The Yews

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A brief history of

The Yews, St Peter



This article by Guy Dixon was first published in the 2014 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise


The Yews, newly restored after years of neglect, now looks once again exactly as it should, which is to say, it looks what it once was, a substantial farmhouse with outbuildings. However, it has a surprising history, with much diversity.

Land sale

On 31 October 1607 Marie du Pont, widow of Pierre Huelin, bought from Helier de Carteret, son of Francois, un petit clos de terre a trois cornieres, which was part of Clos de La Flocquetterie, on the Fief de Nobretez in St Peter. The purchased land was described as lying to the south of Jean Le Vesconte's land (the above Clos de La Flocquetterie).

The price was 3 cabots of wheat per annum, to be paid as a charge (rente) on the land, together with 4 hens. No mention was made of a house; there was merely, at this date, a plot of land.

With ownership of the plot came the obligation to work one day each year in August for de Carteret, Seigneur de La Hague and his heirs (the Fief de Nobretez was a sub-fief of La Hague). This involved cutting, binding in sheaves and stacking one vergee's worth of wheat. Failure to do so, would result in a further charge on the plot, in the sum of one cabot of wheat per annum.

Clos de La Flocquetterie, the southern tip of which was sold in 1607, covers the whole triangle south of the road in which St Peter's Old Rectory stands. It was named after Robert de Floques, (Bailli d'Evreux), joint commander of the French force, acting in the Lancastrian cause, that occupied the Island between 1461 and 1468, whose troops encamped there.

The Yews in 1953

William Le Brocq's purchase

On 27 January 1680, William Le Brocq, who was the first of five men in as many generations from father to son to be so named, all of whom were to own this property, purchased the former plot of land from the eventual heiress of Marie du Pont, Catherine Huelin, daughter of Timothee, the wife of Andre Mauger, acting with her husband's consent.

However, the deed shows that there was now a house on the former plot, reflected in the price, which was now 14 cabots of wheat per annum. This included the 3 cabots and 4 hens that Catherine, as Marie du Pont's heir, was obliged to pay Henry de Carteret, Seigneur de La Hague, the successor of Helier de Carteret. The obligation to the Seigneur, of one day's labour in August, was restated. De Carteret also added his consent to the sale sans desroger ny infirmer au droit de la bailie, laquelle fut faite de ladite terre par Helier de Carteret a Marie du Pont en dapte Mille six cents Sept, le trente unieme jour d'Octobre.

The owners of the land to the north were now stated to be the heirs of Jean Le Sebirel, son of Simeon. The property purchased by Le Brocq consisted of a house with its appurtenances and an adjoining garden or orchard. Timothee Huelin was the son or grandson of Marie du Pont (depending on her age in 1607).

The restored property

He is listed among the tenants, (property owners), of Fief de Nobretez in 1628 and 1637, and was buried at St Peter on 28 December 1670, making a likely date of birth circa 1600. His wife, Marie, predeceased him in 1667, as did also in 1660 a son, Helier or Elie, who was christened on 20 January 1627.

None of the above-mentioned Huelin family registered any partages (or divisions) of property following the death of predecessors, perhaps as this was not a legal requirement until 1840, but there can be little doubt that the plot bought in 1607 was purchased with a view to the construction of the house which was eventually sold in 1680.

The house, later to be called in the 19th-century The Yews, although much altered in the mid-18th century, was thus evidently built in the early 17th century by Marie du Pont.

The occupation of Timothee Huelin is not known. However, he is unlikely to have been a farmer, as his name has not been found between 1602 and 1677 in the Jersey Land Registry associated with any property other than The Yews. He did, however, purchase two fields. That purchased in 1649 was une piece de terre on the Fief des Niesmes, in St Peter, which he sold eleven years later to Philippe Huelin, who was probably a kinsman.

The other was Clos de Syvret, on Fief de Sauvalle, bought in 1643 from Simon Le Sebirel.

Both Huelin and Le Brocq will, in all likelihood, have been engaged in an occupation other than farming.

Le Brocq family

William Le Brocq (1651-1706), was born in St Ouen, the great-great grandson of Matthieu Le Brocq who, for the best part of 40 years, was Constable of that parish. One of several sons and grandsons within his immediate family, William had to make his own way in life.

