Diélament colombier

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The colombier

This article by A Le Sueur was first published in the 1963 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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The Colombier at Dielament is one of ten still standing in the island, the others being at St Ouen's Manor, Rosel, Samares, Trinity, La Hague, Longueville, La Colombier, St Lawrence, La Haule and Hamptonne.

Mostly circular

With the exception of those at La Haule and Hamptonne, which are square, all the others are circular buildings.

They stand at some distance from the manor houses and rise, tapering slightly, from a base 4 ft thick to a height of 26 to 30 ft according to the number of nest holes (boulins ) in the wall; that at Samares, for instance, having about 600, whilst those at Dielament number 1,450, where they are about 7 in x 6 in and 1 ft 4 in deep, and are even built into the reveals of the windows. The roofs were often timbered and conical in shape.

From the early 13th century it was the right and privilege of the Seigneur to have a colombier in which to keep pigeons, but the advantage was certainly all on his side because, as the number of pigeons kept must have been considerable - for example, over a thousand pairs could breed at Dielament - and as most of the farmers grew grain of some sort, their crops must have suffered whilst the pigeons ate their fill. For this the farmers had no redress, and we have a record of one Abraham Esnouf being fined dix sols (fivepence) in 1579 for killing a pigeon.

It was not until 1526 that this privilege was extended to include certain families of distinction who were permitted to keep a limited number of pigeons, and they had pigeon holes cut into the front of their houses - as we can see today at La Tourelle, St Martin, and Cap Verde, St Lawrence.

The name Dielament is probably a corruption of Guille Hamon. There was a Guille or Guillaume Hamon who was concerned with the Abbe of St Helier in 1125 and he may have possessed this manor and fief. By the 14th century, however, the Barentin family owned it and they in 1367 leased or sold it to Raoul Lempriere of Rosel and Guillame Payne. In 1409 the Manor and Colombier are mentioned in a partage as belonging to the Lemprieres of Rozel and it was still in the hands of the Lemprieres in 1811. In 1904, when La Société Jersiaise visited the colombier, the manor belonged to Francois Pirouet and it was noted that the colombier was in a tres bon etat de conservation.

Rebuilt in 1573

The present Colombier stands on slightly higher ground than the manor, and although the original manor house was destroyed many years ago, the Colombier was rebuilt in 1573. In the library at Rosel Manor is a letter in which the Rosel Court confirms the right of Thomas Lempriere to do this. Part of the translation of the document reads thus :-

"Know ye that on 5 December 1573 Thomas Lempriere Seigneur of the Fief appeared before us to state his pleas in the presence of the Honourable George Paulett, Lieutenant and the Honourable Amys Paulett, Captain, Guardian and Governors of the Castle and Island of Jersey, to reinstate his right which he has lost and that 12 loyal oathworthy men have been sworn to testify in his favour that the predecessors of the said Lempriere once enjoyed the privilege to have a round Colombier to keep pigeons."

The 12 men, who were all about 70 years old, all testified what they knew of the colombier. The evidence that they gave was as follows: Phillippe Bisson - for at least 40 years he had seen the foundations of a round Colombier; Collas Beaugie had seen the colombier standing except for the west wall; Francois de la Rocque said he remembered seeing the colombier and the pigeons inside. Others who remembered seeing something of the previous colombier were Mathie Le Feyine, Leonard Chevalier, Collas Gouray, Jehan Pallot, Francois Le Sueur, Collin Briart, Rebin Gilles, Jehan Hubert, Francois Le Gros.

The roof has been restored recently by the present owner of Dielament Manor, Major J L R Huelin.

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