The full story of the Jersey Chantry Certificate

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This article by S W Bisson appeared in the 1967 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

The confiscation of religious foundations and endowments that had survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries was effected by the Chantries Acts of 1545 and 1547. Under the Act of 1547, all colleges, free chapels, chantries and fraternities became the property of the King, in whom vested also all manner of endowments for the maintenance of priests, of obits and of lights in churches and chapels. This Act also provided for the appointment of Com¬missioners, who were to make surveys of these foundations and endowments through¬out the country.

The documents incorporating the results of these surveys were filed in the Court of Augmentations, which dealt with property belonging to the Crown, and are known as Chantry Certificates.

Jersey survey

In Jersey a similar survey appears to have been made nearly two years before Commissioners were appointed to act in the Island under these Acts of Parliament, for the records of the Royal Court show that on 25 August 1548, the Denon¬ciateur was ordered to summon the priests and readers ("cousteurs") of the parishes of St Martin, Trinity, Grouville, St Saviour, St Clement and St Helier to present themselves at the Castle gateway the following Thursday, between eight o'clock and noon, and to bring with them the "rentaux" of obits in their respective parishes. The parish priest of St Helier and John de Soulemont were also to produce the titles in virtue of which they claimed a right to the Chapelle de la Madeleine. No record of this survey appears to exist, the Jersey Chantry Certificate being a record of the actual sales effected by the Commissioners.

The first hint that Commissioners were to be appointed to deal with ecclesiastical endowments in Jersey is contained in a letter from the Council dated 15 April 1550, which is enrolled in the records of the Cour de Cattel. After dealing with various other matters, this letter concludes thus :

”ffynally the kings majestie by our advise addresseth to you presently a Com-mission for the sale of Obyte lands and other things .... In which behalf and all others We Require and on the behalf of his majestie will you to be con¬formable and obedient to the followinge and accomplisshement thereof according to the purporte meaning and entent of all and every parte of the same. Thus we byd you hartely farewell from Grenewch the XVth of Aprill 1550."

The Commission was not long in following. Dated 25 April 1550, it was addressed (by Edward VI)

”To our welbelovyd Hughe Poulett knyght Capitayne and Gouvernor of our Castle and Isle of jersay, Christofer sannforde Helyer Cartteret Adam Martyn and Charles Mabson"

who were appointed as Commissioners with

”full power and auctoritie by your discressions for Readye money to be payed in hande to bargayne sell and conclude for us and in oure name to and with any of our subjects ... any of our manours landes tenements parsonages tythes rentes service Rentes secke Rentes Chardge or other Rentes advoucons com ens woodes or any other of our rights titles possessions or hereditaments within our said Isle of jersey"

which had fallen into the hands of the King under the Chantries Acts of 1545 and 1547. The proceeds of these sales of ecclesiastical property were

"to be employed in and aboute the buyldinges and makinge of ... fortiffications and buyldinges in and upon oure Castell of the said Isle."

Before the Commissioners proceeded to effect the sales, Sir Hugh Poulet and Christopher Sanford were to investigate titles to the lands and rights that were to be sold. The sales were to be "passed" by indenture between the Commissioners and the purchasers under the Common Seal of the Island, and the Commissioners were required

”to certifie one parte of the sayd Indentures into oure Courte of Eschequier within the space of Six Monethes next folowing after the date of every suche Indenture"

1550 sales

The Commissioners held their sales during the months of June, July, August and September 1550, and on 1 October they signed a long record of their transactions, written in French, which is now to be found at the Public Record Office in London.

This document (the Jersey Chantry Certificate), which consists of eleven membranes of varying length, each approximately 71 inches wide, has recently been transcribed (from a photostat copy of the original) by members of the Archives Section of the Societe.

Unfortunately the transcript is too long to be printed in the Bulletin with an accompanying translation, and no funds are at present available to finance its issue as a separate publication. Howeve, a typed copy of the transcript may be consulted in the Societe's library, which also possesses a counterpart of the Chantry Certificate, containing the same information in an abbreviated form. The counterpart is undated and unsigned and was perhaps prepared with a view to its being retained in the Island as a local record of the ommissioners' sales, though it may only have been a rough draft, for the totals do not always agree.

The Chantry Certificate contains particulars of over one hundred and fifty sales, the information given in each case being the name of the purchaser, the date of the purchase, the nature of the thing purchased and the price that was paid for it. The following translation of three typical entries shows the form in which the sales were recorded.

  • Nicholas Laffoley bought on the 29th day of June seven cabots of wheat [rente] for an Obit on Andrieu Magnyart; Item, six cabots of wheat for a Mass founded by Jehan Hicques on himself for the price of sixteen ecus a quarter. 26 ecus.
  • Philippes Amye bought on the 29th day of July eighteen deniers and a capon, of which the capon is assigned to the Fraternity of St Nicholas and the deniers are for an Obit on himself, for the price of 48 sols.
  • Helier Clement bought on the 4th day of September a field which Mathie Viel holds for the Fraternity of the Crucifix, valued at a half cabot of wheat. Price: 30 sols.

The majority of the entries relate to the sale of wheat or other rentes which had been given for the saying of obits and masses. Other endowments include one for the provision of consecrated bread and two for the upkeep of lights. One of the sales at St. Clement was of two cabots of wheat rente assigned to the Light of Our Lady, and at St Martin a field assigned to the Fraternity of the Crucifix for a light was sold for two ecus.

Chapels sold

Two chapels are recorded as being sold. Thomas Le Hardy bought the Chapel of St Julian, valued at one and a half cabots of wheat rente, for three ecus, and Michel Guerden bought the Chapel of St Maur, together with the rentes belonging to it, for 19 ecus 71 sols. There are also references to the Chapels of Ste Barbe, Longueville and St Nicholas.

It is not clear how the sales were conducted. They were evidently not by auction, for the price given for the purchases of wheat rente throughout the Certifi¬cate is the standard price prevailing at the period: sixteen ecus a quarter. The total value of the sales is given as 25 15 ecus 22 sols, " which sum is worth in money sterling of England £359 7s. 6d." Some doubt has been expressed as to whether the Chantry Certificate is a complete record of all the sales conducted by the Commissioners in virtue of the powers given to them by the Commission of 25 April 1550. Why, for example, were only two chapels sold, when we know that many more existed in the Island at the time?

We have seen that the Commissioners were instructed to "pass" their sales by indenture "under the Common Seal of the Island". Copies of some of these indentures are known to exist and when this article was first written (March, 1967) it ended with the suggestion that a search for them should be made, for if indentures were found which related to sales that are not recorded in our Chantry Certificate, the view that the Certificate is only a partial record would be confirmed.

Since then, with the assistance of Mrs Barbara de Veulle, to whom I am grateful for providing valuable sources of information, I have located copies of a number of deeds relating to sales of ecclesiastical endowments during this period.

Unfortu¬nately there was not time to study them carefully before the Bulletin went to press, but it would seem that such sales were still taking place in Jersey as late as 1563. The significance of this is not yet clear, but I hope to be able to report the result of further research on this subject next year.

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