On 18 November 1674, he married a native of St Peter, Elisabeth Vibert, daughter of Nicolas and Rachel Le Sebirel. The wedding took place at St Peter, where William had settled.

Bearing in mind the succession of William Le Brocqs, who were to own The Yews, they will be described below as William I to William V Le Brocq. William I Le Brocq did not especially distinguish himself but it is perhaps significant that he was able to invest, even before his 1680 purchase of The Yews, in modest sums of rentes, which suggests that he was not short of ready cash.

His son, William II Le Brocq of The Yews (1687-1772), was evidently highly successful in his career. He bought The Yews' first fields in 1708 and 1709, land at Mont de La Mare in 1724 and 1738, 12 fields at Quennevais in 1740, and in 1747, more than 36 vergees of land near The Yews, lying to the south of Verte Rue, to the east of the Main Road, to the north of Rue du Manoir and to the west of Rue de La Hague.

This large block of inter-connected fields is today known as the venue of the West of the Island Show. These purchases gave Le Brocq between 46-51 vergees, which from 1747 were farmed from The Yews. Le Brocq then turned his attention to his buildings at The Yews, which he refaced in dressed granite, using stone from L'Etacq to highlight window and door apertures. Matching this stonework in every detail on its northern and western facades, the rectangular building attached to the west gable of The Yews will have been constructed at the same time, no doubt replacing an earlier building on the same spot.

Douglas Argyle Le Brocq (left) and his wife Louisa Jane Labey in the 1890s

Golden years

A datestone in the south facade of the main house provides the date, 1757. The years 1747 to 1831 were evidently the property's 'golden years'.

William II Le Brocq, like his father, was not short of ready money. He invested in rentes, adding to his annual income the cash value of 18 Quartiers 3 cabots, most of this being of wheat. His wife, Elisabeth Le Bas, daughter of Nicolas, of Les Niesmes and Elisabeth Dauvergne, brought a further income in rentes. Between 1759-62, he was Prevot of La Hague.

William III Le Brocq of The Yews (1726-1807), succeeded his father as a result of a partage in 1773, and duly became the owner of The Yews and of its many vergees of land. He evidently also succeeded his father in the occupation that had served the latter so well and enabled such expansion in land and fortune.

He found time to breed cattle, as shown by the following notice in 1787 with regard to a bull of his (translated):

“William Le Brocq of the parish of St Peter [advises the public] that he has a young bull of one to two years of age that has strayed. Of a red colour, it is marked with a ‘W’ on the right horn. Those able to provide information regarding its whereabouts, will be rewarded”.

He added to his family's holdings by the purchase of additional fields, one at Val de La Mare, others under what is now the Airport. Of interest is the purchase in 1793 from Esther Le Moignan of a house, with its outbuildings, walled garden and adjoining three fields, on the other side of the Main Road to the west of The Yews, on the site of the buildings now called Cyrano Farm.

One might wonder what need the purchaser had of further outbuildings. Certainly, this was not intended as a second farm, nor was it used as such. Furthermore, this third William Le Brocq, like his father, purchased many quartiers of annual rentes, so the source of their income warrants examination.

Shop

A small book published in 1809, entitled A Summer Stroll through the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, at the end of the chapter on St Peter, has the following information:

”After this discussion on the Royal Court, to return from Law to trade; a transition, by the bye, by no means uncommon in Jersey, we have now to mention Le Brocque's shop in St Peter, which forms a complete magazine or depot, of almost every article in domestic use, from the most expensive wines, to all the inferior, minutiae of dilly household consumption.
”Those only who are situated at a distance from the market towns, can fully appreciate the public accommodation afforded by a shop of this multifarious description.”

Goods retailed, other than wines, will have included groceries, items of chandlery and ironmongery. Seedlings, fruit trees and bushes from the pepiniere were also sold.

Extensive searches, some years ago, in the Land Registry, in almanacs and local newspapers by the author of this article, failed to establish the location of 'Le Brocque's shop'.

Western Cash Stores, on the site of the present-day Co-operative supermarket, was run during the 20th century by a St Peter family called Le Brocq, that of Stanley Le Brocq and Eunice, his wife, nee Laurens. However, this business was established as late as circa 1897 by Francis Vibert Le Feuvre, purchaser of the nearby farm called La Fosse, who built the premises.

