Bailiff Hoste Nichol and Longueville Manor

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Bailiff Hoste Nichol and Longueville Manor


This extract from the journal of the Rev Christian Bateman was first published in the 1930 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

'Wicked Seigneur'

Once upon a time — about 800 years ago — there lived at Longueville a noted person called Hoste Nichol. Hoste Nichol was Seigneur of Longueville and Bailiff of Jersey; and a very bad man he was, if what is still told of him be true. Indeed he may be well called 'the wicked Seigneur of Longueville'. It is to be devoutly wished that his like may never be found there again.

This man, so the story goes as given in the Chronicles of Jersey, inherited the propertv from his father, and on becoming possessed of it, found a butcher called Antoine living in the Priest’s house, and holding the field on the hill called Clos de Antoine by a lease granted on advantageous terms by the older Nichol, with the right of going through the back courtyard as he required to the mill and the field. This arrangement was felt by Hoste Nichole to be very objectionable and he tried in various ways to induce Mr Antoine to give up his lease and surrender his privilege—a requisition with which he was in no way disposed to comply.

This gave rise to many altercations and no little ill-blood between the parties and the angry Bailie again and again threatened to secure his purpose either by fair means or foul.

At last matters reached a sort of climax and the Bailie, and an unprincipled servant in his employ, hit upon and contrived between them a plan for poor Antoine’s ruin and the attainment of the Bailie’s wishes. They arranged to go out some night take two of the Bailie's sheep, kill them and hang up the carcases in Antoine’s slaughter house (the lower part of the Priest’s house), and then raise an outcry for the Bailie's sheep as if they had heen stolen, and trace them home to Antoine’s premises and so bring the charge of sheep stealing upon him, which at that time was punished by hanging.

The scheme was carefully carried out. The sheep were 'stolen' by their owner and duly slaughtered. They contrived to get them smuggled into Antoine’s cellar, and when the morning came raised the outcry for them. They went all round the fief before they came to where they knew them to be; looked into all the farms and at last came back to Longueville, having gathered a large crowd of farmers indignant at having been suspected of such a crime, and all anxious for their own clearance, to find out the thief.

Poor Antoine. Little suspecting the trap, he made them welcome to examine his premises, and readily threw open his slaughter house door to them, when lo, there hung the sheep to his great dismay, but the searchers’ great delight. What could he say or do? He declared he had never seen them before, knew not how they got there, called God to witness to his innocence, appealed to his excellent character, his long standing as an honest and upright man. But all in vain. There were the sheep. How they got there, no one knew, nor did they seem much to care

Jury summoned

A jury, it is said, was directly called of 12 of the Principaux of the Fief, who sat at once in the Great Hall, the Bailee being judge of the Court. The Hall was crammed by an excited mob bent on poor Antoine’s condemnation. All the evidence was against him, and after a brief, mock trial, he was condemned as guilty and ordered to be hung that day before sunset.

I am not sure that all these particulars are really according to fact, for I do not know whether such a trial was possible even in those times, so lawless, and the place so far removed from any proper government, neither do I know whether the Bailee had power to order the death of the man, or whether it could be executed in such haste. I only tell the tale as I received it, and leave others to prove what they can of its truth. But I believe the Seigneurs had then the power of life and death in their hands and that the old feudal laws were still in force and often carried out.

So much, however, is sure: Mr Antoine was hung, and it is said hung in the Clos-de-Antoine at Longueville. In passing the Bailee's seat, poor man, he turned and said: 'I believe that you know far more about these sheep and how they got on to my premises than me or any one else. I therefore bid you to appear with me, before a righteous judge, and answer to Him for my death, in three weeks from today,' or words to that effect.

Bailiff's demise

Various accounts are given as to how the Bailiff answered the summons.

