The manor in 1987
Samares Manor has passed through the hands of more than a dozen families since the first records in the 12th century. Some have held it only briefly; others have been there for several generations and played a leading role in the affairs of the Island.
The fief of Samares has always ranked as one of Jersey's principal lay fiefs, held from the Crown by fealty and homage. The manor house, which has never been separated from the fief, has stood on its present site since Norman times: outwardly it may not now appear medieval but much of the structure dates back at least to the 15th century, including the vaulted undercroft of the west wing, formerly thought to have been the crypt of a chapel.
The main front of the house in its present form dates from about 1815-20 when the dining room wing was added at the east end.
Samares had the usual privileges of a senior Jersey fief, including a manorial court in which disputes between tenants were settled, and one of the earliest known windmills, first recorded in 1218 and probably sited on the high ground of Mont Ube.
The fief was much larger then than now, with an outlying portion in St Helier, which came to be called the Fief de la Fosse, though it was not separated from Samares until 1837. This included Mont de la Ville, on which Fort Regent was built.
Here were the seigneurial gallows on which tenants of the fief, after trial and conviction by the Royal Court for felony, were brought back to be hanged — a privilege shared, in Jersey, only with the fiefs of St Ouen and Rozel.
A more general seigneurial right, though possibly a less ancient one than often supposed, is represented by the round colombier in front of the manor, now in the process of having its roof restored after centuries open to the weather.
Marshland and pond
The name Samares means salt marsh. The whole area was once an expanse of undrained marshland stretching west to Le Dicq and south to Green Island. South of the manor near La Mare, in pre-industrial times, salt was collected in the ancient way by drying it out from sea water in shallow pools called saltpans.
The name La Mare indicates that there was a natural pond there which belonged to the manor, like La Mare au Seigneur at St Ouen. The whole area was prone to constant flooding and, before the marsh was drained, must have been as damp and unhealthy a place to live as it is pleasant today. This is almost certainly reflected in the many premature deaths for which there is evidence among the Payn and Dumaresq seigneurs of the 15th and 16th centuries.
The earliest known seigneurs of Samares were a family named de Salinelles. The first definite record of them is in 1186, though they had probably held the fief for some time before this. Salinelles means little saltpans and the name has been thought to derive from the pans at Samares, but another possibility is that the family came from Salenelles in Normandy, in the estuary of the river Orne north of Caen.
As they sometimes called themselves de Saumarais after their Jersey fief, the Guernsey family of de Sausmarez is presumed to be descended from them. If so, it must have been from a younger son as the senior male line ended about 1270 with a daughter who brought Samares by marriage to a branch of the great Norman family of Saint Hilaire de Harcouet.
A much-quoted document supposed to be a grant of the fief in 1095 to 'Raoul de Saint Hilaire' is a later medieval forgery, though a Raoul de Saumarais is known to have lived about that time and may have been a de Salinelles ancestor.
De St Hilaire
The de Saint Hilaires held Samares until the beginning of the Hundred Years War, when they sided with the French king, resulting in the confiscation of their Jersey lands by Edward III in about 1340. Samares was regranted in 1346 to an Englishman, Geffrey de Thoresby, who sold it in 1351 to John Mautravers, Warden of the Channel Islands, and his wife Agnes; a few years later it passed into the hands of Philippe de Barentin, Seigneur of Rozel.
The de Barentins were a wealthy, powerful and overbearing family who had arrived in Jersey about 1240 and became for a time the dominant family in the island, eclipsing the de Carterets of St Ouen in importance for over a century.
Soon after acquiring Samares, however, they came to grief. Exactly how is uncertain: some dark traditions survive, but the story of the de Barentins really belongs to Rozel rather than to Samares, which Philippe held for little more than a decade. In 1367 his extensive Jersey estates were sold to Raoul Lempriere and Guillaume Payn, and in 1382 they were divided up, Rozel and Samares being the main fiefs that went respectively to the Lempriere and Payn families.
