La Chasse in 1989. The property has since been demolished
Jersey's many ancient and historical houses are unique not merely in their architecture but in the fact that their history and ownership can usually be traced through many centuries. From the collective history of these houses and of the families that owned them there is derived, in its fullest sense, the history of the Island. As a French historian wrote, De l'histoire des familles se fait l'histoire des peuples.
An account of the history behind La Chasse, a not untypical Jersey property, may help to increase awareness of the true, and not speculative, value of such buildings and perhaps help save others like it.
The La Chasse site is of great antiquity. The Le Loreur family, its first recorded owners, were almost certainly living there in the 14th century, and perhaps in the 13th century, as the earliest known member of this family, the Bailiff, Matthieu Le Loreur, would have been born circa 1270.
At the start of the Land Registry (1602) their Le Geyt descendants owned the property. In 1609 Noë Le Geyt married Sara Perrin, daughter of Jean, a Jurat and Seigneur of Rosel, and settled, the historian Messervy tells us, in Maufant sur l'heritage de sa grand-mere Genette Le Loreur. He engraved his initials and the date 1619 on a heraldic stone at La Chasse, formerly the keystone of an arch described by Joan Stevens as "among the earliest dated arches" in the Island.
A deed of 1627 confirms Messervy's statement, as it states that Le Geyt held land in Maufant "suyvant le contenu de son partage d'heritage" and that a small part sold in that year was a part of that formerly owned by Genette Le Loreur, his grandmother.
Le Geyt's father, the previous owner of the estate, was Thomas Le Geyt, Seigneur of la Carrière and formerly Constable of Saint Helier, whose death in 1604 led to the above partage. He was the son of Noe Le Geyt, son of Matthieu, son of Jean, also Seigneur of la Carrière, who lived at the property now called Chestnut Farm, a few yards west of Queen's Road on Le Mont à l'Abbé. He married c1520 Genette, eldest daughter and, eventually, principal heiress of Regnauld Le Loreur of Maufant, a Jurat of the Royal Court 1503-23, and as a result of this marriage the La Chasse estate passed to the Le Geyts.
Last of line
Regnauld junior, Genette's brother, was the last of the principal surviving line of the Le Loreurs, his family stretching back through the preceding centuries. A glance at his family will give an idea of some of the former owners of La Chasse: Matthieu Le Loreur (mentioned above) was Viscount in 1309, Jurat in 1329 and Bailiff in 1332. He, Matthieu junior, Robert and Guillaume Le Loreur owned land on the Fief du Roi, Saint Saviour, in the northern half of the parish, where La Chasse is situated, as shown in the Extente of 1331.
Collin Le Loreur was a member of the garrison of Mont Orgueil Castle in 1338, and Guillaume Le Loreur, probably the above, was Jurat 1348-53, as was Pierre Le Loreur in 1379, another Guillaume 1382-1401, Regnauld 1397-1432, Pierre 1407-37 and Jean 1452-1483 (and Procureur of Saint Saviour, 1454). Many of these were probably sons succeeding their fathers and grandfathers in office.
In the 175 years between 1348 and 1523, Le Loreurs of Maufant feature as Jurats for at least 119 years. Messervy believed, furthermore, that the house owned by the Lempriere family of Dielament, and called in the 16th century the Maison de Maufant, (now termed Maufant Manor), was also originally a Le Loreur house. He believed it passed to the Lempriere family vers 1457 par suite du mariage de ... Jean Lempriere (fils Drouet, fils Raoul) avec Jehannette Le Lorreur.
From the approximate dates of the children of this marriage, the marriage itself must have taken place c1400. Thus Messervy's conjecture that Jehannette was fille ou soeur de Jean Le Loreur, Jure - Justicier, 1453 cannot be correct, as Jean died c1483, after the death of many of Jehannette's children, who thus clearly belonged to the same generation as Jean. Jehannette was probably born circa 1375, a granddaughter and, if Messervy is correct, heiress of one or other of the sons of Matthieu Le Loreur featured in the genealogy.
