Philippe Pipon of Noirmont

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Philippe Pipon (1671-1726) was Seigneur of Noirmont.

The eldest son of Elie Pipon of St Peter and Jeanne Le Sueur, he was born in 1671.

London merchant

In 1695 he was a merchant in London, dealing largely in Jersey stockings, in which, he says, the trade was extremement triste. So he dyed 2,000 pairs, and sent them to Lisbon, where they sold at a good profit. He then developed this Portuguese business, sending out boats laden with stockings, which returned with wine and raisins.

He also did much miscellaneous business for friends in the island, including the paying of school-fees for children at school in England. His own investments were not gilt-edged. He had, for example, high hopes of a fortune from a silver mine in Devon. He carried through the long and complicated negotiations by which his father in 1695 bought Noirmont Manor from Lord Carteret for £700 sterling.

In 1696 his father died, and Philippe inherited Noirmont. He also succeeded his father as Receiver-General. In November 1690 he married Elisabeth, the young widow of Philippe De Carteret, Seigneur of Rosel, and daughter of James Carteret, the New Jersey rebel.

His home life seems to have been very happy, and his wife's letters are full of affectionate references to her husband. She backed him up loyally in all his struggles, and wrote long appeals for support to her de Carteret relations. Looking through his wife's papers he discovered that her father had been made a Landgrave in Carolina with a barony of 12,000 acres, and that through her American mother she was heiress to part of Manhattan Island (now the most valuable land in New York). But for 30 years this property had been unclaimed, and was now difficult to identify. For the rest of his life Pipon was making vain attempts to recover his wife's inheritance.

Constable

In 1700 he was elected Constable of St Brelade. He soon became entangled In a long series of bitter quarrels with his neighbours. The first was with Jean Le Couteur, who in 1701 complained to the Court that "his life was in danger from the blows and threats of Philippe Pipon, who had assaulted him on the highway".

But Pipon had friends on the Bench, and the case was dismissed. In 1702 Le Couteur and his son were fined for libelling Pipon. In 1704 Le Couteur summoned him for ‘wresting by force a gun out of the hands of the plaintiff’s son, while he was shooting rabbits on ground of which Le Couteur senior is the undoubted proprietor’.

The Court decided that, as Seigneur, Pipon had exclusive shooting rights over the whole Fief; but on Appeal the Privy Council reversed this judgement. In 1705 Le Couteur challenged Pipon's right to appoint Charles Dumaresq Seneschal of his Seigneurial Court on the ground that he subfarmed from Pipon some of the Crown revenues.

Dumaresq was a Jurat, and for the way he did this Le Couteur was ordered to ask pardon on his knees. He refused, and was imprisoned, but the Privy Council liberated him. When Pipon appointed Philippe Anley Seneschal in 1713, Le Couteur refused to pay his dues, because Anley had been fined for smuggling wool into France. The Court decided in Pipon's favour, but again Le Couteur appealed. The case was not heard until 1617, and this time Le Couteur lost; but for four years the Seneschal had been unable to collect any dues.

Family feud

Another feud was that with his distant cousin Josue Pipon of La Moye. It began with a quarrel over the St Mary tithes. Tithes in Jersey are part of the Crown Revenue, and Philippe as Receiver had leased to his cousin the tithes of that parish for as long as they were under his control. But a dispute arose about certain payments, and Philippe declared that he had been swindled out of £100.

When later the question was submitted to arbitration, the Governor and Crown Officers decided that Josue was in the right; but for 14 years Philippe shouted to the world that this cousin was a rogue and a thief. To get his revenge Philippe resigned his rights over St Mary, and persuaded the Governor to whom they reverted to dismiss Josue.

At least twice the cousins came to blows. Once, when Philippe was waiting for friends to escort him across the sands, as he was carrying a large sum of money, Josue arrived and bumped his horse into him, and nearly dismounted him. Philippe struck the horse with his cane, and the two men, one a Jurat and the other the Receiver, sprang to the ground and drew their swords, but bystanders separated them.

On another occasion Philippe and some friends waylaid Josue. and in the scrimmage Philippe ran him through the arm with his sword. Edouard Carteret, Lord Carteret's brother, tried in vain to reconcile them.

"Let him burn", wrote Philippe, "those memoirs which he has told me he keeps concerning me to leave to his children, as if to entail an everlasting hatred among us".

In 1715 Philippe had the mortification of seeing his enemy appointed by Lord Carteret Lieut-Bailiff. At last in 1718 Lord Carteret succeeded in persuading them to bury the hatchet.

Pierre Seale

A third feud was with Pierre Seale, whom Pipon describes as "a very strong-headed man who neither forgives nor forgets".

He had been Constable from 1690 to 93, and was Colonel of the South-West Regiment. In 1708 Seale raised the Clameur de Haro, because Pipon was building for himself a house, which blocked the approach to Belle Croute. When the Court delayed a decision, Seale appealed to the Privy Council.