The buildings to the north of the public house called The Star were also considered, as were properties, among others, nearer the parish church. It was only during the recent restoration of The Yews that a former shop front was revealed, bricked in at a later date, in the south facade of the rectangular building attached to the western gable of what had become, in 1747, the Le Brocqs' farm.

The entire rectangular building was clearly purpose-built, with storage on the first floor, accessed by steps ascending to an east-facing doorway close to the north or back wall of the main house. This doorway would originally have been fitted with a wall-mounted hoist, similar to that until recently visible on the outhouse adjoining the main road, which was, itself, clearly used for further storage.

Douglas Le Brocq, Louisa Jane and daughter Edith, c1892

Outbuildings

As business increased, outbuildings on the other side of the Main Road were added, as we have seen, in 1793. Each of these structures is featured, in varying degrees of accuracy, on the 1787 survey for the Duke of Richmond's Map of Jersey.

Also of significance was a large wooden lintel, now removed, extending from one side to the other of the rectangular building on its south (front) facade at first floor level, which retained traces of lead flashing, indicating that the shop front at ground level had probably extended some feet beyond the present facade and been so roofed.

Location is of prime importance to any retail venture. The Yews, situated near the parish church at the centre of St Peter, at the junction of two roads leading north, one to St Ouen and the other to the north of St Peter and the west of St Mary, was ideally located for passing trade, as Marie du Pont and her immediate successors had no doubt spotted.

Furthermore, the main north-south roads in St Peter's Valley and on the dunes of St Ouen's Bay, prior to the 19th century, had yet to be constructed.

William III Le Brocq was Prevot of La Hague between 1792 and 1801, and served his parish as roads inspector for the Vingtaine du Douet, from 1774. In 1755 he married Elizabeth Balleine, daughter of Jacques, whose wife was another Le Brocq, Marie, daughter and heiress of Josue Le Brocq, of St Peter. Jacques Balleine's mother was yet another Le Brocq, one of four heiresses of the Le Brocqs of St Aubin, who were from 1595 merchants and shipowners, trading with Southampton.

This apparent incidence of inbreeding is misleading, as is often the case in Jersey, as these Le Brocq families were so distantly related that details of kinship, if any, have not survived the passage of time.

William IV Le Brocq, of The Yews (1757-1828), inherited the property in the partage of 1808. He served his parish as procureur du bien public from 1804 but it seems likely, however, that the Le Brocqs' business was at this stage conducted partly, if not largely, by William’s younger brother Jean (1762-1845).

Will

Jean was one of three younger sons in two generations who, although married, had no surviving children. He is primarily known as being the philanthropist who established the 'Le Brocq Fund'. Jean, a former churchwarden of St Peter, left in his will of personalty legacies to the poor of St Peter and to the pauvres honteux (deserving poor) of 1,524 Livres, (ancien tours de France). He also left, in the same currency, to the Church of England Missionary Society, 14,400; to the Society for the Advancement of Christianity among the Jews, 8,000; to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Overseas Countries, 8,000; to the SPCK, 8,000; to the Naval and Military Bible Society, 480; and to the Irish Society, 480.

To the benefit of the Island, he left 12,000 between the Dean, as Rector of St Helier, and the Rectors of St Martin and St Peter, to be either invested or used for the purchase of revues or of land, with a view to the income thereby annually achieved, being distributed to the Island's 'deserving poor', as deemed fit by those clerics and their successors. This was the Le Brocq Fund.

Further legacies included 5,800 livres (French currency) to the General Hospital, the interest derived to be used to augment the salary of the Hospital Chaplain; 6,000 to the Jersey Provident and District Society; and 1,000 to the Ecole Nationale of St Helier.

The will then bequeathed 146,140 livres among 61 relatives (mostly nephews and nieces and their issue), with an unspecified sum la reste de mes... argents bequeathed to the testator's brother, Nicolas, of Andover Lodge, St Peter. a retired farmer.

The total bequeathed was 210,624 Livres (French currency). At the rate of 25 Livres to £1 Sterling, the sterling total was £8,424.96. Allowing for the unspecified sums left to Nicolas Le Brocq, the actual total was probably about £9,000. Such a sum in 1845 would correspond to in excess of £460,000 at 2005 values.

