Brief notes on Jersey families

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Brief notes on Jersey families – Aboriginal and immigrant


J Bertrand Payne

By J Bertrand Payne, Author of An Armorial of Jersey, from The Herald and Genealogist 1862

The natives of the beautiful and now much-visited island of Jersey possessed, down to the close of the last century, marked individualities and peculiarities. These distinguished them, not only from their fellow subjects in England, but, to some extent, also from their brethren, dwellers in the other smaller and less important isles of the Channel Archipelago.

Belonging as Napoleon pointedly remarked 'geographically to France', and severed from England by a tedious and often dangerous voyage, [1] Jersey had little connection with the dominant country other than to receive from it two classes of defenders – Governors and Justices-Itinerant. The one protected the islanders from enemies at home, who, in the guise of Seigneurs and Jurats, cried havoc with the lands, lives and liberties of the commonalty. [2]

The other led the Jerseymen, naturally fearless, to combat with success the numerous and well-sustained attacks of their powerful and envious neighbours, the French. The latter, for five centuries, scarcely ceased their endeavours to seize the tantalising island, whose shores were plainly to be seen from their own, whose people spoke a dialect of their mother-tongue, and, by every qualification save that of will, were eminently calculated, by position and extraction, to be their compatriots.

The reason that so strangely led the Channel Islanders at the period of the subjugation of Normandy by Philip Augustus to remain firmly attached to the English crown and government has never been, and probably never will be, discovered. This choice was as much against the seeming interest as it was against the peace of the Jerseymen; for it entailed on them and their descendants for these six centuries an almost uninterrupted succession of battles and sieges, through the chequered fortunes of which, sometimes at the cost of semi-capture, they have alone been enabled to hold their own. [3]

Family origins

The families of Jersey may be classified under five heads:

  • The original Norman settlers
  • Families of English extraction
  • Immigrants of continental derivation (chiefly French), the victims of the various political and religious disturbances that convulsed Europe from the 15th to the 17th centuries
  • Royalist sufferers from the great French Revolution of 1789
  • Political refugees from France since the year 1848 <rer>The majority of immigrants from France from the second half of the 19th century were not refugees, but seasonal farmworkers who decided to settle in the island with their families. The political upheaval in France - the second following the 1789 revolution - in 1848 did not bring significant numbers of refugees to Jersey</ref>

Of these, the first named class is by far and, on all accounts, the most important; none of the other four having succeeded in vitally disturbing local manners, customs or language.

These early settlers in Jersey were, it may be premised, as essentially Norman as their cousins on the mainland. The Extentes (or Rolls of the insular Crown Dues) of 1297 [4] and 1331, record names well known on both sides of the Channel for ancient descent and for warlike achievement.

The descendants of these tenants of the King exist, in most instances,to this day, unchanged in name, social position, and parish. Even at the period referred to, surnames invariably distinguished the islanders, no one individual being recorded without one.

Most of them were arbitrary, as opposed to territorial names, or names derived from personal qualities or vocations; indeed, a large number of the more considerable tenants possessed fiefs named after themselves. Few, if any of the Jerseymen, appear to have derived their patronymics from insular or other localities.

The dialect peculiar to Jersey, as present spoken chiefly by the peasantry, with variations particular to each of its twelve parishes, is nearly identical with the language spoken by the soldiers of William the Conqueror, and in which the poet Wace, himself a Jerseyman, wrote his metrical Chronicles in the reign of Henry II.

Lucy de Carteret

De Carteret

Among the names that shed lustre on the aboriginal section of the Jersey families may be noted that of De Carteret, whose members have possessed St Ouen's Manor from the early part of the 12th century, and have given for some six hundred years an almost uninterrupted roll of military and judicial worthies to their country.

No fewer than three times were the French repelled when invading the island in almost overwhelming force by the Jerseymen under the leadership of the De Carterets.

The local royalists, and their prince, afterwards Charles II, found in Sir George Carteret a spirited leader and generous host. From the latter descended the famous John Carteret, Earl of Granville, Prime Minister of George I [5], the ornament of his age and country, and the collateral ancestor of the present Marquess of Bath, and of several other noblemen of this kingdom.


The family of Lempriere is another of almost immemorial existence in Jersey, where its members have possessed fiefs from the 14th century. Of this house was Michael Lempriere, the Republican Bailiff of the island, the friend of Cromwell, and the leader of the local Roundheads. Dr Lempriere, of Classical Dictionary fame, was a later unit of this family – one of which has for some 14 generations given the place of its nativity a host of Bailiffs and Jurats, and to the English service many eminent naval and military officers.


Jurats (local judges) and Seigneurs named Payn are recorded from the earliest historic period. This house was staunchly loyal at the period of the Great Rebellion. Colonely Payne, who assisted Charles II in his escape from Sussex to the continent, was one of its members. Another, Abraham Payn, sometime Constable of his native parish of St Martin, emigrated to the neighbouring coast of Devonshire during the sway of the Cromwellians, and founded a family of which the late Ralph Payne, Lord Lavington, the present Sir Charles Gillies Payne, Bt, and others of the name, descended from a common source, belong.

