The Channel Island possessions of the Abbey of Holy Trinity, Caen

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This article by John Walmsley was first published in the 1985 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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A NOTE ON THE CHANNEL ISLAND POSSESSIONS OF THE ABBEY OF HOLY TRINITY, CAEN by JOHN F. R. WALMSLEY In the Middle Ages it was commonplace for new monastic foundations to attract a considerable number of distant and peripheral estates, in addition to a more practical nucleus of proximate demesne manors. Consequently the early estate history of most foundations seems to be dominated by a programme of sales, purchases and exchanges which had as their aim the formation of a more consolidated and more manageable set of properties. The history of the property in the Channel Islands of the nunnery of Holy Trinity, Caen, however, does not quite fall into this pattern. Although it took only an half century, which included the turbulent reign of Robert Curthose, for the abbey to be relieved of most of its original endowment beyond the modern departement of Calvados, the Channel Island possessions were retained for three centuries, from c.l066 to c.1368, and, arguably, were even augmented in the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The reasons for this retention are by no means clear. Perhaps some security of tenure derived from the ducal origins of the Channel Island portion of the endowment, and some also from the safety of an obscure island situation, but these can only be hypotheses. The early history of the abbey's property - which in the first instance was limited to the island of Jersey - is one of confusion and contradiction. As the following table shows, there is no complete agreement between any of the first four charters of William and Matilda on the extent of the abbey's interests there. This lack of precision may, of course, be significant in view of the level of difficulty that would have been experienced in drawing on these resources, for which purpose peasant tithe-collectors seem to have been allocated. I That it was not economically justifiable to rely on the transportation of produce rents from Jersey to Caen may be inferred from the fact that Matilda, the first abbess of Holy Trinity (1059 x 66 - 1113), made arrangements to farm out the abbey's interest for £26 per annum for a term of ten years." Although the reported contract between the abbess and Osmund of Cauville was hedged in with conditions and provisions allowing the convent to shorten the term in the event of maladministration, renew the farm or take it back into its own hands at the expiration date, there can be little doubt that the property


William and Matilda's Donations to Holy Trinity Source Date Property Les Actes2 Land Mills Tithes 2 1066 Land for 1 plough 1 Y2 tithes of 6 parishes 8 1082 Land of 2 freemen 1 Y2 tithes of 5 parishes Land and tithes of 6th sheaf from 1 Y2 Rainold, chaplain parishes 11 1066-83 Land for 2 ploughs 1 Y2 tithes of 6 parishes 12 1066-83 Land of 2 freemen 1 third part of 6 parishes remained 'at farm' throughout the twelfth century. There is certainly no mention what¬soever of Channel Island property in the abbey's well-known twelfth-century surveys, a fact which leads one to doubt whether the relatively sophisticated inflation clause in the contract was or could have been implemented: the farm was payable in three instalments, with any shortfall resulting from the changed value of money to be made good with sound money (fortis monete) at the Christmas term.' In any event, there is a great lacuna of evidence for the twelfth-century history of the abbey's interests in the islands. William's and Matilda's donations were reiterated in the general confirmation charters of Henry II and Richard I in the second half of the century.> but there is no additional information with respect to acquisitions, losses or administration until the thirteenth century, and even then the evidence is very fragmentary. The political separation of England and Normandy in 1204 does not seem to have led to any clear confiscation or loss of property in Jersey, but it could not have made administration any easier, even though, from an ecclesiastical point of view, the islands remained within the diocese of Coutances. Indeed, there may have been a slight increase in the number of parishes in which Holy Trinity enjoyed tithes. According to a 1257 Inquest, which survives only in a seventeenth-century copy, the abbess possessed tithes in eight parishes in Jersey and in the parish of Saint Andrew in Guernsey.s Fifty-two years later the jurors of Saint Andrew's testified that the abbess of Caen held six bovates of land there as well, and had a duty to attend the royal court three times a year. 7 By 1309 when the abbey's rights to tithes and rents in Jersey were contested by the English crown in de quo warranto proceedings the original endowment in the island was still perceptible. The abbess, Nicola, was called upon to substantiate her claims to various fractions of church tithes in eight parishes, a mill and wheat rents in the parish of Holy Trinity, and cash rents totalling £10 per annum." As the following table shows, the fractions of tithes had been reduced considerably since abbess Matilda's time, whilst the number of parishes from which they were due had increased. The mill (Le Moulin de Ponterrin) and wheat rent from the parish of Holy Trinity seem to have been acquired since 1257, and, in conjunction with the cash payments from the royal receiver and from the mill at Grouville (Le Moulin de Malet), may have represented some form of compensation for the reductions in the portions of tithes. However, it is also possible that the total cash payments (£10) had a closer association


