Samares in the Middle Ages

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Samares in the Middle Ages

This article by Peter Bisson was published in the 1987 edition of the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

Many family owners

Samares Manor has a long and interesting history, in the course of which it has passed through many different hands. More than a dozen families, Norman, Jersey and English, have held the fief of Samares in the eight centuries of its recorded existence, some only briefly, others for several generations.

Their standing reflects the importance of the fief. In the days when seigneurial power was a political reality the lords of Samares ranked high among the leading men of the island. The manor house, which has never been separated from the fief, is to outward appearance today a building of the late 18th or early 19th century, with superb interiors created about sixty years ago by the late Sir James Knott. But parts of its structure are much older; the west wing contains a vaulted cellar or undercroft - misleadingly known today as the crypt - which is of particular interest as a surviving fragment of the mediaeval house.

In 1931 a major article by C Langton on the Seigneurs of Samares from the Middle Ages to the present century was published in the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise. It contains many extracts from original documents relating to the fief, with others printed in full as appendices, and is illustrated with a number of heraldic and other drawings and sketch-maps by Major N V L Rybot.

As a collection of source material it is of great value, but as a historical account it needs revising, especially with regard to the mediaeval period. Concurrently with its publication, Sir Havilland de Sausmarez in Guernsey was examining the genealogy of the early Seigneurs of Samares in a paper on the history of his own family, and bringing forward some ideas worthy of attention. In recent years, fresh research, much of it in connection with other projects, has thrown further light on this and other aspects of the Samares story.

It is even possible now to identify one or two clues to the building history of the house, which has generally been regarded as more or less indeterminable because most of the older work, apart from the undercroft, is masked by subsequent extension and remodelling.

This article traces the history of Samares from its earliest recorded mention in the 12th century to 1500, in the light of the knowledge that has been gained since Langton wrote. It must be stressed that it is not yet a definitive account. There are several further documentary sources which need to be consulted before the full history of Samares Manor can be written. Nevertheless I hope that what follows here is essentially sound, whether or not it later becomes possible to add to it.

A complementary article to be published in a later Bulletin will outline the descent of the fief in the Dumaresq family in the 16th and 17th centuries, concluding with its sale by Debora Dumaresq in 1734.


The Fief de Samares - its location and tenure

An account of Samares must inevitably begin with the topography from which the fief takes its name. Samares means salt-marsh - a term which can be applied to any coastal marsh where the water is saline, though it is associated particularly with the old way of obtaining salt for culinary use. The sea was allowed to overflow the marsh at high tide, and the channel was then blocked so as to leave the water standing in shallow pools, called saltpans, in which a deposit of salt was left as the water evaporated in the sun.

The salt marsh at Samares, south of the Manor, was not drained until the 19th century; part of the area is still called Samares Marsh, while La Mare on the coast nearby recalls the existence of a stretch of open water big enough to be called a mare or pond, which was an appurtenance of the Manor, like La Mare au Seigneur at St Ouen.

But the whole district, lying as it does virtually at sea level, was marshy and prone to constant flooding. It was in order to drain his land that Philippe Dumaresq, Seigneur of Samares from 1654 to 1690, dug the canal from the Manor to Plat Douet, nearly half a mile away to the west, which can be seen on old maps, and still partly exists. As late as the 19th century it was evidently used as an approach to the Manor when the main road was impassable, for Godfray's map of 1849 shows a pair of lodges at the west end of it, and we are told that a later Seigneur, Edouard Mourant, when a Jurat between 1874 and 1886, used to travel part of the way by boat when going to town to sit on the Bench.

Between the west end of the canal and the sea was an area called Les Mielles de Samares, indicating a stretch of sandy rather than marshy ground, but the marshland must have extended some distance westwards beyond Plat Douet, for it was apparently known as Le Marais du Dicq.

All this district lies within the S Clement parish boundary and forms part of the Fief de Samares. At Le Dicq itself a projecting corner of the Fief de Grainville comes down to the sea in the parish of St Saviour, while beyond, in St Helier, is the Fief de la Fosse, extending from Havre des Pas and La Collette north to Conway Street, and including the whole of the Town Hill on which Fort Regent is built. This fief, though never contiguous with that of Sarnares, was from time immemorial a branch of it, until sold off separately in 1837.

Principal fief

Samares has always been reckoned one of the principal lay fiefs in Jersey (as distinct from those formerly held by the Church), ranking close to St Ouen and Rozel in seniority. In the 14th century these were the only three lay fiefs in the island for which homage was owed to the King.

The relief of 10 livres due by the Seigneur of Samares on taking over the fief by inheritance or purchase was equal to that of St Ouen, and higher than that of any other Jersey fief. At St Ouen this figure represented two-thirds of a knight's fee, or fief de haubert, the relief on a full knight's fee being normally assessed at 15 livres.

The position at Samares is less clear. There is no suggestion in our surviving mediaeval records that this fief, or indeed any Jersey fief except St Ouen, was a fief haubert or part of one. According to the Assize Roll of 1309 it was held at that time by grand sergeanty - the rendering of an honourable personal service to the sovereign - and the specific service due was the same as for Rozel and Les Augres, the other two fiefs in Jersey held by this form of tenure.

