandre and Ann Renouf, who were married in St Brelade in October 1755.

Although it is a reasonable assumption that the two Renoufs were related, it is difficult to ascertain how. There were two Anne Renoufs born in St Brelade at a time which would have made them possible brides for Matthieu Alexandre. The first was the daughter of Richard Renouf, born in 1727, and the second, born in 1734, the daughter of Jean. The baptism registers do not name the mother of either Anne.

There was a marriage between Richard Renouf and Catherine Maret in St Helier in 1712, and they had two children baptised in St Martin in 1715, so they may be the parents of the first Anne, and of her apparent siblings Elizabeth (1725- ), Marie (1730- ), Richard (1734- ) and Jeanne (1736- ).

The father of the other Anne was almost certainly the Jean Renouf, of St Brelade, who married Anne Robinson of St Martin in St Brelade in 1733. He was born in 1708, the son of Matthieu of St Brelade. We believe that he must have inherited Franc Fief from his father, the husband of Anne Falle, and then passed it to his daughter Anne.

Franc Fief 'vieille maison' - it is not clear which part of the property this is. The uncommon recessed arch, with the upper layer of stones buttressed out, is one of only three of its kind in the island

Matthieu problem

We had a problem with Matthieu (Mathieu). We could not at first find his baptism in our database, but a tree submitted to us as this page was being researched suggested that he was born in St Helier on 11 January 1677, the son of Pierre Renouf and Collette Luce. We established that there were a number of Renouf baptism records missing from the database, including Matthieu, and replaced them.

But in two Renouf trees added to Jerripedia in 2010 and 2013, Matthieu is shown as dying in infancy, and this is supported by a record in the St Helier burial register for 1678. The submitted tree, supported by a substantial number of others at Ancestry, shows Matthieu marrying Anne Falle, but is clearly wrong.

Further investigation revealed that there are several other Renouf datestones at Le Franc Fief. As well as MR AF 1702, the initials IR EPQ with the date 1702 appear together with them. There are also dates of 1717 and 1719 inscribed on a fireplace and trough.

IR and EPQ were inscribed for Jean Renouf and his wife Elizabeth Piquet, formerly of St Mary, where there is a similar stone - IR EPQ 1680 at La Pompe. They married in 1662 and had a daughter Elizabeth in 1672, followed by a son Matthieu in 1674, who is undoubtedly the one who married Anne Falle at St Saviour in 1702. It is very unusual to have two sets of initials on the same stone.

Other than establishing that Jean Renouf was the son of Philippe, we have been unable to take the family tree back any further because the St Mary baptism register does not start in earnest until 1648 - there are just seven entries from 1610 to 1617, and then a gap of 31 years.

20th century

The Renouf association with the property continued well into the 20th century. There is a 1941 Occupation identity card at Jersey Archive for Amy Selina Renouf, née Luce, of Franc Fief, St Brelade. We have not yet been able to establish the identify of her husband, or how he fits into the Renouf family tree. Amy was the daughter of John Luce and Eliza, born in St Lawrence, on 22 August 1888

It appears that a number of families were living at the property during the Occupation because there record cards for Eva Ann Le Brocq (1882- ), Eva Joyce Le Brocq (1919- ), John Herbert du Feu (1904-) and his wife Christine Fanny, nee Vautier (1904- ), and their children Christina Marguerite (1935- ) and Thomas John (1943- ).

The Alexandre connection also continued well into the 19th century. There is a 1895 will at the Archive for Elizabeth Le Bas, widow of Francois Alexandre. Her husband was the grandson of Mathieu and Anne Renouf. It seems that Francois and Elizabeth were neighbours when they were young because the 1841 census shows Francois living at Francfief in the household of his uncle, also Francois. Also living there was another uncle, Matthieu. Another household also shown under 'Francfief' in the census included Elizabeth (1816- ) her siblings and their farmer father Philip.

Francois owned, or at least was head of household by 1849, as shown by the reference to Le Franc Fief Farm on the Godfray map of that year. Six other Alexandre households were shown in the parish of St Brelade on the same map.

Name

In the second volume of Old Jersey Houses the property is referred to as Franc Fief Farm, as it is in the 1891 census. No other references have been found to a farm, although the heads of household during the 19th century were invariably described as 'farmer' in census returns. This is actually the manor house of the Franc Fief, whose seigneur in 1970 was retired diplomat Sir Robert Marett. The name means 'free fief', a medieval fief exempted from feudal obligations.

A clue to the multiple occupancy during the Occupation can be found in the 1841 census 100 years earlier. There are no fewer than 15 separate households listed, three headed by farmers. All are shown at 'Francfief'. Present-day almanac listings show Le Franc Fief, Petit Fief and Franc Fief Farm in Rue du Conet, and Francfief House and Francfief Cottage around the corner in Route du Francfief.

There is no clue in either volume of Old Jersey Houses to the existence of anything more than 'a house', but presumably there were many outbuildings in the property's early years.

Notes and references

  1. OJH I, 150
  2. OJH II, 125
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