History of Rosel Manor

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By Peter Bisson, first published in the bulletin of the Channel Island Family History Society

The author of this article, which has been sent to Jerripedia, was previously unknown to us, but we have now discovered his identity and are pleased to give due credit to both the author and the publication in which it previously appeared

The manor

The fief and manor of Rosel rank second only to St Ouen in seniority among Jersey feudal holdings. The Dame de Rosel answers for the fief before the Royal Court each year at the Assise d'Heritage, and in the Middle Ages Rosel was one of the small number of Jersey fiefs whose holders owed personal homage to the King.

Service to King

It was not held by knight service, like St Ouen, but by grand sergeanty, the duty of performing an honourable personal service to the King. Sergeanties took many different forms, but at Rosel the Seigneur's duty was to ride into the sea up to the saddle-girths of his horse to greet the King when he arrived in the Island, and to serve as the King's butler while he was here.

This service is represented today by the Dame de Rosel being present among the welcoming party that greets the Queen when she visits the Island.

The fief probably takes its name from the de Rosel family who, in Norman times, held a fief on the west coast of the Cotentin (where their ancestral castle still stands) and two fiefs in Guernsey: it seems likely that they held this fief in Jersey also, though no record has survived.

The first documented holders of Rosel, in the late 12th century, were a family named de Fournet. When the Channel Islands were separated from mainland Normandy in 1204, and seigneurs with fiefs both here and on the continent had to choose between French and English allegiance, Silvestre de Fournet sided with the French, and Rosel was confiscated from him by King John.

It was re-granted to his brother, Enguerrand de Fournet, who stayed loyal to England for another 20 years or more; but by 1233 the fief had been confiscated again by Henry III, and in 1247 it was granted to the Warden of the Islands, Drogo de Barentin.

The de Barentins were a Norman family who had lost their lands in the Pays de Caux by staying loyal to King John at the separation, and Rosel was one of several grants made to Drogo and his family in reward for that loyalty. He received a large tract of land from the Royal demesne in Trinity (part of which became the Fief de Diélament and the rest possibly the Fief de la Trinité), as well as lands in England and the important office of Seneschal of Gascony.

Chapel

A probable legacy of his time as Seigneur of Rosel is the manor chapel, whose great size suggests that it was built by a man of de Barentin’s consequence, though its plain Norman style and narrow lancet windows seem old-fashioned for a date as late as 1247.

Drogo's descendants were less influential in the wider world but became the dominant family in Jersey, with the result that Rosel displaced St Ouen for a time as the premier Jersey fief. They were not, however, always popular. Drogo's grandson, Sir Drogo II de Barentin, seigneur of Rosel at the end of the 13th century, was an arrogant, overbearing bully, whose contempt for the laws of lesser folk is reflected in the flood of complaints brought against him and his violent henchmen before the Justices of Assize who visited Jersey in 1299.

He was not even above having women seized and brought to the Manor for his pleasure: the outrage of the victims shows that this was far from being the customary seigneurial behaviour that many people now imagine. But he was a hard man to punish because, by denying the allegations, he had the right in law to go before a jury, and the jurors were too frightened of him to convict.

Even when the justices stepped in and fined him anyway, the fines meant nothing to a man of his wealth: he was effectively able to buy his way above the law. A few years later he was made sub-warden of the Islands under the absentee warden, Otto de Grandison, and the next Assizes in 1309 had to deal with a fresh crop of complaints against him in that capacity, but once again to little effect.

This monster was succeeded as Seigneur of Rosel by Guillaume de Barentin (thought to have been his nephew, but the lineage is not clear) and then came Philippe de Barentin, probably Guillaume's son. The family had been accumulating other fiefs in the meantime, culminating in Philippe's acquisition of Samares in 1354, so that he was now seigneur of Rosel, Samarès, Diélament, Longueville and La Hougue Boete, as well as various lesser fiefs. Clearly the de Barentins were not only powerful in Jersey but extremely wealthy.

The Lempriere family outside the manor in 1865

Murder

But their dominance was about to come to an abrupt end. The story goes that Philippe's wife one day went in fury to her two sons and told them that Jehannet de St Martin - a member of the family who were then seigneurs of Trinity - had called her an adulteress. Avenge this insult to your mother,' she cried. ' Such slanderers should have their tongues torn out.'

One cannot help wondering if a love affair between her and de St Martin had gone wrong and her fury was that of the woman scorned; but her sons took her at her word, waylaid Jehannet on the road from St Martin's church to Trinity, and duly ripped out his tongue. This was an outrage that not even the de Barentins could get away with.

The murderers fled to Normandy: the elder brother, Gilbert, was arrested and hanged at Caen, but the younger, Philippe, was allowed to settle near Rouen and founded a family there. Meanwhile, a wayside cross called La Croix de Jehannet was put up to mark the spot where the atrocity took place, at, or near, the Croix au Maitre crossroads.