The Seigneur of Samares had to ride into the sea to meet the King when he visited the island, and to act in some capacity during the King's stay ,which cannot be determined because the Roll has been damaged and the relevant words are missing, but was perhaps to act as his butler. However, there is no mention of these services in the Extentes of 1331, 1607 or 1668, though at Rozel and Les Augres they are clearly specified. In the aveux taken from the Jersey Seigneurs for their fiefs in 1489, recorded in the Chroniques de Jersey, the 'dignitez' owed for Samares are declared only as homage, suit of court at the Chefs Plaids d'Heritage, and the 10 livres of relief.

Samares enjoyed all the customary privileges of a fief noble in Jersey; these are fully and authoritatively described by de Gruchy in Chapter VIII of his book, and I shall not take up space here by recapitulating them in detail. It had its court, its mill, and - in later times at least - its colombier or dovecote, a notorious seigneurial privilege which de Gruchy rightly condemns, but which he considers not to have been a common and ancient feudal right.

There is apparently no mention in early records, either in Normandy or in Jersey, of the exclusive right of a lord to keep pigeons (which, of course, fed on his tenants' crops), and this suggests that the droit de colombier was one of the many wrongful extensions of feudalism established by the seigneurial classes for their own benefit in the late Middle Ages and after. Rights such as wreck of the sea and free warren, shortly to be mentioned in connection with the Fief de la Fosse, were more genuine examples of seigneurial franchises.

We hear of the Samares windmill in Guillaume de Salinelles' charter of 1218 and again in the Assize Roll of 1309, where it is recorded that a man rushing in haste out of the mill had been struck and killed by one of the sails. Under the mediaeval law of deodand, any animal or moving inanimate object which caused the death of a man was forfeit to God, which meant in practice that it was confiscated by the Justices Itinerant, then sold, unless redeemed by the owner for its full value, and the proceeds given as alms or for some pious use.

In this case the sails - the moving timbers outside the mill, with the canvas - were declared forfeit, and the 40 sols at which they were valued were applied towards the purchase of a breviary for the chapel at Gorey Castle.

As well as the usual franchises of a fief of the higher class, Samares shared with St Ouen and Rozel a rare additional privilege: that of having its own gallows on which tenants of the fief, after trial and conviction by the Royal Court for felony, were brought back to be hanged.


The Fief de la Fosse and Fief du Hommet

The Assize Rolls of 1299 and 1309 and the surviving quo warranto plea in respect of Sarnares from the Assizes of 1323, to which I shall refer again later when discussing the identity of the de St Hilaire family, tell us that the Seigneur of Samares enjoyed rights of wreck and free warren extending into the parish of St Helier. This, obviously, was on account of the Fief de la Fosse, though whether it was so called at that time is uncertain; as far as the court proceedings were concerned it was merely part of the fief of Samares.

At the 1299 Assize it was objected on behalf of the Crown that the right of wreck was being claimed beyond the limits of the fief as far as the Douet de Hauteville. Pierre de St Hilaire's answer to this is an important piece of historical evidence. He said that his ancestors had retained this particular right, together with the right of free warren on the Town Hill, when, long before, they had given the site of the town to the Abbey of St Helier.

There is good reason to accept this statement as true. Even in modem times, until the general abolition of seigneurial rights in 1966, the Fief de la Fosse enjoyed rights of wreck extending westwards along the beach as far as a point representing the original outflow of the Douet de Hauteville, a little to the west of Payn Street, though the boundary of the fief itself with the Fief du Prieur runs along Conway Street.

If, as de Gruchy believed, the Fief du Prieur represents the original endowment grant made to the Abbey of St Helier in about 1155 by its founder, Guillaume fils Hamon, it is quite likely that the Seigneur of Samares added to that endowment by granting an adjacent strip of land out of the Fief de la Fosse, embracing the present King Street/Queen Street area, which comprised virtually the whole of the early mediaeval town.

Mr Robin Cox has drawn my attention to the fact that properties on the north side of King Street are often described in contracts as being on the Fief du Prieur 'ou autre fief, a widely used expression indicating uncertainty, not as to the fief to which the property owed its dues in practice - no Seigneur would have tolerated that - but as to whether, strictly speaking, it stood on the fief named or on some other fief that had become merged with it.

Wreck of the sea was a valuable right in the days when shipping kept as far as possible within sight of land because of the lack of navigational aids, and vessels trading between northern and southern Europe frequently came to grief on the dangerous rocks round our coasts. It was also a fruitful source of disagreement, a subject which "bristles with contentious points" as de Gruchy says, and disputes were frequent.

One important question was whether or not articles found floating in the sea and brought to shore by human agency could be claimed as wreck by the Seigneur of the fief on which they were landed. In a highly amusing case recorded in the Assize Roll of 1309 involving the Prior of St Helier and the Seigneurs of Samares and Meleches, concerning two casks of wine that had been brought to land on the Fief de la Fosse and then moved, it was apparently established that things floating out of reach of anyone standing on the shore were flotsam - the right to which belonged to the Crown - and were not converted into wreck by being taken into a boat and brought to shore; this sounds reasonable, but the principle does not seem to have been upheld later.

