Giot family of Crabbe

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Giot family of Crabbe


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Pigsties at Crabbe Farm


This article by Jean Arthur was first published in the 1992 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise


There was a certain Jean Giott … auquel les Etats par Acte de Fan 1792 le treizieme jour de Juillet auroient pcrmis d'Acqucrir de l’heritage dans cette Isle . [1]

French origins

He must have been a foreigner, his name suggests he was French and the date suggests that he might have been an escapee from the revolutionary troubles across the water. This was not, however, entirely the case: He was a Norman who had lived for 29 years and more in the Parish of Saint Ouen, he had a Jersey wife and grown-up children.

The Acte referred to above shows, moreover, that the Island of Jersey was extremely particular in 1792 about the sort of people who were permitted to take up permanent residence in the Island and to own property.

The Acte reads as follows:

"La Consideration de la Requete de Jean Giott natif de la Paroisse du Vretot en Normandie ayant ete reprise, Exposant qu'il y a audela de 29 ans qu’il vint etablir sa Residence dans la Paroisse de St Ouen en cette Isle et s’y est conduit en honnete homme et en bon Citoyen et fidel sujet de Sa Majeste Britannique. Qu'il a tout depuis fait profession de la Religion protestante et a assistd a toutes les Parties du culte etabli dans ce Pais, qu’il a epouse une femme native et Habitante de cette Isle et a eu avec elle Plusieurs Enfans a qui il a fait apprendre des metiers pour les mettre en etat de gagner leur vie honnetement. Que par son travail et son Industrie ledit Remontrant a acquis un certain bien en meuble pour lequel il a longtems contribue aux Charges publiques et au maintien des Pauvres. Qu’il a toujours fait son Service militaire aussi bien durant la paix que pendant la guerre et s’est acquitte de son mieux de tous ses devoirs envers cette Isle. Que ledit Remontrant desire s’attacher au Pais d’une maniere encore plus stable et plus formelle en acquerrant du bien fond. Et suppliant les Etats de le naturaliser afin de le mettre en etat de faire l’acquisition qu’il se propose et dejouir de tous les droits et privileges appartenant aux Habitants de l’Isle de Jersey. Et un Certificat de plusieurs des Principaux de la Paroisse de St Ouen attestant la bonne conduite dudit Jean Giott et verifiant les faits contenus dans sa Requete ayant ete produit et lu, Les Etats ont ete d’opinion que la demande dudit Jean Giott d’acquerir de l’heritage dans cette Isle ne peut etre prejudiciable au Pais et qu’il est raisonnable de la lui accorder: partant il est permis audit Jean Giott de faire l’acquisition qu’il se propose." [2]

House and land purchased

The following January he used the power given to him by the States to acquire a house and some 14 vergees of land in Saint Mary on the Fief Auvesque from Tobie Le Cras. There were a total of six quarters and five cabots of wheat rente owing on this property and, in addition, Jean Giott paid 1,478 livres tournois, une fois payer, that is, in cash.

That he had accumulated a fair amount of money, as recorded in the Acte des Etats quoted above, was further demonstrated in 1795 when he paid 100 livres tournois to the Poor of Saint Ouen to extinguish two cabots of the wheat rente due on his newly acquired property by claiming, and succeeding in his claim, that the rente could not be due a main morte, that is to a corporate body, and had, therefore, to be sold by auction.

By this means the rente became amortie en son sac, or wiped out. There were no easy ways ot paying oft perpetual rentes in the days before reim bursement was made possible. [3]

In 1800 and 1804 he bought more land to add to his holding and paid in cash. By 1809, [4] for one reason or another, Jean Giott was not capable of conducting his own affairs. His elder son, Jean was appointed attorney sans lequel il ne peut agir.

