This article by J F Le Cornu was first published in the 1940 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise. The meanings given for some of these names have since been challenged but the article is reproduced unaltered as an interesting historical piece.
This subject has been mentioned before. In the 1892 Bulletin, Pere Legouis contributed a most interesting and erudite paper and our Bulletins Nos 32, 33, 38 and 40 refer to the same matter.
Guy de Gruchy lectured on place names to the St Helier Church Literary Society in 1915.
In spite of these contributions' the subject is by no means exhausted.
The study of Jersey place names is rather like writing the history of the island. Every lane, every rock, has a name and a significance for the Jerseyman; these names have been handed down from father to son and from one generation to another and still survive when much else has been swept away. Man gave names to places when he began to speak, and so it happened here.
It is a pity that in our dear little island, a number of old and interesting names should have been changed into fanciful outlandish names, for instance :-
- La Chouquetterie, St Martin, from the name of Chouquet, who were Huguenot refugees, is now Eastbourne House.
- La Crespinerie, the home of the Crespins, now Peacock Farm.
- La Cohue, St John, probably the meeting of the Seignorial Court is now Hawthorn Hedge.
- Les Varvots, St Lawrence, was once changed into colourless Mayfield. This was a wicked change. This house is situated alongside a brook and near this brook are flat, well shaped granite slabs where, long ago, women knelt to do their washing; hence the old word varvoter. (French: barbotter) now little used, which signified disturbing dirty water or paddling in it. I vos faout varvoter dans vos saloperies. (Rimes jersiaises).
- Sorel, St John, now Oak Farm.
- La Chronique, St John, where men gathered to gossip, and now Eglantine Villa.
- Le Cosnet, now Melbourne House.
- Douet du Pirou, now Brookhill.
We do not object to the change made by the owner of Rectory Villa, situated, as the name implies, near a country rectory. The owner of the place, a staunch nonconformist, very much objected to the name and, on the advice of a friend, called the house Abbey View. After all, this was sensible enough, because, as we know, there was no such thing as dissent in the days of abbeys and priories.
Placenames may be divided into groups. We take as our first group the family group (and there was no emigration in those days) and classified under the title of 'Ville'.
- Ville-es-Gazeaux (family defunct)
- Ville-es-Nouaux (Noel, and perhaps Les Nouettes)
- Ville Bree
- Ville Guyon (St John family, extinct)
- Ville Jacques
- Ville Machon
- Ville-au-Veslet (family defunct)
- Ville Emphrie (Ville Humphrey, or Anfrie, an old Jersey surname)
The second group consists also of family names:
- La Pallotterie
- La Cornetterie
- La Carrellerie
- La Bottellerie (Le Boutillier; butler)
- La Godillie
- La Hottonnerie
- La Guillaumerie, La Guillemetterie (Guilleaume, Guillemette, Guillemine)
- La Raulinerie
- La Guerdainnerie (name extinct)
- La Gabourellerie (name extinct)
- La Davisonnerie (David Robertson)
- La Sarsonnerie (Richardson, a very old Jersey family)
- La Gallichannerie
- La Continerie
- La Bourdonnerie (extinct)
- La Billotterie
- La Biarderie
- La Hocquarderie
- La Talbotterie (extinct)
- La Scelletterie
- La Courtinerie
- La Roussetterie
- La Marquanderie
- La Maitrerie
- La Gallierie (from Gallie or Gaillard)
- La Gruchetterie
- La Becquetterie
- La Tapinerie (extinct)
- La Boucterie (extinct)
- La Cornuerie (from Le Cornu; the family lived there in the 17th century and built the present house)
- La Guerrerie (St John)
- Mare Balaam (a corrupt form of Balen or Balan and corrupted again into Balleine, somewhere about 1500)
- Laq Mare d'Angot
The third group derives its name from the terrain which surrounded the homes of the inhabitants and may be divided into three classes (and probably many more). Hougue, Val and Coin.
- Hougue Mauger
- Hougue Boëte
- Hougue Bie, and a large number of Hougues and Houguettes, all indicating a mound, a site, or something prehistoric.
Val also indicates the nature of the country:
- Val Bachelier
- Val au Bewcq (Becq - a point, a nose)
- Vaux Larron
- Val Poucin
- Vaucluse (probably a combination of Val and ecluse).
As regards Coin this represented high land between two valleys and is found mainly in St Lawrence. (The name is also found in St Ouen and elsewhere.
- Coin Motier
- Coin Tourgis
- Coin Hatain.
