Jean Poingdestre, historian

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Jean Poingdestre


Jean Poingdestre, Lieut-Bailiff, wrote the earliest known history of Jersey, which was not published in his lifetime and copied by Philippe Falle

Jean Poingdestre's signature

Jean Poingdestre (1609-1691) was the second son of Edouard Poingdestre of the Fief es Poingdestre (Grainville Branch) and Pauline Ahier. He helped draw up the terms of surrender when, during the English Civil War, Sir George Carteret was under seige from Parliamentary forces in Elizabeth Castle.

He later became a Jurat and Lieut-Bailiff.

He wrote the earliest surviving history of Jersey, which was not published until 1889, but formed the basis for the renowned history by Philippe Falle first published in 1694.

Born at Swan Farm, just behind Grainville, St Saviour, in 1609, Poingdestre died at St Saviour on 2 September 1691, and was buried in the parish church.


He entered Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1626, and in 1628 obtained a grant from the Don Baudains. He took his BA in 1630, and his MA in 1633. He then went to Exeter College, Oxford, as Gentleman Commoner, from October 1635 to November 1636, and was admitted as a Jersey Fellow of Exeter on 14 August of that year.

According to the Journal of Benjamin La Cloche, he was tutor to the children of the Earl of Pembroke in 1636, and, whilst tutor, in 1638 he gave to St Saviour's Church, of which his younger brother, Thomas, became Rector in June of that year, two silver cups for Holy Communion. In 1641 he was ordained Deacon at York.

Castle siege

He was with Sir Philippe de Carteret in Elizabeth Castle during the siege in 1645.

In 1648 he was expelled from his Fellowship, because he was a Royalist; but the pretext given was his long absence. In 1651, when the Parliamentary forces reoccupied the island, he was with Sir George Carteret in Elizabeth Castle. Carteret sent him to Paris to ask for instructions from the King. After four weeks he returned with orders to make the best terms possible. He helped to draw up the conditions of surrender.

He seems to have lived quietly in Jersey under Parliamentary rule. He rejected Hyde's suggestion that he should act as Latin Secretary to the exiled King. He was godfather to a baby in St Saviour's Church in 1654.

John Gibbon, the antiquary and herald, cousin of the Parliamentary Governor, consulted him. In 1656 the Council of State referred a legal case to him as an expert in Jersey Law. From 1656 to 1657 he was one of the Procureurs for the Parish of St Saviour.

At the Restoration he returned to Oxford, staying with the Warden of Merton and tutoring the son of the Earl of Carnarvon.


In 1669 he was appointed Lieut-Bailiff of Jersey. He had stipulated with Sir Edward de Carteret to be his Lieutenant, and since to be qualified he must be a Jurat, a Sign Manual was issued recommending his election. Owing to an alleged informality he retired from the position of Lieut-Bailiff in 1676, but remained a Jurat.


He wrote Caesarea or a Discourse of the Island of Jersey, the original of which is in the British Museum’s Harleian Collection. It was presented by Poindexter to James II. It was published by La Société Jersiaise in 1889.

He also wrote Les Commentaires sur l'Ancienne Coutume de Normandie, edited by the Societe des Gens de Droit, and published with a life of Poingdestre by E T Nicolle in 1907, Les Lois et Coutumes de l’Ile de Jersey (1928) and Remarques et animadversions sur la Nouvelle Coutume de Normandie (unpublished).

Falle in his Account of Jersey says of Poingdestre:

"He was esteemed one of the best Grecians in the university, able to restore and give a new edition of Hesychius, the Lexicographer. which was long expected from him. The beautifullest Greek types of the Stephens scarce excelled his handwriting in that language. It was, indeed, a disadvantage to him to act on so narrow a Theatre as this little Island, where he had not scope to exert his talents; yet even that makes for his honour, as on the contrary nothing can be more despicable than a man placed in a large scene of action and wanting capacity to fill it with dignity".

Poingdestre's monument is in St Saviour's Church with an inscription in Latin, probably by Falle.

He married in 1659 Anne Hamptonne, daughter and co-heiress of Laurens, Viscount of Jersey, and left one son and one daughter. [1]

Family tree


Descendants of Edouard Poingdestre and Pauline Ahier

Notes and references

  1. This biography is taken from A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey by George Balleine, who, although usually scrupulously accurate with the spelling of Jersey names, refers to Jean Poingdestre as ‘John Poindexter’, the American spelling adopted by some of his descendants, but not known in Jersey records
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