Payn and Lempriere
The known facts about the Payns of Samares have to be separated from a good deal of myth. The tradition that Guillaume Payn and Raoul Lempriere were Breton immigrants, though first recorded as long ago as the 16th century, is clearly a mistake, and the assertion in Payne's Armorial of Jersey that they married the daughters of Geoffrey Brasdefer, Bailiff between 1395 and 1401, is chronologically impossible.
Both men had been Jurats since about 1350 and their families had been established in Jersey for generations. It is evident that they were related both to each other and to the de Barentins, Guillaume Payn being probably the grandson of Marie (or Marion) de Barentin, who was the wife of Thomas Payn in 1299.
Our best source of information about the Payns is the Rev J A Messervy's list of Jurats in the 1899 Annual Bulletin of La Societe Jersiaise, supplemented by information from documents published since that date. 1382 is the last year for which there is mention of Guillaume Payn as a Jurat, so he probably died not long after the division of the de Barentin estates.
Fifteen years later another Guillaume, presumed to be either his grandson or the son of a late marriage, appears between 1397 and 1403: his immediate precedence on the bench shows that he was Seigneur of Samares.
There was then a 27-year gap before the next identifiable seigneur, John Payn, who was a Jurat between 1430 and 1442 and Bailiff in 1444. He married a daughter of Guillaume du Marest (Dumaresq) of La Haule. Documents relating to her inheritance call her husband Jean Payn, but in his own right he is nearly always Johan or John.
He was succeeded as Bailiff in 1446 by Regnaud de Carteret, of Longueville, and may well have died in that year, for he is not heard of again.
Payne's Armorial lists Philippe and Thomas Payn as successive seigneurs of Samares in 1449. As to Thomas this is almost certainly a mistake, but Philippe may be identifiable with the Philippot Payn who was Seigneur in 1462 and 1468, though he would still have been under age in 1449.
It seems likely that this Philippot was the Philippe Payn who married Jenette de Carteret of Longueville, daughter of the Regnaud who succeeded John Payn as Bailiff in 1446; if so, the Philippe or Philippot Payn who was Seigneur of Samares and a Jurat from 1477 onwards was presumably the son of that marriage.
The Philippe of 1477 was the last of the Payn seigneurs. In 1484, along with the seigneurs of St Ouen and Rozel, he was summoned to England by Richard III to do homage for his fief; he was still alive in 1497 but by the following year his wife Thomasse was a widow.
Langton's paper on the seigneurs of Samaras in the 1931 Bulletin of La Societe Jersiaise states that she, too, was a de Carteret, but he gives no authority, and the Richard de Carteret whose daughter he makes her does not seem to be known from any other source.
Among the many sons of Philippe de Carteret of St Ouen and Margaret Harliston, was a Richard who was seigneur of Vinchelez de Haut, but he was born in 1480 and cannot possibly have been Thomasse Payn's father.
The Payns gave freely of their wealth for the enhancement of St Clement's parish church, where three phases of work bear the Payn shield with its three trefoils. The Philippe of 1477-97 was probably responsible for the new crossing arches under the tower and the exterior refacing of the south side of the chancel, both closely matching work at the churches of St Helier and St Saviour. There are signs that a complete rebuilding of the tower was planned but not carried out, and it may have been because of Philippe Payn's death that the work was discontinued.
Philippe left no sons and his heiress was his elder daughter Mabel, who had married John Dumaresq of Vinchelez de Bas. She and her husband probably remained for a time at Vinchelez and left Samaras to her mother, Thomasse Payn, who in 1498 received licence from the Bishop of Coutances to have Mass celebrated in a private chapel within 'her manor' of Samares.
However, Mabel and John must have moved here later and done some rebuilding, for their marriage is commemorated by a heraldic stone, now built into the west wall of the farm court, on which the three trefoils of Payn are dimidiated with the three scallops of Dumaresq.
