The Dallain family of Jersey

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This article by Henry Coutanche was first published in the Channel Island Family History Society journal in 1985

In order to make a small contribution to the tercentenary celebrations of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, I have chosen a modest, but honourable, family which came to Jersey as religious refugees, settled, prospered and contributed to the community by participating fully in parochial affairs.

Normandy origins

The family of Dallain, or d'Allain, originated in CĂ©risy La Foret, about ten miles from Bayeux in Normandy. It must not be confused with the long-standing Allain family, whose members presumably gave their name to the two Maisons Dallain (now known as Gros Puits and Le Petit Menage), and mentioned by La Cloche in 1646.

The arrival of the family can be dated with reasonable accuracy to about 1687. On 11 July 1696 Susanne Dallain is one of those abjuring the Roman Catholic faith in St Helier's Parish Church. The extract includes the information that her father had been a refugee in the island for about nine years.

It is also worthy of note that this Susanne is the only member of the family on record as having abjured, which suggests that the other members were more steadfast, and despite all the harsh persecutions mounted against them, preferred to emigrate rather than alter their faith.

In 1692 Gedeon d'Allain is listed in the muster of the trained band of St Peter, holding a musket on behalf of his father, presumably the Pierre who died in 1717. This is obviously the parish in which this refugee family, consisting of husband, wife, two sons and two daughters, first settled.

The circumstances of the family in Cerisy are unknown, as is the amount of possessions brought over with them. Inevitably, they would have been circumscribed by political opposition in France and the sea journey to Jersey.

By 1698 Pierre was prosperous enough to buy a reasonably-sized property in the Parish of St Lawrence. This property had held and retained the office of one of the Chefs de Charette on the royal fief of this parish, a prerogative retained only by the richer landowners. By a contract dated 20 December 1698 Pierre bought from Jean Le Cras the latter's ancestral home. Just over three years later Pierre's younger son, Jean Dallain, could afford to buy La Maison du Brun in St Peter, from the guardian of Jean Pipon, on 21 February 1702.

At this period, not unexpectedly in a strange country and perhaps facing an uncertain welcome from some wary and suspicious Islanders, the families who had sought refuge in the islands tended to remain in close association with each other. This is confirmed by the number of marriages in the first two generations between those described as religious refugees in the ecclesiastical registers, as well as the repetition of the same names as godparents when the children were born from these unions. As time progressed their original plight was forgotten, and they were fully integrated and marrying into well-established local families.

St Lawrence branch

The main line settled in St Lawrence following the 1698 purchase. The property passed through succeeding generations until some time after World War One, at which time the elder son was killed in action in France. On some earlier occasion the name Highlands was given to the group of properties in the area, the majority of which had belonged to the Dallains at one stage or another.

A number of initialled date, or marriage, stones are recorded, the earliest being at Highlands Cottage. This stone, PDL MBQ 1714, the 4 being reversed, is presumably Pierre Dallain and Marie Bosquet. The latter's identity is made a little confusing through the mention in one baptismal record of 1701 of Michelle Le Bas as the mother of Jean D'Allain. Was an error made in the records by a semi-literate lecteur?

The family evidently prospered, for by the early part of the 19th century the fine, imposing, three-storey house, Highlands, had been erected. The precision of the stonework and the extraordinary interior mahogany doors, which opened by being raised or lowered by a system of weights and chains in the same fashion as a sash window, demonstrate originality and some wealth. Stead in 1809 describes the Mr Dallain of the time aptly as 'a gentleman distinguished for mechanical ingenuity'. One possible source of their wealth is suggested by the references in the 1841 and 1851 censuses, where Francis P and his son, Jean Gedeon, are listed as tobacco merchants or manufacturers at 21 Broad Street. The alliance with the Simonet family suggests some link with the famous brand of that name.

