Bisson Family of St Brelade and St Lawrence

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Written by Mme Auguste Messervy and translated from the original French by Mike Bisson

French descent

A deep and detailed study of the ancient documents relating to Jersey from the point of vew of our insular families permits us to confirm that that the Bissons of Jersey are descended from good French stock, which had links with Jersey from the 12th Century. The name was anciently: Du Buisson, Du Bisson, Bysson, Buisson and the spelling finally stabilised as Bisson. There is still a Fief du Buisson, or du Bisson. In 1524 Clement Lempriere was Seigneur of the Fief du Bysson.

The Cartulaire of the Channel Islands gives us proof of this origin. For example, by a charter of 1149 (Cart No 255) Godefroy du Buisson and Roger, his son, gave a donation to the Abbey of Lessay of the Church of St Martin de Grouville in Jersey. Their successors, for several generations, apparently remained the patrons. But in 1315 one of their descendants, Yon du Buisson, Knight, formally renounced this patronage and Jehan du Buisson, his son, consented. Cart Nos 268-273.

Two witnesses

In a charter notice around 1150 by which E de Magneville and his son gave to the Abbey of St Sauveur the church of St Brelade in Jersey, with its dependencies, Richard Buisson and Anquetil Buisson were witnesses. Cart No 195).

We now move forwards about 175 years and we find in a document of 1324 that a Richard du Buisson was one of the ‘electors’ of the parish of St Brelade. (Fragment 1 Jersey Rolls, 17 Edw 2). Seven years later Colin du Buisson held at St Brelade a piece of land bouvée de terre avec appartenances Extente of 1331.

Ancestors of three branches

There is every reason to believe that it is from this Richard du Buisson and Colin du Buisson, without doubt his son, that are descended 1, the senior branchy of Bisson of St Brelade, represented in 1500 by Niycollas Bisson of La Moye; 2, thos Bissons of St John, by Germain Bisson; and 3, those of Trinity by Perrin Bisson.

Perrin Bisson, the elder, died about 1525, willed 12 cabots of froment de rente to the poor of the whole island. This gift had to be distributed in the Parish Church of St Saviour on the first Wednesday in June each year in the form of bread, during the sermon, by the eldest heir of the family and in the presence of the Rector and deacons to all the poor of the island who came there.

It should be noted that the forenames Richard, Colin, Collas or Nicolas, are found in all these branches at the beginning of the 16th Century.

St Brelade and St Lawrence branch

Leaving aside the junior brances, we restrict ourselves in this short study to giving some information, largely unpublished, on the senior branch, that of St Brelade, and later St Lawrence, which was extinguished in 1884 by the death without successors of Edouard Leonard Bisson, Jurat and Lieut-Bailiff. His ancestors gave the island several Constables, Rectors and Jurats.

Nicolas Bisson, of St Brelade, also owned land in St Lawrence. In 1503 he transferred to Guillaume Laurens land in this parish on the slope on the south of the cache of St Germain. His elder son, Guillaume Bisson, born about 1465, was a merchant, as we see from this Act of the Royal Court of 23 December 1535: Il est enjoint a Guille Bisson de non refuser a vendre et eslargir de son sail (sel) a tous ceux de toute la communaute a troys sols tournois le cabot accordant a l'ordonnance de Justice. (Guille Bisson is instructed not to refuse to sell his salt to any member of the community at three sols a cabot, according to the Order of Justice.)

In 1534 Guillaume Bisson was guardian of the children of his son Thomas; Guillaume, Richard, Pierre and Leonard Bisson.

Centenier and Constable

The eldest, Guillaume Bisson, was appointed Centenier of St Brelade by Edouard Dumaresq when he was sworn in as Constable in 1549. Some years later, about 1555, he became Constable himself and remained in office until his death. Richard Bisson, his brother, bought in 1552 from John Langlois a house and holding situated in the Franc Fief in St Brelade.

Pierre Bisson, third son of Thomas, settled in St Peter, after his marriage about 1556 to Catherine Dumaresq, daughter and heiress of Jacques Dumaresq, of St Peter (brother of Jurat Edouard Dumaresq, of La Haule). He bought before 1561 from Guillaume Le Montais, a house and land in St Peter for the price of 30 livres sterling and the rentes payable. His descendants remained in St Peter for several generations.

Leonard Bisson, probably the youngest of Thomas’s sons, should not be confused with his nephew, Leonard Bisson, son of Pierre, of St Peter, who on 9 December 1593 married Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Pipon, of La Moye.