Then he complained to the Court that "on a Monday, the day when merchants gather on the Public Quay at St Aubin to transact business, Philippe Pipon arrived, boiling over with rage, and assailed the Plaintiff with abuse and calumny, and, having a sword at his side and a thick cane in his hand, he attacked the Plaintiff, who is an elderly man and had neither sword nor staff, and would have continued to strike until life had fled, if someone had not seized his arm. And not content with having beaten the Plaintiff almost senseless, he shook his cane saying, This cane has been used on many others, and will be on many more".

The Court gave Pipon a week to reply, and he Ieft the island. When he returned, Seale renewed the charge, and three years after the assault the case was heard. The Jurats were divided, and the Lieut-Bailiff refused to give his casting vote. Seale appealed to the Council, who ordered the Court to settle the case. Five years after the assault Pipon was fined, but the Court disallowed Seale's claim that by the Coutumier of Normandy "If the Lord of a Manor lay violent hands upon his vassal he shall lose all homage, rents and duties due to him".

He appealed again, and 11 years after the original offence the case was still hanging fire, and Pipon was pleading that he was covered by the King's General Pardon.

Meanwhile Seale had found a new point of attack. Pipon owned a house in St Aubin and in 1716 Seale claimed that the steps leading to it were on his ground. Twice the Court viewed the property, and ordered the steps to be removed; but when Pipon tried to rebuild them on the other side, Seale again raised the Clameur de Haro.

'The Pipon temper'

Many of Pipon’s quarrels were caused by his dogged determination to exact the uttermost farthing of his seigneurial rights. Once, when a ship was wrecked in Belle Croute, the Admiralty claimed it as a prize, but Pipon asserted that all wreckage belonged to him as Seigneur. Long before the matter was settled, the wreck had broken up, and was worthless to either party.

He confessed that his perpetual litigation was partly his own fault, and pleaded in excuse his possession of "the Pipon temper". "I am sorry", he wrote to Edouard Carteret, "that the violentness and ungovernableness of my temper have been the occasion you could not befriend me as much as you could otherwise have done, but the fault was not wholly mine". He did, however, undoubtedly escape many of the penalties of his violence by the fact, while his wife lived, he had behind him the powerful de Carteret interest.

In 1710 he had a clash with one group of Jurats.

"Philip Pipon having without provocation grossly affronted three of the Jurats, the only three then in Court, the Bailiff and the Lieut-Bailiff were often applied to for justice, which cause they protracted for months, and then transmitted to the Council, in order, as is supposed, to shelter Pipon from justice, in hopes that on account of the extraordinary charges they would drop their suits. The countenance given to the said Pipon hath encouraged him to further abusing. On 12 October 1712 Sir Charles Carteret (the Bailiff), instead of coming to Court to have justice done to the Jurats, chose rather to go to Pipon's house; and Pipon, coming back from the place, where he had entertained his guests, rode through a small town singing and roaring at the head of them, as if he had bid defiance to Justice".

Imprisonment

Now he overstepped the mark. He so outrageously insulted Jurat Dumaresq in Court that he was sentenced to beg pardon on his knees and, when he refused, was committed to prison. He escaped this by appealing to the Council, but his appeal was dismissed, and he was forced to return and make the humiliating apology.

In 1718 he hoped to become himself a Jurat. He wrote confidently that he was sure of a 500 majority, and, if Lord Carteret would recommend him, it would be over 1,000. Lord Carteret ordered the Lieut-Bailiff to support Pipon's candidature, though he added: "I hope, if he secures this post, he will behave without passion, forgetting all the petty quarrels that have made him so many enemies".

But the Bailiff's backing did him more harm than good. Voters resented Lord Carteret's interference, and Pipon was beaten by Michel Lempriere of Dielament by 1595 to 1382.

Money problems

He was almost always in financial difficulties and he owned that, if Lord Carteret had not allowed his wife a pension, he could not have carried on. As Receiver he was constantly apologising to the Governor for being in arrears. He said that he received his dues in liards, which were worthless in England, and no other coins were obtainable.

But the trouble was not only difficulty in transmission. When Sir Thomas Jermyn, the Governor, died in 1703, he left to the poor of the island all the money due to him that was still in Pipon's hands. This amounted to £682. But the Constables found it very hard to get this out of him. In 1707 he still owed them £136. At last General Henry Lumley, the new Governor, grew so dissatisfied that in 1716 a new Receiver was appointed.

In 1722 Pipon had to flee from the island for a time to escape his creditors and, when he died, his son wrote: "The small estate which he has left is overwhelmed with debts".

After many attempts to recover his wife's inheritance through agents in America, he set out in 1724 for New York to look into things for himself. But he returned in 1725 unsuccessful. "There is no justice", he wrote, "to be expected from these gentlemen". His son wrote later: "Ever since my father's return he has been in a decaying and languishing condition".

Election

One ambition, however, was gratified. In April 1723 he was elected a Jurat. But he did not live long. His stormy life ended in a characteristic fashion. He dropped dead on 6 June 1726 in the midst of a violent quarrel with his brother, the Constable of St Peter, about money which his brother had advanced to pay Philippe's son James' expenses at Caen University.

Of his ten children, seven survived him, James, who succeeded him as Seigneur and became a Jurat, Elie who settled in New York, Philippe, Jean, Jeanne, Delaval, and Louise.

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