  • One version of the matter is that the Bailee went as usual to attend the sittings of the Court — I suppose in St Aubin — on the dreaded day and never returned. His horse came home but he was never again seen or heard of.
  • A second story is that on the dreaded day, the Bailee got up a party of his friends, and had a great carousing in the Great Hall, but just as the hour of midnight struck, in the midst of the noisy and riotous mirth, there came a great knocking at the door, which the Bailie himself answered by opening it. There, to his amazement and dismay, was a person mounted and having a led horse by his side which he required the Bailee to mount and take a ride with him that night, which he did. Both rode off with fearful speed never to return. The Devil ran away in both versions of the tale with the wicked Bailie. I am truly afraid that it is only too real a fact, that the Devil did get him at last, as he richly deserved he should, but I am not so sure that he got him in this way. Indeed I have a great doubt about it and so determining to find something out about him and what became of him, I set to work in the only way I thought I could decide the matter.
  • There was a third version of the story of the Bailee's end which bore with it a greater probability than either of the others and that was this. So soon as poor Antoine was hung, the Bailie was seized with the agonies of remorse and woke up to see the enormity of tho crime he had committed. In this terrible state of mind he shut himself up in his room and gave himself up to despair for the three weeks of respite Antoine had given him, but on their close—on the very day Antoine had named—he committed suicide. Now this was a very reasonable conclusion of the matter, and no doubt an accomplishment which satisfied the people as to who had got him at last, for though his infernal Majesty did not run away with his body, I fear much about his having taken his soul.

This was a matter to be proved by an examination of the Parish Registers of St Saviour and see if he had received Xtian burial and had been laid in consecrated ground, which would not have been the case if he had died by his own hand. The Church kept up her laws, and for the terror of all evil doers, and specially those who might have a purpose of self-destruction, most rigorously enforced them as regarded all dying either unbaptized or by their own hand, and refused most positively to give them a place in 'God’s acre'.

As I am no French scholar and profoundly ignorant of old Jersey or Norman French, which language the Registers of that would be kept, I applied to my good friend, Mr Boutillier of Grouville, learned in both tongues, to examine the parish registers of the time for me, which he most kindly did, and after some trouble, found the Registry of the Bailee's burial, which stated, that he was buried 'in the crossroads like a dog'. This, of course, settled the matter that the last tale was the right one and that the Devil did not run away with his body, whatever he may have done with his soul.

I am sorry I cannot give a correct copy of the registry referred to, as I have lost it and must get Mr Boutillier, who has a copy, to favour me with another, and for which I leave a space at the close of this story. I have, however, still to add one or two words about a matter coming out of this story.

Haunted house

Of course old houses are always haunted, and the Bailee’s bad end was a grand tale out of which to make a ghost story about Longueville. So on coming to the place I was told terrible tales about the Bailie’s ghost, which I should be sure to see or hear, at least every year, the galloping of horses round the place, on the anniversary of the Bailee’s first ghostly ride. Not believing in ghosts, these speeches made no impression upon us, and though I record them here, I hope those who read them will regard them as little as we have done.

First we heard that the room in which Baillie Nicholls died was haunted, and certainly one part of it did look as if a ghost would not be much out of place in it. This part was used as a stair or grain room with a darkened window built up with brick: the other part was used by Mrs Payne as her bedroom, and looked cheerful enough, at least as far as its perfect cleanliness could make it — gloomy and dark as it was. The little closet opening from it was built up — at least its doorway — and this had the reputation of being the ghost’s chief abode.

Mrs Payne assured us that she had never heard or seen anything of the ghost, and whether she had or not, it mattered little to us. So we resolved to make the haunted room our own bedroom and at once broke down the partition — threw the two rooms into one — pulled the bricks out of the closet doorway, and rebuilt the whole front from the bottom - excepting the buttress - putting in larger and more cheerful windows, making the room a very good room, and have proved it to be quite ghostless, as far as we have any experience of it.

As for the 'galloping of the horses', we have never heard them, and if they were ever heard, I believe that as the place has a good echo it, must have been in some way the echo of horses galloping along the public road, which might be so echoed in the back yard as to seem to be there.

According to some old Jersey folks the place was full of ghosts. There was a ghost walked nightly about the mill, which one night appeared in the shape of a miller stealing sacks of corn, and which the old lady (a Madame Payn, but not our Mrs Payn) suspected to have more flesh and blood than ghosts usually boast. And putting her suspicions to the test, by attacking the thief of a ghost with a good cart whip, when in the act of leaving the mill with a sack of corn, proved how true they were, and had the pleasure of catching the ghost and showing him to all who liked to go and look at him safely lodged in the St Helier’s jail.

This Madame Payn was a stalwart lass and a genuine Jersey woman. She lived in the end cottage, what is now my workshop and John’s rooms over; and used many ways of getting all she could out of the estate. At that time, the open space before the house now lawn, was full of trees and had an avenue from the front gateway to what is now the front door. Whenever a high wind occurred, she would send word to Mr Pipon, the agent, that one or two trees were blown down (when they were nothing of the sort) and as she had a right in her bargain to all trees so blown down for firewood, would set her men to work to cut one or two down and split it up for firewood, before the agent had time or leisure to come out and see what had happened.

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