This house originates from the Norman family of Payen (Lat Paganus) to which the ancient Romaunts assign an antiquity as high as the period of the Roman occupation of Neustria, then known as Lugdunensis Secunda.

If not actually the oldest settled patronymic extant in western Europe, it disputes the palm of antiquity with any other. A Fitz-Paganus figures in most of the copies of the soi-disant Battle Abbey Roll, and the name appears in the extinct English Baronage.

Hugues Paganus was the principal founder of the order of the Knight Templars. And the same name, with variations in accordance with the genius of each language, may be found in almost every European nation.


Valpy, originally Volpi, said to have been transplanted from Italy at the period of the Norman excursion thither, a name well known in England's classical and bibliographical circles.

Although Payne dismissed the Millais family in six words, it at least gives us a further opportunity to show one of Sir John Everett Millais' beautiful paintings


Millais, a patronymic worshipped among Pre-Raphaelites.


A family which gave a Lord Mayor to London in 1804-05. And a host of other names, of more or less note, and of which bearers still exist, find a place in the list of the insular Crown Tenants of 1331.


Although a large number of Englishmen visited Jersey in the train of the various Governors of the island, very few of these settled there permanently. Exceptions exist in the family of Hamptonne, of Hamptonne, in the parish of St Lawrence, which is descended from an Englishman, Thomas de Hamptonne, Warden of the Norman Isles in 1343.

One of its members, Laurens Hamptonne, was Viscount of Jersey in the time of Charles II and a great favourite of the 'Merrie Monarch'. Several relics of the King's stay are still preserved at Hamptonne House. Among others 'a pair of his silver spurs; the bed on which he slept, and the embroidered quilt that kept him warm; the carved oak table and chair which he used; and a massive silver seal on which are engraved the Hamptonne arms, and which the King is said personally to have given his entertainers'. [6]


The family of Corbet was also of English origin, although of considerable antiquity in Jersey. The last of its members, Colonel Moses Corbet [7] is well and unfavourably known in connection with his surrender of Jersey to the French under Baron Rullecourt in 1781.


Another family, that of Hilgrove, also migrated from England, but I have been unable to discover its county or its armorial bearings; it is now extinct in the island, and its representation became vested in the late Sir Hilgrove Turner, Lieut-Governor of Jersey, one of the boon companions of George IV when Prince Regent. [8]

The Breton wars that ensued on the death of Louis XI of France, and which ended with the decisive battle of St Aubin du Cormier, and the defeat of the Duke of Brittany, sent to Jersey, among other partisans of the losing side, the founders of the insular families of Collas and Lerrier, both of much and deserved local fame.


The name of Cabot is first found in insular records of about this date, and possibly owes to the war in question its introduction to Jersey. The first immigrant is traditionally supposed to have been a younger son of the famous French house of Chabot. It is not impossible that Sebastian Cabot may have owed his extraction to this source, not withstanding the tradition (for it is no more) of his Venetian origin.

His father, one John Cabot, was born or settled at Bristol. Now, from time immemorial Bristol has had trading relations with the Channel Islands, and it is quite within the bounds of probability that the father of this celebrated navigator had, for commercial purposes, taken up his residence at a port in constant communication with his native island. [9]


The troubles connected with the so-called Revocation of the Edict of Nantes caused Jersey to be inundated with a larger influx of 'illustrious foreigners' than it had ever before known. It offered to these the advantages of a common language, and of entire religious and political liberty. Among them came one David Bandinel, a clever and crafty schemer, who became Dean of his adopted country, and a thorn in the side of the adherents of the Crown during Cromwell's time. The late Bodleian librarian, Dr Bulkeley Bandinel, was the last of the elder branch of this family. [10]


Estienne Boudier, a member of a famous and warlike Norman family, settled in Jersey at rather a later date, but from religious motives. His ancestors were seigneurs of fiefs at St Malo, Coutances, Villemer, and other localities both in Normandy and Brittany. Pierre-Francois Boudier, Grand Prior of the Abbey of St Denis, and Superior-General of the Order of the Benedictines, was of this stock. The Rev John Boudier, Vicar of St Mary, Warwick, is now head of this house, which is extinct in France.[11]

Francis Jeune, son of Francois


John Gosset migrated from Jersey to Normandy in the 17th century and died there in 1712. He founded a family, numerous both in England and Jersey, to which the late Isaac Gosset, the great book collector; Capt Ralph Allan Gosset, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons; and many other officials of the army, navy and church belong.[12]


The family of which Dr Francis Jeune, the present Master of Pembroke, late Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and sometime Dean of Jersey, is the chief, was established in the island during the reign of the Grand Monarque and with the foregoing were a large number of the founders of Jersey families, on whose names and members space forbids dilation.[13]

These naturalised families, although mixing cordially and intermarrying with the aborigines of their adopted country, did not, as a rule, either possess or inherit any of the more important estates in the island, or fill high judicial or ecclesiastical offices there. When commerce began to develop itself in Jersey, which it did soon after the Rebellion, the heads of these families were principally engaged in trade, and for the most part were moderately successful in the pursuit of wealth.