In accordance with the custom of the time, John Dumaresq assumed the title of Seigneur de Samares in right of his wife; in 1517 it was he who gave permission for a particularly notorious criminal to be hanged on the seigneurial gallows on the Mont de la Ville instead of on the public gallows at Westmount, so that the people could have a better view of the edifying spectacle.
After his death, in or about 1526, Mabel reverted to the use of the Payn trefoils alone and it was probably at this time that the improvements to St Clement's church were completed by the rebuilding of the east end of the chancel, with its crocketed gable bearing a weathered Payn shield above the traceried east window.
John Dumaresq's death was followed by a division of the family fiefs in which his second son, Richard, received Vinchelez de Bas, leaving the eldest son — named John after his father — the heir presumptive to Samares.
Though Mabel was now legally Dame de Samares in her own right, John often styled himself Seigneur of Samares in right of her. After his death in 1537, his son Clement did likewise until he too died, no older than his early thirties, in 1551.
At the same time Mabel — evidently a formidable character — was more than capable of fighting her own battles as Dame. At various times she was in dispute with the tenants of the fief, with the Rector of St Clement and with Henry Cornish, the Lieut-Governor.
She must have been at least 90 when she died in 1565, and her life had spanned the reigns of seven kings and queens: Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII and VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth.
Her great-grandson and heir, Henry Dumaresq, was to be no longer-lived than his father: born between about 1539 and 1543, he can have been little more than 30, if that, when he died in 1572. He left two daughters, Esther and Sara, but no sons.
Sara, the younger daughter, married Helier de Carteret, founder of the La Hague branch of that family in St Peter. Esther married her cousin Jean Dumaresq, of Vinchelez de Bas, eldest son of the Bailiff of the same name, who was the eldest son of Mabel and John Dumaresq's second son Richard.
Esther and her husband were also first cousins on his mother's side, for he was the son of his father's first marriage with Henry Dumaresq's sister Collette. After her death the Bailiff had further children by a second wife, but Langton's pedigree of the Dumaresq seigneurs is mistaken in showing Jean as a son of the second marriage.
Esther's union with her double cousin was an alarming piece of inbreeding which may have been responsible for their son being placed under curatorship before he was forty.
Though a contract of 1591 refers to Esther and Sara as co-heiresses to the fief of Samares, implying that the fief was divisible between female heirs according to the Norman custom regarding fiefs nobles, this was evidently not carried through to an actual partition.
Following the deaths of Esther in 1597, and of her husband ten years later - commemorated by a memorial tablet of carved granite at St Clement's Church, bearing four shields of arms within an inscribed border — their son, Daniel Dumaresq, inherited the fief of Samares and its dependencies in their entirety.
Daniel came of age in 1607 and, following the tradition of his forebears since the days of the Payns, was immediately elected to the bench of Jurats. The next year he angered the tenants of his fief by presenting them with a statement of the feudal services that he claimed to be due for their lands: their detailed response has not survived but it is clear that they disputed the claims, some of which were without precedent in Jersey.
For 12 years Daniel was active in public life, but in 1619 he was placed under the curatorship of his father's half-brother, Elie Dumaresq, Seigneur of Vinchelez de Bas. He died in 1634 and was succeeded by Henry, his son by his marriage to Elizabeth de Carteret.
An unverified statement in the near-contemporary journal of Elie Brevint says that Daniel had previously been married to an illegitimate daughter of Sir Walter Ralegh (at that time Governor of Jersey), but that she had died of the plague in England.
Henry Dumaresq, sworn as a Jurat in 1635, allied himself with the growing opposition to the autocratic rule of Sir Philippe de Carteret of St Ouen and went on to become one of the leaders of the Parliamentary party in Jersey at the time of the Civil War and Commonwealth.
When Sir George Carteret captured Jersey for the King in 1643, Dumaresq fled with most of the other Parliamentary leaders to England and his property was confiscated. He returned when Parliament reconquered the Island in 1651 but died three years later, and it was not until after the Restoration in 1660 that his son Philippe received Samares back from Charles II.
