Vinchelez de Haut Manor

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This article by Jean Arthur was first published in the 1969 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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Vinchelez de Haut Manor in 1838

This essay was made possible by the discovery of a small sketch of the Manor of Vinchelez de Haut and subsequently of manuscript records relative to the fief. The early history of Vinchelez has been covered by Miss Julia Marett in the Bulletin for 1931.

Fief divided

Originally Vinchelez de Haut and Vinchelez de Bas were one fief known as "Le Fief de Vinchelez". In 1605 the division, which had long existed, was formally recognised and the boundaries were defined. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make an accurate map as only a few of the place-names given are identifiable. It is impossible to guess where "le clos que tient Jean Le Mottee et Jean Le Brun" might have been.

However, it seems that the boundaries of Le Fief de Vinchelez de Haut and its dependencies, Fief de la Chapelle and Fief d'Aval, ran north along the stream below La Place to the coast and thence round to Greve de Lecq. It then touched Le Fief de Cracqueville in St Mary and followed for some way a perquage; probably the secondary St Ouen perquage suggested by Mr F Le Maistre. Then by a devious route, which is not clear, it went past La Pointe to Les Landes and then east again to near Portinfer where it joined the stream to the sea. The cultivable land between L'Etacq and La Saline from the foot of the hills to the sea forms part of Fief d'Aval, There is more of this fief within the main boundary and another, apparently isolated, portion to the north of Le Creux Baillot.

Le Fief de Vinchelez de Bas seems to consist of the coastal strip of land running west and south from the western side of the Fief de Portinfer. In addition, a comparatively small amount of land around Le Manoir de Bas and certain fields scattered over the north of St Ouen.

The small sketch of the manor at Vinchelez de Haut as it was in about 1838 was drawn from memory by Col C P Le Cornu in 1853. He was born at the manor which his father, Philippe Le Cornu of Les Landes, St Ouen, acquired by purchase in 1826. The sketch was labelled and seemed worthy of close examination. Mr C G Stevens painstakingly drew from it the ground plan and elevation plan of the house and outbuildings which are reproduced here.

Legal dispute

On 9 October 1788 a transaction was registered a la Cour Royale de Jersey which complements this sketch. It relates to a disagreement between Anne de Carteret, widow of Jean de Carteret, who was Seigneur of Vinchelez de Haut during his lifetime, and James de Carteret, his brother and eventual heir. In order to resolve the disagreement the manor is divided into three lots which are reproduced here in full.

A plan of the manor in 1838

Premier Lot

  • Le petit Parloir joignant au grand Parloir, Le Cabinet proche ledit petit Parloir
  • La petite chambre du Milieu de la grande Maison
  • Le Cabinet du haut de la grande Maison
  • La Cuisine de haut avec la Chambre au dessus
  • Le petit Cabinet au dessus de la Laverie
  • La grande Chambre sur la Boulangerie avec le Cabinet y joignant
  • Le Grenier et le Celier au dessous
  • L'Ecurie, joignant a la Grange, occupee par Jean Hacquoil
  • Le Grenier du Milieu de la Grande Masion sur la petite Chambre

Second Lot

  • Le grand Parloir avec la Chambre au dessus et le petit Cabinet y joignant
  • Le petit Cabinet des Allees
  • La Cuisine terree et le petit Cabinet y Joignant avec la chambre au dessus et le petit Cabinet y joignant
  • Le Celier Joignant aux Ecuries des Chevaux avec un autre celier y joignant
  • Le petite Ecurie Joignant a la Boulangerie
  • Le Grenier du Ouest de la Grande Maison

Troisieme Lot

  • Le Parloir proche la Cuisine de haut avec la Chambre au dessus appelee la Verte Chambre
  • La Grande Cuisine du Milieu avec la chambre au dessus
  • Les deux Chambres au dessus du Pressoir, L'appartement appelee le Vieux Moulin
  • Les Ecuries pour les Chevaux
  • La Grande Ecurie qui joint a la petite que Jean Hacquoil occupe
  • Le Grenier de l'Est de la grande Maison
  • La Veuve aura l'usage du Pressoir pour faire son Sidre ... de la Pompe, de l'auge et de la Boulangerie ... du Lavoir des Coupes ...

Self-supporting community

During the 50 years between this division of 1788 and the manor depicted in the sketch few alterations appear to have been made, whereas the layout of the buildings which exist today and the uses to which they are put are very different indeed.