Three succeeding generations of Dallains provided constables for the parish, as well as surveillants (churchwardens), centeniers and other posts. Gedeon (1773-1786), his son Gedeon (1813-1816), and the latter's son Jean Gedeon (1841-1847) held office as constables at a time of vigorous political infighting, when party feelings ran high. There were not always successful candidates; however, as loyal members of the Rose party they always had the full support of the Chronique de Jersey. In 1844, when Jean Gedeon was seeking re-election, the Chronique, gloating over his success (he won by 154 votes to 144) stated, in its usual partial fashion, that he was successful despite all the efforts of his adversaries at various parish assemblies to dislodge him.

These efforts, the report continues, allegedly included the removal from the rolls of a number of electors supposedly favourable to him, as well as the inclusion of 40 to 50 others who lived in parishes such as St Helier and Trinity. For one very short period the feeling was running so high that this poor constable found himself disenfranchized, as his rate was assessed at below that of a principal of the parish. This was soon rectified but it does demonstrate the depths to which the parties would stoop to achieve success.

One or two connections of this branch in the female lines are worth noting. Jeanne Dallain who married Jean Mourant was the ancestress of the Mourants of La Fontaine, La Qualite and Middlehill, whose descendants included the Reverend Philip J Mourant, who was Rector of St Lawrence in the 1930s. Judith Dallain, granddaughter of the original refugee, married Jean Laurens, the younger surviving son of Jean Laurens, who in 1699 had bought the house of Lieut-Bailiff Philippe Le Geyt, now known as Fernhill, Mont a l' Abbe. The descendants of this couple include the Laurens family of The Priory, Mont Cochon and the Le Feuvres of Halcyon House, St Helier.

St Peter and St Mary

Jean Dallain, second son of the original refugee, settled in St Peter in the property he had bought in 1702. It is on the Fief de La Hague, in whose fief records one can note his holdings. On occasion the Chefs Plaids, or meetings of the Fief court, were held in the Dallain house. Fortunately this property can be identified, as a result of the recording of the marriage stones, as The Oaks, on St Peter's Main Road, near St Peter's Post Office. One stone, IDL IAL 1773, fits in with the son of the first Jean, who married Judith Alexandre of St Brelade in 1753. We can now, with some confidence, identify the couple on the other stone on this property, IDL IB. The IB refers to the first wife of the first Jean, Judith Bosquet, or Le Bosquet, probably of the same family as the Marie Bosquet mentioned earlier. When Judith died in 1717, the burial record in the St Peter Registers calls her 'Gudit Bauget'.

The elder Jean married secondly Madeleine Le Capelain. They had seven children, most of whose godparents were of refugee stock, including several members of the Gosset family. The male line became extinct in the third generation (most of the younger sons seem to have left Jersey) and the property devolved to the Alexandre family, whose descendants retain it to this day.

The Gosset connection has given one clue to help identify the elusive Abraham Dallain whom George Balleine sought in vain for his Biographical Dictionary of Jersey. Much of the information about this line is contained in a Geneva Bible, which once belonged to Peter Gosset of London. Although we learn that Abraham married a second cousin and had one daughter, we are still unaware of his artistry and works. A handwritten note in J A Messervy's papers shows that in 1752 he was in London and creating a Gosset relation in Jersey his local attorney. The basic mystery about him remains.

Two little misdemeanours give a human touch to this account. In 1720 Jean Pipon, Constable of St Peter, actioned Jean Dalain for breaking part of a public fountain (douet), constructed for the inhabitants of the Vingtaine du Douet; in 1784 another Jean makes his aveu (a list of his holding on the fief) in the Chefs Plaids of the Court of the Fief de La Hague, which for some unspecified reason he is required to amend in 1792. Whether he was simply forgetful, or deliberately trying to avoid his obligations, he did not fool a most alert court officer.

Just over a half century after the line at The Oaks died out a cadet branch of the St Lawrence family established itself in the Coin Varin Vingtaine of St Peter, at Green Hill Farm, now a hotel. This line produced one centenier, Francis Gideon (1871- 1874), but premature deaths forced the sale of the property, on behalf of the infant children, to John Helier Langlois, a former centenier and procureur du bien public of St Lawrence. Much later they returned, but only temporarily. One of these minor children was Arthur Gideon, who farmed successfully at St Mary at Elmwood and then at Northwood. He was elected constable in 1949 and collapsed suddenly at the Parish Hall in January 1965 while still in office.