The field called Le Clos Vaze was sold to Jean Sauvage. It was let as it had been at the time of its purchase in 1793. The sale was subject to the following proviso:

souffrir locataire .... entendu que dans le cas que ledit Jean Giott snr viendrait a mourir avant l'expiration dudit bail a termage ledit Jean Giott jnr s’oblige …. de faire casser et annuller ledit bail de maniere a ce que ledit preneur entre en jouissance dudit clos au jour de Noel immediat apres le deces dudit Jean Giott pere”.

Need to raise capital

By this stage in his life Jean Giott either needed to realise some capital or, possibly, he wanted to give to his younger son, Thomas, some money to invest on his own account. Le Clos Vaze was the obvious one to sell; it is at some distance from the property purchased from Tobie Le Cras. The exact site of the latter has not been located, but the house was probably on the south side of Mont du Rondin. [5]

As we have seen, Jean Giott had two sons, Jean and Thomas. The Arthur family memory records that Thomas Giott bore the additional sobriquet 'dit la Source'. Whether this was part of the surname inherited from his Norman ancestors or whether it was a nickname given to him alone is not known. Today’s descendants of the Giot family (they abbreviated their name in the 19th century) are aware of the extra name but do not know how it arose. The Godfray Map of 1849 records Thomas’ name simply as M T La Source.

In 1817 Thomas Giot, son of Jean acquired, [6]prit a fin d’Heritage, the small farm we know as Crabbe Farm. Its value was douze quartiers de froment de rente. It was not dear when compared with the four vergees ten perches (approximately) in Le Clos Vaze which had been sold a year earlier for six quartiers cinq sixtonniers. Le Clos Vaze is good, light arable land. Crabbe Farm is very exposed to all weathers and the soil is gravelly and thin.

It must have been largely grazing for sheep. It was described in the contract as une certaine petite maison avec belle et puits au Sud d’icelle permettant a ceux qui ont droit d’aller puiser de l’eau audit puits pour abreuver leur betail. No outbuildings were mentioned.

Older building

The little house is the older single-storey dwelling to be seen there today. It still has an earth floor in part at the east end which has become an outhouse. All the signs suggest a simple 17th century cottage with a central passage linking a now blocked north door with the front door facing south. The present south facade is not original. It was, as we shall see, rebuilt in about 1860.

To the west of this little house is a one-up one-down 18th century house which has lost its south facade entirely. It is possible that there was an outbuilding to its south-west in 1810. The wall in that position today has the appearance of age. There is an unexplained curve in its eastern face.

One wonders whether Thomas Giot kept a draft animal or a cow or a goat, or two. He kept sheep. He was granted the merque de bercail [7] which had belonged to Jean Pratt, an earlier owner of Crabbe Farm, of whom more below. The sheep could have had only the shelter of the stone walls round the fields. Certainly, there were no fancy lambing quarters in those days. The last person in the parish [8] to keep sheep in similar conditions gave up at the time of the Great War because he had no means of protecting the newly-born lambs from the crows which picked out their eyes.

The well is near the east gable of the single storey house and has an auge, or trough, so placed as to be accessible from both sides ot the garden wall. The specification tor its placement thus was given in 1797. [9] Those who had the right to water their animals from this well were able to do so from the public road by means of this ingenious arrangement.

The land in 1810 consisted of two enclosed fields north of the house with the public road running to the east and north, a triangular patch of gorse, an enclosed field over the road and a petit becquet to the cast of that. No area is given, but an estimate based on the Richmond map of 1795 suggests something between six and ten vergees. The whole was on the Fief es Cracquevilles. There is no mention of rights on the common land but they must have existed.

Thomas presumably knew he faced a life ot hard work tor little reward, interest on his capital investment would be negligible, if any. He would, however, be independent, albeit no more than one rung above the labourer on the social ladder.

Farming economics

The subject of agricultural economics in the Island demands a volume to itself and cannot be done justice here. However, a few words arc appropriate in relation to the present story. In the very beginning sufficient hunting and, subsequently, cultivation was undertaken to sustain human life. [10] It was a natural activity which developed gradually until people learned that it was good policy to keep stores of harvested cereals both for winter feed and for seed for the next season’s crop. It must have been at this point that the economics of the process were first perceived.