It is interesting to note that, at least until 1838, the manor was an entirely self-contained and self-supporting unit, closely resembling that of a compact and practical mediaeval community.

Among those items which have entirely disappeared are the Colombier or dovecote, the saw-pit and the whole of the wing in which there was, apparently a mill. The latter, called Le Vieux Moulin, was probably run by horsepower since there is no stream sufficiently near to provide power for it.

Le Hogard was the stack-yard in which the stacks, les tas, were built on staddlestones, les piliers et les assiettes. They were left to dry and mature free of vermin until the time for threshing, battre au fliais, in the short winter days.

La Boulangerie, the bake-house, often stood on its own because of the danger of fire from the burning embers of geon or gorse which had to be raked from the oven before baking began.

The Vinchelez de Haut cendrier, or ash-house, had a device labelled abat-vent in the sketch, evidently some form of screen to prevent the ash flying about. It is centrally placed to receive ash from the house, kitchens and bakehouse.

Le cendrier was often a dual-purpose building. It was used as a fowlhouse or poulailler, providing dry quarters for the poultry whose droppings in turn helped to bind the ash. The ash was either wood or vraic ash or a mixture of both and made a very useful fertiliser. The building is now put to a variety of uses but can still be identified on a number of farms, eg Le Marais and La Pompe, St Mary; La Cigale, Rue du Douet, St Ouen; Bellozane Priory, St Helier. At La Pompe a stable loft housed the dry vraic and it was fed through a shute to the hearth for burning.

At Vinchelez de Haut the building labelled La Maison a Vraic stored the sea-weed which was gathered at Le Pulec and Greve de Lecq. It was either spread on the land wet or dried in stacks on Les Mielles, the sand-dunes, and later burned. The ash's value as a fertiliser is shown in an entry in the rolls for 1673 when Daniel Le Cornu pays part of the dues on land on which he grows parsnips in the form of 1 qr of vraic ash.

Le Pressoir was the place where the cider-press was kept. The sketch does not show a tour a cidre, or apple crusher, so it is likely that at Vinchelez de Haut, as elsewhere, it was housed in the same building.

One wonders what the battlemented arch was like. Did it really resemble a mediaeval castle as Col Le Cornu suggests?

This 19th century picture is believed to show the grounds of Vinchelez de Haut Manor, but it may possibly be Vinchelez de Bas

Lavoir has disappeared

An item of prime importance to Vinchelez de Haut, its Lavoir or douet a laver, is shown on the sketch but no trace of it now remains. The stream which fed it and the rights to use its water for washing and watering animals were the subjects of many bitter quarrels between the inhabitants of the manor houses of Vinchelez de Haut and Vinchelez de Bas.

Miss Marett says that in 1516 Thomas Dumarest of Fief d'Aval, a sub-fief of Vinchelez, "annoyed by both words and deeds, Richard's (of V de H) servants, preventing them from taking water for their cattle, from the spring of the douet, and from the pond, which were common to both manors". If this pond is the same as that which exists today, the old manor house of Vinchelez de Bas which is shown on the Richmond map, lay immediately to the west of it. (The new manor house of V de Bas which stands on the hill to the east was built in about 1820.)

In 1606, a year after the formal division into Vinchelez de Haut and Vinchelez de Bas, the two seigneurs, Jean de Carteret Seigneur de Vinchelez de Haut and Elie Dumaresq Seigneur de Vinchelez de Bas, came to a new agreement about the use of the water on the boundary between the two manor houses. Jean de Carteret gives up his rights to "pasturage, vivier, water etc on the Manoir de Bas" and in return Elie Dumaresq allows him the use of une recorbe a l'endroit du source de l'eau devant la porte dudit manoir de Haut, ledit recorbe allant a val que ledit Seigneur du Bas laissera hors sa closture d'une perq, tant au long comme en l'aise pour la cornmodite du manoir de Hault pour etre appliquee pour un abbruveur pour le bestail. It seems likely that a lavoir/abreuvoir was built as shown in Col Le Cornu's sketch, although there is nothing of it left today.