Town Hill

Much of the Fief de la Fosse is occupied by the Town Hill, which, before the construction of Fort Regent early in the 19th century, was common land belonging to the inhabitants of the Vingtaine de la Ville. Their right to it derived from the same ancient grant as had given the site of the town itself to the Abbey of St Helier, only in this case the Seigneur of Samares had not relinquished his overlordship of the land, but had expressly retained his right of free warren on the hill.

This seems clear from the passage in the 1299 Assize Roll cited above in connection with wreck, and it is also stated to be the position by the leading jurist Jean Poingdestre in the seventeenth century. The right of warren was described in 1299 as "the privilege of ... free hunting of rabbits over the whole mount of St Helier with dogs, ferrets, nets and sticks", but it fell into disuse, and an attempt to revive it in Poingdestre's day led to much trouble.

The Fief du Hommet was a holding on the coast at St Clement, immediately to the east of Samares, which was confiscated by King John from Thomas du Hommet at the time of the loss of continental Normandy in 1204. The du Hommets were a Norman family of consequence who adhered to the French king at the separation: Thomas was a younger son of Guillaume du Hommet, Constable of Normandy.

The holding was regranted to Thomas Paynel, along with a number of other Jersey fiefs, including the important one to which a later holder was to give his name of Meleches, but it was confiscated again after the Paynel family also went over to the French side in about 1216.

The Extente of 1274 tells us nothing about this fief except that it owed full relief; however, by 1331 it had been divided into two halves, one held by the Seigneur of Sarnares, who had recently bought it from Jourdain du Mont, and the other by Richard du Crapedoit. The Extentes of 1607 and 1668 show both halves in the hands of the Seigneur of Samares under the names of Fief du Hommet and Fief de Crapedoit respectively, and as such they remain dependencies of Samares to this day.

Le Hommet is chiefly remembered for a curious and picturesque feature of its tenure, of which the earliest recorded mention seems to be in the extente of the lands and services of the Fief de Sarnares and its dependencies which was drawn up at the instance of the young Seigneur, Daniel Dumaresq, in 1608: on the day the Seigneur's wife got up from childbed, the parson of St Clement was supposed to take her on a white horse to be churched.

Fiefs confused

All this is in de Gruchy. However, some other writers, including Langton, have confused the Fief du Hommet in St Clement with an entirely different holding called Le Hommet in the parish of Grouville. This was at Gorey - the new Gorey Village housing develpment is built on part of its land - and was held in the 14th century by a branch of the de Carteret family which, to make matters worse, has been widely confused with the seigneurial line of St Ouen. This muddle will, I hope, be sorted out in my forthcoming book on St Ouen's Manor, but meanwhile it should be stressed that the Regnaud de Carteret who fell victim to the Black Death in the spring of 1349 was not the Seigneur of St Ouen,as has been universally assumed, and that as far as we know his manor of Le Hommet at Gorey had nothing whatever to do with Samares.

The early mediaeval Seigneurs, c1180-1270

One of the weak points in Langton's account of the Seigneurs of Sarnares is at the beginning, where he tries to associate the fief with the de St Hilaire family as early as the twelfth century, a mistake unfortunately perpetuated in G R Balleine's The Bailiwick of Jersey and in Volume I of Joan Stevens' Old Jersey Houses.

De Gruchy reads the 12th and 13th-century sources quite differently, but his version is not entirely satisfactory either. Another interpretation again is offered by Sir Havilland de Sausmarez in his paper The Sausmarez family in the Channel Islands before 1350, published in Report and Transactions of La Societe Guernesiaise (1931, vol. XI, pp.170-8). We must examine the evidence in some depth here in order to give a clear outline of the history of the fief at this period.

Samares first appears in our records towards the end of the 12th century. It was held at that time by a family called de Salinelles, a name which means little saltpans and was presumably derived from the locality. The earliest known reference is in 1186, in a Bull of Pope Urban III confirming the possessions of the Abbey of St Helier at the time of its reduction to the status of a priory of the Abbey of Cherbourg. The Jersey endowments include the tithe of two carucates of land at Samares – ‘’decima camparti de duabus carrucatis terre in Salmaresch’’ - which Guillaume de Salinelles had given to the Abbey for the soul of his wife.

It was presumably this same Guillaume de Salinelles who, at some time around 1180, witnessed a charter whereby Regnaud de Carteret of St Ouen gave the Abbey some land at Val de la Mare; his name heads a list of several lay witnesses to the charter, following the names of two priests, a position which accords with his status as Seigneur of Samares,

In 1218 Guillaume de Salinelles, knight (miles), probably the son of the Guillaume of 1180, gave a tithe of his windmill in Jersey to the Abbey of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte in the Cotentin; he also, together with other chief men of Jersey and Guernsey, attested two letters of Philippe d' Aubigny, Warden of the Islands, in 1218 and 1219 concerning the property held in the islands by the Abbey of Mont St Michel. Then in 1221 we find Guillaume de Salinelles, knight, son of Guillaume, restoring to the Abbey of Ste Trinite at Caen a vavassorie in Jersey of which he and his father before him had been wrongfully in possession.

Sir Havilland de Sausmarez thought this was still the Guillaume of 1218-19; de Gruchy assumes that the latter had died and that it was his son who was making restitution to the Abbess of Caen in 1221, which may be right, but does not seem to me to be necessarily implied by the evidence.

