Longueville Manor restoration in the 1860s
The ancient Manor of Longueville is one of the oldest and most interesting manors in Jersey. The date of its original erection is unknown but it can be traced back as a manor to the year 1367 when William de Barrentin sold the fief of Longueville to Raoul Lemprière and Guilles Payne joint Seigneurs.
How long it had heen a manor before that does not appear, but there is current a tradition that it was originally a nunnery — of which some slight indications remain. The original buildings formed a sort of double square—the first occupying the space between the arched entrance and public road and the house; the second or back square behind the house as far as the granite steps—both squares were originally surrounded with buildings.
In the front or entrance square stood the porter’s lodge at the gate, as appears in an old engraving at the head of these notes— several shops, as carpenters, etc, and the ancient chapel, much of which was standing within the memory of some of the old inhabitants. It was pulled down some 50 years ago and the materials used, it is said, to build a horse mill, which I removed with some other old buildings, but found nothing that would at all indicate its having formed any part of a chapel.
One or two carved stones with tooth mouldings in the back wall of the house may possibly have been once in the chapel, and a part of what appears to have heen one of the stones of one of the arched windows. It was probably an old Norman chapel, and must have been anterior to one that stood in the vegetable garden on the east side of the house. This chapel was dedicated to St Thomas and was supported by the Lords of the Manor.
The Presbytery was called the Presbytery of St Thomas in old writings, and the lane by the east wall St Thomas Lane. They were good and decent times, when the chief men in Jersey had all their chapels by their Manors and their chaplains to supply them, and when the old Seigneur provided a house for God as well as for themselves.
This was the case with Saumarez, Rosel and others, and is one evidence that what was called the 11 dark ages were not quite so dark as many would have us believe. One thing is certain, that there has never been exhibited since by the Reformed Church anything like the religious zeal or sacrifices that then distinguished the Christian Church.
If I am spared a few years longer and am still the Seigneur of Longueville, I will restore this important addition to the Manor and convert the old mill into a chapel, where I shall conduct religious services for the benefit of the people round who are now in great want of some place of worship nearer at hand than any at present possessed.
The Presbytery is a good and substantial building and the arched doorway a very good specimen of its kind.
In the back court or yard stood the farm buildings completely enclosing it. It had two entrances by gates, one on the east and the other on the west, as seen in many old houses in the island still. The chief or front entrance was through the house by what is now the entrance hall and which was anciently a passage through.
The old nitching of pebbles was still the floor of the hall when it came into my possession and was taken up and the tiles laid in its place as the first thing I did.
Just outside the back farm buildings was the old water mill, the remains of which are still standing, but the machinery and water courses all destroyed or rotted away.
Certain persons on the fief had formerly the right of grinding their corn at this mill, and would have still were they to make certain payments to the Seigneur and there was any mill to grind it. But these payments not having been made for many years, and the old mill no longer existing, of course the rights have lapsed. It is well it is so, for the right to grind at the mill was an intolerable nuisance and brought all sorts of disagreeable people about the place.
The mill used, however, to let when in repair, for a good rent, and was generally in work. I have destroyed the road that led to it from the front gate and made it part of the lawn, and I have allowed the bushes to grow thick in the lane from the higher land which was the old cartway to it in that direction. The mill I have not touched, leaving it as a ruin till I can convert as I have already mentioned into a chapel.
The mill pond I have filled up and what was the old water course I have made into a charming walk we now call — some of us — “the Lover’s Walk” and some “the Nun’s Walk’’— diverting the stream to form the waterfalls at the top of the pond. It can never again be used as a mill.
Beside the watermill there was formerly a windmill on the higher ground, but this was completely destroyed many years before I got the place — I believe by Mr Arthur — and the machinery or what was left of it sold away.
The estate itself has undergone considerable changes from time to time. Originally the whole of what is enclosed in the public roads running round it belonged to it, and several if not all of the meadows, before the house running down to the Saumarez property. Where the Longueville Inn now stands and the Tan-yard was a meadow belonging to it. These meadows — or rather all of them but one — have been from time to time disposed and sold off from the Manor.
