Contracts and the Ouye de Paroisse

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This article by Ralph Mollet was first published in the 1954 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise In the 11th century the land in Jersey was divided up into about 110 fiefs, each held by a Seigneur who had a manor and a feudal court. The land was then sub-let to tenants, who paid a champart to the lord of the manor either by annual due of so much corn a year or by so many days free labour in helping either to cultivate the Seigneur's land, clean his colombier, repair his mill, cut his wood or collect vraic etc.

The transference of land at first was done in the feudal courts, but after the end of the 13th century the power of the Seigneurs began to decline and transactions in realty were performed by means of a Ouye de Paroisse at the cross in the parish cemetery before I2 reliable witnesses.

Sometimes a record was drawn up, either on paper or parchment, by the clergy. As time went on, houses and land became more valuable and the buyers were anxious to have their transactions certified by the King.

St Saviour's parish box

The King's Seal

In 1279 King Edward I appreciated the difficulties which his subjects from the islands underwent, by shipwreck and sometimes on land by depredations, in endeavouring to have their documents certified or enrolled in the Court of Chancery in England and also because contrats were often verbal (Ouye de Paroisse) and not in writing.

To remedy this state of affairs he sent a seal to his Bailiff to seal all documents in the future. The Ouyes de Paroisse were then brought before the Bailiff, who certified them with the King's seal. The seal was kept by the Bailiff in a purse, sealed by three Jurats after its use, and opened only in the presence of three Jurats.

This seal has always been used by the Bailiff, even during the French occupation of I461 to 1468; during the Protectorate, 1649-I658; and during the German Occupation, I940-I945. The Bailiff affixes his private seal as a counter seal.

The Registre Publique was instituted under Sir Walter Ralegh in I602.

The ouye de paroisse fmally disappeared in 1843 when the States made a law forbidding the reading of notices of all kinds in the parish churches and cemeteries (except the publishing of banns and church notices). The Constable of each parish had to erect a notice box in the wall of the cemetery near the gateway with an iron grille for the posting up of all oflicial notices in the future.

The 1491 contract

1491 contract

Translation into English of a contract dated 14 March 1491 ratifying a ouye de paroisse dated 14 September I482.

Copy. To all persons who shall see or hear these presents. Clement le Hardy Bailiff of our Lord the King of England in the Island of Jersey, Greeting.

Know all men that in the year of grace 1491 the Monday next before the feast of St. Benest there appeared at Saint Clement before us one William Le Bourdon: The said William tendered and exhibited to us a certain ouye written on paper, whole, ancient and uncorrupt, not cancelled and without defect, written long ago between the said William Le Bourdon and Perrin Le Jaune and Jehanne his wife, of which ouye the tenor followeth :-

In the year of grace 1482 the day of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross a ouye was made in the hearing of the parish of Saint Clement between William Le Bourdon of the one part and Perrin Le Jaune and Jehanne his wife of the other part, by which the said Jehanne, acting with the authority of her said husband, leased, ceded, and relinquished in perpetuity for herself and her heirs to the said William and his heirs a house and farm containing 3 vergees of land or thereabouts, the said house and farm being situate on the Fief of the Prior of St Clement for the price and sum of 12 cabots of wheat payable annually on the feast of Saint Michel of Monte Gargano, as follows :-
to the Prior of Saint Clement 3 cabots
to Colyn Bisson of Saint Lawrence 4 cabots
and to Gregory le Bourdon 5 cabots
And the said Jehanne, authorised as above stated, bound herself to hold and maintain the said house and farm free and quit of all rents and services whatsoever except the Seignorial due, that is to say, one capon in lieu of champart, and a pair of chickens for the said farm. Item the said William is bound to pay in perpetuity to John Gallie in right of his wife for the field towards the east of the said farm a rent of 4 sous. And the said ouye was made in the presence of Mr Thomas Cotil son of Drouet, John Le Clerc, Macy Le Clerc, Philpot Baudyn, William Jambart, Lawrence Cotil, John Baudyn, John Auly son of Guilbot, John Espiard and many other oath worthy people.
And at the same sitting of the Court the aforesaid William requested us to administer the oath to several oath worthy witnesses who were present to know and to report faithfully whether the said ouye was true; and the said witnesses, well and duly sworn, reported to us by their faith and oath of their bodies that the said ouye was true, no more and no less, as is contained and declared in the said paper and writing made in the audience in the year and on the day above stated, of which fact the said William besought us to grant this letter.
And we the aforesaid Bailiff have granted it to him.
In witness whereof we have sealed these presents with the seal of our Bailliwick of this said Island of Jersey.
Present: John Poyngdestre, Raulin Lempriere, John du Marec, Jurats of the King.
Given as above.
The seal attached to the Contract of 1362 bore on its obverse side an impression of the "Kings seal" (the three leopards of England) and on its reverse side an impression of the counterseal of Bailiff Raoul Lempriere. Rough usage has reduced the dark brown globule of wax on which these impressions were made to about half its original area, and has made the design of the counterseal difficult to interpret. This design, which appears to be unique among our insular seals, seems to be a trilobe or trefoil enclosing a crowned head similar to those borne on the silver coins of our thirteenth and fourteenth century Kings. There was evidently an outer framework surrounding the trilobe, but as only a few portions have survived, it would be rash to try to reconstruct it.