But although holding a subordinate position among the gentry of Jersey, these immigrants played a very important part in the history of the island: chiefly they were professional preachers, and all strongly imbued with the doctrines of the Reformed Religion. They were also, we may suppose, more fluent and more impassioned than the Romanist priests, to whom the simple islanders were heretofore accustomed. Thus they were so successful in their proselytism that there exists no record of a single Jerseyman professing, since that period, Roman Catholic doctrines. [14]

French revolution

The French Revolution of 1789 brought to the island a large number of its victims. They consisted principally of members of the ancienne noblesse and of ecclesiastics, mostly of high rank, who were profuse in their expenditure, and who introduced a taste for the belles-lettres and for luxuries, until then unknown to Jersey.

But these visitors, like their fellow-sufferers of 1848 and 1852, made no permanent stay in the island; they came like shadows andso departed, leaving no further traces of their stay than the remains of the polish and high tone of courtesy with which they inoculated their insular hosts.

Perhaps the solitary exception, which proves this rule, is found in the case of Count Henry de Chateaubriand, whose grandfather Count Armand, first cousin of the poet of the name, was the royalist agent in the Channel Islands from 1795 to 1810. He married a Jersey lady, settled in the island, and bought a small estate there, and to this day some members of his family live on it.

Among the later French visitors were Victor Hugo, now living in Guernsey, Pierre Le Roux, Sount Salvandy, and a posse of other refugees, famous for their connection with recent political effervescences in France. But none have had more than a passing connection with their place of residence.

But while the Jerseyman has preserved his characteristics almost untainted through so many centuries, he is, as a national character, now becoming rapidly extinct. His unwritten language has, just when passing away for ever, been preserved by that indefatigable philologist, Prince Lucien Bonaparte, and thus has its monograph.

But the intermarriages that are much in vogue between the hitherto exclusive natives and the English settlers, will, before very long, render but a name and a memory the purest remnant of the ancient Normans, and the people of the oldest dependency of the English Crown.

Editor's notes and references

  1. 'And thence to the Isle of Jersey, one of the most dangerous winter voyages in the world', The Sad Suffering Case of Major-General Overton, a Prisoner in the Isle of Jersey. London. Printed for L Chapman at the Crown in Pope's Head alley, 1659
  2. See the Gossiping Guide to Jersey, p 63
  3. The emergence of documents relating to the period of the loss of Normandy by King John in 1204 now suggests that Jersey and the other Channel Islands remained subject to the British Crown rather than the French Emperor by force rather than by choice – Editor
  4. The Extentes were recorded in 1274 and 1331
  5. John Carteret was never Prime Minister. He was Lord President of the Council during the reign of George II
  6. Payne does not indicate from where this quote was taken. It is now generally acknowledged that Charles II did not stay at Hamptonne, or any of the other country houses which are reputed to have hosted him, but always returned to the safety of Elizabeth Castle at night
  7. Corbet, who was generally known as Moyse, and was Lieut-Governor at the time of the Battle of Jersey, held the military rank of Major. His family tree has not been traced far enough back to establish whether it originated in England or France
  8. Tompkyns Hilgrove Turner was the son of Charles Turner and Madeleine Hilgrove. He was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, not in Jersey as has been claimed by several eminent historians
  9. In his attempt to prove a relationship between an established Jersey family and famous namesakes (something he was frequently guilty of), Payne got his Cabots totally confused. Sebastian Cabot was born in Venice in 1474, the son of an Italian. Their original names were Giovanni and Sebastiano Caboto. They had nothing to do with the Jersey Cabots. If Payne was correct in his assertion that the first Cabots arrived in Jersey at about the same time as the Collas and Lerrier families, after the battle of St Aubin du Cormier, any link to the Cabot explorers would have been impossible, because the battle took place in 1488. But Payne was wrong in this assertion as well. The Cabot family had been present and well established in Jersey for two centuries before the battle. It is quite possible that a Jersey Cabot established a business in Bristol, but he could not have been the father of the explorer
  10. This is another example of total confusion on Payne's behalf. David Bandinel was not a religious refugee from France, but an Italian, who settled in England after travelling in Europe. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes was in 1685, 41 years after Bandinel died while attempting to escape from Mont Orgueil Castle
  11. This particular line of Boudiers may have been extinct when the article was written, but there were thousands of other Boudiers living in France, and there still are today, although it is not a common name in Normandy
  12. Whether this was Payne's error or introduced in the editing stage of his article, John Gosset did not migrate from Jersey to Normandy – he was born in France and moved to Jersey, where he died in 1712. He was the ancestor of those named above - Editor
  13. Payne's policy of anglicising forenames of Jersey people often leads to confusion, as it does here. The former Dean of Jersey was Francois Jeune, and his son Francis, who was a distinguished lawyer in London and became Baron St Helier, was arguably the more famous of the two
  14. This sweeping and inaccurate generalisation is typical of the elitism and snobbery of so much of what Payne wrote, but his income was derived from those whom he called 'the gentry of Jersey', not on 'moderately successful traders' and certainly not on the 'simple islanders'
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