1221 charter

There is nothing in the 1221 charter to indicate how long Guillaume de Salinelles and his father had had the vavassorie in their hands. It does, however, tell us that Guillaume's eldest son was old enough to give his consent to the restitution, so Guillaume himself cannot have been born much after 1180, at the latest, and could well have been the son, rather than the grandson, of the Guillaume mentioned in Regnaud de Carteret's charter of that time and in the Bull of 1186.

The last known record of the name de Salinelles in relation to Jersey is found on the Close Rolls of Henry III, in 1226, when Guillaume de Salinelles - probably the donor of the charter of 1221 - received from the King the sum of three marks for his expenses (Lettres Closes, p.23).

The name also occurs in continental Normandy, and it is possible, though cannot be proved, that the Guillaume de Salinelles who held lands in the Bessin in 1198 was the Guillaume who would have been Seigneur of Sarnares at that time. If so, he or his son must have chosen allegiance to King John, when continental Normandy was lost to the French in 1204, or the fief of Samares would have been confiscated.

If the Jersey and continental de Salinelles were, indeed, the same family, the surname presumably originated here, for it would be an unlikely coincidence that a Norman lord called de Salinelles should acquire a holding in Jersey whose topography exactly matched his name; however, as de Gruchy observes, it is the kind of name which might well have arisen independently in different places and there may have been no relationship.

Next, in 1254, we find Guillaume de Saumarais, a knight and apparently a Seigneur (dominus Guillelmus de Saumarais, miles) present in Guernsey in a jury composed of leading men of both Guernsey and Jersey, and in 1263-65 he appears again, this time as a justicier appointed, together with Raoul d'Aubigny, to hear a case between William de Cheney and the Abbot of Mont St Michel concerning some land in Guernsey.

This Guillaume de Saumarais was clearly a man of consequence in one or other of the islands and Sir Havilland de Sausmarez argues that he was, in fact, the unnamed filius primogenitus who ratified Guillaume de Salinelles' charter of restitution to the Abbess of Caen in 1221, known in later life by the name of his fief instead of his paternal surname.

Other instances of this were to occur later, as we shall see. De Gruchy agrees that he may have been a de Salinelles but equates him with the actual donor of the 1221 charter, which cannot be right because it would make him a man of eighty or more by the time of his appointment as a justicier in 1263. Alternatively, of course - as de Gruchy says - it is possible that he was a de Sausmarez of Guernsey, for we do not know how early that family branched off from the Sarnares line from which it is assumed to descend: according to Sir Havilland the earliest mention of the name in relation to holdings in Guernsey is found at about this time.

However, the passage from the Assize Roll of 1299 about Marguerite de Saumarais and the heirs to her husband's estate, discussed below, argues strongly (if I have correctly interpreted it) that Guillaume de Saumarais was Seigneur of the Jersey fief; and, if we can take at its face value the statement of the Seigneur of that time that the twelfth-century Seigneurs were his ancestors, it must follow that Guillaume de Saumarais was of the de Salinelles family.


The de St Hilaires, c1270-1340

From 1274 to 1331 our records show the fief of Samares, including its branch in St Helier, in the hands of a family whose name appears sometimes as de St Helier (de Sancto Helerio, Elerio, Ellerio) and sometimes as de St Hilaire (de Sancto Hilario, Hillario, Hylario). Like the de Salinelles, the Seigneurs of this line are frequently referred to as knights. For the moment I shall distinguish between the names de St Helier and de St Hilaire according to the version given in the original document, before going on to consider the vexed question of which is more likely to be correct.

The Extente of 1274 tells us, not expressly but by clear implication, that Pierre de St Helier was Seigneur of Samares at that time. This may be assumed to be the same man as appears on several occasions thereafter as a justicier under the name Pierre de St Hilaire, knight. In 1285 he was appointed with two others to form a new tribunal to hear the case between Mont St Michel and the de Cheney family, which was still dragging on after twenty years.

A further commission followed in 1286, and in 1291 he was a Justice of Assize; one of the documents in connection with this bears a fragment of his seal, an important point to which we shall return shortly.

In the same year he was one of the arbitrators of a settlement between Philippe Le Breton and the Prior of St Clement, and the witnesses whose names appear on the endorsement include his son Pierre, Petrus filius domini P de Sancto Hylario.

The Pierre de St Hilaire, or de St Helier, of the last paragraph, whom we may call Pierre I, was still alive in 1296, when he wrote from the Vicomte d' Avranches concerning his son, who was in Jersey par la raison de l'heritage de sa mere. The letter is quoted by Sir Havilland de Sausmarez from the Recueil des actes inedits des Dues de Bretagne.

Marriage to heiress

It is an important link in the chain of evidence, for the reference to l'heritage de sa mere supports the argument, which is accepted by both de Sausmarez and de Gruchy, that this family - or in de Sausmarez' version, this branch of it, as explained below - acquired the fief of Samares through marriage with a de Salinelles heiress: it enables us to posit that Pierre I held the fief in 1274 not in his own right but in right of his wife (causa uxoris), or possibly as her widower (causa viduitatis). There is in fact no reason to assume that she was not still living in 1274, but she evidently died in her husband's lifetime at some date no later than 1296.