One family group having a little surplus at the end of the agricultural year could give, share, or barter to another which had either had a poorer harvest, fed too well over the winter or suffered some disaster such as, possibly, a raid by wild animals. A surplus provided the means of trade.

A man who discovered this by accident would then find in himself an entrepreneurial spirit and aim to produce a surplus in future years. He would become more proprietorial about the land, particularly the best land, which he cultivated until it became 'his holding'.

Later, in feudal days, it was still the surplus, in kind, which paid for acquisitions of land, loans or mortgages, in the form of dues to the Seigneur, and rente. Quarters, cabots and sixtonniers of wheat or other cereal crop were the most common form of payment. However, the commodity was often suited to the particular means of livelihood of the Individual. For instance, the man who lived on the site of The White Horse at Le Dicq paid six quarters of vraic ash to his Seigneur, which represents a vast harvest of seaweed.

There are examples of payments in pepper, ox-tongue (one every second year), apples, cider, oranges, honey and wax. With regard to the latter, Messervy explains pour faire les cierges a l'usage du culte avant la reformation. As time went by rentes and dues were commuted to cash, although seigneurial rentes continued to be payable and receivable in kind.

Agriculture remained at subsistence level for centuries. In 1628 Heylin, one of our earliest tourists, wrote an account of his stay in the Island. He described the country people in general, without taking into account whether they lived off the fertile soils of the valleys or the thin gravels like those in the Crabbe area, which must always have been low on the scale of production.

He wrote: "A people very painfull and laborious, ... by reason of their continuall toyle and labour, not a little affected by a kinde of melancholy surlinesse incident to ploughmen." In using this patronising tone and the word ‘surly’, in particular, Heylin probably did not take sufficiently into account the natural wariness, even shyness, ot the countryman when confronted by an, apparently, sophisticated stranger speaking a foreign tongue. The Jerseyman was being as polite as he could in the circumstances.

The picture, however, is not one of prosperity arising out of toil on the land. Things improved in the 18th century, but most of the money was made in some form of maritime activity, including cider and wheat exports, the profits of which were ploughed back into the homestead in the form of buildings and education.

Agricultural methods were much improved during the 19th century under the leadership of such men as Sir John Le Couteur and Colonel C P Le Cornu. Nevertheless Ou la chevre est attachee il taut qu’elle broute [11] is an old truism which is still appropriate, as will be attested by those who have been loyal to the soil of their forefathers, even those who inherited comparatively good land.

Their returns in modern times for basic consumer commodities, of which milk is the survivor, are controlled by subsidies which protect the consumer against the effects of inflation, but cannot be said to give the landowner a respectable return on his capital, particularly, as ever, the farmer on marginal land.

Crabbe Farm history

With apologies for the above diversion [12] we shall now divide the history of Crabbe Farm and its owners.

First, keeping in mind the simple situation of 1810, we shall go back as far as the records available will allow and, second, we shall come forward from the purchase by Thomas Giot dit La Source to the present day.

Represented by administrateur

The vendor in 1810 was Henry Gallichan, son of Philippe, who had acquired most of the property from Jean Pratt. The remainder, Le clos du nord and le petit morceau par l’Est, came, in 1807 [13]from Jean Guille, son of Jean, son of Paul. This land had rights to use the well at the farm. It had, in turn, come from Jean Pratt, son of Charles, in 1797. At both dates [14] Jean Pratt, son of Charles, son of Jean was absent de cette ile and was represented in Court at the passing of the contracts by an administrateur.

In 1797, as noted earlier, the specifications for the use of the water from the well were defined. The description is not clear in relation to the present geography. However, Pratt sold to Guille a small morsel of land near the well and the right to put a stone trough upon it and to take water for his animals. Pratt had to keep the well in good order and to provide a bucket, a rope and other appurtenances. Jean Guille paid cash, 40 livres tournois.

