Vinchelez de Bas Manor
From The Islander, 1940
Much of the charm of Vinchelez Lane, which is typical of our country byways, and which, as the older generation will remember, once featured in local guide-books as an accredited beauty spot, lies in the fine old arched gateway leading to the Manor and demesne lands of Vinchelez de Bas.
Originally both these fiefs were part of one great holding or group of holdings, the owner of which was referred to in early documents simply as the Seigneur of Vinchelez.
The family was of ancient origin: the first known member being Alain de Vinchelez, who made a gift to the Abbey of Mont St Michel in 1156.
According to the Extente of 1274, the fief then equalled that of St Ouen, but the fact that, by a curious feature of tenure, Vinchelez was once divisible among the male heirs of the family, inevitably led to a diminution of its importance and makes its early history very confusing and difficult to follow.
In 1274 it was already divided; the chief portion being held by Jean de Carteret in right of his wife, Lucia de Vinchelez, who in 1309 claimed the isle of Brechou, near Sark, as having belonged to her family since "time immemorial". By 1331 Vinchelez had been further divided.
Jean de Carteret and his wife sold their share in the estates to Nicholas de Chesny and in 1363 Eleonore, heiress of the de Chesny family, sold her Manor of Vinchelez to Jacquet Hascoul. (Brechou was excepted from this sale and later appears to have come into the hands of the Le Marchants of Guernsey).
Jacquet Hascoul had also inherited a share in the Vinchelez estates from his father, who had benefited by the sub-division of 1331, so he now owned a considerable fief. By 1405 it had been acquired, either through inheritance or purchase, by Michel Le Feuvre, and at some later date during the Le Feuvre tenure this property became known as Vinchelez de Bas. When Michel le Feuvre, Seigneur of Vinchelez de Bas, died in 1479, the fief passed to his great-grandson, John Dumaresq, who was the first of a long line of seigneurs of that name.
In 1484 Katherine de Vinchelez, who had inherited the Manor of Vinchelez de Haut, made a deed of gift of this property in favour of her godson, Richard de Carteret, a younger son of the Seigneur of St Ouen. This resulted in a long, and bitter feud between the de Carterets and the Dumaresqs.
The latter family who, as we have seen, already held the fief de Bas, were related to the house of Vinchelez and evidently considered that they had prior claim to the fief de Haut. So they brought an action against Katherine, claiming that the deed of gift, far from being framed en pur charite, was really in consideration of a trifle of 70 ecus which Katherine had received from young Richard de Carteret's father.
The lady admitted to taking this money, but said that it was merely a friendly gift with which to purchase a new gown. It would appear that she had expensive tastes; an opinion evidently shared by the King's Procureur, who now stepped in and claimed the money for the Crown, on the grounds that it exceeded a year's revenue from the fief. On offering to pay the amount as heirs to the property, the Dumaresqs of Vinchelez de Bas were put in possession of the Manor de Haut. Further lawsuits ensued and in 1512 Richard de Carteret, who had now come of age, at last obtained possession of his inheritance according to the terms of Katherine's deed of gift.
He married a daughter of Thomas Dumaresq of Vinchelez de Bas, but relations between the seigneurs of the respective parts of Vinchelez continued strained and it was not until 1605 that a final and amicable settlement was reached. Elie Dumaresq and John de Carteret then agreed to take all their differences before selected arbiters and to abide by their decision.
This Commission, which included Sir John Peyton, then Governor of Jersey, ruled that Carteret should be styled Seigneur de Haut de Vinchelez and Dumaresq, Seigneur de Bas de Vinchelez, and that neither should usurp the title of Seigneur of Vinchelez alone. The boundaries of the fiefs were adjusted, and it was agreed that the Seigneur of Vinchelez de Haut should retain a half-share in the chapel and cemetery of St George, situated upon the fief de Bas.
de Carteret inheritance
Vinchelez de Bas was held by the Dumaresqs until 1663, when Sarah Dumaresq, sole heiress, married a younger son of the house of Vinchelez de Haut. Thus, by a curious coincidence, the whole of the Dumaresqs' inheritance passed to their ancient rivals, the de Carterets.
For the next 200 years both the Vinchelez fiefs remained with the de Carteret family. Charles de Carteret, Seigneur of Vinchelez de Bas, died unmarried in 1859, when the fief passed to his sister. At her death it was inherited by a distant cousin, Eliza le Couteur, who married Abraham Le Sueur.
This man was the victim of an accident which might appear of some significance to the superstitiously-minded. On top of the archway leading into the Manor grounds there used formerly to be one of those round stones like cannon balls, which are still used for decorative purposes upon walls and gateways. When Le Sueur was pulling down the ivy one day, this stone fell on his neck and he died of the injury. In 1885, his son sold Vinchelez de Bas to Edward Malet de Carteret, and the fief is now held by the latter's grandson, Guy Malet de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen.
With the kind permission of Mr Carson, tenant of Vinchelez de Bas, we were able to look over this pleasant domain. The present manor house is comparatively modern, but part of an earlier building remains in the form of a stout wall at the rear. The ancient chapel of St George has quite disappeared. Only the steps which once led to the cemetery may still be seen near the main entrance gate.
There is also in the manor grounds a stone altar slab which must once have belonged to the chapel. It is marked in the centre and at each corner with a cross. These altar slabs date from a very early period, probably from the 11th or 12th century. Two similar slabs have been discovered at Mont Orgueil Castle, where they were incorporated with the masonry, having been dismantled no doubt at the time of the Reformation. That at Vinchelez is particularly interesting, as it shows that even the small seignorial chapels had these altars, and is the only one which still remains practically in situ.
The well-wooded surroundings are entirely charming. As we saw it, with the sun shining through the tall trees, a brood of goslings tumbling into the placid vivier, and a peacock strutting across the lawn, Vinchelez de Bas appeared typical of the comfort and tranquility of our smaller country manors.