By the time of the Assizes of 1299-1300, Pierre himself was dead and had been succeeded as Seigneur of Samares by his son Pierre II, described in the Assize Roll as Pierre de Saumarais, son of Pierre de St Helier. The reference is on page 64 of Charles Stevens' invaluable English translation of the Roll in the Societe Jersiaise Library; it is hardly necessary to add by way of confirmation that he has copied the names correctly from Professor Le Patourel's transcript of the Latin original.

Pierre II told the Justices that his ancestors had held the fief of Samares from time immemorial, and in particular that they had given the site of the town to the Abbey of St Helier at a time when Samares must have been in the possession of the de Salinelles family. This is not quite conclusive proof that he was a descendant of the de Salinelles, for in the Middle Ages the word antecessor, literally 'one who goes before', was not always used as precisely as the modern word ancestor, which is derived from it; but, taking it in conjunction with the other evidence, the probability seems strong that Pierre really is saying that the de Salinelles Seigneurs were his forebears and not merely his predecessors.

And, in fact, though it does not seem to have previously been recognized, the Assize Roll may tell us just how the descent took place. On pages 15-17 of Stevens' translation is a long entry concerning Marguerite, widow of Guillaume de Saumarais, knight, and tile arrears of dower owed to her by Pierre de Saumarais as Guillaume's heir. Guillaume de Saumarais is described as dudum defunctus, and the exact meaning of the adverb dudum is crucial in determining the relevance of this passage to the Sarnares genealogy.

It is a contraction of the conjunctive phrase diu dum which means 'a long time since' (as in 'it is a long time since he died'); in classical Latin this literal meaning has been preserved in the negative expression haud dudum, 'not long ago', but the word dudum alone is generally used, paradoxically, to mean much the same thing in a less emphatic form, 'a little while ago'.

Charles Stevens, therefore, has quite properly translated dudum defunctus in the Assize Roll as 'lately deceased'. However, Guillaume's death cannot have been all that recent, for the dower agreement had already been acknowledged at the previous Assizes in 1295 and in fact he must have died some time even before this, since by 1299 the arrears of dower at £34 tournois a year on his Jersey lands amounted to £221.

These figures imply a substantial estate, and the obvious inference is that it was the fief of Samares; but in that case Marguerite's 'lately deceased' husband must have died at least 25 years earlier, before 1274 when Pierre I de St Hilaire was apparently in possession of the fief in right of his wife.

Dictionaries of mediaeval Latin do not list dudum as a word whose mediaeval usage differs from the classical one, but it is possible that the original meaning of 'long ago' survived alongside the more idiomatic sense of 'lately'; alternatively, as Mr T A Dorey has suggested to me, the word may have been used in the latter sense but in an imprecise way, just as today we sometimes use the expression 'the late' in relation to people who in fact have been dead for many years - at the beginning of this article, for example, I referred to the late Sir James Knott, who died in 1934.

de Saumerais

If either of these explanations can be accepted the passage becomes highly illuminating, for it tells us clearly, at least in outline, how Samares passed to the de St Hilaires. Marguerite was the widow either of the Guillaume de Saumarais of 1254 and 1263-5, né de Salinelles, or of a son of the same name; in the former case she must have been a good deal younger than her husband and was perhaps his second wife. When Guillaume died, at some time before 1274, Samares descended to his daughter and heiress, the wife of Pierre I de St Hilaire; on her death it was inherited by her son Pierre II who, like his grandfather, sometimes called himself de Saumarais. Meanwhile Marguerite was still alive and claiming, if not actually receiving, her annuity of £34 by way of dower on the estate as Guillaume's widow.

If this theory is correct the date by which Pierre I's wife must be assumed to have died can be moved back a couple of years from 1296 to 1294, for we are told that Pierre de Saumarais had a brother Guillaume who 'controlled' (tenuit) the arrangements regarding Marguerite's dower in about 1294-5. This Guillaume may have been an elder brother who by 1299 had died without issue, leaving Pierre as his grandfather's heir to negotiate with Marguerite over her dower; but he could equally well have been a younger brother acting on Pierre's behalf while the latter was abroad, for we know that in 1323 and again in 1328 Pierre II, Seigneur of Samares, gave a power of attorney to a Guillaume de St Hilaire who seems to have been known in Jersey as Guillaume de Saumarais or de Samares (see references cited by Sir Havilland de Sausmarez, and the quo warranto plea of 1323 mentioned below).

In the Assize Roll of 1309 Pierre II appears frequently, sometimes as Pierre de Sausmareys and sometimes as Pierre de St Helier , Seigneur de Sausmareys. As Pierre de St Hilaire, we find him in the list of Seigneurs owing suit of court for their fiefs in 1323 (fragments printed at the end of the Extente of 1331).

He died before 1329, when the accounts of John de Roches, Warden of the Islands, show a receipt of 40 sols by way of relief on his estate (Ann. Bull. Soc. Jersiaise, 1912, vol. 7(3), p.179); his successor, the last of this family to hold the fief, was Guillaume de St Hilaire, probably his son (Extente of 1331).