One would imagine that the seigneurs, having decided to use different sources of water, should have been friends ever after but the disputes were still going on well over a century later. Early in 1737 Amice de Carteret, Seigneur of Vinchelez de Bas, is ordered not to impede the natural flow of the water. The order is as follows:

" ... a lui Signifie a ce qu'il ait incessament a mettre au libre certain courant d'Eau Sortant du lavoir ou abruvoir auquel le Sr de Vinchelais de Haut a droit pat droits du 24e de Juin 1606 Scitue devant la porte de son manoir et laisser ladite Eau Secouler avec facilite hors dudit Abruvoir afin que ledit Sr de Vinchelais de haut n'en soit incommode ... "

Amice de Carteret evidently took no notice of the order for in June and October of the same year and in the January following the order is repeated. On each occasion the Depute Vicomte Jean de Carteret adds: "Jay leu et signifie l'ordre suscrit a Amice de Carteret gent. pour qu'il u obeisse ... " Even this did not finally end the matter for in 1761 we find Jean de Carteret, fils Jean, fils Jean, Seigr du fief et Seig de Vinchelez de Haut est permis de faire signifier a Jean de Carteret fils Amice, Seigneur du fief et Seigneurie de Vinchelez de Bas quil ait Incessament a mettre ledit Courrant deau libre, et sans obstruction ... "

In 1788, as we have seen above, the widow Anne de Carteret was given permission to use "la Pompe" and "le Lavoir des Coupes", the latter was a considerable distance from the house. Does this mean that her husband had got so tired of the continual squabbles with his neighbour that he allowed the lavoir "devant la porte du Manoir de ladite Seigneurie" to fall into disuse, built another at Les Coupes and installed a modern pump at the Manor? There certainly was a lavoir belonging to Vinchelez de Haut at Les Coupes. It has now distintegrated but both Jurat and Mrs F Le Boutillier remember it at the Northern end of Les Vallettes.

Map showing the area of the Vinchelez fief

Vinchelez Court 1645-1866

The court was frequently held at the Manor as the following typical opening paragraph shows:

"Les Chaefs Plaids de la Cour des fiefs et seigneuries de vinchellez de haut tenus au manoir par Devant Raulin Robin gent, Senechal a l'Instance de Jean de Carteret gent, Seigneur desdits fiefs. Le 27e iour de may 1704."

Sometimes it was held dans la Salle du manoir (1684) or dans le portail du manoir (1645). From time to time the court met on a spot connected with one of the subjects to be discussed.

In 1713 the court was held sous la maison de Jean Bailhache fils Jean fils George sur la Mielle et place a secher du vraicq et le Galley ... The reason for holding the court on the sands and pebbles where vraic was dried is soon apparent. The Prevot declares that a certain fat and oily fish had been washed up, Le Prevot a declaré qu'il est venu a Gravage un certain poisson a l'ard et a huile ... trouve par Jean Bailhache fils Mattieu sous la place de Jean Bailhache fils Jean fils George. Could this fish have been a whale? Unfortunately it is not mentioned again.

In 1716 the court was due to meet on Elizabeth Le Brocq's land, La piece des fillastres, on the south side of La franche Devise but Amice de Carteret, Seigneur de Vinchelez de Bas, appeared and raised the Clameur de Haro alleging that the court was on his fief. The Seigneur de Vinchelez de Haut protested, described the Clameur de Haro as mal apropos interjetee and maintained that the costs of any litigation which might ensue should be paid by Vinchelez de Bas. No further mention of the Clameur is made until 1726 when we learn that the matter had been settled in 1723. The right of Vinchelez de Haut to la piece des fiellatre was upheld and Amice de Carteret was ordered to pay costs.

It may be of interest to note, en passant, that the field still known today as Le Clos de la Cour was probably the site of the court of Le Fief de Vinchelez before the formal division into de Haut and de Bas in 1605. It is mentioned in a Le Feuvre partage (division of inheritance) of 1479 and in a manuscript among the St Ouen's Manor records of 1486. After the division this field, and the Clos de St George to the south of it, became part of Vinchelez de Bas.

Examples

I have not attempted a detailed analysis of the business of the court but a few examples may serve to show the diversity of the subjects with which it had to deal.

For convenience the business may be divided into three sections; firstly that which was presented by the Prevot, secondly disputes between the Seigneur and his tenants or the Seigneurs and tenants of adjoining fiefs and lastly disputes between the tenants themselves.

The Prevot used to announce the names of those who had died without heirs and on whose property l'annee de succession was, therefore, due to the Seigneur. An entry in 1676 shows what happened when the Seigneur had exercised his right, mainmise, and the dues had been paid by Jean Luce on his inheritance from Thomasse Le Brocq decedée sans hers. Jean Luce came before ths court and was granted main levée, that is, the Seigneur handed over to him his inheritance.