with an identical sum due from fixed tithes and alms as recorded in the Great Roll of the Exchequer of Normandy in 1180.9 Holy Trinity's Claims in Jersey, 1309 Parish Tithe Portion Other Property/Income Grouville Y4 50s. from 1 mill St Helier Y4 St Peter Y4 St Mary Y4 St Martin Advowson of \Is St Clement "" l!J2 St Brelade "" I-h St Ouen "" l!J2 Holy Trinity 1 mill and 24 quarters of wheat, with attached rights £7 lOs. from the King's Receiver In the above Inquiry of 1309 the abbess was by no means totally unchallenged. Her representatives, John de St Martin, a cleric, and Roger Simeon, an esquire (armiger), produced charters of William I, Henry II and Richard I to substantiate the general claims to parish tithes, and even to support claims to the property in the parish of Holy Trinity, which, as we have seen, were probably post-1257 acquisitions. As for the cash renders, an attempt was made to base these on custom on the grounds that they had been received since time immemorial. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, one suspects that the abbess succeeded with the claims to tithes and wheat. 10 On the other hand, with respect to the £7 lOs from the royal receiver and the 50s. from Grouville, William de Mareys for the Crown was of the opinion that, since they were not included in the most recent of the royal charters, viz. that of Richard I, they could not be claimed ab antiquo. Only a handful of original deeds relating to the abbey's Channel Island possessions survive and are preserved in the Archives du Calvados at Caen.!' For the most part, they seem to have been drafted in post-crisis situations, each one concerning the restoration of property to the abbey. The earliest and best preserved is a charter, dated 1221, of William de Salinelles, knight, who restored to abbess Johanna a vavassorie and a tenement (totam vavassoriam et totum tenementum), which his father had seized unjustly from the abbey's tenants. Unjust or not, the abbess still had to pay £10 in Touraine currency for the recovery of the property." Fifty years later the Bishop of Coutances intervened in the abbey's affairs with a threat of excommunication against Regnaud de Carteret, whose men were preventing the abbey's officials from receiving tithes and other goods from Jersey. 13 It was probably this episcopal influence that led to the restoration of the abbey's property by Raoul de Broughton acting on behalf of the Bailiff of Jersey and Guernsey later in the same year.'! By the turn of the century, however, problems of temporary confiscation arose from another direction as a result of more open conflict between England and France. From


August 1301 to April 1302 there was a suspension of all tithes and rents to Caen before they were restored yet again, this time by John of Newent acting on behalf of the English Custodian of the Channel Islands. IS The searching nature of the Rolls of Assizes in 1309 and the appearance of attorneys for the abbey on a more regular basis from about the same time (see Appendix) give the impression that there was a considerable tightening up of landlord rights and privileges in the islands. Set against both the general back¬ground of increasing legalism in the thirteenth century and the Quo Warranto Proceedings of the reign of Edward I, this development is not entirely unexpected, but it was no doubt more intensified as a result of the more strained relations with the mainland. Clearly there was an urgent need for professional lawmen to protect the abbey's interest in the islands. When attorneys for Holy Trinity make their first documentary appearance (in 1308) they seem to be doubling up on their function as attorneys for the abbey's property in England. This was certainly the case with John Amours and Geoffrey de Villaribus, who were nominated as attorneys for the English property 9th February 1308, and for the islands three weeks later." The same Geoffrey and Roger Simeon of Colombelles (near Caen), who had represented the abbess at the Assizes of 1309, probably fulfilled a similar dual role in 1311Y From 1315 onwards, however, there is a clear separation. In that year Roger of Cambridge and Geoffrey de Villaribus were appointed attorneys in England, whilst Thomas Norman and John Le Convers were attached to the Island." In 1318 Peter de Garriz, in association with William Le Petyt, commenced the first of his five three-year terms in the Islands,'? and one six-year term as the 'farmer' of the abbey's property.v What makes Peter de Garriz a particularly interesting appointment is that his interests and skills seem to have been far more economic than legal. He was a Gascon merchant, who clearly had an eye for opportunities afforded by the management of both ecclesiastical and lay property. He appears twice in a register of Mont Saint Michel as the farmer of their conger fishyards in Guernsey," and he held other rents and property in Guernsey for 60s. per annum. 22 By comparison, the farm of Holy Trinity's property in Jersey and Guernsey for a six-year term from 1319 to 1325 for £160 Touraine per annum was quite considerable.P It may well have been Peter's merchant activities that led to an apparent extension of Holy Trinity's interests to the smaller islands of Sark and Alderney from c. 1328. After Peter de Garriz' last term of office, from 1336 to 1339, there were no more legal appointments until the general restitution of alien priories in 1361, following the Peace of Bretigny and Calais. But the restitution and revival were short-lived, the last appointment being for a two-year period from 1366 to 1368.2~ Beyond this point the island possessions, along with the more substantial properties in England, were effectively eliminated from Holy Trinity's resources.


APPENDIX Holy Trinity's Attorneys in the Channel Islands 1308-1368 Year of Appointment Term Attorneys Specified (Years) Islands 1308 3 John Amours Jersey & Geoffrey de Villaribus Guernsey 1311 3 Geoffrey de Villaribus Roger Simeon of Colombelles 1315 3 Thomas Norman J & G John Le Conyers 1318 3 Peter de Garriz J & G William Ie Petyt 1328 3 Peter de Garriz J & G, Sark Philip de Vincelles & Alderney 1331 3 Peter de Garriz J, G, S & A Philip de Wyncheleys 1334 3 Peter de Garriz J, G, S & A William de Garriz 1336 3 Peter de Garriz J, G, S & A Ralph de Bruillot 1364 3 Philip Barentyn J, G, S & A Henry Boussel 1366 2 Geoffrey de St Martin J, G, S & A William de Laik

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