Two questions remain to be considered before we leave the subject of the de St Hilaires. The first is what their name really was. It seems certain from other records that a family named de St Helier did, in fact, exist in Jersey at this time and had been established here since before the separation of the Channel Islands from continental Normandy in 1204. Did the Seigneurs of Sarnares belong to this family, or were they, as tradition makes them, a branch of the great Norman house of St Hilaire de Harcouet?

de Gruchy's view challenged

De Gruchy is in no doubt whatever that the former is the case. Dismissing the association with St Hilaire de Harcouet as a myth, he states with conviction that the name was de St Helier, the form de Sancto Hilario and its variants being merely a substitution by English scribes to whom Hilary was a familiar figure in the calendar of saints and Helier was not.

Certainly this happened extensively in later times in relation to the town and parish of St Helier. With regard to the mediaeval Seigneurs of Samares, however, I cannot see that the evidence supports de Gruchy's view. To begin with, there is the seal on the letter issued by Pierre de St Hilaire and his fellow judges in 1291, illustrated on Plate XII of the Cartulaire.

Though broken, it clearly shows the heraldic device of three stars; Major Rybot, in his introductory note on the heraldry of the Cartulaire, considered this satisfactory evidence as to which of the many branches of the de St Hilaire family the Seigneurs of Sarnares belonged to, since the arms of the de St Hilaires of Boucey, near Pontorson in the Avranchin, were three gold stars on a blue ground.

It is not enough to dismiss this, as de Gruchy does, with the remark that "heraldry ... was then in too fluid a state to make it a safe guide to genealogy", when the document in question is de St Hilaire's own act under his seal, in which the presumption must be that his name would be correctly given.

Then we have the quo warranto plea relating to Sarnares from the Assizes of 1323, of which an authenticated copy, taken from a vidimus of 1548, is preserved in the 18th century manuscript books of Thomas Le Maistre in the Societe Jersiaise Library. This is most precise with regard to names, and valuably so. The Seigneur of Samares is Petrus de Sancto Hilario; his fief is Manorium de Samares; the attorney who represented him before the justices is Guillelmus de Sammaresq; and the seigneurial rights which he was challenged to defend include wreck of the sea in parochia Sancti Clementis et Sancti Elerii, and free warren in monte Sancti Elerii. There is no scribal confusion here between Helier and Hilary. In the Extente of 1331 and the fragments appended to it the two names are likewise clearly distinguished.

So, though de Gruchy is an authority from whom one hesitates to differ, I am forced to conclude that in this case he is mistaken and that the Seigneurs of Samares in the late 13th and early 14th centuries were, in fact, a branch of the St Hilaires de Harcouet. The true explanation of their being called sometimes de St Hilaire and some¬times de St Helier in our records is, I think, not that English clerks wrongly transcribed a Jersey name which happened to resemble one they knew, but the opposite: the name de St Hilaire, though retained by the family itself, was converted to de St Helier in common usage in Jersey where the name St Helier was so familiar and a family called de St Helier was already established.

The same thing happened two hundred years later with John Nichol of Penrose, the Cornishman who bought Longueville Manor in 1480. In Jersey he was called Jean Nicolle, and his son Oates Nichol became Hostes Nicolle, grandfather of the Bailiff of the same name.

William Rufus

The second question concerns the legend that the de St Hilaire tenure of Samares dates back to the reign of William Rufus. The authority for this is a much-quoted document (printed as Appendix I to Langton's article) dated 'the 29th year after the conquest of England', ie 1095, and purporting to be a grant of Samares Manor by the King to Raoul (or Rodolphe) de St Hilaire for himself and his heirs in tail male.

De Gruchy pours scorn on this "absurd faked charter", but a more temperate examination shows it to be not so much absurd as puzzling. Jeune printed it in 1798 and de la Croix in 1859, in French only in both cases, with no indication of its provenance. Partly for this reason, Dupont in 1870 cast doubt on its authenticity (Histoire du Cotentin et de ses lies).

This French version is, in fact, a slightly defective translation of a Latin text, which is enrolled in the Le Maistre manuscripts, but even in the Latin the document is quite unlike a genuine charter of the end of the 11th century. Among a sheaf of notes relating to Samares in the Societe Jersiaise Library is a copy in E T Nicolle's handwriting of the Latin version, with a note in French in a different hand, evidently by an authority on mediaeval documents to whom Nicolle submitted the text for comment.

This note states definitely that the document cannot date from 1095: it is a typical 13th- or 14nth-century lettre close, the product of an organized chancery such as did not yet exist in William II's reign, and has other internal characteristics incompatible with its supposed date.

De Gruchy, who evidently did not know of the Latin version, thought the charter was an 18th-century forgery. That is unlikely in view of its presence in the Le Maistre manuscripts, but why a document in the form of a 13th-century royal letter should have been faked, either then or later, to represent a grant of 1095 is hard to fathom.

Le Maistre was an extremely accurate copyist who would not have made a mistake in transcription, and the style in which the document is dated – Anno post conquisitionem Angliae vicesimo nona - seems to rule out any possibility that the surviving copies might have been taken from a genuine charter of the 13th century whose date was misread because words were missing or illegible through damage. Even if this were possible it would be of no help, for Raoul de St Hilaire will not fit into the genealogy of the Seigneurs of Samares at this period.