A beneficiary of Jean Le Brocq, who had no doubt been employed by him, was his nephew, Jean Huelin (1791-1850), of Beaumont, a wine merchant and grocer, whose premises, now a part of The Goose public house and restaurant, still bear the letters and date JHL:MLB 1827, for Jean and his wife, Marie Le Boutillier.

In 1783 Jean's brother, William IV Le Brocq, who died in 1828, married Jeanne Le Feuvre, daughter of Pierre, of La Hougue, and Marie Poingdestre.

Douglas Le Brocq

Canada

William V Le Brocq of The Yews, (1786-1871), was sent as a young man to Canada, to gain experience in the fisheries that were proving so lucrative to the Island. In 1805 he was living at Arichat in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and in 1807 at the Gut de Canso, Cape Breton Island. In April 1822 he started his own business as a merchant and shipowner, marked by the purchase of his first vessel, the 125-ton Gaspe-built square-sterned brig called Olive Branch.

His business, no doubt to distinguish it from that run by his father and uncle, was called William Le Brocq jnr and Company. The new firm's house flag was a white cross upon a blue field. A year later the 113-ton Nova Scotia-built schooner Laurel was purchased, as were others in ensuing years, which traded within the 'cod triangle' between Canada, South America or the Mediterranean and Jersey.

William, on the death of his father in 1828, inherited The Yews. He was thereby responsible for the running of two businesses. Exhibiting the remarkable versatility that was a characteristic of the indigenous Jerseyman, William had added by 1823 a third venture, in the form of a linen and woollen drapery that bore his name, in St Helier.

He still advertised groceries for sale:

Wm Le Brocq jnr and Company font savoir qu'ils viennent de recevoir des jambons de Westphalie, du sucre de la Havanna, Blanc et jaune, aussi que de la plume d'oie”.

William V Le Brocq had, in all likelihood, too much on his hands by 1831 because, in that year, he sold The Yews to his younger brother, Philippe, and took as partner in the St Helier drapery establishment, one of his brothers-in-law, C E Ramie. The St Helier firm now became Le Brocq, Ramie and Company and was located at Halkett House, King Street.

This business was still thriving in 1848. William, who had moved to Le Rivage in Gorey, died in 1871.

Farmer

Philippe Le Brocq, of The Yews, (1793-1858), described himself in the censuses of 1841 and 1851 as a farmer. In that of 1841, however, there was present at the property, Philippe's brother-in-law, George Balleine, who described himself as a merchant. He may well have been, therefore, running the business on Philippe's behalf, gaining the commercial experience that would enable him to become, by 1851, a merchant/insurance broker' in St Helier.

Philippe's uncle, the above Jean Le Brocq, was in 1841 living in retirement at La Fosse, St Peter. Philippe's 1851 aveu (or listing of properties held on a fief), shows that he had increased his family's holding by purchasing Clos de Verte Rue (the southern half of P558 and the field, not numbered, to the west.

The Le Brocqs' wine, grocery and general business was in 1851 perhaps being run by Mr Philippe Bossy and his wife, Elisabeth, who lived at a distance of about 100 yards from The Yews. Philippe Bossy, who in 1841 was a cabinet maker, was described in the census of 1851 as 'Freeholder of House and Orchard, Cabinet maker, also Grocer, (Retail)'. The entry for his wife Elisabeth read 'attends grocer's shop'. The wording might suggest that Philippe and Elizabeth were lessees and not owners of the business.

The store at The Yews seems to have been discontinued at about the time of Philippe Le Brocq's death in 1858, if not before, as in 1874 Mrs Elisabeth Syvret conducted business as a grocer, tea and coffee dealer, near The Star Hotel, St Peter, which suggests that the Le Brocqs were no longer in business.

Philippe Le Brocq, who had married Elisabeth Balleine, daughter of the Rev George, Rector of St Peter, became churchwarden of St Peter in 1834 and three years later roads inspector for his Vingtaine. He died in 1858 and in the resultant partage The Yews was inherited by his eldest son, Philippe George Le Brocq (1831-1871). Philippe George married Anne Elizabeth Falle, daughter of Jean, of the property now called Daisy Farm but suffered, as did his only child, Anna ( -1868), with increasingly poor health.

