Something historical today. Here is an extract from "Jersey in the 17th century" (1931), by A.C. Saunders. There is a lot of social history in Saunders, which throws up some quirky details that are often overlooked in the history of Jersey. This follows on from his chapter on Walter Raleigh.
An interesting aside on Grosnez Castle, described as "a heap of rubbish and stones little of nothing worth" by the 17th century. Despite that, it was the locale for the Court of the Seigneur of St. Ouen. The Seigneurial Court was a local court, dispensing justice within the fief.
Examples of the jurisdiction of the Court are given in the article "The Customary Law in Relation to the Foreshore" (2010) by Richard Falle and John Kelleher:
1) Vraic, seaweed either cut from the rocks or thrown onto the shore by the tide, figured large in Island life from the earliest period. As a fertiliser on the fields and a fuel for the domestic fire, vraic was an important element in the rural economy. It is relevant to our argument because the regulation of the vraic harvest, quintessentially a foreshore activity, for centuries fell within the jurisdiction of the Seigneurial Court.
2) The Seigneur", De Grucy he tells us, "had the option at the beginning of each season either to fetch the conger from alongside the boat . or to claim essiages . from everyone who used a trot line". The Code Le Geyt suggests, not a trot line, but "Le gros fillet à fonds", a set net with its bottom grounding. In each case, the nature of the Seigneur's right is clear: it arises from the ownership of the foreshore. Essiage was evidently a form of payment for a license to fish on the seigneurial foreshore.
3) Salines, where salt could be taken from salt pans. The salines of Jersey are less well documented than those in Normandy. Their former existence is however, well evidenced in place names. On at least two points on the coast of Jersey we find bays called "La Saline". One of the most important salines was exploited on the semi-tidal marshes which once ran down to the sea from Samarès Manor. Hence the name "Samarès" which derives from "sals marais", a salt marsh. All the salines both in Jersey and in Normandy had a seigneurial origin.
4) Banon, before its administration, like that of vraic, was municipalised, consisted in the right of feudal tenants to graze their cattle at the appointed time on the stubble of the unenclosed land of the fief. The policing of banon was by the Seigneurial Court.
It will be seen from those examples, that Seigneurial Courts were important part of the local administration of the fief, especially in a society where the majority of the population lived and worked in the countryside, and natural resources such as salt, seaweed, and unenclosed land were vital.
Sir John Peyton
by A.C. Saunders
We can imagine Raleigh fretting at his imprisonment in the Tower, deserted by all those who were ready to flatter him in the past, yet unconvinced that his former friends were ready to defame him if by so doing they could curry favour with the new Monarch. One of his friends was Lord Cobham, and he was most anxious to get into communication with him so that his case might be brought under favourable notice, but Cobham had ceased to be a friend, and Sir John Peyton, the Lieutenant, was suspected of having been the means of allowing a communication being sent to Cobham from Sir Walter, with the result that Peyton was removed from his Lieutenancy and appointed to succeed his prisoner as Governor of Jersey.
Sir John had been a great courtier and soldier. He had belonged to the household of Sir Henry Sidney when Deputy for Ireland, and had served under Leicester in the Low Countries. He had been knighted for his services and appointed Colonel of the special forces raised for the defence of the Queen's person when England was threatened by the Spanish Armada. In 1597 Sir John was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London. He was now somewhat under a cloud and had become Governor of this Island in 1603.
Shortly after his appointment a letter was received by the King from Paris. It was sent by one Thomas Morgan, a King's Agent in France, and was dated 28th September, 1603.
In this letter, Morgan states he has information that negotiations were going on between some important persons in Jersey and a Marshal closely associated with the French Court, to sell the Island for a pension of 2,000 crowns, payment assured in France. Morgan further informs the King that they are " persons of some quality as they say, with the Governor, who I take to be Sir Walter Raleigh " ; but perhaps he was not " participant with them in their lewd attempt unless the Devil totally possessed him." He further suggests that the King should change all the principal persons in charge of the said Isle and " put some confident subjects in their places."
Raleigh was down, and although we hear nothing further of this accusation, it would not help the gallant Knight in his efforts to regain his freedom.
Jersey was at that time in a very unsettled state and certain charges were made to the Council against Eleazae Le Marchant, Helier le Fevre, Leonard Le Measurier and Nicholas Davye, who were accused of having exhibited untrue and unjust complaints against the Governor and Justices, and as the principal stirrers of mutiny in the Island.