An administrateur could not act on his own. On the occasions mentioned above he was supported by Philippe Le Gresley, electeur, and Anne Baker, electrice . The latter was the widow of Charles Pratt and, therefore, the mother of Jean Pratt, who was hors de l'ile.

In 1727, Jean Renouf, son of Jean, son of Jean, son of Nicolas, [15] leased in perpetuity to Jean Pray a piece of land called La Lande, with the public road to the south. [16] It is noteworthy that in these contracts in the vicinity of Crabbe Farm the name of the owner of the land on the western boundary is not given. This must be because the Commune es Cracquevilles lies to the west. At the time everyone would have known that it was so. It is possible that the farm is an encroachment on the common. The Richmond Map would seem to suggest as much.

Jean Prett

In this contract of 1727 the name of the purchaser is given as Jean Pray. A marginal note in the Registre Public corrects it to Prett. This is interesting. It shows that the English surname Pratt or Prett had been seen in its written form by a Jerseyman who, naturally, read it out aloud without pronouncing the final consonant. Another Jerseyman wrote down what he heard, quite naturally, as Pray. However, the enregistreur des contrats recognised, probably when the man stood up in Court to pass his contract, that he was a member of the English family Pratt, and he made the correction in the record accordingly.

Jean Pratt or Prett acquired a closet and le Camp des Mossues in 1733. [17]His grandson, also Jean, sold the former in 1793 and the latter in 1796. There were additions to the holding he bought (prit et acquit) jointly with his wife, Margueritte Lecaude, in 1715: in solidum a qui plus vivra plus tiendra le plus sutfisant pour le tout et a leurs hoirs . . . Maison, Haye, Hogard avec la terre appele le Closet derriere et joignant a ladite Maison.

The Pratts’ joint purchase in 1715 [18] was from Jacques Robert, who was in right of Laurens Graut who, in turn, was in right of Jean Le Marquand. Jacques Robert retained the right to use the well at the house at any time and to repossess the property without further ado (sans forme ni figure de proces) if at any time the interest on the one quarter of wheat rente which he had to pay fell more than two years in arrears. Jean must have paid the interest regularly because he was still adding to the property some 18 years later.

The 18th century must have been a period of comparative stability for Crabbe Farm. The Pratt family was owner from 1715 to 1797, and must have built the little two-storey dwelling to the west ot the old single-storey cottage which faces south. The age of this addition can be judged from its north facade and several internal features.

There is a very nice wooden mantlepiece and fireside surround in the bedroom from approximately the second quarter of the century and a solid capacious hearth of similar date beneath it. The south facade of this building must have been totally demolished when the later house which faces east was added.

Earlier owners

The contract of 1715 is a key one enabling us to seek earlier owners. At that date the vendor was Jacques Robert, son of Clement. This same Jacques sold another property just a few months before he bought Crabbe Farm in October 1696 [19] from Laurens Graut.

Laurens retained for himself and his wife Sara Robert the right to live in one end of the house, that is the old single-storey house, for life without payment and the same for Sara Le Gresley, possibly his mother-in-law.

It must have been this Sara Robert who in 1697 undertook to look after Ester Blampied for a period of five years, a sort of apprenticeship, after which Ester was to be free to go. The Parish provided Trante et deux sol six denier et un cabot de blee. Sara Robert was to feed Ester, provide her with the material for two garments (chemises). She would have the use of un coffre de mer appartenant a la fille.

It seems likely that Ester was an orphan who had nothing in the world but her sailor father’s sea-chest. Sara had to promise to provide all necessary clothes and to bring Ester up in health and in sickness. At the end ot her service Ester was to have her sea-chest.

At the foot of the agreement in the parish records, Sara made her mark and the child’s guardian, Philippe Blampied, signed with shaky initials. He was guardian of the children of Philippe Blampied, son of Elier and was, possibly, Ester’s older brother.

Wresting an existence from a small, poor holding like that at Crabbe, which must have been always on the edge of viability, was tough. Helping to bring up a child like Ester provided an extra pair of hands as well as the meagre help from the parish.