1362 contract

Contract passed in 1362 before Raoul Lempriere, Bailiff.

Sale by Regnaut Fondent to Rogier de Vincheles for 5 Qrs of wheat rente of realty that Regnaut and his brothers Philipot and Jorden Fondent had inherited from Julienne de Vincheles.
Sworn on the Holy Gospels.
A tous cheuls qui ces presentes lettres verront ou orront Raoullempriere baillif notre sire le Roy dengleterre en lisle de Gersie salut Sachent tous que presens en droit par deuant nous a saint Helier en propres personnes cest asauoir Rogier de Vincheles dune partie et Regnaut fondent dautre lequel Regnaut de sa boene volentey sanz contrainte recongnut et confessa auoir baillie perpetuelment a fm de heritage tant pour luy comme pour ses hers ou pour cheuls qui avoient cause de luy au dit Rogier telles terres rentes reuenues franchises libertez et appartenances quelles que soient qui sont appartenantes au dit Regnaut en lisle de Gersie de la succession de Julienne de Vincheles tant par la cause de luy comme par la cause de Philipot et Jorden fondent ses freres par le pris de chint quartiers de fourment danuel rente ala feste saint Michiel en mont de Gargane rendans dudit Rogier ou de ses hers au dit Regnaut ou es soens en maniere et en condition que toutes les fois que ledit Rogier luy voudroit as seer fourment de rente en luye souffisant ledit Regnaut sobligea a le recheuoir et prendre en descharianr de la rente dez ditz chint quartiers de fourment au dit Rogier ou a ses hers ou a cheuls qui avoient cause de luy sanz nul parties soustenir et jura suz saintes evangilles Ie dit Regnaut nonuenir suz les choses des sus dites et volut et consentit que ceste presente lettre fust audiencie es paresses de de (sic) ladite isle aussi bien en son absence comme en sa presence Et nous iouste la confession et obligation du dit Regnaut a tenir et lealment acomplir le condempnasmes et condempnon En tesmoing de quelle chose nous avons mis du consentement des dites parties le seel de notre baillie dessus dite a ceste presente lettre fait et donney lan mil CCCLXII le vendredi empres la natiuitey notre dame Presens a ce Monssieur Regnaut de carteret Guille le breton Philippe poullein Adam Hastein iurez de notre court.

1381 Judgment

Judgment of the Royal Court before Thomas Brasdefer, Bailiff.