There is an amusing story told of the selling of the two fields on which the Inn and Tan-yard stand and which is worth telling here. Mr Burrard, who was then the proprietor, did not care much for the manor, which was then in a very dilapidated state and cut up into several tenements, let out to different people, so that he could not possibly live in it if he had wished. He accordingly lived mostly in London and abroad and left Mr Pipon, his agent and attorney here, to do much as he pleased with the manor and its lands.
Among other evil things he did he sold off the fields in question, greatly to the annoyance of Mr Burrard when he heard of it, as he saw if buildings were erected there, what a nuisance they might become to the manor should it ever be restored. So he wrote to Mr Pipon, desiring that the arrangement should not be completed and that whatever documents had passed should be cancelled. He was just too late, however. The contract had been passed and the purchaser refused to give up his agreement and purchase.
Mr Burrard, however, was set on doing what he could to get back the property and foolishly went to law to try what he could do and, after long and expensive litigation, was forced to yield the point and give up the land. The man was so aggrieved by Burrard’s conduct that he became his avowed enemy and, in a fit of ill-will and to annoy Burrard as much as possible, he put up three of the greatest nuisances he could think of - a Tan yard, a Blacksmith’s shop and a public house. The Tanyard has long been closed, the Blacksmith’s forge removed, so that we are in no way annoyed, either by the fragrance of the one or the music of the other, and it is only fair to Mrs Le Sauteur to say that no public house could possibly be better conducted or prove a less nuisance than the present Inn. Mrs Le Sauteur conducts it in every respect in a most quiet and respectable manner, and is a kind and friendly neighbour to us all.
Some additions to the property have heen made by me. I have just completed the purchase of the stone quarry and cottages to the east of the Colomberie with the garden adjoining and whenever it can be done and I am in a position to do it I propose purchasing the fields with the cottage at the top of hill adjoining the road by the gate entrance towards Mr Deslandes entrance. This would again restore the property to what it once was, and enable me to divide the estate into two good-size farms, one on each side the pond, each with its separate farm premises, and in no way clashing with each other or annoying the manor, which would stand with its pond and pleasure grounds between the two.
Before leaving the grounds, some mention must be made of the fine old Colomberie which, with its grand old ivy, is a real ornament to the place, while it gives it a character and dignity it would not otherwise possess. Formerly every manor had its colomberie, which was considered and is still the symbol of Seignorial rights. No one but the Seigneur was formerly allowed to keep pigeons and hence, wherever these round towers stood, they told the tale that their proprietor was the Seigneur.
The Colomberie at Longueville is a very fine one and capable at one time of housing some 600 or 700 pairs of pigeons, if we are to judge of the number of holes in it. These nest holes are very curious specimens of masonry. The door, too, is a curious old door and still on its original hinges. The owls are now the sole inhabitants of the place besides hosts of sparrows and a few toads. Some day I hope to clear it out, restore the centre perch, and again fill it with its proper inhabitants. But “Rome was not built in a day”.
The manor now is in a very different condition to what it was when it came into my hands, or had been for many years before. In ancient times the principal part of it was the tower and the south side. Here was, as now, the Seigneurial hall and the chief rooms. This now is the oldest part of the building, as testified by the thickness of the walls — ancient stone staircase and large fire place in the hall.
The front part has parts of the original building in it, but has been greatly pulled about and modernized; not by me but by others before me. The fine doorway is of the original building, but I think that is all. The roof originally ran along the same level with the two thatched wings and was thatched like them. There were small windows with granite surroundings, some of which appear from some fragments built into the wall,and a cill of the centre window still left over the arch, to have been well cut with good ornamental mouldings.
Unfortunately in the year 1813 it came into the hands of a Mr Baudains, a man of no taste and apparently utterly ignorant of how to treat so fine an old house when he got it. This man pulled down the original front, put in the modern windows now there with the frightful centre window, taking out the fine old granite mouldings and inserting brick surroundings instead. He also raised the front wall some three feet.
