Etienne La Cloche

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Etienne La Cloche

Etienne La Cloche, who died in 1653, was a very rich and well-connected islander who became Rector of St Ouen, fell out with the Church authorities and was suspended for failing to live in his parish, preferring to remain at Maison de La Rocque in St Helier


The son of Edouard La Cloche, Centenier of St Helier, and Elisabeth Le Gallais, he was one of the island noblesse, his first cousin being Seigneur of Longueville, and himself connected by marriage with the Seigneurs of Trinity and St Ouen.

He was regarded as a very rich man. He owned much property in Jersey including the Malassis Mill and other mills. Brevint says that he bought more than 100 vergees of land near Southampton, and his wife had a dowry in Brittany.

He was probably the "rich preacher" mentioned in a letter of the bogus James de La Cloche.


In 1612 the minutes of the Calvinist Colloquy show that the parish of St Peter asked that he might be appointed Rector, and the Colloquy supported this request; but the Governor had other plans. In 1623 he was appointed Rector of St Ouen.

He was evidently a self-willed man, impatient of control, and he soon got into trouble with the Ecclesiastical Court. He had a house on Mont au Pretre, St Helier, and refused to leave it to live in his parish. Here at least three of his children were born, and baptised in the Town Church.

In 1624 the Vice-Dean charged him with absenting himself from his parish, and going to England in spite of a written prohibitation from the Dean. La Cloche complained of "the tyranny of the Vice-Dean, who issued prohibitions like a Pope"; but he was ordered to apologize for his conduct.


In May 1650 he was again prosecuted. At the Dean's Visitation he refused "to explain the cause of his non-residence or his neglect to officiate at funerals, to visit the sick, or to catechize the young, hoping by his obstruction to make himself independent of all authority".

The Court decided:

"In view of his contemptuous insubordination toward his superior, notwithstanding the friendly offers made to overlook his contumacy, if he would agree to live in his parish and perform his neglected duties, in view too of his scornful disregard of the salutary reproofs of the Lieut-Governor and of the Attorney-General, in view too of his absence from Court on three occasions, though duly summoned, he is suspended from his ministry".

This sentence he apparently ignored, for in July 1631 "in virtue of an order from the Bishop of Winchester" he was given six weeks to take up his residence or be suspended. Some compromise must then have been arranged, for there were no further complaints, though 13 years later his home was still on Mont au Pretre. In 1627 he quarrelled with Jacques Dauvergne, Constable of St Ouen, and was fined for "maltreating him by word and deed".

Civil War

When the Civil War reached Jersey, he was an outspoken Royalist, but for a time the Parliamentarians left the clergy undisturbed. In July 1643, when Gedeon De Carteret died in Elizabeth Castle, and the besiegers allowed the coffin to be taken to St Ouen, for burial, La Cloche officiated at the funeral. In August the dying Sir Philippe de Carteret asked that he might be allowed to come to minister to him, but this was refused.

When Lydcot, the Parliamentary Lieut-Governor, arrived in September, La Cloche, fearing imprisonment in England, escaped to St Malo. His goods, sheep, and horses were seized, and even the new flooring in his house ripped up, and three wagon-loads of the timber taken to build shelters on Mont de la Ville for the gunners bombarding the Castle.

The journal of his brother-in-law, Jean Chevalier, who had married his sister Marie, now often mentions him. In October he was waiting for a favourable wind to carry to the King a petition from the Royalist exiles in St Malo urging that steps should be taken to recover Jersey, when he learnt that George Carteret had been ordered to do what they asked. He then volunteered to carry to the island the King's Proclamation.

Night landing

With Jean Dumaresq, Constable of St Ouen, on 28 October he landed after dark in an unguarded creek near Plemont, and sent a letter by Jacques Guillaume, husband of his daughter Douce, to be delivered to Lydcot. When Lydcot read it, he broke Guillaume's head with his stick, and tore the letter and burnt it, for it bade him prepare for the coming of the King's men and a Governor appointed by the King.

The following day was Sunday. La Cloche went to his church, where another minister was taking the service, and, after baptising a baby, read the Proclamation from the pulpit, and "harangued his parishioners, telling them that the King had pledged his word to maintain Religion as it was in the clays of Elizabeth (Presbyterianism), and to pardon all who had rebelled against him, provided they laid down their arms".

He had hoped to get his parish to rise, before the authorities heard what was happening, and then to call a meeting of the States, but Lydcot was too quick for him. At dawn next morning he arrived with troops at Vinchelez de Bas Manor, where La Cloche was hiding, and the Rector fled by a back door, and eventually took refuge in Mont Orgueil.

His attempted coup had failed. His house was again sacked, though most of the valuables had been hidden. A reward of 20 crowns was offered for his capture, and his tenants were forbidden to pay him rent. Three weeks later George Carteret arrived, and the Parliamentary regime collapsed.


La Cloche then fell out with his own party. Carteret financed his government by privateering. In July 1645 La Cloche denounced this from the pulpit, declaring that Carteret was making Jersey a second Dunkirk (a notorious haunt of pirates). He was promptly arrested, and imprisoned for eleven months in Mont Orgueil without ink or paper.

Various officials visited him, offering him freedom if he would recant and pay a fine, but he stubbornly refused. He was then deprived of fire and candle, and in May 1646 banished to Brittany, whence he made his way to London. Chevalier's journal gives a long letter that he wrote to his parishioners, but this is omitted in the printed edition.

In January 1648 his wife Esther de La Planche of Brittany (in some documents her name is anglicized as Planson) was banished to St Malo for writing a letter to the Countess of Duce complaining of Carteret's tyranny in preventing her tenants and millers from paying their rent. Six months later her eldest son Louis was drunk, and, when someone said: 'Can I do you service?' replied, ‘Take my sword and run it through Sir George'. He, too, was exiled.

In June, when her younger son Jean returned to Jersey from school, he was deported also. In 1651, when Jersey was threatened with a Parliamentary invasion, Louis made his peace with Carteret, and arrived with two fine horses. "But", wrote Chevalier, "when the Parliament men came, he behaved like the rest and turned tail, and Col Heane secured those horses".


When Carteret had been driven out, La Cloche came back to Jersey. He was not allowed to return to his parish, but he settled in the town, where he died in 1653.

Six of his children were Louis, "a soldier who spent his youth at the wars in the service of the King of France, and later in the Low Countries", Esther (1620- ), Douce, who in 1641 married Jacques Guillaume of Mont au Pretre, who became Constable of St Helier, Jeanne, who married Philippe Le Geyt, Rachel (1628- ) who married Helier de Carteret of St Saviour, and Jean (1625- ) who married Marguerite de Carteret of Trinity, and became a Jurat.

Family tree


La Cloche family tree

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