History of the Le Gros family

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Le Gros family history by Charles Langton from The Islander (1930s)

Early records

The records of the inquisition taken by Jean Wiget and Raoul de Broghton, in 1274, provides the earliest evidence that has been found in relation to the Le Gros family.

In this survey Guillaume Le Gros is mentioned as a tenant of land in St Peter Port, Guernsey.

The Assize Roll of 1309 states that a Guernsey Jurat named William Le Gros possessed a holding on the Fief de Havilland.

The evidence shows the establishment there of the family from an early date, but they did not appear in Jersey before the commencement of the 16th century. [A reference to a Guille Le Gros in the Extente of 1331 suggests that the family was established in Jersey some 200 years earlier than the writer states – Editor]

The Extentes of 1528 and 1607 give many references proving that Le Gros had lived in the island for a considerable period, chiefly in the parish of St Lawrence, but with additional branches in the eastern districts of Grouville and Trinity.

The surname is spelt in several ways in both these rolls and varies from Le Grose, de la Gros, to de Grosse and Le Gos.

It is interesting to note that a migration occurred in the 16th century, to England, through the issue of Peter Le Gros, who settled in the neighbourhood of Peckham, and were then described as ‘late of Her Majesty’s Isle of Jersey’.

Sark

When Sark was colonised by the Seigneur of St Ouen, Le Gros joined in the exodus and was one of the original landowners. Subsequently Le Gros of Sark produced several Jurats and captains of the island, among whom was John Le Gros, husband of Elizabeth Le Pelley of Guernsey.

Captain Waterhouse, Lieut-Governor of Guernsey, wrote a letter in 1650 in which he bids “his respected friend John Le Gros, Judge of Sark, to take care of the Militia and keep the said isle for his highness the Protector ofo England”.

This John Le Gros died leaving three daughters:

  • Mary Le Gros who married Philp Slowley
  • Elizabeth Le Gros, wife of John de Jersey
  • Susan Le Gros, eventually Dame of Sark through her marriage with Nicholas Le Pelley of Guernsey, who subsequently purchased the Seigneurie from the descendants of James Milner of Weston Green, Surrey.

So a direct descendant of the original coloniser became the chief lady of the island.

Heraldry

The heraldic aspect presents a great difficulty because the only two representations are entirely dissimilar. There is a flat stone in St Saviour’s Churchyard erected to the memory of Captain John Le Gros RN, a brother-in-law of Admiral Dauvergne, dated 1807, on which the arms are shown as Argent, three lions or, quartering with the Britton family.

The marshalling unfortunately is incorrect and the Britton quartering is open to suspicion, so the whole heraldic evidence can only be described as a dubious record.

The alternative rendering is shown engraved on a chalice presented to Sark Church in 1732, which definitely gives the Le Gros arms as Quarterly, Argent and Gules, on a bend three Martletts Argent.

Although it is admitted that the Channel Islands were in a peculiar position as regards heraldry it can be reasonably assumed that there would be only one achievement used by any one particular family, whether resident in Guernsey or Jersey, or both. So the evidence from Sark is more probably the correct rendering.

Three Jersey branches

At the beginning of the 19th century there were three main branches of the Le Gros in Jersey.

  • Le Gros of St Lawrence – Auguste Aspley Le Gros, born in St Helier in 1840, belonged to this branch. As an honorary secretary he was actively concerned with the foundations of the Société Jersiaise. Elected as Constable of St Peter in 1873 he remained in office till promoted to be Jurat in 1875. He died on 3 December 1877.
  • Le Gros of Trinity – Connected with that parish since the beginning of the 17th century, but do not appear to be definitely related with the more extensive branch of St Lawrence.
  • Le Gros of St Helier – a direct offshoot of the main family, but started as a distinct entity by Elias Le Gros, who, after marriage with Mary Dumaresq, [Maresq--see Descendants of Elie Le Gros - 2] settled in St Helier on his wife’s property.
Gervaise Le Gros, Greffier, Viscount and Jurat

One of the most important members of this branch was the late Gervaise Le Gros. He was sworn advocate on 7 September 1853 and was appointed Greffier in 1861. This position heralded a long period of service in the interests of the States because he proceeded to be HM Viscount in 1876 and continued in that office until elected Jurat in 1894, only resigning his activities when compelled by advanced age.

He purchased the Fief Melesches, together with its dependencies, Fief de Bagot (St Saviour), es Hatains (St Lawrence), St Clair (St Lawrence) and was also Seigneur of the fiefs es Cras, Houguette and Prieur d’Islet.

A portrait painted by Maurice Orange of Granville was presented to the Royal Court by Mr J Le Blancq of Millbrook on 27 April 1929 and hung near the Bailiff’s seat.

Another member of the family who is of particular interest was Elias Le Gros, a civil engineer. In 1834 he drew up a plan of St Helier, which was the first since that produced by Momonier in 1799, and is of great importance, not only for the quality of the work entailed, but because the rapid development of the town commenced approximately from that period.

Charles Sydney Le Gros, of La Fontaine, St Brelade, succeeded the late Edmund Nicolle as Viscount on 9 August 1930, and during the few years that have elapsed since that date has had the duty, probably unique, of reading two proclamations.

The succession of the property of La Fontaine since the 18th century has invariably passed through an elder, or only, daughter. It is doubtful if there is another house in Jersey that has so consistently been inherited in this way.

Le Gros Bisson

Mention may be made in passing of the family of Le Gros-Bisson, who are entirely distinct and separate, and were firmly established in the area of the Ville au Neveu at the beginning of the 17th century, or probably earlier. The hyphenated surname suggests connection, but no evidence is at hand at present to prove it.

[The Le Gros Bisson surname is not hyphenated, as the author of this article suggests, and the family is not connected with the Le Gros family. It was established in Ville au Neveu from at least the mid 16th century – Editor]

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