I believe, however, that he retained a thatched roof and the present horrible tiled roof with its wretched attic windows was the work of my predecessor, if anything a man of still less taste and skill, who thought he had done a grand work when he had so defaced the fine old place. When I can, I mean to alter all this and have a charming design for so doing this work as to make the front worthy of being held as the most beautiful in the Island and in exact harmony with the grand old doorway which should regulate, and should have done so before, every part of the design of the front.
It is a great pity that when Mr Baudains did set to work to make the manor more habitable and a fitter place for residence, he did not get some good architect to make him a design which would at least have accorded with the doorway, and not depended on his own ideas, or that of the builder he employed. But he was a Jerseyman, and Jerseymen as a rule have no correct taste and no true architectural knowledge.
Formerly they had but they have sadly degenerated and are now nothing but a sordid money making race. On this all their thoughts are set and their whole time occupied to the exclusion of the cultivation of all that belongs to the intellectual and high art walks of mind. Hence Jersey now never produces a poet, a painter or a sculptor of any note, and has not done for centuries. Millais is of a Jersey family but his mother was a French woman and from her he has the artistic powers he possesses.
But to return to the dear old manor which always comes back to my thoughts as a dear, fine old lady that has been dreadfully knocked about by her unloving sons, and appears at last with a sadly bruised and battered visage. When the property came into my hands in March 1863 I found it a very dilapidated condition. Mr Arthur, from whom I bought it, had resided in it for 28 years, but had done nothing to it beyond keeping it in habitable repair and putting a new roof on to the front part.
He let it with a considerable portion of the land to a Mrs Payne, a most worthy woman, the widow of a farmer who had rented the place till his death. She also occupied the farm premises, where now the fountain and fountain pond are. These premises consisted of stables, cowhouses, granary etc.
As by the terms of her lease she must have a whole year’s notice to leave the farm, from the Xmas following my purchase we had to allow her to remain in possession of her part of the house till such time as we could legally remove her and put up with annoyances and inconveniences as well as we could.
This, however, gave us time to think of what we had best do with the place to make it a good and comfortable house and fully to mature our plans. Many were the talks we had with one another about it, many the consultations held with others, architects and friends and many the plans we drew and after full consideration threw aside.
At last our plans were pretty well digested and on getting possession of the whole place we lost not a day in beginning our work. Mrs Payne left on 23 December 1865 and we began our work early on the morning after. Our first care was to restore and repair the part she had occupied and so combine it with the front part as to make it one harmonious whole. To understand our work I must set down the condition and arrangements of the place as it then came into our hands.
The part of the house occupied by Mrs Payne comprised what is now the Great Hall, the Butler’s Pantry and the kitchen below, with all the bedrooms over, and which then formed six rooms, five used as bedrooms and one, over half of what is now the kitchen, which was shut up and used as a sort of store place.
The space occupied now by the Great Hall was then divided into five compartments: a kitchen, a dairy, a carpenter’s workshop, a potato store and a cider cellar. They were separated by slight whitewashed wooden partitions, with a floor of very rough cement, and very damp. The fine old fireplace was partly filled with a grate in one corner, a boiler in the other and a wood rack in the centre for a fire on the hearth. The rooms above above were in a state of rottenness and in several places the boards had given way under the stepping of persons on them.
This part of the house had an elongation beyond what now exists and was continued from the present gable to as far as a line in front of the Priest’s House door. Part of this was in such a ruinous state that it was found very unsafe and utterly beyond the reach of any satisfactory repair.
We used the good stones of the old building taken down in our restorations. A window, now over the arched entrance to the dining hall by the tower and a fine arched doorway of only three stones at the entrance to the back entrance hall. This was all that was worth preserving. The dry rot had got into the floors and beams, which were all of chestnut and there was no carved wood or anything we could turn to good account.
Having disposed of these tumble down places we proceeded with the restoration of the hall. We began by knocking down all the wooden partitions, which threw the whole hall open to us and showed us its original fine dimensions. The ceiling was much in the position as it is now, but had all to be taken down, as the beams and rafters were much decayed and the flooring perfectly rotten. I had them therefore all renewed and a double floor constructed in place of the single one as before.
The bosses I added, but otherwise the arrangement is as it was originally, excepting that the part near the fireplace evidently once was open to the roof and no bedroom or flooring over it. This is evident from an examination of the east side window at the end, and which has a second arrangement above the cross mullion now filled in with a flag stone. A gallery, then ran along the west side of that part of the room to the bedrooms beyond.