The authority for all this is a Latin manuscript thought to have been compiled by Dean Thomas de Soulemont about 1540. Some of its details are clearly wrong, but others are accurate and there is some evidence to support the story.

La Croix de Jehannet certainly existed: a folk memory survived into the 19th century of the annual masses celebrated there before the Reformation, and of the route taken by the procession from the church. Also, if Philippe de Barentin's sons were cast in anything like the same mould as their ancestor of 1299, a violent and brutal response to a slur on their mother's honour is just what one would expect of them.

The main weakness of the story is that the murdered Jehannet is not easy to identify from contemporary records of the de St Martin family.

Leprosy

The de Soulemont manuscript also tells us that in 1362 Philippe de Barentin's relatives were trying to deprive him of his property on the grounds that he had contracted leprosy. This would have made him unable to hold any property, as lepers in the Middle Ages were regarded as legally dead.

To frustrate these moves, he was preparing to convey his Jersey estates to Raoul Lempriere and Guillaume Payn, whom he had appointed as his attorneys in Jersey while he was away in England. The sale eventually took place five years later, in 1367; but when Philippe appeared in person before the Royal Court the contract describes him as being ‘’en bonne prospecrite et inemoire which suggests that he had been showing signs of a mental disorder rather than leprosy. An inherited mental instability in the de Barentin family might explain some of their wild behaviour.

The sale, made in consideration of an annuity of £200 sterling a year - a huge sum for those days - was a complex and difficult transaction. Lempriere and Payn first of all had to buy out the rights of de Barentin's heirs in England, his surviving son in France being presumably disinherited as a fugitive from justice. Next they found themselves in trouble for not obtaining the King's permission for the sale of Rosel and Samares (which was necessary because they were fiefs nobles held by homage), and had to pay a fine before they could take possession.

Retrait linager

Then came a claim from one of Philippe de Barentin's nephews for retrait lignager, the right by which any blood relation of a seller could buy back the property for same price as the buyer had paid. This was dismissed by the Royal Court, but meanwhile the Warden of the Islands, Walter Huwet, was casting an envious eye on this rich estate.

He advised Edward III, wrongly, that it should have escheated to the Crown, whereupon the King, unaware that he had been misled, ordered its sequestration from Lempriere and Payn and granted it to Huwet instead. In 1378, however, after Huwet's death, King Richard II released the estate back to Guillaume Payn and to Raoul Lempriere's son Drouet.

Since Drouet was the softened Jersey form of the de Barentins' favourite name Drogo, and the de Barentin coat of arms with its three black eagles on a silver ground was adopted by the Lemprieres with the colours changed to gold on red, it is highly probable that Raoul Lempriere was descended from the de Barentins. Guillaume Payn almost certainly was - the evidence is in a family settlement recorded in the Assize Roll of 1309 - and there is reason to think that he and Raoul were second cousins.

In this light, their purchase of the de Barentin estates appears as a family transaction. Later there were to be allegations that Raoul and Guillaume were "foreigners" from Brittany who should never have been allowed to buy Rosel or Samares at all. This has been endlessly repeated since, but it cannot be right as both men were Jurats long before they bought the de Barentin estates, which in those days would have been impossible unless they came from established Jersey families. The myth first appears in the de Soulemont manuscript, but how it arose we do not know.

A final point to note about Raoul Lempriere and Guillaume Payn is that if as stated in Payne's Armorial, they both married daughters of a Geoffrey Brasdefer, this cannot possibly have been the Geoffrey Brasdefer who became Bailiff in 1395.


Millias' drawing

Division of estates

In 1382 Drouet Lempriere and Guillaume Payn divided the de Barentin estates between them, taking Rosel and Samares respectively as their principal fiefs. Drouet's descendants were to hold Rosel continuously for the next two and a half centuries. His son Jean, who was Bailiff in 1434, married Jehannette Le Lorreur, a member of a wealthy family from Maufant; their eldest son Regnaud was Seigneur of Rosel in 1461 when Jersey was captured by a French force under the lordship of Pierre de Breze, Comte de Maulevrier.

This was a consequence of the Wars of the Roses in England, where the Lancastrian cause was headed by de Breze's cousin Margaret of Anjou, queen consort of King Henry VI. She and de Breze were in league throughout the war, and his expedition to the Channel Islands in 1461 was probably intended to secure the islands as a safe refuge for the royal family in the event of a Yorkist victory. In fact only Jersey was captured, Gorey Castle being taken without resistance, and life seems to have continued more or less normally with the Bailiff and other officials taking their authority from the Comte de Maulevrier as Lord of the Isles.