St John and St Helier

The Dallains did not settle in St John until about 1760, but it is here that descendants remain to this day, still retaining most of the family property. When Pierre (1737- ) moved to St John, presumably at the time of his first marriage to Esther Falle in 1762, he brought with him several of his then unmarried sisters.

The datestones at La Chasse, PDL MNC 1765, 1772, 1796 conform with Pierre's second marriage to Marguerite Nicolle, and help to eliminate some possible dates for the other stone extant, which cannot accurately be transcribed.

The St John branch settled in Herupe, and prospered also in succeeding generations sufficiently to include Elmwood and Maitland Farms, as well as La Chasse. In 1767 Pierre Dallain sold Clos de Lampriere to his neighbour Philippe Coutanche, an ancestor of the writer.

Many members of this line were strong supporters of the St John's Congregational Church (now United Reformed) and Sion Methodist Chapel. As a consequence many are buried in the adjacent independent Macpela Cemetery.

Not only were they independent in religion, but also in choosing careers outside agriculture. Jean (1810- ) became a successful solicitor. He moved to St Helier, but died at a relatively early age, being buried at Mont a l'Abbe Cemetery. Hardly had he died than his office in Queen Street was taken over by an up-and-coming solicitor, John Coutanche, who was for many years Registrar of Contracts and was an ancestor of the late Bailiff. Jean's eldest son is one of the more colourful members of this family.

Adolphus John d'Allain (he always used the apostrophe) qualified as a barrister in England. He desired to practise in Jersey but experienced certain difficulties, some probably caused by his own irascible and temperamental character, and others by the unaccountable and irritating changes of mind of George Helier Horman. There were a maximum of six advocates at this time and the Bailiff had the right to nominate a successor whenever a vacancy occurred. Horman was nominated, moved to another position, asked to be considered again and did not seem to be certain which post he wished to hold. This continuing uncertainty, and the fact that his well-known desire to be appointed was being ignored, moved d'Allain to action. He took his case to Queen in Council, was successful and was eventually sworn as an Advocate of the Royal Court on 6 March 1858. He was never an establishment figure and it is interesting to observe that it was George Helier Horman, in one respect his protagonist, who eventually became a Crown Officer (he died in office as Solicitor-General) and not d'Allain.

D'Allain had other ambitions. The elected post of Deputy in the States was introduced in 1857 and he stood for one of the three seats representing the parish of St Helier. He was elected, top of the poll, together with his future legal colleague, George Vickery. Both were regarded as 'sound reformers'. Vickery was responsible for reforming the admittance of advocates to the Royal Court. Both had stormy political careers, and were adept and skilled debaters in the States Chamber. Suddenly, after six years in the States, D'allain left Jersey and went to America, deserting his wife and growing family. He returned in 1887 and tentatively resumed his legal career.

Charles Dallain (1808- ) chose not to follow his father, who had farmed in a very small way in the Coin Hatain Vingtaine of St Lawrence. For much of his long life he is described as a blockmaker. He died at the age of 90, after falling backwards downstairs at his home in Union Street. His son, another Charles, went to sea. Between 1859 and 1871 he is recorded as having served on eleven ships, latterly as captain of the cutters Fox, Fairy and Aquilon. From 1867 he was the registered owner of the Cutter Fox of 30 tons. Most of his career in such small craft must have been spent plying between the islands and ports in the south of England, which a brief glance at port movements in local newspapers confirms.

Although no examples are known of them, Esnouf, Dallain and Company of St John, also named the St John's Bank, were issuing banknotes in the period 1836-1879, with paying agents at various stages at 18 Union Street and 15/16 Le Geyt Street. According to the 1874 British Press Almanac the signatories were Abraham Esnouf and Charles Dallain, with J Dallain and George Le Gros as securities. Presumably we can identify the Charles, father and son, who lived in Union Street and Le Geyt Street respectively.

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