The Prevot also made known the names of those who owed saisinne and desaissine to the Seigneur when property changed hands between tenants, and the names of those who owed marriage dues as in this entry for 1678:

Francois Le Gresley et Jean Le Gresley fils Franc doivent leur nopces

In the second section of the court's business there is a wide variety of entries only a few of which can be mentioned here.

  • In 1674 Gideon Le Maistre was fined for digging on La Commune des Jonnez.
  • In 1676 Jean Bailhache fils Jean fils George was fined for theft and his servant for interfering with the game and the pigeons in the Colombier.

The tenants, whether of Vinchelez de Haut or de Bas or both is not clear, were frequently admonished and often fined for trespassing on the Seigneur's land at Les Coupes.

In 1724 Philippe Bechervaise was executed for murder and Jean Le Gresley committed suicide, Ses omicide de luy mesme. (There is no suggestion that these two events were in any way connected, they merely occurred in the same year). The property which both had acquired by inheritance became forfeit to the Seigneur. After a long struggle with the heirs of the suicide, the Seigneur finally relinquished his rights in 1746.

From time to time the tenants were required to deliver un aveu that is they were to declare and specify the extent of their property on the fief. Some delivered their aveux promptly but others, like Jean du Heaume tuteur and Sara Le Montais in 1735, were declared en deffaut and ordered to deliver their aveux or forfeit their land.

Small but important

Some of the subjects of dispute between tenants may seem trivial to us but they do show how important these same small things were at the time, for example:

In 1705 Jean Bailhache fils Jean is ordered to return to Aaron Le Greseley a fork which he had borrowed and to recompense him for damage done to the handle of the same.

The manor in the 20th century, much changed from the period under review here

Cases concerning straying animals and cruelty to animals were frequent. In 1676 Thomas Ricard is accused of allowing his pigs, ses bestes porcines, to do damage in Philippe Le Ruez's Hogard. Thomas Le Gresley is accused of beating and molesting, unto death, a sheep, une beste al'aine belonging to Philippe Le Ruez. Le Ruez is required to bring proof in support of his accusations.

In the later entries there are occasional references to goods being sold for the payment of debts. In 1746 Une Castrolle, a saucepan, belonging to Elie Le Ruez is sold for this purpose.

There is a very curious entry in 1707 which shows that Phillipe Vibert was ordered to pay Pierre Le Gresley un ecu pour de la decouverture de la maison de Le Gresley. This must be decouverture in the sense of uncovering the house, that is theft of its thatch which, the record says, Vibert had taken to make manure.

In conclusion this study of Les Rolles de la Cour de Vinchelez de Haut and its Livres d'Aveux shows certain trends.

After about 1750 the Rolles are concerned mainly with collecting dues. There are few disputes or quarrels to settle. Had the tenants become more docile, law-abiding or civilized? Were the Seigneurs no longer concerned with the welfare of their tenants but only with gathering in the ancient dues? Was it the Seigneur's disinterest in the tenants' welfare as much as the tenants' growing independence, both moral and financial, which led to the gradual extinction of this and other seigneural courts by the end of the 19th century? Probably it was a combination of all these and other factors which enabled the tenant to establish and maintain his natural independance of spirit.

Aveux

The Livres d'Aveux show a gradual diminution in the number of aveux made and an apparent decrease in the size of holdings. A partial explanation of the latter may be that the more important landowners were the first to assert their independence of feudal ties.

Between 1686 and 1688, 100 aveux were made. From c1710 to c1712 (dates are not given), there were 87, and from 1731 to 1743 there were 85. By 1834-35 the number had dropped to 17. The size of the holdings is not given, except in the latter case when the largest was only 22 vergees, the next largest was 18 vergees and most were less than 5 vergees. It seems, however, if one may judge from comparison of the field names given for the various holdings, that there was a gradual decrease in size between the mid-17th and mid-19th centuries.

This study has been limited to one collection of records and to the period which begins with the formal recognition of Vinchelez de Haut in 1605, and ends with the last of its Court Rolls in 1866. It suggests that a rewarding comparison might be made of the similarities and differences between the records of the many seigneural courts of the island.

Boxing Day hunt meets at the manor

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