Both Langton and de Sausmarez, while admitting that the charter is of doubtful authenticity, are reluctant to dismiss it altogether, and are thus faced with the problem of accommodating the de Salinelles Seigneurs within the hypothesis that the fief of Samares was in the hands of the de St Hilaire family before 1100.

de Sausmareys

Langton at one point seems to imply that the name Salinelles may have been a corruption of St Hilaire, which is wholly inadmissible. Sir Havilland is rather elaborately careful not to commit himself, but suggests that his hypothetical early de St Hilaires may have adopted the name de Salinelles in Jersey after the site of their holding, just as the later ones were sometimes called de Sausmareys, and that the 13th century de Salinelles/de Saumarais heiress who brought Samares as her dowry to Pierre I de St Hilaire was thus marrying back into her own family.

This is not, perhaps, strictly impossible, but seems most unlikely; it is surely more reasonable to regard the grant to Raoul de St Hilaire in 1095 as pure fiction and to assume that the de St Hilaires had no connection with Sarnares until Pierre I acquired it by marriage at some time prior to 1274.

There is, however, a possible clue to the mystery - though one which de Sausmarez himself does not follow up - in the genealogical table accompanying his paper, compiled with the assistance of Miss Edith Carey.

In this, Raoul de St Hilaire is tentatively identified with the Ralf de Salsomara mentioned in the list of donors to the abbey of Foucarmont, in the diocese of Rouen, whose gifts were confirmed by a charter of Henry II in about 1160 (J H Round, 'Calendar of Documents preserved in France'); and William de Salsomara, who in 1169 was a witness to a charter of Bartholomew, Bishop of Exeter, is shown as Raoul's son and the father of the Guillaume de Salinelles of whom we first hear around 1180.

I have not yet had the opportunity of checking to see if anything is known of the de Salsomara family beyond these two references, but meanwhile they prompt a line of speculation which is worth noting down, though it can never be proved and may be wide of the mark. Ralf and William de Salsomara were evidently real people, but the only authority for the existence of Raoul de St Hilaire seems to be the spurious grant of 1095.

Can the purpose of this document have been to disguise, for some reason lost to history, the fact that the de St Hilaire family had acquired the fief by marriage? To anyone with a motive for doing this, the discovery of a reference to Ralf de Salsomara - whether or not that shadowy figure really had anything to do with Samares - may have suggested a convincing way of working the fraud: by faking a grant to Ralf in which he was made to appear as a paternal de St Hilaire ancestor, and in which, for good measure, it was stipulated that the fief was to descend only to his direct heirs in the male line or revert to the Crown in default.


Samares in the later Middle Ages, c.1340-1S00

At the beginning of the Hundred Years' War Guillaume de St Hilaire sided with the French king, resulting in the confiscation of Samares by Edward III in about 1340. It was regranted in 1346 to Geffrey de Thoresby, an Englishman who had fought with distinction in the same year at Crecy and at the siege of Calais. In 1351 he was granted permssion to sell the fief to John Mautravers, the Warden of the Islands, and his wife Agnes; a few years later, it passed - probably again by sale although no record appears to have survived - into the hands of Philippe de Barentin.

The de Barentins had been Seigneurs of Rozel for a little over a century and were for a time the dominant family in the island. In 1323 and 1331 we find the fief of Rozel taking precedence of St Ouen at the Assise d'Heritage. However, not long after Philippe de Barentin had acquired Samares, their pre-eminence came to an abrupt end.

By 1362 Philippe had gone to live in England, and in 1367 he sold all his Jersey estates to his attorneys, Raoul Lempriere and Guillaume Payn. Tradition has it that he fled the island following the murder of a man named Jehannet de St Martin, a member of another leading Jersey family, who had his tongue tom from his mouth by de Barentin's two sons for having allegedly slandered their mother.

The authority for this story is a Latin manuscript of about 1540, printed with a French translation in Ann. Bull. Soc. Jersiaise, 1902. It probably contains a kernel of truth: the circumstances of the sale certainly imply a crisis of some kind in the family's affairs, and before the Reformation there was a wayside cross called La Croix de Jehannet on the road from St Martin's Church to Trinity, supposedly marking the scene of the crime.

But the details are highly suspect, particularly the curious assertion that Lernpriere and Payn were 'strangers' of Breton origin, and the whole story is rejected by de Gruchy as based on factual errors. Once again I think he is a little too sweeping in his dismissal, but his trenchant comments should nevertheless be borne in mind when reading Langton's account of the sale and the entry under Philippe de Barentin in Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey.

When Lempriere and Payn divided the de Barentin fiefs between them in 1382, Rozel went to the former and Samares to the latter; the division must have taken place de facto some time before the contract was passed, for Guillaume Payn is already described as Seigneur of Samares in 1380 (Ann. Bull. Soc. Jersiaise, 1899). The fief was to remain in the hands of his descendants until 1734, twice passing through the female line.

Dumaresq/Payn arms

Payn seigneurs

Our knowledge of the Payn Seigneurs is very defective, the late 14th and 15th centuries being a period for which historical sources in Jersey are notoriously meagre. Guillaume Payn seems to have been a Jurat since 1352, and probably died soon after the 1382 partage, because our last record of him as a Jurat is in 1381.