The Bailiff and Justices denied the accusation and pointed out that if the complainants were allowed to go on inciting the populace they would ruin the country. As the Bailiff and Jurats say, " the consequences of their actions already appear dangerous, for the people are grown so contemptuous of Government that they can hardly be contained in obedience, and the reformation intended by the Governor and Justices was impeached."
Le Marchant and-his -friends were forbidden-by the Bailiff and Jurats to leave the Island, and in the report to the Privy Council, " it is hoped that exemplary justice may be done to them." Evidently other complaints had reached the Privy Council about the unsatisfactory state of the Island, for on the 24th April, 16o6, the States appointed Philip de Carteret, Seigneur of St. Ouen, and Thomas Olivier, Minister of St. Helier, to accelerate the coming to the Island of the Commissioners appointed by His Majesty for the reformation of the laws and policy.
The Royal Commissioners, Sir Robert Gardiner and James Hussey, Doctor of Civil Law, visited Jersey during the summer of 1607 and made a report on the various grievances of the Islanders. They first examined particulars of His Majesty's Revenue, and, having examined people from the various parishes, estimated it should produce £1,500 to £1,600 per annum. They described many of the appeals as frivolous, proceeding in many cases from family hatred, and liable to do great hindrance of justice among the poor. They tried to settle the disputes between the Governor and the Jurats, but could not do so as the Governor claimed the right to nominate the Bailiff against the provisions under the Great Seal of Henry VII. They stated that the Governor in collecting his fees has the possibility of having considerable friction with the people, and that, if he were unscrupulous, he might in order to increase his income reduce the garrison and sell the stores. They suggested that a Receiver should be appointed who should pay all salaries (including the Governor's).
Some of the questions raised before the Commissioners dealt with debts due, division of property, and personal quarrels, but some are of special interest to the students of Jersey history. The Procureur raised the question of Grosnez Castle, and disputed the right of the Seigneur of St. Ouen to hold his Court there, and stated that the Castle was in the King's fief of Letack; and- that as- a -Castle it belonged to the King.
De Carteret however was able to bring forward some very old men as witnesses, who stated that as long as they could remember the Court had always been held there, and that the Castle had to their memory always been but " a heap of rubbish and stones little of nothing worth."
The Commissioners therefore decided that they would not interfere with the Courts of the Seigneurie being held there and thus the matter ended.
Then Solomon Blondell brought forward his grievance. He had a daughter of marriageable age and the mother was very anxious to get her married, so she spread abroad the report that on her marriage she would be worth two hundred crowns. Peter Robin of St. Peter's heard the rumour and went to Madame Blondell to see whether it was correct. " Yes," said Madame, " but my husband knows nothing about it," and Peter, on this assurance, married the daughter and then demanded her dot.
Blondell said he knew nothing about it and refused to pay the money, so Peter went to Court and the Court condemned Solomon to pay the money. When the Commissioners came to Jersey, he brought the case before them and they decided that, as the contract was made by the wife without the consent of her husband, the judgment of the Court was null and void, and left the matter to be further discussed by the newlywed couple in the privacy of their home.
Then they had to settle the dispute between the Constable of St. Brelade, and the Rector touching the pasture in the Church-yard and the cutting down of trees - also concerning defamatory words spoken by the Rector and his wife, in and out of the pulpit.
The Commissioners decided that the pasture in the Church Yard belonged to the minister, but the " bodys of such trees, as are fit for timber which are to be employed to the use and reparations ---of-the -Chancell and Church -as -occasion- shall serve"
The defamatory words they wisely left for the decision of the Ecclesiastical Authorities, who were also to deal with the complaint that Rector David Bandinell had forbidden Thomas Bibes and his wife from communion.
The Commissioners had further trouble with the Rector of St. Brelade, for Leonard Goupill complained that Bandinell claimed of all the fish caught by him, and brought as witnesses some very old fishermen, who stated that although it was the custom to give the Rector some fish out of each catch, it varied more or less according to the will of the donor. The Rector and Goupill agreed to leave the matter in the hands of the Commissioners who decided " that considering the great charge, trouble and " danger the said Goupill and other fishermen do take their fish and considering also how needful it is on the other side that the said minister, whose living doth much depend upon Tythes of fish, should be in some reasonable and convenient manner provided for." Goupill and other fishermen should in future pay to the Rector one-fifteenth of their catches.
Then Lucas Gouppill of the same parish and probably a relative of Leonard, as sergent of Noirmont, claimed a hen and half a goose from Mathew Le Febure as due to him as Sergent as king's rent.
Unfortunately for Gouppill he could not specify the land upon which the rent was due, and so the wise Commissioners decided that the proper persons to deal with the matter were the Governor and Bailiff.
