Jean Le Brocq

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Jean Le Brocq (1762-1845)

Philanthropist



This biography was added to the site in 2019 by Guy Dixon


Jean Le Brocq was among those chosen by George Balleine in 1940 [1] for inclusion in A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey. [2] However, Balleine was evidently unable to discover the source of Le Brocq`s wealth and was probably unable to identify with clarity from Court transactions Le Brocq`s exact identity. As a result his intended biography did not feature in the published work. Research culminating in the article by the author of this article, which was entitled A Brief History of The Yews, St Peter [3] has now resolved these difficulties.

Family and commercial background

A wall-mounted memorial in what is now the Vestry of St Peter`s Church, to seven generations of "The Le Brocqs of The Yews", which includes their spouses, starts with the first of this particular branch of what had previously been a St Ouen family, to settle in St Peter. He was William Le Brocq (1651-1706), mentioned on the memorial as being the great-great-grandson of Matthieu Le Brocq, Constable of St Ouen, 1553-1573; 1593-1595.

Matthieu was, in fact, Constable from 1552-1586; and then from 1593-1595, having been Procureur of his parish in 1546.

William`s grandfather, Jean Le Brocq, had been the head of the former Constable`s family and was one of the parish's Sermentés for the Extente (1668), before his untimely death in the following year. William married in St Peter on 18 November 1674, Elizabeth Vibert, daughter of Nicolas, of Augerez. He bought The Yews and its garden in 1680 from Catherine Huelin and will have gone into business, as the property included no land at all.

The fortune of this family was re-established by his son, also William (1687-1772), who between 1708 and 1747 made sufficient profit from the family business to purchase as much as 51 vergées of farmland, including most of the land to the east of the main road leading to La Croix aux Lions, between Rue des Sapins and Rue du Manoir, St Peter; land until recently associated with the West of Island Show. This William Le Brocq also refaced The Yews in 1757, in dressed granite, the datestone in the front façade of the house providing the date. Stone from L`Etacq was used to highlight window and door apertures.

Business was, at this date, carried out in a building of which no trace remains, shown on the 1787 Survey of the Duke of Richmond Map of Jersey (1795), as being situated exactly in the current car parking area, behind the rectangular building which now adjoins the west gable of The Yews. Presumably shortly afterwards, the rectangular building was constructed, to match The Yews' façade in every way. [4]

In keeping with a suggested 1790s date, at the junction of the main house's west gable with the upper floor of the rectangular building, is a blocked closet window, similar to that still in sight at Les Puits de Léoville, St Ouen. The closet thus lit will have been sacrificed to provide access from what had clearly been the master bedroom to what was doubtless office space above the store, at the time of the latter`s construction; this access having been in use and visible until recently.

The next William Le Brocq (1726-1807), also of The Yews, was for some years Prévôt of La Hague, as had been his father. In 1793 he purchased the house and land that lies to the west of his paternal property, on the opposite side of the main road to St Ouen. This man and his son and namesake, William (1757-1828) were however, the first of this family to actually farm their land, with evidence indicating that in each of these generations, younger brothers named Jean ran the business. The nature of their business was finally identifiable from an entry in A Summer Stroll through the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey: [5]

"After this discussion on the Royal Court, to return from Law to Trade; a transition, by the bye, by no means uncommon in Jersey, we have now to mention Le Brocque`s shop (sic) in St Peter [6], which forms a complete magazine or DEPOT, of almost every article in domestic use, from the most expensive wines, to all the inferior, minutiae of daily household consumption."

Contemporary newspapers show the Le Brocq business as also dealing in chandlery, groceries, corn, flour, coal, various seeds for farmers and saplings. The latter, sold from a triangular plot of land, totalling 33 perches, that had been bought in 1774 [7], had replaced a pépinière they previously owned on Verte Rue. Increasingly used to 'grow on' imported fruit saplings, it no doubt gave to the adjoining road its name, Rue des Sapins.

Public Benefactor

Most Jersey benefactors of hospitals and charities were successful merchants or shipowners, or their heirs. Balleine`s difficulty in identifying Le Brocq`s source of affluence clearly lay in the fact that his was a fourth-generation family concern that mostly predated the existence of local newspapers. Furthermore, it was not, that we know of, run in his name.

Jean Le Brocq was born at The Yews in 1762, fils William, as stated in his Will, dated 20 October 1843, and proved by his nephews, Philippe Le Brocq and Pierre Bichard. [8] His mother was Elizabeth Balleine, the daughter of Jacques Balleine, whose mother, in her turn, was one of the co-heirs of the Le Brocqs of St Aubin, who had been shipmasters and wine merchants engaged in the Southampton trade, from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Both parents of Jean Le Brocq were cousins of the Robins, of the property that would later be called St Peter`s House; his father being second cousin to Philippe Robin of St Aubin, who was both master mariner and fellow-chandler, known primarily for having become the father of the celebrated merchant, Charles Robin.