The place was floored over when I got possession, and a bedroom as now over. The piece of pannelling behind the sideboard and between the west window and tower formed the oak partition of the room above, and had doubtless been originally placed there before the ceiling or flooring was put up and the gallery taken down. The floor of the hall was extremely damp. I had several deep drains cut and carried through under the east wall into the moat outside, and the soil taken out and filled to the depth of three feet with rubble, then a layer of small stones and cement, and finally a cement floor of good thickness which has proved very successful as a dry floor, though not the most pleasing to the eye.
The oak panelling at the bottom of the room is the original panelling repaired and put up exactly as it was. I had moulding planes made on purpose so as to have the mouldings exactly the same. The centre arms were those of the Seigneur at the time, with the baton below indicating that his seat was there. There was then doubtless a raised dais or platform, probably of wood the height of the step at the door, right across the room on which the oak table stood, when he and his party dined in good old Seignorial style.
The whole of the north gable, with the east wall as far as the middle window on that side, were in such a shaky condition that they had to be taken down and rebuilt, but the windows are of the form and size of the original, sufficient remnants of tho centre and end window with the whole of the one by the fireplace being left, though greatly disfigured and mauled about, to enable us to restore them exactly.
The fine carved doors of the hall are formed of original panels from Guernsey, with new framing. The fresh carving there and in other parts of the hall was done by myself, but from old originals. A great number of old oak chests were broken up and used for the lining of the hall, which though not all of exactly the same time, were thought to be more suitable than any modern work.
About forty oak chests were used in one way or another for lining the walls, forming the chimney pieces and all of which I did about the place. The old granite fireplace is as it was, with the exception that I had it chipped all over to get off the many coatings of whitewash, soot and grease that had accumulated on it for many generations.
The slow motion fellow that did it was five weeks about his work, and had the impertinence to charge five pounds for it. The chimney was originally open to the top, but the cold winds blew down so strong and the draft in the room was so great - beside frequent smoke - that I was obliged to introduce the narrow flue for comfort. Without it the room would have been of little use in the winter time. This flue is in exact accordance with many old Norman houses, where remains of such like contrivances are still to be seen.
The fire dogs are from a design by Digby Wyatt and were expensive fellows. Passing from the hall I may mention some other alterations and restorations. What now form the butler’s pantry and scullery was a little parlour, and what is now the kitchen was a dark coal and wood house, with an earth floor, very damp. We treated the floor exactly as we did that of the hall and now it is perfectly dry.
The whole of the pantries, etc, outside the kitchen door are new and were put up by me. The back staircase was literally quarried out of what was a great block of masonry; nothing of the kind existed there before. All other conveniences of every kind were put in by me, as, save a few good cupboards, the house was wholly devoid of everything that we consider absolute necessities in a decent family residence, but which are most easily done without in old Jersey houses.
Front of the house
Now I come to the front part of the house. All this underwent internally an entire change and renovation, and was a very expensive affair, made so by the slowness of the workmen and the impossibility of having a contract for it. When I came into possession there was a shabby narrow staircase, with blue bannisters running up from the front hall to the bedrooms above, continuing to the attics.
The hall had in it the original pitching, which had been put down when it was a cart way to the yard behind. There was a door at the foot of the stair into what is now the library, and another opposite it into the drawing room. What now forms the ‘annexe’ to the drawing room was a long dark shed used as a place for storing beer, wine and all sorts of rubbish, entered by a door where the division in the hsll now is.
The shed had wooden props to the rooms above, and they had a lath and plaster wall outside, a very wretched and frail affair, but put up at sometime or other for cheapness. This was all pulled down and the stone wall now there put up with the bay window to the drawing room, and the arch thrown across to unite the annex with the front division of the room.
The doors into the rooms were altered, the staircase pulled down and a new oak stair with gallery formed, in what was then, and had been in Mr Arthur’s time, the kitchen of the house, and now makes the back hall. I was fortunate in getting from Mr Arthur the old enfresco papers that adorn the walls both of the front and back halls and which portray with considerable ability the incidents in the classic story of Cupid and Psyche. The oak of the staircase was all got from old beams about the place, and which was as sound as possible.