There is then a gap of 15 years before another Guillaume Payn appears as a Jurat between 1397 and 1401; evidently the Seigneur of Samares, since his name heads the list after the Seigneurs of St Ouen and Rozel. The next Payn Jurat who can be identified as Seigneur of Sarnares is John Payn, who first appears in 1430 and goes on till 1442, and of whom we hear in an act of the Royal Court in 1438, enrolled in the Le Maistre manuscripts. This records an interesting argument between Payn and one of the tenants of the fief, Jannequin Perchard, who had become a Jurat and claimed that in consequence he was no longer liable to feudal services; Payn thought otherwise, and by a majority verdict the Court found in his favour.

After John Payn there is another long interval until 1477, when Philippe (or Philippot) Payn, perhaps his grandson, is first recorded as a Jurat. Philippe was the last of the direct male line; he was still alive in the early part of 1497, but had died by the following year when his widow Thomasse, nee de Carteret, obtained licence from the Bishop of Coutances to have Mass celebrated 'in a certain oratory situated beneath her manor house'.

Almost certainly this was the undercroft which survives in the west wing of the Manor today, and which has a small square window of about 1500 in its west wall, but whether it was part of a new building or a conversion of an existing cellar is not clear.

Philippe Payn has left us a rich architectural legacy , for we seem to be in his debt for most, and possibly all, of the extensive remodelling of St Clement's Church which took place at this period.

The Payn shield of arms with its three trefoils can be seen in two places inside the church: on a tablet in the spandrel above the central pillar of the chancel arcade, and on the north-west pier of the remodelled crossing under the tower, facing into the nave. These represent two different building operations, both evidently carried out at Payn expense. The crossing is a simpler version of those at St Saviour and at the Town Church, without the inner order of arches carried on attached shafts, but otherwise exactly similar in design and detail to the other two and obviously the work of the same craftsman.


The south side of the chancel was refaced externally at the same time, with new windows and buttresses, the interior splay of the south-east window incorporating a trefoil-headed piscina. All this work is typical of the fine, late, French Gothic phase in the Jersey churches which, as Christopher Aubin and I have argued elsewhere (Ann. Bull. Soc. Jersiaise, 1985 is later than John McCormack places it in his Channel Island Churches, and probably dates from after the establishment of the Privilege of Neutrality in 1480.

Examination of the wall where the chancel arcade adjoins the north-east crossing pier shows that the arcade and the north chapel into which it opens are earlier than the reconstruction of the crossing, but probably not very much earlier, despite the misleadingly primitive external appearance of the chapel; one might broadly suggest that this work dates from the 1480s and the crossing and south side of the chancel from the 1490s, both being financed by the wealth and piety of Philippe Payn. More problematic is a third stone shield high in the exterior gable of the chancel, above the finial of the magnificent east window. The rebuilding of the east end of the chancel in its present form was clearly another distinct stage in the transformation of the church: its design is totally unrelated to that of the refaced south wall and is far more sophisticated, while the arrangement of the buttresses shows that it postdates the construction of the north chapel.

Its closest affinities in style and execution seem to be with work at Grouville and St Saviour which there are grounds for dating well into the sixteenth century, and on this basis I should have been inclined to date the east end at St Clement around 1520-30. However, the arms above the window, though badly weathered, still look like the Payn trefoils; and Philippe Payn, the last Seigneur of Samares to bear these except as a quartering or impalement, was dead by 1498.

On his death the fief of Samares and its dependencies were inherited by his daughter Mabel, whose husband, John Dumaresq of Vinchelez de Bas, is described as Seigneur of Samares causa uxoris in 1505. There is some confusion with regard to John Dumaresq's dates. J A Messervy's list of Jurats (Ann. Bull. Soc. Jersiaise, 1899, which is usually reliable, shows him as a Jurat from 1482 until his death in about 1526, but according to Miss Julia Marett in her paper on the Vinchelez family and fiefs (Ann. Bull. Soc. Jersiaise, 1931) he did not come of age until 1485.

It cannot have been many years after this that he married Mabel Payn, considering that their great-grandson, a minor in 1557, was of age by 1566 and his elder daughter was married in 1580. Langton's statement that John Dumaresq is mentioned as Seigneur of Samares in the Extente of 1528 is a mistake. The Extente refers only to the lordship of "Saint Mares", not to the lord, and by 1528 Mabel Dumaresq was a widow.

The Manor Farm stone

Heraldic stone

The Payn/Dumaresq marriage is commemorated by a heraldic stone now built into a wall at the Manor farm, with a shield on which the three scallops of Dumaresq are dimidiated with the three trefoils of Payn. Dimidiation was an early method of marshalling the arms of a heraldic heiress on a shield with those of her husband: the two shields were cut in half vertically and the left half of one was placed against the right half of the other.

In English heraldry this practice was generally abandoned by the end of the Middle Ages in favour of impalement - where the two complete coats of arms are displayed side by side on the shield, becoming somewhat attenuated in the process - or quartering, the most familiar and satisfactory method, in which the shield is divided in four and the two coats of arms are repeated in diagonally opposite quarters.

However, dimidiation remained popular in Jersey, a dimidiated shield being no doubt easier to carve in granite because it did not involve cutting more and smaller motifs. I should like to think that the three weathered lumps on the shield above the east window of the church might be one scallop, one trefoil and one half-and-half, as on the stone at the Manor, for it would make dating so much easier; unfortunately the indications are that they are all trefoils.

Mabel Dumaresq lived on until 1565, by which time she must have been almost if not over ninety years of age.

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