After the trials of the Civil War period, during which Sir George Carteret had cut down all the trees on the Samares estate, Philippe's tenure was a time of reconstruction and improvement. He partly drained the grounds by making a canal from the Manor to Plat Douet, and corresponded with his friend John Evelyn — the diarist and writer on tree culture — about the trees and vines he was planting in the Manor gardens.
He also produced a manuscript Survey of Jersey, consisting largely of a description of the rocks and tides round the coast, accompanied by the most accurate and detailed map of the Island that had yet been drawn.
From these interests and from his letters he has been called an 'amiable, well-informed man', though a less amiable side can be seen in his lawsuits before the Privy Council over precedence and seigneurial rights. He married Deborah Trumbull, of Easthampstead, Berkshire, whose brothers Charles and William visited the Channel Islands in 1677 and left journals of their visit which were published by La Societe Jersiaise in 2004.
Philippe and Deborah's only child was a daughter, Deborah, who married Philippe Dumaresq of Les Augres. This marriage was childless and in 1734 Deborah sold Samares Manor to John Seale. Though a Jerseyman, whose family had been established in St Brelade for centuries, Seale is described in the letters patent of George II authorizing his purchase of the Manor as a merchant of the City of London. Presumably he was returning to his native island after a prosperous business career in England.
It seems likely that he made alterations to the house, because a close look at the front of the east wing shows that what appears to be a uniformly plastered wall, in fact has quoins, window surrounds and decorative bands of dressed granite flush with the plaster. In its original form, before the stone dressings were painted over, this was the trademark style of builder Pierre Hamon, seen in several other buildings of about this time (St Brelade's Hospital at St Aubin, for example) with which Hamon is known to have been connected.
In 1754 Samares was sold by James Seale, John's son, to another returning expatriate, James John Hammond. The Hammonds were a branch of the Hamon family who had had anglicised the spelling of the name when living in Portugal, where several of their Lempriere in-laws were also settled. James John's father Nicolas was a trader in Lisbon; his elder brother, also Nicolas, became secretary at the English embassy there, and James Jolla was British Consul at Faro.
On returning to Jersey he became a Lieut-Colonel in the Militia, feared as a strict disciplinarian and credited with the introduction of percussion fuses before they came into general use. He died in 1766 and was succeeded by his son James, born in 1746, who was to hold the fief for 50 years before dying at the age of seventy in 1816.
James's wife, Marie Romeril, of Grouville, was 30 years his junior and their son, baptised James John after his grandfather, was only five when his father died. It was about this time that the alterations were made to the Manor that included the addition of the dining room wing and the refacing of the hall range to match it, though whether this work was commissioned by James or his widow has not yet been established.
The younger James John Hammond had the misfortune to lose much of his money through the failure of the family business interests in Portugal, and in 1846 he sold Samares Manor and its dependencies to Edouard Mourant, later a Jurat and chairman of the Jersey Eastern Railway Company.
In 1921 Edouard's grandson, Claude Le Quesne Mourant, sold the estate to a retired merchant from Japan, E C Davis, who, however, was in poor health and found the Jersey climate unsuitable. In 1924 Samares was sold once again.
The purchaser this time was Sir James Knott, who chose it as a home for his retirement after a career as a barrister, founder of the Prince's Shipping Line, and Member of Parliament. His wealth and taste not only transformed the interior of the house but also created the magnificent gardens which, in their heyday before the Second World War, were the finest in the Island.
Sir James Knott's second wife, Elizabeth Chrystie Gauntlett, inherited the fief and manor when he died in 1934. By her second marriage she became Mrs Obbard, and her son, Vincent James Obbard, is the present Seigneur of Samares, representing the 14th family to hold the fief since records begin.
He and his wife Gilli have successfully brought the manor into the 21st century as a living museum of Jersey rural life, while preserving the unique atmosphere that the house derives from the many layers of its history.