Fire at house of Bailiff Thomas Lempriere

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A fire which destroyed the house of Bailiff Thomas Lempriere in 1502 may have had far-reaching consequences, if it destroyed precious records of the island before that time.

The Bailiff's house is believed to have been in Rue Morier (now Halkett Place) and close to the Royal Court, but it's exact location is unknown.

A document in the collection of La Société Jersiaise records that 12 witnesses were called to testify about the fire in 1532. They were old men, aged 65 to 90, described as "of olde eage syckely and such as be not like to live longe in this world" and their testimony was "that they knew of a truth from what they had seen and from common knowledge that about 30 years back a house in St Helier's belonging to Thomas Lempriere, then Bailiff, was accidentally destroyed by fire: that in it were the Privileges, Confirmations and ancient Rolls, Records and Registers of the island, and that these were burnt with the house".

It has been suggested that the fire was started deliberately because of contamination by the plague.

However, historians have cast doubt on the assumption that a large number of records were destroyed in this fire. In his 1931 book The Town of St Helier, Edmund Toulmin Nicolle reveals that the records of Guernsey's Court date back to about the same period as those in Jersey, and rather than believe that early Jersey records were destroyed in a fire "it is more reasonable to believe that until the beginning of the 16th century no regular records were kept".

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