Between 1729 and 1732, her descendant, Michel Lemprière, Seigneur of Diélament, sold this Maufant estate in several parcels. It consisted at that time of approximately 110 vergees with a vivier, as at La Chasse. The land included Jardin de la Chapelle, the probable site of the pre-reformation Chapelle de Notre Dame de Maufant, and land on which the present-day farms of Pièce Mauger, Maison du Buisson and Greenville were soon to be built and La Fevrerie rebuilt.
Half a mile to the south, the La Chasse estate, after some sales of land, consisted in 1671, as we shall see, of 55 vergees. As there is no evidence of a sale by the co-heiress in 1523, Perronnelle Le Loreur, wife of Jean Millais, of her share of her father's land to the Le Geyts, the original La Chasse estate may have amounted to nearly 100 vergees.
Up to 300 vergees
It is not inconceivable that the two properties, the few buildings between the two clearly being of a much later date, formed in the 14th century one extensive estate of up to 300 vergees, which would account for the Le Loreurs' position, in the words of Messervy, as une des familles les plus notables, a cette epoque, de la paroisse de Saint Sauveur.
To the owners of Maison de Maufant, La Chasse might have been known as Maison du Sud or, being lower-lying, Maison de Bas. The Lempriere family's arrangement, one not unusual in the Island, and described by Messervy in the same article, whereby Maison de Maufant would be used by a married son in his father's lifetime, or by a bachelor brother afterwards, is likely to have been the system formerly used by the Le Loreurs, with their properties.
Jean Lempriere and his wife, Jehannette Le Loreur, were also direct ancestors in a female line of Noe Le Geyt's wife, Sara Perrin, and of her brother Abraham. Lempriere went on to become Bailiff in 1435. G F B de Gruchy in his manuscript notes on the Le Loreur family, believed the name was derived from the old French word Lorreour, a cellarman, probably originally a nickname. The name was often spelt Loreour. He recorded with some regret that the family's arms appeared to be lost.
The heraldic stone on which Noe Le Geyt engraved his initials and the date is of particular interest. The late Lieut-Bailiff, Frank de Lisle Bois, on visiting La Chasse, described the main features on the shield as being shaped like Chamontel pears and thus being, he believed, a pun on Le Geyt, lejet (in Jersey Norman French the last letter is not pronounced), perhaps, being three in number, Trois jets d'eau or Trois jets de feu.
There are four distinct Le Geyt families identifiable in Jersey, each traceable to the 15th century. The two principal ones are named, following an Island custom, Le Geyt dit Rauvet and Le Geyt dit Le Maillier. The Armorial of Jersey thus describes the arms of Vice-Admiral George Le Geyt (of the Rauvet family): Ermine, a lion rampant, gules. These arms are not, however, of any known antiquity and the Le Geyt dit Le Maillier family, to which Noe Le Geyt belonged, used the arms shown at La Chasse, being derived perhaps, as Bois suggested, from a pun on the name Le Geyt.
17th century custom
However, another rather more intriguing origin may exist for the arms borne by the Le Geyts dit Le Maillier. It was customary in Jersey before the 17th century for the descendants of a man who had married an heiress, to adopt the heiress' coat of arms in lieu of his own. This predated the application locally of the science of quartering, whereby the arms of an heiress were placed in the second and third quarters of her descendant's shield, the paternal arms featuring in the first and fourth quarters.
Examples of this are numerous. The Dumaresqs of Vinchelez de Bas inherited that estate by the marriage of Thomas Dumaresq to Jeanette de Bagot, Dame de Gorges, whose mother Jeanette was the eldest daughter and one of the heiresses of Michel Le Febvre, Seigneur de Vinchelez. Her Dumaresq descendants bore, not the Dumaresq arms, nor those of de Bagot (Sable, three dolphins, embowed, argent), but those of Le Febvre of Vinchelez, as their successors, being Gules, three escallops, or.