Before drawing parallels with the German occupation of the 1940s we should remember that Maulevrier was the Queen's cousin and that Lancastrian sympathizers, in particular, could hardly refuse to obey his orders.

In 1463 Regnaud Lempriere and the Rector of St Martin, Thomas Le Hardy, were arrested and put on trial for plotting against the French regime. There was an English prisoner at the castle named John Hareford, a soldier of fortune who had been captured in St Ouen's Bay on a plundering raid from Calais, and he was now on parole, allowed to roam freely about the island.

The French captain of the castle, Guillaume Carbonnel, was clearly using him as a spy, for which he was well suited because he was sufficiently well-bred to be received and made welcome in pro-English households such as the manors of Rosel and St Ouen. In fact he was widely distrusted, and several people advised Lempriere not to let him come to Rosel Manor so often, but Lempriere said simply ' If John comes to see me, I can't throw him out.'

Perhaps he should have, because it ended with Lempriere and Le Hardy being accused of bribing Hareford to leave one of the posterns unbarred on a certain night to allow a waiting force of men to rush the castle. By a stroke of good fortune most of the depositions of the witnesses at the trial have survived, and were published by the Societe Jersiaise in 1924. They give an astonishingly vivid picture of life in Jersey at the time, and of life at Rosel Manor.

Farm buildings

The medieval manor house was on the site of the present farm buildings, next to the colombier, and was approached up the side of the valley from the old west entrance on the road from the church. Regnaud Lempriere is described as a man of about 45, but his young English wife Katherine, by whom he had two small children, was only 22: one wonders if she was his second wife, but no children from an earlier marriage are mentioned, though Regnaud had a natural son in his teens.

Also living at the Manor was Regnaud's 15-year-old niece Guillemine, the daughter of a brother of his who had died: she helped her aunt with the babies. Every day began with Mass in the chapel, and on Sundays the whole household attended Mass and Vespers at St Martin's church: as a Jurat, Regnaud rode into town twice a week to attend the Royal Court, but his main interests were at home, where he kept open house.

Every caller was expected to stay for dinner and was taken to admire the gardens, in which Regnaud took great pride. There was a fives court in the barn for the benefit of younger visitors; the Seigneur's own favourite recreations were fishing and chess.

The account of the trial reads like a detective story, but it is one without an ending, because we have no record of the court's judgment. Most authors say that Lempriere lived another five years and was killed in the siege of the castle by Philippe de Carteret and Richard Harliston in 1468, in which case he must have been acquitted or pardoned, but others doubt whether he survived that long.

A fuller account of the trial will be found in Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey under Regnaud Lempriere, Thomas Le Hardy (Rector of St Martin) and Philippe de Carteret (1432- ).

After Reynaud's death his young widow, Katherine, remained with her family at Rosel and married one of Harliston's knights, Edmund Weston from Lincolnshire. She bore him two sons, the future Sir Richard Weston, Governor of Guernsey, and Sir William Weston, the last Prior of the Knights Hospitallers in England: both were born in Rosel Manor and brought up with her children by her first marriage.

Richard III

Of these, the boy, Jean Lempriere, inherited the fief of Rosel and was probably still in his early twenties when in 1484 he and the seigneurs of St Ouen and Samares were summoned to England by Richard III to do homage for their fiefs.

Philippe de Carteret of St Ouen and Philippe Payn of Samares did homage on the same day, as is recorded in an entry discovered a few years ago in the English archives: no record has yet been seen for Rosel, but the archives that existed at the Manor in the 1920s are known to have included a document bearing one of Richard III's few surviving original great seals, and it is difficult to think what this can have been but a patent issued (as was then usual) for receipt of the Seigneur's homage.

Jean Lempriere lived until 1534. He left no children and so Rosel Manor was inherited by his sister Catherine, who had married a Guernsey jurat named Dominic Perrin. Her descendants held the Manor and the fief for four generations until 1625, when they were sold by Abraham Perrin to Sir Philippe de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen.

It was a troublesome purchase. Once again, as in 1367, the need to obtain the King's consent to the sale had been overlooked, and the estate was confiscated for a time by James I; then, when it was released to Sir Philippe in 1627, he found himself involved in a long series of lawsuits with Perrin's creditors claiming against the Manor, and with Perrin's widow about her dower rights.

After Sir Philippe's death in 1643, Rosel followed a complicated descent in various branches of the de Carteret family until it ended up in the line of Anne de Carteret, wife of James Corbet: she was one of the four coheiresses to the fief of St Ouen who agreed to hold their rights in abeyance when the direct male line of the de Carteret seigneurs failed in 1715 and St Ouen's Manor was left by will to the baronial branch of the family in England.

