History of Trinity Manor
This article was first published in The Islander in 1939
One of the finest among Jersey's principal manorial estates is Trinity Manor, where restoration carried out from time to time during its history of 400 years has resulted in a seignorial home where the atmosphere of feudal tradition loses nothing by its proximity to those domestic conditions which mean comfort in this modern age.
16th century origins
Many changes have taken place in and around the manor house since the original stones were laid some time between 1500 and 1550. Alterations and additions were made by successive Seigneurs but the climax of this architectural evolution came in 1912 when the present Seigneur, Atheistan Riley, restored the building in a manner which added a dignity more in keeping with its historic traditions.
Thus, an examination of the house today will disclose a variety of material brought from other corners of the island, from France and from England; all interwoven by craftsmanship of many ages.
Originally the house consisted of that part of the south front now occupied by the Grande Salle, with a doorway with late rough Gothic mouldings flanked by two windows on each side on the ground floor, a cellar below (probably the original kitchen), a first floor (now containing the Chambre du Roi a dressing room and a bed-room) and perhaps attics in the roof — this is of the 16th Century.
The first big additions were made in 1641-1642 by Amice de Carteret, who was Seigneur de la Trinité from 1631 to 1654. He built two bays extending the west side of the house, thus putting the doorway out of centre on the south front. This extension — now the Salon linked by double doors with the Grande Salle, was probably paid for with his wife's money : the Seigneur had married the daughter of a rich Paris goldsmith, Marie Girard, about 1630.
Somewhere about 1800 the house was exactly doubled in size by the addition of a suite of rooms in the north side. The entrance to the house was changed to this side, where a porch was constructed of lath and plaster treated to look like granite. The house gradually fell into decay until the fief passed in 1909 into the hands of the present Seigneur who, a year later, started wholesale restoration.
So today Trinity Manor is a comparatively new edifice, but the restoration was planned in a manner well in keeping with the dignity and tradition of the fief. Generally speaking the house was restored in the style of chateaux near St Malo.
A lofty roof, following the French style, was erected over the old building (the ornamental finials of the ridge were copied from one of the old houses overlooking the quay at St Malo). French casements replaced sash windows of poor design. Two flanking windows — one in the dining room (east wing) the other in the library (west wing) — are constructed from Chausey granite and almost certainly were brought from St Malo.
An entirely new porch was built on the north side with an escutcheon over the doorway displaying Riley (before the alteration of the bearings in 1918) impaling Molesworth. The new Seigneur had married the eldest daughter of Viscount Molesworth and grand-daughter of Captain George Bagot Gosset of Jersey. She died in 1912 during the restoration of the house. With the new high roof, lofty chimneys were necessary and in the arch connecting the central pair hangs a bell wwhich was specially cast at Louvain. The slates, however, came from the Delabole quarries in Cornwall.
A complete description of the alterations made inside the house would not be possible here, so we will endeavour to describe the most interesting features as shown to us by the Seigneur during a brief tour of the house recently.
Arriving by the circular Cour d'honneur — the cobbled stone entrance courtyard — it seemed a sacrilege to drive up to the door in a modern car: the atmosphere of coaches and postillions; lords and ladies calm and serene in their brocades and frills is still here. And a little later while walking over the granite terrace and smooth stone-walled lawns the feeling that the ghosts of a bygone and more picturesque age were still there was even stronger.
Inside the house there is no gloom of antiquity, despite the fact that some of the large rooms are shrouded in dustsheets for the house is shut up for duration of the war. In the Grande Salle, which opens directly on to the south front with granite terrace and smooth lawn making a foreground of a secne not unlike a Constable landscape, the decoration was designed by the Seigneur after the panelling formerly in the Old Palace at Bow and now in the South Kensington Museum. At each end mahogany doors which were there in the old house can be thrown open to link the Grande Salle up with the Salon from the dining room to the library.
Massive granite fireplaces of simple beauty are found in all these rooms, and in the entrance hall. All have been rebuilt, for during the early alterations in the 18th century builders had mutilated them and mixed cornices and overmantels without regard to period or style. But the most interesting fireplace is in the dining room – one of the finest specimens of a Jersey fireplace – in dates from the 15th century.
It was brought from an old ruined house calle l’Anciennété at St Brelade. Much of the stone and timber from this house was used in restoring the manor with such effect that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the new additions from the old house. The fireplace contains an inglenook which faces the caged-in hearth at right angles – a very cosy spot on a cold and stormy night.
Jousting knights or ‘’deux champions combattants’’ form the motif of the overmantel executed in bas-relief in fibrous plaster.
The west wing comprises the new library, a solid oak beamed room with panelling, fireplace and bookshelves brought from the Seigneur’s London home (where many valuable old books and documents are kept) – the winter garden and the chapel.
Nothing was found of the original chapel which fell into disuse after the ecclesiastical upheaval of the 16th century. The new chapel built chiefly from dressed stones from l’Anciennété, was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester on 4 May 1914. This little chapel leapt into the news in 1931 when Major C J M Riley (the Seigneur’s son) married therein to Yvonne Lempriere of Rosel Manor, widow of Capt H N Robin, at midnight – a ceremony which forged a link between two of the island’s most important fiefs. Mrs C J M Riley, the heiress of her father, is now the Dame de Rosel.
As can be expected the house contains many pieces of furniture, paintings etc of great value. Among the paintings in the first floor gallery is a portrait of Viscount Halifax, father of the present Foreign Minister, which bears an inscription to the effect that it was ‘presented to his friend Athelstan Riley’.
The Seigneur still sleeps in the Chambre du Roi, so described because King Charles II slept in the small canopied French four-poster bed, with the arms of the fief at its head, which is still used to-day by the Siegneur.
Today, although he is over 85 years of age, Athelstan Riley, Seigneur de la Trinité, is still a keen and active horticulturist and tends with his own hands many varieties of well-known as well as uncommon flowers and shrubs. Among his favourites are banana plants, a citron tree and a tree with an unpronouncable latin name and a potent scent which is best described as an intoxicating plant.
Fief de la Trinité
The Fief de la Trinite is a "franc fief noble tenu du roi indivisiblement a foy et hommage par service de chevalerie" and, as the holder, the Seigneur owes suit of court at the Assise d'heritage held twice a year at the Royal Court. In addition to the tenure by Knight service, he is bound to present to the King a couple of mallards when His Majesty visits the island.
When King George V cisited Jersey in 1921 the Seigneur duly presented a couple of mallards to His Majesty after the Seigneur had paid homage in the Royal Court, and instead of riding into the sea on horse back to greet His Majesty , the Seigneur stood on the landing steps in the harbour one foot in the water and handed the King ashore. But we feel sure that the Seigneur would have preferred to have carried out the ceremony in the traditional manner.
The line of Seigneurs de la Trinité can be traced back to the earliest owners, the de St Martins, who may have obtained the fief by inheritance from the de Barentin family. When Thomas de St Martin died in 1515 without leaving issue, the fief descended to his nephew, Drouet Lempriere, son of George Lempriere, Seigneur of Dielament, who had married Thomasse, only sister of Thomas de St Martin. Drouet Lempriere, married Mabel, daughter of Philip de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen, died in 1522 and their eldest son, Jean Lempriere declared of age in 1533, became Seigneur de la Trinité. His son Gilles succeeded him seven years later and when he died in 1601 the Manor was inherited by Amice de Carteret (second son of Helier de Carteret of St Ouen). The previous year Amice de Carteret had become Bailiff of Guernsey.