Thomas Dumaresq's son, Jean, then married Mabel, only daughter and heiress of Philippe Payn, Seigneur de Samarès. They had two sons, one of whom took Vinchelez de Bas, the other Samares. This latter bore as arms the trefoils of the Payn Seigneurs of Samarès, as their heir and successor. Thus the original Dumaresq arms fell into disuse and are long lost. Other examples of this custom are to be found in the armorial bearings of the de Carteret and Lempriere families. Sir Philippe de Carteret, Seigneur of Saint Ouen, married c1215, Marguerite d'Aubigné, an heiress, whose arms were Gules, four fusils, conjoined, in fesse, argent.
G F B de Gruchy wrote of these arms, "identical with the De Carteret arms, which looks as if the latter family had adopted the arms on the above marriage". The original arms of the Lempriere family had featured a single double-headed eagle. As Seigneurs of Rosel, by purchase in 1367, their arms had changed to Gules, three eagles displayed, or, the arms of de Barentin, the former Seigneurs of Rosel, with changed tinctures (de Barentin bore Sable, three eagles displayed, argent, beaked and membered, or). This custom was also prevalent throughout mainland Normandy at the time.
Thus Noe Le Geyt's coat of arms may well be that of the Le Loreurs, long believed lost, whose descendant and successor he was. A likely shield for that family to have borne, a pun on their name, would have been three laurel leaves vert. A laurel in Jersey Norman French is pronounced and spelt phonetically, Louothi, and the surname Le Loreur, Le Louotheu, sufficiently similar for the pun to arise. Charles Boutell in his English Heraldry writes, "the Grammar of Heraldry: Armes Parlantes: Such as are allusive to the name, title, office or property of those who bear them: thus Leaves for Leveson ... a Cup for Butler ... ", and we may add laurel leaves for Le Loreur.
Major Rybot, visiting La Chasse about 1928, perhaps searching for La Cabotterie, mistook, maybe in poor light, the initials "NLG" for "NC" and assumed these were the Cabot arms: Or, three chabots, hauriant, gules, an example of the sort of error that can be made on an assumption without documentary proof from the Land Registry.
The 1929 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise features an illustration of the shield. Rybot, however, has indicated the presence of heads to the chabots (fish), which were not present when the writer saw the stone in 1990. The heads are 'to the base', or at the bottom of the shield, so the chabots are swimming vertically downwards, which in heraldic terminology is three chabots uriant. The Cabot arms are supposed to feature chabots swimming upwards, known heraldically as hauriant. The Cabots have never owned nor been connected with this property.
Noe Le Geyt
Returning to the owners of the property, Noe Le Geyt (c1585-1648) had a misfortune that prevented him from entering as fully as he would doubtless have liked into the role played in Island affairs by the Le Loreurs to which, as their descendant, he might have aspired. He slid increasingly into debt, from which he was seemingly incapable of extricating himself. He had bought two houses, both of which appear to have been sold, and a mill, the moulin a brays on the fief de Rosel, from his brother-in-law, Abraham Perrin. This last sale included land named after the vivier just below the mill, which was hence in the valley in the vicinity of the West Lodge of Rosel Manor. It returned before long to the Rosel estate.
With these exceptions, Noe Le Geyt spent the years 1616 to 1648 selling land and assets (rentes). We learn from a deed of 1667, whereby his son, Noe, sold Clos de Regnault (probably named after Regnault Le Loreur, its former owner) that Noe senior, had been, at one time at least, committed prisonnier au Chateau a prisoner in Mont Orgueil Castle, then used as a debtor's prison.
In 1625 he was jointly in debt with his brother-in-law Perrin. How they ran up such debts is hard to tell after 370 years, but we do know that Abraham Perrin had to sell the Fief of Rosel in 1625 and died in Mont Orgueil Castle, still a debtor, in 1630. We can assume, however, that Le Geyt and Perrin probably entered unwisely into a joint venture which saddled the former with debts which he and his heirs were unable to clear.
Two of Noe Le Geyt's three sons, Noe and Jean, distinguished themselves as zeles partisans of the Royalist cause during the Civil War and were rewarded by the Prince of Wales in 1646. On the death of his father, Noe Le Geyt jnr inherited the property and married his first cousin once removed, Jeanne, daughter of Jurat Helier Hue. F de Lisle Bois noted the fireplace lintel of the old house bore the initials and date "NLG 1681" for this Noe Le Geyt.
