Clement Hemery

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Clement Hemery, who played a critical role in the Battle of Jersey

Clement Hemery 1747 - 1809 was baptised on 30 August 1747, the third son of Jacques Hemery and Anne Chevallier, although one of his elder brothers had died before Clement was born.

He married Margaret Dolbel on 4 JUne 1774 in St Martin. The Dolbel family were originally from St Saviour. They had a large family of 11 children. Margaret was baptised in St Helier on 28 June 1754. Her parents were Jean Dolbel and Anne Dowton, married on 25 July 1736 in St Mary. Anne Dowton, the daughter of Francois Dowton and Anne Le Gros, was baptised on 17 September 1713.

Like his brother Jacques, Clement was a merchant. He was more involved in the Jersey Militia than his brother, serving in the Militia Artillery as a Captain, promoted to Major before 1792, and later became Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment du Sud in 1796.

On 14 November 1778 Jean Robin and Clement Hemery were appointed and authorised to examine Bouley Bay, St Catherine's Bay and the Bay of the Old Castle (that is Mont Orgueil), and to be assisted by Constables, to examine what can be done at the cost of the isle to see if warships could enter in safety. Bouley Bay was later regarded as a rendezvous point for British warships. On 23 January 1779 Robin and Hemerys plan of Bouley Bay was finished, and they were thanked by the States for their trouble and pains in drawing it up.

Around 1780 Clement is recorded as an appraiser for the ships and cargoes seized as prizes or droits and brought to Jersey. For this he was paid £40 by the Admiralty. As a Captain he was to play an important role during the French invasion of Jersey in 1781.

The Battle of Jersey

Clement Hemery was a Captain in the Jersey Militia Town Artillery at the time. By using a local fisherman to guide them, the French had landed unobserved by night, on 6 January. When the French troops arrived in the Royal Square, Clement was disturbed by the noise and going to his window saw the French in the street. His house was surrounded, so, dressed in civilian clothes, he made his escape through his cellar, leaving by a grating into Morier Lane (now Halkett Place) The Governor's house was at the corner of what is now Grosvenor Street and St James Street. Captain Hemery arrived at the same time as Captain Edward Coombes. Corbet was surprised, and told Clement Hemery to ride and warn Captain Campbell of the 83rd Regiment, who was in the barracks at Fort Conway, Grouville. Clement had scarcely left when the French surrounded the house.

On his way back from warning the posts and forts as far as Mont Orgueil, he was observed by a party of French soldiers and captured. He was placed under guard in one of the French flat-bottomed boats in shallow water at La Rocque, when his captors were fired upon by a group of militiamen. Clement proposed going to parley with them "to save unnecessary bloodshed" and when this ruse was accepted, he released himself and went to report to Corbet, but when he saw Corbet’s house surrounded he made his way to Gallows Hill and joined Major Peirson’s forces. Clement later wrote a letter to Madame de Carteret in Southampton about the battle.

Major Peirson’s forces advanced into St Helier and after a short but fierce engagement the French surrendered. Hemery took part in the battle and is pictured in the painting by John Singleton Copley. The painting was completed in 1784. Copley was keen to get the detail correct and may have come to Jersey to sketch those concerned and the background. His painting is incorrect in one regard as Hemery was not in uniform that day.

Part of a sketch for Copley's painting. Clement Hemery is the second figure from the right

The figures of fleeing women and children are sometimes supposed to be members of Clement’s family, but there is no evidence of this, the ages of the children would be wrong for the date of the battle, and Copley added them for dramatic effect, not historical accuracy. It is however, interesting to note that of all the main figures pictured, only Clement and one other were actually Jerseymen.

An article on the Battle appeared in the London newspaper the Whitehall Evening Post in 1781. It mentioned Clement rousing Major Moses Corbet, and later stated: "Captain Clement Hemery of the Town Artillery used his guns to good effect. Many other boats full of French troops that were attempting to land after sustaining the fire of the artillery made good their retreat". This was at La Rocque where the troops of Grouville and the East Militia Regiment repelled a French force. It seems Clement was involved in this action with his artillery.

Not only had Clement fought in a strategic battle but he must be one of the very few people to do so outside his own front door, as his house was in the Royal Square, or Vier Marchi as it was known, where the battle took place. The statue of George II visible in the painting faces away from the Hemery house, which would be out of view on the left of the painting.

In the Gazette de l’Isle de Jersey of 23 June 1792 Clement Hemery, now a Major, relates information about Thomas Anley carrying a message from Peirson to the Commanding Officer of the 83rd Regiment.

Sons

His two sons were educated in England at Berkhamsted. It was recorded that on 4 July 1789 the Rev Richard Valpy, Headmaster of Reading School, arrived in Jersey with Rev Jean Dupre, Headmaster of Berkhamsted School with his pupils, including the two sons of Monsieur Hemery. This shows the prominent families of Jersey were looking to England for their education and culture.

