Wrentham Hall

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Wrentham Hall

This imposing house in St Martin was built in 1822 by Mrs Marie Barbenson, widow of the Rev Charles Le Touzel, Rector of St Martin, as a home for herself and her twelve children. The rector had died four years earlier in a riding accident. Marie Barbenson (1782-1829) was born in Alderney, as was her father Nicolas (1770- ), who was a lawyer in the most northerly of the Channel Islands.

The house is believed to stand on the site of the former Chapelle de la Croix and the head of a mediaeval cross was built into the wall alongside the road in 1857, when the house was owned by the Nicolle family. On the 1849 Godfray map the owner is shown as Dr Nicolle. This was Frederick Nicolle, born in 1824, the son of a surgeon. It passed to his eldest surviving son, Edwin Henry Nicolle (1851- ).

In Vol 1 of Old Jersey Houses Joan Stevens writes that this is possibly the site of the manor of the mysterious Fille de Carteret, mentioned in a document of 1479.

Name change

It is not clear exactly when the house was given its present-day name, but it was some time between the 1891 and 1901 censuses. At the time the Le Touzel family lived there it was known as Maison de la Croix, and was still known by this name when it was owned by Edwin Henry Nicolle at the time of the 1891 census. Ten years later he was still living there and the name had been changed to Wrentham Hall.

His mother, Laura, was the second daughter of the Rev Frederick Beatty, who married Anne Charlotte Barlee in Wrentham, Suffolk, in 1818. Laura was born in St Martin, Jersey in 1826, so it seems that her son must have decided to rename the family house after the town where his grandfather and grandmother married, and she was born.

The house was purchased, probably before the 1916 kitchen work, by George Harry Smith (1849- ) and Louisa Clara Smith (nee Bolton) (1855- ) and George died there in 1941, a year after his wife. Their son Private George Harry Smith, of the 1st/20th Battalion, London Regiment, was killed by a shell in France on 24 August 1918 at the age of 35, having served at the front for four years since the outbreak of war. Mr and Mrs Smith were living at Wrentham Hall then and had been expecting their son to visit them on leave.

Letter discovered

When work was being carried out in the kitchen of the house in 1916 a letter was found under the mantelpiece. It was written in French and translated by a contemporary newspaper:

"The 14th day of August 1822. Mr Ph Hubert has asked me to write a little note to be enclosed in this mantel board so that those who find it later will know that there were people in my day who could perform work with taste and facility. It was Mrs Marie Barbenson, wife of the Rev Charles Le Touzel who caused this house to be built. Will you, dear relatives or friends who find this letter, think of me and remember that much has taken place since I wrote it. I am young now, but when you discover the letter I shall, perhaps, have been long dead. Man, as you know, is born to die, and those who pass away in their youth avoid much trouble. Four years ago my father died, leaving a widow and twelve children to mourn his loss. If you seek to know more, go to the church and read the inscription oin the stone which stands in front of the puplit; it will give you all the information you desire. I close by embracing you heartily. I am and will be until my death, Henriette Le Touzel."

Henriette's father Charles (1774-1818) was Rector of St Martin from 1799 to 1818., and was a son of Jean Le Touzel and Elizabeth du Parcq. The memorial stone has now been moved to a position high on the wall above the right hand aisle of the church.

The house is unusual in that little or nothing else was being built in this style at the time of its construction, and it is surprising to find a rector's widow with such a large family commissioning such a large and imposing property. It appears that the construction of the house was completed before Mrs Le Touzel was married for a second time in 1923 to Thomas Beaugie, a successful businessman, who was eventually banished from Jersey after being found guilty of fathering the children of two of his teenage stepdaughters. His wife also left the island and died in 1829.

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