Death of wife

Leonard Bisson of St Brelade (son of Thomas) married for the first time before 1560 and his wife, whose name is not known, was buried on 28 September 1563. The following year he married Francoise Hamptonne, daughter of Laurens Hamptonne, of St Lawrence, Seigneur of Luce de Carteret and Jurat from 1549 to 1579, and so became the brother-in-law of Henry, Helier and Edouard Hamptonne, who were successively Constables of St Lawrence.

Of this marriage was born Edouard Bisson, baptised at St Brelade on 3 March 1566. Laurens Hamptonne (grandfather) was his godfather. Leonard Bisson died prematurely scarcely two years after the birth of his son. He made his will on 17 February 1568 and was bured two days later at St Brelade.

The infant child had his mother as guardian to begin with; in 1570 Nicolas Hamptonne, his maternal uncle, and on his death, Pierre Bisson, his paternal uncle, were guardians. His mother, Francoise Hamptonne, remarried on 20 May 1571, to Helier Dumaresq of La Haule, and died in 1582, leaving two daughters, Sara and Elizabeth Dumaresq, half-sisters of Edouard Bisson.

Bosnouet family

It is convenient here to give some details of Guillaume Bisson, elder brother of Leonard. In October 1542 he married in the Church of St Saviour, Perronnelle Morel, daughter of Jean Morel, of Grouville, and heiress (through her mother, no doubt) of a branch of the Busnouet family, to which Jean Busnouet, Rector of St Helier, 1482-1502, belonged.

She inherited the maison de Busnouet, situated in St Helier, and after the death of her husband she sold it to Jean Romeril (son of Leonard), Advocate of the Royal Court. He in turn sold it to Helier Lempriere, but was obliged to repossess it.

Guillaume Bisson, Constable, died in January 1566. He left eight daughters and co-heiresses, of whom the eldest, Catherine Bisson, married on 27 October 1566 a distant cousin, Collas or Nicolas Bisson, younger son of Philippe Bisson, son of Perrin Bisson, the elder, of Trinity. This Nicolas Bisson became Constable of St Brelade in 1601, replacing Edouard Bisson, whose honourable career we shall trace.

Constable of two parishes

At the age of 21, Edouard Bisson was elected Constable of St Brelade, a position he held from 1587 to 1592, and again from 1594 to 1601. In this year he resigned to go and live in the Parish of St Lawrence, having bought a house and land from Edouard Hamptonne, son of Nicolas, his cousin. In 1604 he became Constable of St Lawrence and remained in office until his death in 1616.

Here are some of his transactions: In 1586 he opposed, with two others, thesuccession of Edouard Hamptonne, son of Nicolas, as Seigneur of Luce de Carteret. However, in 1600 he acquired the half of the fief, of which Guillaume Horman had acquired the other half, and until 1604 they acted as joint seigneurs. But in 1614 Guillaume Horman having sole his half of Luce de Carteret to Elie Dumaresq, son of Helier, he transferred it on 16 July 1614 for three quarters of froment de rente to Edouard Bisson, who so became sole seigneur, and this fief remained in the senior branch from generation to generation until 1764.

In 1607 Edouard Bisson bought from the Royal Commissioners the headland of Noirmont, then sold it to Elie Dumaresq, son of Helier, who resold it on 13 April 1619 to Elie de Carteret, for ‘11 cabots of wheat, a gold noble and all the rentes’.

In 1609 he acquired from Elie Hamptonne, son of Helier, the Fief de la Godeliere, in St Helier, and land in St Lawrence, all for 270 ecus.

Wives of same name

Edouard Bisson married twice and, by curious coincidence, each of his wives was an Elizabeth Lempriere. The first was second daughter, and eventual co-heiress of Nicolas Lempriere, of St Helier (Seigneur of Fief du Buisson), Jurat from 1567 to 1609, and his wife Elizabeth Dumaresq. She died in September 1592, leaving two daughters, Elizabeth and Sara Bisson, co-heiresses of their grandfather, Nicolas Lempriere, who died in December 1609, and whose bequests were divided on 23 April 1612. The second wife of Edouard Bisson, who survived him, was the younger daughter of Michel Lempriere, Seigneur of Dielament and his wife Mabel Dumaresq, and widow from her first marriage of Edouard Herault, Rector of Ste Clement, who died in September 1593. She was mother of Jeanne Herault, who married Josue de Carteret, Seigneur of Trinity, and who is mentioned in the will of her stepfather as Madame Jeanne, femme de Monsieur de la Trinite : he bequeathed 20 ecus to his four children, born before 1616.