Public life

Clement was seen as something of an expert in maritime matters, as the it is recorded in the Chamber of Commerce history that on 18 October 1787 a chamber Committee "decided to present several plans for harbour improvements and to recommend that of Mr Clement Hemery for the harbour of St Helier as in their opinion the best calculated to answer those ends for which augmentation of that harbour is designed". Whatever Clements harbour improvements were, no action was taken to improve the harbour until Victorian times.

On 16 June 1789 Clement was chosen as one of the officers of the Lottery established on 25 April 1789 by the Committee for the defence of the Island. The lottery money would go towards the defence of Jersey. On 6 December 1792 he was again appointed one of the lottery commissioners, and for a third time on 14 December 1793.

On 23 January 1790 he was appointed Treasurer to administer the accounts of farmers for the rights of ancrage (anchorage) and for the Bateau de Sante, the hospital ship or health boat that met incoming boats. The treasurer had to pay the costs of this boat every year, keep an account book and report to the States before the 25th of March every year.

Payments for spies

During the Napoleonic Wars Jersey, being close to France, held a particularly strategic role. The Duke de Bouillon organized a spy network in France from Jersey, and Clement Hemery was entrusted with taking payments from London to Jersey for these spies. Between July and October 1793 he handled £600 in four transactions, and in 1796 £450 in five separate transactions, huge sums of money in those days. The money was handed over to J and C Hemery, with Clement signing for it. Merchant’s roles in those days often overlapped with those of bankers, couriers and postmen, but the scale and importance of these payments show Clement and the Hemery Brothers business as particularly trustworthy.

Political duties

Like his brother Jacques he also took office, becoming Constable of St. Helier from 15 March 1794 to 1797.

  • 22 March 1794 Jacques and Clement were members of a committee concerning the embargo on Jersey vessels.
  • 29 March 1794 his accounts, with the other Constables, is examined by the States in connection with the committee for the defence of the Island.
  • 1 April 1794 Clement and Jacques members of a committee to find lodging for soldiers.
  • 5 May 1794 Clement was made a member of the new library committee.
  • 10 June 1794 he reported to the States on the state of St Helier Harbour, noting daily deterioration due to sand being taken for boats.
  • 26 July 1794 Clement and Jacques members of the new roads committee.
  • 23 May 1795 he was appointed a member of the committee to appoint Regulating Officers for sailors joining the navy.
  • 8 August 1795 Clement reports on the pay of pilots.
  • 17 August 1795 Clement part of the group with recommendations for the new Market.
  • 31 August 1795 Clement and Jacques on the committee for Impots, and for lottery proposals. They were also members of the committee to enforce the proposals of 11 May.
  • 23 October 1795 Clement showed the States leaflets found in St Helier encouraging the people to revolt. (There was sympathy for the French Revolution in some quarters of the population at the time)
  • 9 November 1795 Jacques and Clement on the committee to discuss imports of coal free of duty.
  • 23 November 1795 both members of the committee to look into the poor state of the roads in St Helier. Also both members of the committee to look into the shortage of grain.
  • 7 December 1795 not present at the meeting due to helping the States. Jacques and Clement to sell imported flour.
  • 4 April 1796 as Constable of St Helier to examine selling of beer.
  • 2 May 1796 Both members of the committee to replace the existing committee for the Public Hospital. Accounts of Clement for the Defence of the Isle committee.
  • 11 June 1796 Constable of St Helier to rent areas of the Market Hall. Jacques and Clement were members of the committee to discuss the erection of the hall.
  • 25 July 1796 Clement replaced J Dumaresq on the committee to put up a new portrait of the King. Also a member of the new committee for any measures necessary to defend Jersey.

In the Jersey Archive there is a Bail a fin d’heritage (property document) witnessed by Clement Hemery as Constable of St Helier, and others, dated 12 December 1795.

Burial

He was buried on 28 September 1809 in St Saviours Church. His will is dated 7 October 1807 and is in the Société Jersiaise library. He leaves £10 to the poor of St Hiliers Parish (note the spelling Hiliers not Heliers) He says he has already given £1,000 sterling to his son James, and his daughters Marguerite and Susan, and he directs that the same sum be given to each of his other children. (There were six of them, and this is some measure of Clement's wealth, that he bequeathed £6,000 sterling before the bulk of his property was divided).

Of the rest of his property and possessions, a third is to go to his wife, and another third to be divided among his children. He gives twenty guineas to his brother Jacques and ten guineas to his friend Daniel Messervy to buy rings in remembrance of their friendship. The remainder is split between his wife and children.

Captain Hemery of the Jersey Militia is mentioned In C N Parkinson’s Napoleonic War naval novel The Guernseyman

The family were, like most of the Jersey population, Christians. The Chronique de Jersey of 22 January 1814 lists subscriptions to the Bible Society – we find Mr Hemery (Jacques senior) giving 2 pounds 2 shillings, while Clement, Peter and James junior each give 1 pound 1 shilling.

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