Picking up again the story of the farm itself and continuing to go backwards in time, we learn that Laurens Graut (sic) and Sara Robert had acquired it in 1694. They had had to accept that Sara Le Gresley already had her home there as vie durante seulement. Jean Le Marquand was the vendor and indirectly in right of Francois Trachier, son of Francois, who had parted with the property in 1680. [20]

At that date part of the agreement was that a bank of stone four and a half feet high was to be built to protect the field to the north of the house. It is still today quite a bit higher than the land to the north.

It has not been possible to pick up definite evidence for Crabbe Farm earlier than 1680. The families Trachy, Robert and Grault were all in the vicinity back to 1600 at least. It seems probable that the earliest single-storey house dates from about this time.

It might have been new when Sara Le Gresley was a bride. It must be either that the first owner was in right of the Seigneur of the Fief es Cracquevilles or that he was a squatter on the edge of the common of the fief, possibly having had, in the earliest days, duties relating to the overseeing of the activities ot the tenants on the common.

It is worth noting that in the period studied here there were, apparently, only two dwellings on the fief, la Ferme de Crabbe and la Maison de Crabbe. The site of the latter is known.

19th century

Now let us pick up the trail again in 1810 and come forward to our own time. The reader will remember that it was in 1810 that Henry Gallichan leased and sold in perpetuity to Thomas Giot son of Jean. In 1825 Thomas Giot and Jean Le Gros Bisson approached the parish for permission to enclose their land which lay to the east of the road to the east of the buildings at Crabbe Farm. They were allowed to do so provided they left 14 feet for the roadway.

It is significant that the parish was consulted rather than the fief es Cracquevilles. The smaller feudal courts had little or no effect by this date.

In 1827 Thomas was paid £36 by the parish for having provided a lodging for Jean Vibert for six months. People in need are always with us. Fortunately for Jean Vibert there were also those who, like Thomas Giot, were doing their best to eke a living from an unpromising small area of land and were probably glad to help and to receive in return cash from the parish.

In 1839 [21] Thomas Giot's son, also Thomas, leased and sold his inherited farm to his wife Jane Godard, together with some land to the cast of the house across the road. The buildings were said to be maison ou maisons croiserice, edifices et cour.

Thomas, the father, must have added the house which faces east, probably only a single storey with an attic and the stabling and pigsties to the west of the 18th century house. Jane had to agree to allow those with right to do so to water their animals at the well and to allow and suffer her mother-in-law, Susanne Robert, to enjoy for life the dower agreed according to an accord de douaire between herself and her son made in 1837.

Contracts are infinitely flexible instruments and can be made to suit almost any requirement. There are two unusual things about the transaction of 1839. First, why should Thomas pass his inheritance to Jane? Was he very improvident? Or did he travel abroad? Whatever the reason it must have been decided that the property was safer in her hands. Second, it refers to an agreement of dower between mother and son. Such agreements arc not necessary in the ordinary way, the widow had by right a dower in her husband’s property.

The content of this agreement is not recorded but it was to cause a problem as we shall see.

Militia requirement

In July 1852 Moses Gibaut, Colonel of the First (North-west) Regiment of Militia, wrote to the Constable of St Mary, Nicolas Arthur, son of Nicolas, of La Falaise, asking him to find a suitable drill ground for the three parishes, St Ouen, St Peter and St Mary.

Early in 1853 Nicolas Arthur, Seigneur du fief de Cracquevilles, offered the commune pour servir de Drill Ground. In March the Lieut-Governor, Major-General James Frederick Love, was asking for news. A three parish meeting was called.

By 1859 the States had accepted the offer of the Seigneur es Cracquevilles, though not for a parade ground but for a rifle range to be used both by the Militia and the garrison. They wanted the farm as well as the open common.

The Giot family was not pleased and a compulsory purchase order was made. In November 1860 [22] Thomas and his mother appeared in Court to explain that because of the compulsory purchase, Susanne Robert had lost the dower which had been agreed between herself and her son. It is not recorded whether or not she received any compensation.