Before 1786, with no newspapers to contain shipping news, and the loss of the first volume of Jersey's Shipping Register, details of local shipowners are limited to private collections of letters and papers and often brief statements in the Chamber of Commerce`s dealings, with even more terse and occasional references in court records. It is unclear, therefore, whether the Le Brocqs owned ships in the 18th century. Jean Le Brocq`s nephew, William Le Brocq, did so in the next century, from 1822. Furthermore, a nephew, by marriage, Abraham de Gruchy, wrote in a letter dated 18 December 1814, of an informal trading association that operated in St Aubin, formed for shipping and chartering purposes, Messrs Godfray, De Gruchy et Le Brocq. He wrote of it in 1815 as Messrs Le Brocq, Godfray et Moi. One way or another, Jean Le Brocq had the benefit of a well-established mercantile background.

Bequests

He married Elizabeth Le Bas, daughter of Jean, of La Grande Vingtaine, but their only child, a small boy, died in infancy. His principal heirs, therefore, were nephews and nieces, and he made bequests to church missionary societies and public charities, including the General Hospital. His will includes the following, in Jersey`s old currency, the French Livres Tournois, [9] 25 of which equalled £1 Sterling. Sums enclosed within brackets are the equivalent values in sterling, as of 2017: [10]

  • The Church of England Missionary Society: 14,400 (£40,495.68)
  • The Society for the Advancement of Christianity among the Jews: 8,000 (£22,497.60)
  • The Society for the Propogation of the Gospel in Distant Lands: 8,000
  • The Society for the Propogation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK): 8,000
  • Naval and Military Bible Society: 480 (£1,349.79)
  • Irish Society: 480

Total sum bequeathed to Missionary Societies: 39,360 (£110,688.06)

  • The Dean of Jersey, with the Rectors of St Martin and St Peter and successors [11] : 12,000 (£33,746.40)
  • The Jersey Provident and District Society: 6,000 (£16,873.20)
  • The Jersey General Hospital, to augment the salary of the Chaplain: 5,800 (£16,310.76)
  • Ecole Nationale, St Helier: 1,000 (£2,812.20)
  • The Deserving Poor of St Peter: 1,524 (£4,285.79)

Total Sum bequeathed to Jersey Hospital and Charities: 26,324 (£74,028.35)

  • Nephew, Philippe Le Brocq [owner from 1831 of The Yews]: 31,000 (£87,178.20)
  • Niece, Anne Le Brocq, wife of C.F. Ramié [Draper and shipowner, St Helier]: 27,200 (£76,491.84)
  • Mauger and Conway nephews and nieces, of La Citadelle, St Lawrence: 15,400 (£43,307.88)
  • Nephew, William Le Brocq [formerly Merchant and shipowner]: 10,000 (£28,122)

The remaining legatees included almost every member of his extended family, with his elderly brother, Nicolas Le Brocq, as residual legatee. Among more than fifty beneficiaries were the Bichards of La Ville au Bas and Seaview, St Lawrence, Binets of St Mary and Huelins, formerly of Val de la Mare, St Peter. The latter included his nephew, Jean Huelin (1791-1850), of Beaumont, who had no doubt been employed by him. Huelin was a wine merchant and grocer, whose former premises are now a part of The Goose public house and restaurant and bear the initials and date JHL:MLB 1827, for Jean Huelin and Marie Le Boutillier, his wife.

The executors were his nephews Philippe Le Brocq, of The Yews and Pierre Bichard, of Woodville, St Peter, a solicitor.

Jean Le Brocq, a former Churchwarden of St Peter, was evidently an evangelical Christian, with a burden for missionary outreach. This included a desire to see the Gospel shared with the Jewish people. He was also everyone's idea of the ideal uncle - few, if any, of his family went unmentioned in this most generous of Wills.

Jean Le Brocq will have retired from business in 1829, as the Chronique de Jersey advertised on 21 February that year, a sale of remaining stock, as the business of 'Messrs W Le Brocq & Co' [12] was at the point of being dissolved. [13]

Le Brocq was a widower at the time of the 1841 Census, living in his retirement at La Fosse, in Rue de La Fosse, St Peter, the home of his niece Elizabeth Horton, née Le Brocq, whose initials, with those of her late husband, Matthieu Horton, adorn the south façade of the house. It was almost certainly here that the philanthropist passed away, in 1845, aged 82, being buried within view of the house, in St Peter's churchyard.


Notes and references

  1. ABSJ 1940, 51
  2. Published by Staples Press, London, in 1948
  3. ABSJ Vol 31, Pt 2, 2014, 272-284
  4. This amends the 2014 article, in which the rectangular building is assumed to have dated from 1757
  5. Jersey: De Fries, 1809, 110:
  6. Not to be confused with that run from the late 19th century by another Le Brocq family, called Western Stores, on the corner now occupied by the Co-Operative Store
  7. RP 56/40 (1774), the vendor having been Jean Pipon, son of Elie
  8. Jersey Archives Service, D/Y/A/26/20
  9. Of Tours
  10. www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency-converter#currency-result
  11. This was Le Don Le Brocq later called The Le Brocq Fund, for distribution to the deserving poor of St Helier, St Martin and St Peter, in perpetuity
  12. The business conducted at The Yews was named 'Messrs W Le Brocq & Co' That in St Helier and Canada of Jean Le Brocq`s nephew, William Le Brocq, was 'Messrs W Le Brocq jnr & Co'
  13. This amends the possibility discussed in the 2014 article that the business may have been continued by George Balleine until 1841 and by Mr Philip Bossy in 1851
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