The fourth group is of feudal origin:
- La Tourelle. Feudal lords had the right to build turrets over their house, a privilege denied to vassals
- La Garenne (warren) at Trinity and St Brelade
- La Chasse (to be found in many parishes)
- Patier (fief)
- Handois (fief)
- St Germains (fief)
- Mallorey (a manor)
- Les Maltieres or Malletieres (fief Mallet. The Mallets were in Grouville somewhere round about the Conquest)
- La Prevoté
- La Sergenté
- La Franchise
- Le Catillon
- Le Fleurion
- Le Pavilion
- Les Corvées (work rendered by a vassal to his lord, or labour given gratuitously)
- Les Colombiers
We pass on to the fifth group - names beginning with Croix, that is wayside crosses erected in pre-Reformation times; these would usually be at road crossings and marked the place where some accident, crime or event of local importance had occurred.
- Croix Catelain
- Croix au Maitre
- Croix au Lion
- Croix de la Bataille
- Croix du Marché
- Croix Huard (site lost at Noirmont)
We may also, perhaps, include in this group Les Buttes, where archery was practised and invariably near the parish churches. At a later period when firearms came into use, these were stored in sheds erected in the churchyard and, later on again, drill sheds were built on the 'buttes'.
The sixth group is varied and we can only hazard a guess
- Le Tapon (a tapon is used for beating linen after washing - it is a pole about 5 feet in length with a knob at the base)
- La Pelotte (The trunk of a tree is a p'lotte)
- Le Binaut (haycock)
- Le Puchot (pucer to empty out)
- Sequez (perhaps secher, sichi)
- Pontlietaut (at St Clement, probably connected with Pontac; a bridge)
- Le Grouin
- Le Potiron (In St Martin and St Mary; a pumpkin)
We feel on safer ground as to the seventh group:
- Bandinel Farm (St Martin, associated with the two ecclesiastics who attempted an escape from Mont Orgueil)
- Maupertuis (pertuis, an opening in a Colombier mal pershi)
- Hambie (connected with Hougue Bie and its legend)
- Rondes Portes (with its many very beautiful doorways)
- La Presse (the wardrobe usually found in country houses)
- Les Mans (bees eggs)
- L'Etoquet (A support used in masonry)
- Villemars and Les Mars (Both at Grouville. March corn, la grange aux mar)
- La Canneviere (hemp field, Jersey French cannevi, French chenevis)
- Les Geonnais (piece a Geon)
- Les Pallières (from pelle, a shovel)
- Les Bouillons (Rouge Bouillon)
- Nez du Guet (on the seashore and where watch was kept. nez, nes, naze imply a point of land)
- L'Aiguillon (needle)
- La Planque (planche, a bridge)
- Les Haguais (from hague, a thorn)
- Le Becquet-es-chats (The evil one held his sabbath there on Friday evenings surrounded by a number of black cats)
- Les Hannières (from han, rush)
- Le Huquet (little door in back of a cart)
We cannot explain the eighth group and, possibly, some of our readers may assist:
- Les Gelettes; La Bachauderie (St Martin and St John), La Cavalerie, La Roulerie, La Lourderie, Le Poulaillier (St Martin), Le Panigot, La Pierre des Baissiers, La Lipende, La Creteloquet (St Ouen), Le Coie, Pré au Portier.
The ninth group contains very beautiful names, some ancient and the others modern:
- La Caroline (St Peter)
- Le Patrimoine
- Beuvelande (bos, bovis, Bouverie = etable a boeufs. Bouvier-celui qui conduit les boeufs. Bouvée, 5 acres)
- La Rigondaine
- Le Trésor
- Le Taillis
- Bras-du-Fer (a family name then spelt in one word)
- Chateaubriant (derived from the great writer's cousin, once a refugee at St. Martin)
- Coleron (a battery erected on a narrow neck of land at St Brelade)
- La Barcelonne (St Mary)
- Les Capelles (introduced from Guernsey)
- L'Archirondel (La Roche Rondel)
The tenth group is a miscellaneous one and includes carrefours:
- Carrefour Selous
- Carrefour Jenkins (pronounced Jinchin. Mr Jenkins must have lived here)
- Carrefour au Receveur
- Carrefour au Clercq
- Carrefour a Cendres (really a mispronunciation of Carrefour Alexandre)
- Fosse à l'Ecrivain (Scriven or Scrivain)
- La Cocogne (St John) (At a time when pumps were unknown, children were told not to approach the open well as they might be eaten up by the cocogne a fabulous animal which made the bottom of the well it's home.
- Craque au Varon (St Brelade. Also legendary. Varron or varrou is a man changed into a wolf and wandering about at night)
- Belted Will (Grouville - a title bestowed on Lord William Howard (1563- 1640). Warden of the Western marshes, the border between Wales and England Capt. Godfray's boat was known as Belted Will)
This brings us to the end of our paper, although much more could be written. We have Celtic names (Pouclée or Pouquelaye); Norse names; Prehistoric names, such as Blanche Pierre, the names of mills and, above all, the names of fields and lanes. All these should be carefully preserved; they are historical evidence and part of our life and blood.
- Jersey place names, including some modern property names