Jacques de Falese acknowledges owing to Guille Parcq 2 cabots of wheat rente, a loaf and a hen annually. At the same time Pierres de Souslemont and Pierres le Gey recognise Guille Parcq's claim to receive 2 cabots of wheat rente from le Gey who holds lands of the de Souslemonts.
Copie A tous ceulx qui ces presentes lettres verront ou orront thomas brasdeffer ballif notre Seigneur le Roy dengleterre en lisle de Gersie salut Sachent tous que Ian de grace mil CCCIIIIXX et 1 le jour de vendredy prochain deuant la feste St. Martyn diuer furent presens en jugement a saint Helier par deuant nous Cest asauoir Guille parcq dune partie et Jacques de falese dautre lequel Jacques de sa pure volontey confessa deuer et estre tenu paier et rendre de ly et de ses hers au dit Guille et es souens ii cabots de forment de rente chacun an a la feste saint Michiel et i pain et une galline ala feste de noel assis sus tous les heritages dudit Jacques et dabundant au jour dessus dit pierres de souslemont fist apeler pierres le gey par deuant nous et voulut quilly garantist X cabots de forment de rente sus ses heritages et le dit gey confessa bien tenir heritage des souslemons sus quoy il deuoit lez ditz X cabots de forment duquel forment Guille parcq par la reson de sa femme qui present estoyt demandoyt ii cabots et ledit Guille a cause comme dessus dist lez ditz ii cabots a ly appartenir affm de heritage sus les dites assietes et lez ditz de souslemont et gey le confesserent en le rabatant au gey sus lez ditz X cabots et elz quelz formens pain et galline paier et rendre mes pour tousjours a heritage pour eulx et pour leurs hers sobligerent les dessus nommeis cest asauoir le dit Jacques les ditz ii cabots pain et galline au dit Guille et es souens hers et le dit gey lez aultres ii cabots par lassentr" dudit desouslemont au dit Guille a cause comme dessus et es leurs sus lobligation de tous leurs biens meubles et heritages presens et avenir. Et nous avant dit ballif les condempnames es choses dessus dites les arreges. En tesmoing de ce nous avons scelley ces lettres du seel de notre ballie presens a ce Gieffre de St martyn Guille le lorour et John poingdestre Jurez donne comme dessus.

1959 article

This further article by Ralph Mollet was published in the Annual Bulletin of 1959.

In the Island of Jersey the centre of each parish was the church with the Cemetery. Services were held daily and the parishioners were baptised, married and buried at their church. All important judicial acts were announced each Sunday at "l'Ouye de Paroisse " ie the congregation met at the cross in the cemetery.

All transfers of land and other contrats were passed before 12 oathworthy witnesses, sometimes a twig was given by the seller to the purchaser as a testimony. The clergy acted as notaries and drew up deeds which were often confirmed by a contrat passed and sealed by the Royal Court of Jersey.

The Ouye de Paroisse came to an end in 1842, when a law was passed discontinuing the announcement in the churches and cemeteries on a Sunday at divine service of any notice or advertisement of holding parish meetings, public elections or any other notice either of a civil or criminal nature, with the exception of the publication of banns of marriage or notices concerning the church services.

This Law further ordered the Constable to erect a box with a grill (boite aux annonces) at the principal gate of the cemetery for the publication of all notices required by law.

The original parchment presented to La Société Jersiaise by P C Le Cras

1463 Ouye


In the year of grace 1463 on the Monday immediately preceding the feast of the Annunciation of Our Lady (March 21) were present in the hearing of the parish of St Lawrence, Nicolas Le Moigne and Jennete, his wife, of the one part, and Colin Le Cornu and Perete, his wife, of the other part, which Jennete with the authorization of her said husband, leased, ceded and surrendered in perpetuity for herself and for her heirs to the said Cornu and to his said wife to the survivor of them and thereafter in perpetuity to the heirs of the said Cornu, to wit, the house and holding ofLe Hurel, formerly inhabited by Johan Le Moigne, together with the fields above the said house and the field before it, the verges, valleys and slopes as the said fields are situated, together with three vergees ofland or thereabout situate along the road by which goes to the Church towards the North to the big field above the said

house and holding; and the said lease was made for the price of six and a half quarters of wheat rente and the said wife bound herself, with the authorization aforesaid, for herself and for her heirs to assure and guarantee the said lease free and exempt from all rentes and encumbrances, from prévoté, from sergenté, from servage, from fumage (a type of tax, also known as fouage or monneage)and from suit at mill and from every other servitude whatsoever to the said Colin, wife and heirs .... on penalty of all her movable and real property present and future and she promised on the faith of her body that she will never act against the above-mentioned by claiming wrongful alienation of her marriage-portion or otherwise.

Present: Raulin Pain, Drouet Pain, Richard Pain, Guillaume Teg, Guillot Reg, Janyn Le Cheminet, Johan Norbert, Robert Lengles, and Pierre Le Serques and several others.
And the said Colin will enter into the said lease on St Michaels Day in the year 1464 and he will be at liberty to garner his sheaves in the month of August and he will have the lands in such a state of cultivation as they are.
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