Most of the complaints were very frivolous, but they give an insight into the life in Jersey at that period, and we have a quarrel between John Dutot and his brother Nicholas, who, on the death of their Father, had divided his lands. On Nicholas' property there was a well which had supplied with water the lands before they were divided. Nicholas refused his brother to use the well, but the Commissioners refused to countenance so unbrotherly an action, and directed that John should have the use of the fountain on condition that he does not bring " other men's cattell than his owne to the said fountaine."
Then Janne de Rues of St. Saviours claimed a promise of marriage against Richard Renoult of Grouville. She brought an action in 1603, but the case was not yet settled and during that time Renoult had, by the Rector, been forbidden to attend the communion. He therefore points out to the Commissioners the hardship of his case, especially as the case had not yet been settled, and he had not been excommunicated, and they, taking a sensible view of the case directed that he should be admitted to communion.
Then they decided that the Seigneur of St. Ouen should continue to enjoy, as agreed by the Commissioners sent to Jersey in the eighth year of the reign of Henry VIII, the possession of the chattels of all felons and the gravage which cometh from the sea " within the lands of the Seigneurie until better title shall be showed by His Majestie."
The Commissioners spent nearly two months in Jersey. They must have gone back to England much enlightened with the manners and customs of this little Island.
About this time we hear of John Herault, Monsieur de St. Sauveur, a Jerseyman who took a very prominent place during the next 20 years in the affairs of the Island, and of whom we will hear a great deal later on.
The question of the state of defence was also considered, and it was suggested that no fewer than four thousand men would be required to put the Island in a proper state of defence. The memorial stated that the Islanders were not to be relied upon " seeing they make no profession of arms, though their hearts are well affected, neither can they be spared from labouring for their sustenance." They suggested that the necessary victualling should be provided from England, as, in the most plentiful year, the inhabitants can do little more than sustain themselves.
It was suggested that one hundred pieces of ordnance, none of them under a saker (a six-pounder 5 or 6 inches bore and 6ft. 11 inches. long) should be sent over.
Sir John Peyton pointed out in a memorandum that Mont Orgueil Castle is much decayed and the new castle called " Elizabeth " is unfinished. That there is a great lack of ordnance, powder and munitions, and, in the year 1611, he again makes a report on the defences. He states that each parish enrols all able men into a company under a Captain, but they have no knowledge of firearms, and only a few have exchanged walch-hooks for calivers and muskets.
He stated that in 1610 the total number of men bearing arms was 2,030, partly furnished with walch-hooks-a kind of forest bill and slings, and that some three hundred able-bodied men are seamen mostly from the Island. As to the Castles, he states that at Mont Orgueil the nether part called the Baseguard, is open and unwalled, and there is a great granary and also twenty houses for the use of the inhabitants in time of war, " but all decayed for want of reparation." As to Elizabeth Castle, he pointed out that it was but half finished, unflanked, with the well of fresh water and the storehouses outside the fortifications.
" The part which is built is so weakly timbered that every great storm shakes off the slates so that every year it becomes more uncovered. There is no powder room or granary yet built, and part of the foundations of other rooms now lie unfinished."
He pointed out that thirty-four soldiers garrisoned the two Castles in times of peace, and these were strengthened in times of danger by the support of Islanders, who had for their wages five shillings and fourpence a quarter, and freedom from all service outside the Island.
Such was the state of the defences of the Island in the year 1611, and we next come to the petitions of George Pawlet, Bailiff of the Island, asking His Majesty to direct Sir John -Peyton -to authorise him to -surrender his office as Bailiff to John Herault, of St. Saviour's. He pointed out that he was now an old man, eighty years of age, and that he had served the Island for fifty-six years, first as Lieutenant-Governor and subsequently as Bailiff, and that His Majesty had bestowed the reversion of his place on John Herault, but that the Governor refused to recognize the reversion as he claimed that with him alone rested the appointment of Bailiff.
But on April 30th, 1614, the King directed Sir John "We are well pleased that our old servant George Pawlet shall now retire to his private ease, to which purpose we have approved the resignation of his place of Bailiff to John Herault, to whom some time since, in recompense of his services, we gave the revision of that office, requiring you truely to take order that Herault may without difficulty or delay be established therein, and because you have displaced Pawlet from his Lieutenancy after fifty years' service, it is our pleasure that you allow him £20 a year for life."
And thus began the great battle between Sir John Peyton and Bailiff Herault.
Shakespeare en Jèrriais - Aniet ch'est l'annivèrsaithe à Shakespeare. *It's Shakespeare's anniversary today.*
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