The Yews was sold on 31 March 1866 to Jean Simon, a prosperous draper, shipowner and man of property, whose properties included the present-day St Peter's Country Hotel, known then as Simon's Drapery Establishment. Jean Simon, who had served as Constable of St Peter, 1842-52 and 1855-64, died in 1887 and in the partage of his real estate The Yews and some land was apportioned to the deceased's second son, Alfred William Simon, a farmer. The rest of The Yews land was divided between the heirs of Simon's deceased eldest son, Jean Simon, and the latter's sisters, Jane and Louisa. The Yews would never again be a large farm.

Alfred William Simon died without issue and in his partage, dated 6 June 1903, his three surviving sisters sold their share of his inheritance to John Francis Simon, son of their deceased elder brother, the late Jean Simon. He duly sold it for £700 sterling, on 19 December 1903, to Francis Vibert Le Feuvre, of La Fosse, who was in 1907 elected Constable of the parish.

William Le Brocq c1829

Rendering

The cement rendering, that until recent renovation covered the south façade, was perhaps added at about this time. The 1903 contract of sale mentions only the house and outbuildings, front garden and the vegetable garden. The Yews was, from this date, once again, no longer a farm.

On 11 September 1926 Francis Le Feuvre sold the property to John Charles Vautier, known as Jack, for £1,500 sterling. He lived there until 1939, when he moved to Nid Solitaire and then to Coeur Joyeux, where he died. During the Second World War the property was let to four families, the Daunys, Huelins, Le Moignans and Bechelets and afterwards to Adolphus Mauger.

It remained, after the war, let to tenants, with little money spent on it and has endured nearly 70 years of neglect. It has recently changed hands and has been carefully restored by developers, during which redevelopment the old shop front once again appeared to tell its story and that of The Yews.

The two yews, which gave the property its name in the 19th century, stood within the front gate on either side of the path leading to the front door, at a distance of about ten feet from the gate. During the 20th century they were repeatedly cut back and finally removed.

The well that supplied the property was in what was then the side garden to the west of the house and shop, at a distance of six foot from the main road. In the late 18th century, when further storage space was required, the outhouse used for this purpose was built along and adjacent to the road, over the well, enclosing it. The well survives but is no longer used.

The outhouse, before its recent conversion into a dwelling unit, had a large two-leaved wooden door, facing south towards the present-day village, through which delivery was made of the bulkier goods sold by the Le Brocqs. Items more easily handled were hoisted to the loft, using the block and tackle seen until recently in the centre of the building, facing the yard.

Stall-boards

In each leaf of the door an area of about three square foot had been cut, yet the wood was secured in place by bolts above and hinges below, to allow each section thus secured to be unbolted and then opened outwards. They strongly resembled stall-boards, seen in earlier times in English shops, which opened on to legs, in a manner similar to market stalls.

Almost certainly of a later date are the smaller, glazed, lights seen until recently, that had been inserted in these, perhaps in the 20th century, when the ground floor was used as a workshop. It might be assumed, for want of other evidence, that the boards were used in wet weather to allow sales to continue without the necessity of opening the double doors.

Sales from the outhouse may have included barrels of wine and kegs of spirits, items of hardware and sacks of seed, coal or flour. Smaller items, such as groceries, were retailed in the main shop.

Access for goods to the first floor of the main shop was by a further hoist, block and tackle, behind the shop, in the north façade, as seen by irregularities in the surrounding stonework. For external pedestrian access, steps led directly from the back yard to the first floor on the east side of the shop.

Indoors, doubtless for family use, steps led from the west front bedroom to a door leading into the first floor storage space. There was also an internal staircase, within the shop, presumably at the back.

A strange feature of the shop's first floor storage area is the spacing of the windows in the west facade, looking out over the main road. Whereas one might expect them to be evenly spaced, they are all at the end of the building. The business probably had its offices upstairs, at the back of the shop. Windows so spaced freed wall space for storage.

During restoration a bricked-up stone fireplace was found on the ground floor, in the north end of the extension adjoining Rue des Sapins. At the time of viewing, the immediate surrounding masonry had already sustained damage, so it was not possible to identify an oven or other facility.

The fireplace was probably that of a former bakehouse that would originally have stood at a short distance from the house.

The main house had 18th-century internal woodwork, which was, in all likelihood, of the same date as the new south and west facades, completed in 1757. Poor maintenance during the 20th century necessitated its removal, together with that of the house's fine mahogany staircase.
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