Arpenteurs were called to measure the land. In December,1860 [23] the Seigneur passed the land on behalf of himself and his tenants to the Island Defence Committee. The total area was almost 71 vergees. The Seigneur’s title to the fief was not given, nor was his parentage. The tenants were not named, nor is it apparent that they were consulted.

That is the end of the story of Crabbe Farm as an independent holding run by its owner. In recent times, it has been let and tenant farmers have continued to make a meagre living from its mediocre land.

When in 1989 it was possible to visit and study the buildings, somewhat briefly, it was noted that a considerable amount of addition and alteration had been undertaken when the military authorities took over in 1860. The house which faces east was enlarged upwards and the oldest house was given a new facade. The large military style shed to the south-west ol the older out¬buildings dates from this time and was probably intended as a military store. It is appropriate that the Commander ot the Island's Territorial Unit should be the new occupant of the renovated and modernised buildings but sad to note that the cast iron gutters which were in good condition, apparently, in the spring of 1989 have been cast aside in favour of plastic replacements.

Notes and references

  1. RP 78,199
  2. Acte des Etats 13 July 1892: (translation) 1792: Consideration of the renewed petition of Jean Giott, native of the parish of Vretot in Normandy, contending that he established his residence in the Parish of St Ouen nine years ago and has conducted himself as an honest man and a good citizen and a faithful subject of His Brittanic Majesty. During that time, he has faithfully practised the Protestant religion, attending all services of worship established in this country. That he married a native born Jersey citizen, and has had several children with her to whom he has taught trades, to put them in a position to earn an honest living. That, for a long time, by his work and industry, he has acquired sufficient means to be able to contribute to public charges and the maintenance of the poor. That he always did his military service during both peace and wartime. That he did his best with all his duties towards this Island. That said Petitioner desires to attach to the country in an even more formal and permanent way, gaining citizenship, in order to acquire all the rights and privileges belonging to inhabitants of the Isle of Jersey. A Certificate of several of the Principals of the Parish of St Ouen, attesting to the good conduct of said Jean Giott and verifying the facts contained in his petition, having been produced and read, the States are of opinion that the request of John Giott, to acquire inheritance in this Isle, cannot be prejudicial to the country and it is reasonable to grant it to him: hence it is permissible for Jean Giott to acquire what he proposes
  3. Loi (1880) sur la propriete fonciere. Article 37
  4. RP 107,109
  5. 1773 Tobie Le Cras, son of Tobie, son of Nicolas; 1828 Pierre Le Cras, son of Tobie associated with Retreat Farm on Mont du Rondin
  6. RP 108,261
  7. Each flock was required to have a mark which was recorded in the Livre des Marques de Bercail in each parish
  8. John Stephen Arthur of La Pompe, Les Marais
  9. RP 86,68
  10. Anthropology by R R Marett, 1911 p.37 and subsequent reports of archaeological excavations, especially of La Cotte de Saint Brelade
  11. The goat must graze where she is tethered
  12. This potted history of the economics of agriculture in Jersey over the centuries should not be taken too seriously. Enterprising and efficient farmers have always made a good living from the land in the island, and continue to do so. When the article was written in the early 1990s, the peak years of post-war agriculture, during which many agriculturists made small fortunes, may have passed, but those whose land had passed to them throught their families over the generations could still do well from farming it. There has never been a Jersey farmer, however, who would not complain about his lot, in good years or bad, when presented with the opportunity – Ed
  13. RP 104, 87
  14. RP 104, 87 and 86, 69
  15. Jean Renouf, son of Jean, son of Jean, son of Nicolas was in right of Jean Arthur, son of Jean, son of Jean, son of Jean, son of Nicolas
  16. RP 34, 217
  17. RP 27, 175
  18. RP 29, 182
  19. RP 26, 132
  20. RP 22, 190
  21. RP 169, 262
  22. RP 223, 163
  23. RP 223. 184
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