Helier De Carteret

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A member of Jersey's De Carteret family, Helier de Carteret was granted a charter to colonize Sark by Queen Elizabeth I in 1565.

Helier, Seigneur of Saint Ouen, divided the island into 40 tenements and sub-let these to 40 tenants. The lease passed to the Le Pelley family of Guernsey in the 18th Century, and into the Collings family in the 19th century, from whom the current Seigneur descends (For more details see List of Seigneurs of Sark).

Trial crop

Having been offered the lease of the island in 1564, Helier went there and ploughed a small patch of land and planted wheat, whose subsequent crop was to determine whether he would take up the concession granted him. The following summer proved that the land was fertile and capable of supporting a population, and on 6 August 1565 the Queen granted him permission to colonise the Island, and in due course conferred upon him the seigneurial rights, by which he was created the first Lord of Sark.

Family background

Helier was the son of Sir Edward de Carteret, the previous Seigneur of St Ouen and a descendant of the long unbroken line of de Carterets of that famous Manor, who had first landed in Jersey in 950 AD. In 1563, still a comparatively young man, he had been married for several years to his first cousin, Margaret, the only daughter and heiress of his uncle, Helier de Carteret, Bailiff of Jersey. By Margaret, who had previously been married to Clement Dumaresq, Seigneur of Samares, Jersey, Helier had three children, all sons.

Philippe, the eldest, was later to succeed his father as Seigneur of St Ouen and Sark. Born in 1552, he married, on 10 January 1580, Rachel, the only child of George Poulet, Bailiff of Jersey, at Mont Orgueil Castle. The second son, Amias, Amice or Amys, was the founder of the line of de Carterets of Trinity. At Trinity Church, on 10 October 1578, he married Catherine, only child of Gilles Lempriere, Seigneur of Trinity. Catherine died at Castle Cornet, Guernsey, on 2 December 1610, and Amias erected a tablet to her memory in the Town Church at St Peter Port. Amias has his own special place in the history of the Channel Islands, for, though a Jerseyman, he became Jurat of the Royal Court of Guernsey and later Lieutenant Governor and Bailiff of that Island, being the only man ever to hold the two offices at the same time. He died in Guernsey and was buried in the Town Church on 16 April 1631. The third son, William, became a Jurat of the Royal Court of Jersey.

Family groups

Well satisfied with his experiments on Sark, Helier left his Manor at St Ouen and crossed to the Island with his wife and family and a number of kindred spirits. There were no houses of any kind, and for shelter they established themselves temporarily in the ruins of St Magloire’s monastery and in the chapel which stood on the present site of the old Manoir.

The colonisers soon set about building for themselves rough shelters of bracken, stone and furze. They faced a hard life. Except for the small patch which Helier had cultivated for his experiment, the Island was overgrown with brambles and furze. Everything they needed, horses, oxen, cattle, food, tools and seed, and building materials had to be brought to the Island from either Jersey or Guernsey. Roads had to be made, houses built and the land cleared.

The courage of Margaret in accompanying her husband to this desolate island must have been outstanding. Her presence among the colonists and the example she set them, contributed much to the success of the venture. She was not the only woman in the company. Under the Letters Patent by which Queen Elizabeth granted Helier the concession, he was to take with him 40 men. Such men would naturally have to share de Carteret’s own venturesome qualities and be hardy adventurers, willing to accept the arduous life and the strenuous work necessary to make a success of the new colony.

Many of those he chose were married men, who were prepared to take their wives and families with them. This was a wise and shrewd move, for with the women as homemakers the men would be more content, and the presence of their families would act as a spur. Of the original 40, 35 were Jerseymen and their families, the other five coming from Guernsey.

Helier's house

Helier built a house for himself and Margaret next to the ruined chapel of St Magloire. By the side of the modern Manoir building there is a long, low house; this is the original house erected by Helier and his son Philippe as their Manor house.

Windmill

Having settled on his harbour, Helier next built a windmill to grind the corn, which, as the years passed, began to be produced in greater and greater quantities on the farms. The site that Helier selected was on the western extremity of the grounds of the Manor which was the highest point in the Island. The lane which now leads from Le Manoir to the mill was not then in existence as a public thoroughfare, and access to the mill was by a lane 12 feet wide from the Grand Chemin past the front of La Vaurocque farm house.

It was a good solid structure of stone, and when it was completed a weathervane, bearing the date 1571, was placed on its summit. The mill, still surmounted by the original weathervane, stands to this day, though, since, or because, the little corn nowproduced in Sark is sent to the Seigneurie to be ground, it is unused and is falling into disrepair.

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