I need add nothing about the bedrooms, excepting that they all underwent some repairs and changes making them the comfortable rooms they are, and which they were not before.
We must now go outside and mark what was done there. I said some way back that the back yard was a dirty swampy stack yard filled with filth, and kept in a perpetual state of mud for want of drainage and the overflowings of the brook that runs uncovered through it. The row of cowhouses, etc that bounded it on the west were in a most tumble-down condition and the paradise of thousands of rats, mice and other vermin.
Our first work after completing the house was to tackle these and pull them all down, turning the space they had occupied and the filthy yard before them into the present sunk croquet ground and fountain pond. This threw into view of the house the fine Oriental plane, with other trees not seen before from any of the windows, and the greenfields and orchards beyond.
From this point we proceeded with our improvements northwards. There was a large prison-like garden with high walls where now the large island and bend of the pond towards the west lie. The walls were pulled down and we hollowed out the ground for the pond, making the rock entrance to the ‘Lover’s Walk’; and again throwing open to the house a most charming view northwards. The old water course, then rank with nettles, and the charmed abode of toads (crapauds) and snakes, we turned into its present state, rooting out the nettles and setting ferns in their place and leaving the hazels to overshadow the walk as they do, only giving them a few twists in the direction we wished.
The pond was, when I entered the manor, one long straight sort of a canal, the width of the piece of brick and stone breast work at the south and with a high wall running along its western side. No islands, or ought else to break its monotony, and no walk round it. At its northern end was a collection of rubbish the common dust heap of the house, where all sorts of broken pots and other rubbish had been thrown for many years, with the intention of filling up that part of the pond.
We soon altered much of this, made the different indentures and other breaks of the straight lined banks, destroyed the ‘dust heap’, brought large stones from different places, dug down into the bank to make a deep gully and built up our rockery and waterfall as seen now, planting the place with ferns, of which many are very rare and not generally grown in the open air in this climate.
This work was designed by my son, Latrobe, and mainly executed by him and John Stoker, a most active and faithful young Irishman I had with me. He worked night and day at it and all his spare time and used to say he was afraid he should be buried in it some day as the loose clods often came rolling down upon him.
Latrobe planted and selected all the ferns, which do him great credit from the way he arranged and mingled them. The walk round the pond up to the summer house, with the rustic bridges and summer house, were John Stoker’s work, and mine together, and the walk up through the wood Latrobe’s. The drive only now partly finished up past the rock was designed by Mr Walker and Latrobe, and made with great labour, as they had to blast away the rock to get round it, by Mike and Terance, my two other faithful Irish servants whose good temper, skill and industry are beyond all praise.
The ‘high walk’, with its rustic steps, was my wife’s idea and suggestion, which John Stoker heard of and directly with Mike and Terence put into execution, and in one week completed the entire walk to the ‘quiet seat’ at the top, and formed the rustic steps; a wonderful piece of work, which showed the zeal and pleasure with which they worked. They began on Monday morning and on the following Saturday had done in good time, to arrange a picnic tea for us (unknown to us) on the ‘quiet seat’ and platform they had formed, having got the cook into good temper to provide all necessary for it without one word to us, and then John coming to ask us if we would please to come and look at their work and say if we were satisfied and then waiting on us so pleased and proud as a Lord.
These walks and roads are a great source of enjoyment to us, and a wonderful addition to the place. When we came to it there was not a single walk about the place, not even round the pond, and we could go nowhere but through the grass, and felt almost confined to the house. Now all is open to us, and the views and other beauties added to the place make it to us one of the most charming spots on earth, and fill us continually with thankfulness to that good God who has given it to us, and those faithful workers who have helped us to make it what it is.
The entire cost of all the work done is a little over two thousand pounds — perhaps two hundred more, but I fancy the property is worth all that more. As it was, it was a wretched tumble down old place unfit for any decent people to live in — as it is, it is a good comfortable and most pleasant country house for anyone with fair moderate means to live in.