The manor's colombier

Charles Lempriere

In 1733 Anne's grand-daughter, Elizabeth Corbet, married her 19-year-old first cousin Charles Lempriere, eldest son of the Seigneur of Diélament. This branch of the Lempriere family was descended from a younger brother of the Regnaud of the French occupation; Elizabeth Corbet was the heiress of Rosel, her father having been drowned in a shipwreck, and so her marriage to Charles brought the fief back into the hands of the descendants of Raoul Lempriere of 1367.

The office of Bailiff of Jersey, hereditary in the de Carteret family since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, was held at this time by the English statesman John Carteret, Earl Granville and Seigneur of St Ouen.

In 1750 he appointed Charles Lempriere his Lieut-Bailiff. In the previous century the Lemprieres had been the leading democratic family in Jersey politics, but Charles turned away from this and ruled the Island as a dictator, packing the bench of Jurats and other offices with his relations. His brother Philippe, Receiver and later Attorney General, was especially unpopular and was said to be the harshest collector of the King's revenues the Island had known.

But the 18th century was too late for autocracy of this kind. Already there had been riots 20 years earlier when the States had tried to reform the monetary system: now popular feeling began to rise again and in 1769 it exploded into open revolt. Several hundred men from the northern parishes marched on the town, where some of the boldest forced their way into the Royal Court and threatened the Jurats with physical violence until they agreed to a list of demands.

The Lempriere brothers crossed to England to appeal for help to the Privy Council, which sent a detachment of soldiers under the command of Colonel Bentinck to restore order. The shrewd Dutch officer quickly saw, and reported, that there was another side to the story, and the next year he was back in the Island as Lieut-Governor with a brief to implement necessary reforms.

Meanwhile, however, the anti-Lempriere party had found a new and devastating means of attacking Charles and Philippe through the pens of pamphleteers, principally the notorious John Shebbeare, whose daughter was married to one of the Lemprieres' opponents. This was too much for Philippe, who left the Island to live in Devon; but Charles stood his ground. He still had the backing of the Royal Court, a large majority in the States, and strong backing among well-to-do people in the Island, many of whom had been alarmed by the revolt.

New house

And he had no intention of abandoning his Jersey estates, for he was in the process of rebuilding Rosel Manor. The old house at the head of the valley was no longer habitable, and Charles had been living at Dielament Manor since his father's death. In May 1770 the diarist Daniel Messervy records coming with his wife to dine at Rosel, and tells us that Charles Lempriere 'has masons and carpenters building a new house on St Marguerite's Hill near the old manor; they have knocked down the old manor which was behind the chapel and nearly joining the colombier.'

(If the old house had gone and the new one was still building, one wonders where they dined.)

In Charles Lempriere's later years his great opponent was Jean Dumaresq, a brilliant young man enthused with the new ideas of liberty and democracy that were gaining ground in France. It was at this time that the Island became divided into two fiercely hostile parties, the Charlots who followed Lempriere and the Jeannots (later renamed Magots) who followed Dumaresq: these were the respective ancestors of the Laurel and Rose parties of the nineteenth century.

By 1781, Dumaresq had a majority in the States and it was clear that he would soon have one among the Jurats, too. Lempriere, accepting the inevitable, went to England to resign as Lieut-Bailiff in favour of his son William Charles. The son proved no less autocratic than the father; but he developed consumption and died prematurely, so that when Charles died in 1806 aged 92, in full possession of all his faculties, he was succeeded as Seigneur of Rosel by his grandson Philippe Raoul, the elder son of William Charles's marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of Matthieu Cosset.

Philippe Lempriere

Philippe Raoul Lempriere was less involved in politics than his father and grandfather, and his main legacy at Rosel is architectural. The square Georgian house that his grandfather had built in 1770 was not romantic enough for his taste, and in the 1820s he transformed it in the fashionable castellated style, covering the granite walls with Roman cement, tricking it out with turrets and battlements, and adding a large tower at the south-west corner.

Fortunately, he allowed his taste thirty years to mature before turning his attention to the chapel. This had been degraded to a barn after the Reformation, but Philippe Raoul had it carefully restored with as little alteration of its original features as possible, though the form of the west doorway is conjectural. Two of the stained glass windows are said to have been designed by the artist John Everett Millais, whom the Lempriere family had befriended as a young man.

A charming pencil drawing of his from 1847 depicts Philippe Raoul's brother, Captain William Lempriere, of Ewell in Surrey, with his wife and 13 children gathered round a table cutting the traditional Twelfth Night cake.

Philippe Raoul was succeeded at Rosel in 1859 by his son, the Rev William Lempriere, and after him came Reginald Raoul, last of the direct male line of the Lempriere seigneurs. He trained as a lawyer in England and contemplated a career in the Colonial Service before deciding instead to return to Jersey, where he became Constable of St Martin from 1880 to 1883, Viscount from 1894 to 1917 and Jurat from 1918 to 1929.

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