The Bigrels of Trinity and St Lawrence
There are many Jersey families in existence today with multiple branches which are all descended from a single individual who came to the island 300 or more years ago.
There were also immigrants in the 17th and 18th centuries and, of course later, who started families which have since died out with the expiration of all male lines. One such is the Bigrel family, whose name was originally spelt Beguerel.
The first record of a Bigrel (or Bigurel, or Beguerel) in Jersey is in the Trinity Church registers, where the marriage of Jean Bigurel to Collette du Feu on 24 December 1655 is shown. He was not necessarily the first member of the family in the island, however, because on 1673 in Trinity the burial of Marie Grandin, widow of William Biquerel, is recorded.
It seems unlikely that even if Jean had had relatives in Jersey, any were surviving in the 1650s to 1670s when the baptisms of his five children with Collette were recorded. There are several du Feus mentioned as godparents, but no Bigrels.
It is believed that the Biguerel name (however it was spelt at the time) is of Huguenot origin, so it is likely that Jean came to Jersey as a Huguenot refugee. Whether he was related to William (who is much more likely to be known as Guillaume if he also came from France) cannot be proved.
It is believed by Bigrel family researchers that Jean (1671- ), one of the five children of Jean and Collette, had a son, also named Jean (1699- ), who married Anne de Gruchy, and was the ancestor of all the subsequent Bigrels to be born in Jersey. However, this link cannot be proved because no record of the younger Jean's birth or baptism, or anything else to link him positively to the elder Jean has been found.
Family historian Henry Coutanche, who has studied the family in his parish, believes that the George Bigrel who died at Oak Farm in 1902 was the last surviving male member of the family. There was also a Philip Bigrel, aged 13, living in St Lawrence with his mother Jane and sisters Jane and Eva during the previous year's census, but by the time of the next census in 1911 the two Janes and Eva were the only Bigrels living in the island.
Only about 50 Bigrels are believed ever to have lived in Jersey and they can be found at various times in Trinity, St Lawrence and St Peter. Oak Farm, which has also been known as Les Carrieres, was at one time called Bigrel Farm. The family also built another house in the parish, the more substantial and later Inkerman House, which is now known as Haut les Bois.
The family is principally remembered for the participation of two brothers in highly controversial elections.
Philippe Bigrel, who married Esther Renouf in 1799, was one of nine children of Francois Bigrel, born in Trinity but settled in St Peter, and Elizabeth Laurens. He was the only one of the nine to be baptised in St Lawrence, the other eight being baptised in St Peter.
Their elder son, also Philippe, was also baptised at St Lawrence, but in 1828 he was living in St Peter, married to Marie Le Boutillier. He succeeded his late father-in-law, Jean Le Boutillier, as Sergent du Roi.
He stood for Constble of the parish in 1834 against Philippe Le Couteur, of Hamptonne but received only ten votes to his rival's 115.
This did not stop him lodging a complaint complaining that the parish rates had been enforced in an unfair way, that Le Couteur and his supporters had used illegal means during the election and that the Seigneur of St Ouen (Charles Le Maistre) had used his influence against him. After two years Bigrel gave up and Le Couteur was sworn in.
On the death of his father he moved to the family home in St Lawrence.
His younger brother, George, also baptised in St Lawrence, a carpenter aged 35 at the time of the 1841 census, built the house north of Carrefour Selous which subsequently became Inkerman Lodge.
In 1845, when he was living outside of St Lawrence, he successfully contested an election for Centenier, beating Jean Le Gros by a single vote. This result was disputed by the losing candidate and in 1852 the Royal Court had still to rule in either's favour. In January of that year, however, George Bigrel was walking on a slippery road at night and fell, and died from his injuries. A week later Le Gros was sworn into office.