Like his father before him, Noe was frequently found to be in default in paying his debts and being condemned by the Court. He was also to be found selling rentes or raising ready cash by creating a charge on his land. He had the misfortune in 1665 to be attacked and robbed, with one Richard du Hurell, by Nicolas Bisson, to whom he perhaps owed money. Bisson fled the Island and a subsequent pardon granted was of little help as he had died in the meantime.
Despite sales of land, Noe Le Geyt jnr still owned in 1671 55 vergées and a vivier and the heirs of his brother Jean, 17 vergées, 34 perches at the neighbouring property, La Vieille Guillaumerie. Noe's property was finally sold, for the first time in its history, on 26 April 1694, the purchaser being George La Cloche, brother of the Seigneur of Longueville, the land having in the last 23 years shrunk to 30 vergées, Noe had life enjoyment of the house and pepinière (nursery garden) and La Cloche agreed to pay Noe's debts, the latter dying without issue at La Chasse in 1701.
La Cloche's niece, Anne, Dame de Longueville, sold the estate in 1770 to Edouard Falle, son of Philippe, a member of a Saint Peter family. His grandson built a Victorian house on the site, to the east of the 17th and 18th-century houses, and added the 19th-century outhouses to the north. The property was sold in 1889 to John Hamptonne L'Amy, author of Jersey Folk Lore, who was living at La Chasse when he first began work on his book. Major L'Amy, being a rather tall man, had a bath specially made for him and installed at La Chasse. After the 1939-1945 war, the well-known Bisley marksman, A Young, lived in the main house as the tenant of the La Chasse Tomato and Produce Company.
The buildings on the La Chasse site, with their long pedigree, incorporating at least four centuries of Jersey architecture, were proposed Grade 2 listed buildings in 1990. The Jersey Evening Post on Saturday 12 May 1990, carried the front page article "Proposed Grade 2 Buildings knocked down". It went on to say that the Island Development Committee's architect, with responsibility for conservation in 1990, had stated that "final permission to demolish what were proposed Grade 2 listed buildings was never given".
The comparatively new owner of the property "had clearly received advice that the buildings could not be saved" the article stated, and continued by quoting the owner as saying "those which had come down were totally derelict". The Island Development Committee had commissioned a United Kingdom surveyor and his survey of La Chasse is reported as concluding that "the buildings were structurally sound and could be retained and renovated, without removing the roof" (an object of discussion). The Island Development Committee's architect stated that this "would be economical as well as feasible". The demolition, however, took place.
Had the buildings been investigated in the manner of those at Hamptonne, we would have added greatly to our knowledge of Island architecture and history as they undoubtedly incorporated stonework and features from the earlier mediaeval Le Loreur house.
The terrace of modem dwelling units that has replaced the demolished buildings reflects sadly the changes that are taking place in Jersey's countryside. On what grounds can such historic buildings be allowed to be demolished? Others survive yet are changed almost beyond recognition by new owners. La Chasse has also recently become a Manor House, joining Radier, Oaklands and other houses that, without any fief, have become manors since the war, thus distorting history. La Chasse is on Her Majesty's fief and thus could not be a manor any more than Maufant, although the latter has for a long time been so called. Had the resident owners of La Chasse owned fiefs elsewhere, this might have qualified the house for such a description, but this was never the case.
We might have hoped that the heraldic stone would have remained on the site, where little else remains of any historic value. This was the initial intention of the owner. Things, however, did not work out as intended because the demolition team cracked the stone, rendering it too weak to be mounted over a fireplace as planned. It was sold to a businessman who, having been told erroneously that it was a Cabot stone, sold it to a Mr Cabot of Massachusetts in the United States of America. Mr Cabot had more respect for our local heritage than many people now living in the Island. He at first offered it to the Museum, but the parties were unable to agree on how it should be displayed. The stone is now in the United States of America in the possession of the wrong family.