Elizabeth and Sara Bisson, children of the first marriage, both born in St Brelade, married respectively Jean Dumaresq, of St Helier, and Clement Dumaresq, of St Martin, son of Hugh. Sara Bisson was left a widow after three years of marriage and married again to Abraham Bertram, of Grafford.

By the division of the bequests of their grandfather Nicolas Lempriere, Elizabeth Bisson inherited houses and 16 vergees of land in St Mary and her sister Sara had 25 quarters of wheat in rentes.

Second marriage

By his second marriage to Elizabeth Lempriere, widow of Herault, Edouard Bisson had two sons and two daughters: Abraham Bisson, born in St Brelade in October 1595; Marthe, born in St Brelade in January 1597; Benjamin, born in St Lawrence in 1601; and Marie, also born in St Lawrence.

Abraham Bisson succeeded his father as Constable of St Lawrence at the age of just 21. Sworn in on 21 December 1616, only a few days after the death of his father, his own career was cut short by his death in October 1621. At the Assize d’Heritage of 17 January 1622 he was declared dead without direct heirs and his brother Benjamin, his heir, was appointed to the fief Luce de Carteret.

Benjamin Bisson became in his turn Constable of St Lawrence, in 1629; but a year and a half later, in 1631, he was elected Jurat.

During the political troubles which affected Jersey in 1643, Benjamin Bisson sided with Michel Lempriere, who become Bailiff, who was his first cousin. Benjamin Bisson was one of the Parliamentary Commissioners. We refer the reader to the diaries of Jean Chevalier, for further more detailed information on his political career. Remember, however, that on his arrival in Jersey George de Carteret imprisoned several Parliamentary leaders in Mont Orgueil Castle. Benjamin Bisson remained there for 18 months, and his health and his health deteriorated badly during his long and harsh detention. He was only freed after paying a fine of 8000 pounds tournois. But to meet the costs of his detention and this heavy fine, Benjamin Bisson was forced to sell some of his possessions.

He sold, among others, to Jean Bailhache, son of Jean, for the sum of 3000 pounds tournois, a house and land which he possessed in the fief of Noirmont in St Brelade. Benjamin Bisson, we learn from Jean Chevalier, died on 18 December 1647. He was buried the following day in St Lawrence Church. He was only 46 years old.

He had married Rachel Dumaresq, daughter of Elie Dumaresq, Seigneur of Vinchelez de Bas. Philippe Dumaresq was appointed guardian of his brother-in-law Benjamin’s children and was executor of their late father’s estate.

Constable and Jurat

On 4 August 1658 Edouard Bisson, elder son of the late Benjamin, attained his majority. He was thus born in 1638. Some months after having attained his majority he was elected Procureur du bien public of St Lawrence, and in 1671 he became Constable of the parish. Eventually in 1677 he was elected Jurat. He died in September 1682 without having married, and his heir was his brother Abraham, who had replaced him as Constable in 1677.

Two of the descendants of Abraham Bisson held the office of Constable of St Lawrence, ie Abraham Bisson, 1747-61, and Benjamin Bisson, son of Benjamin, 1770-1773; two others were Rectors in Jersey: Edouard Bisson and Amice Bisson, his son.

Abraham Bisson, Seigneur of Luce de Carteret, died without successors in 1764, the senior branch of St Lawsrence ending with him. His sister, Susanne Bisson, wife of Jean Helier Dumaresq, of Les Colombiers, St Mary, was his main heir, and became Dame of the Fief Luce de Carteret. But in turn dying without children, in 1793, the inheritance of this branch of the family, including the fief, passed to Richard Le Feuvre, her nephew, son of the Rev Richard Le Feuvre, rector of St Peter, and Sara Bisson, his wife.

Jeaqn Helier Dumaresq was killed in October 1794 by two English soldiers and bured at St Lawrence on the 22nd of that month. His killers, Daly and Dougharty, were sentenced to death on 2 Deceber 1794.

The junior branch descended from the third son of Benjamin Bisson, Parliamentary Commissioner, died out in turn 120 years later, in the person of Edouard Leonard Bisson, Jurat from 1832 to 1884, and long time Lieut-Bailiff. Baptised in St Lawrence on 6 January 1797, he died without heirs on 1 April 1884.

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