Jersey Fief de Gruchy

From Jerripedia
Jump to: navigation, search


The Fief de Grouchy
or de Gruchy

Origins and suggested date of grant of many fiefs in Jersey,
including the Fief de Grouchy, or de Gruchy, by Guy Dixon

De Gruchy family page

Oxford historian A H Ewen

The late Oxford historian, A H Ewen, author, with Allan de Carteret, of The Fief of Sark, (Guernsey Press, 1969), worked also on the medieval history of Jersey, hoping to publish his findings. This did not materialise. [1] What Ewen had instantly spotted, however, should have been of great interest to future students of Jersey`s early medieval history. He had noticed that Jersey`s fiefs, at this period, were divided into two groups.

The principal fiefs of the north-west of the Island were held by knightly families such as de Carteret, de Morville, d'Orglandres (Orillande), de Craqueville, de la Hague and d'Ouville, all being Norman families from the Cotentin, as were those of Pinel and de Hunout (Henot) in the north of the Island, and de Surville in the centre. [2]

In contrast, Ewen regarded the fiefs held by the knightly families de St Martin (Trinity), [3] de Grouchy, de Rozel, de Quetteville, Malet, [4] de Grainville and de Salinelles (Samarès), [5] in the north-east and south-east of the Island, as being held by Norman families from the Bessin or elsewhere in Normandy.

He thus drew a tentative line across the Island from the south-west to the north-east. He noted that power in the Cotentin, in the early 11th century, lay in the hands of the Neels, Vicomtes de St Sauveur le Vicomte, whose family will have been overlords in continental Normandy to most, if not all, of the Cotentin knights, above.

Likewise, he viewed the families de Grouchy, de Rosel and de Salinelles as being from the Bessin, of which Bayeux was the capital. In this area of Normandy, power was held by the Vicomtes du Bessin. These two Vicomtes, of St Sauveur and the Bessin, led the rebellion in 1047 against William, Duke of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror. With the assistance of Henry I, King of France, the armed uprising was suppressed, seemingly with little quarter given, at the Battle of Val ès Dunes. [6]

It has long been a feature of conquest, to either remove, or restore in a state of comparative enfeeblement, the leaders of a defeated army, and to promote the interests of their erstwhile supporters, thus enabling reconciliation, albeit in buying thereby, loyalty. Ewen believed this had occurred after Val ès Dunes, which would account for the creation in Jersey of fiefs held in capite, being directly from the Crown, in favour of knights from the Cotentin and Bessin. Most of these will have previously been strangers to the Island.

Regranting of former Bessin land

The families de St Martin, de Grainville and Malet were regarded by Ewen as recipients of a part of the probable regranting of land in Jersey, formerly owned by the Vicomtes du Bessin, whilst he acknowledged that the former and latter were from Upper Normandy, as were perhaps the de Grainvilles. With regard to de Quetteville, there were two fiefs of this name, one in the Cotentin, and one in the Pays d`Auge, immediately to the east of the Bessin. In either case, the holders of these two fiefs were likely to have formed a part of the rebel army, which is known to have drawn support from adjoining parts of Normandy. The de Sallinelles were from the Bessin, as were the de Rosels, who held at this time two fiefs near Caen, with another in the Cotentin.

Three exceptions to the above suggested division of the Island, were the early holders of the Fief de Gorges, in St Saviour, whose surname was originally from the Cotentin, as was that of the du Buisson holders of the fief of that name, on the border of St Helier and St Saviour, who were associated with Lessay. The d`Anneville holders of the St Martin fief of this name were also from the Cotentin, probably forming a part of the family of this name owning seigneuries near Barfleur. Any of these may have been, however, early re-grants after forfeiture, or been inherited from another family, with the new owners giving their name, in due course, to their acquired fief.

Finally, the de Grouchys might have formed a part of either the St Sauveur or Bessin contingent of the rebel army, as the 'cradle' of their family is believed to have been in the marshland between the two, at Brevands, which was in close proximity to their later fiefs, and where hamlets retain, to this day, the name Grouchy. It is significant that Ewen`s tentative south-west to north-east line dividing Jersey into two sections had, on its north-eastern extremity, the Fiefs de Grouchy and de Rozel, being situated on the junction between Cotentin and Bessin-held fiefs. In the case of the de Grouchys, this reflected exactly the location of their continental holdings.

Fief Boundaries

The Fief de Grouchy, or de Gruchy, is situated in Trinity. It extends northwards to the shoreline at Bouley Bay, between Les Bouillons in the east and Les Hurets and Le Porteret in the west [7] The bay was used, in westerly winds, as an anchorage and landing place in the Middle Ages. [8] This shoreline includes the small islet aptly named L`Islet, which can be reached at low tide, as Jersey fief holders have a right to the foreshore of their fiefs. The seigneurial house, called for centuries La Maison ès Matthieus, after its owners` preferred Christian name, but since 1847 called La Chasse, is situated on the junction of five fiefs. To quote J.B. Payne, [9] these are "Diélament, de [la] Gruchetterie, [10] Saval, Petit Rozel and Vanaise." Historians have had difficulty distinguishing between the fiefs of Saval and Petit Rozel, let alone their boundaries. What is clear, however, is that they form a part of the north-eastern boundary of the old Fief de Grouchy which, judging from the fief`s common land, or commune, [11] extends eastward to the stream at Les Bouillons, which flows onto the rocks of Bouley Bay at Les Tombelenes. To the east of La Chasse is the Fief of Vanaise. La Chasse, itself, is actually situated on the Fief de la Gruchetterie, with that of Diélament to the south and south-west. What was not known, at the time of the compilation of the Armorial, nor when Medieval Land Tenures in Jersey was being researched, was that the remainder of the original fief, which still retains the name “Fief de Gruchy”, forms the western boundary of the Fief de la Gruchetterie. [12] The lane called Le Chemin de la Falaize, which has a north-to-south axis, divides the present halves, namely, the Fiefs de Gruchy and de la Gruchetterie. Furthermore, research by the author of this article has found definite evidence that both halves of the fief have lost, in the course of the late 18th and 19th centuries, their southern boundaries [13] and that of Gruchy its western boundary, to the benefit of the Fief de Diélament. This process has been enabled by the ownership of all three fiefs by one family, being that of Lempriere, in what has become one legally indivisible holding. [14] How far to the south of the currently-named La Chasse the original fief extended, is therefore not known. Rosemary Hampton [15] believed that its southern boundary included Le Chastel de Sedement.

Seigneurial Dues and Obligations

The Fief de Gruchy was described by G F B de Gruchy as being of interest “on account of the unusual tenure”. It was held in capite, directly from the Crown, being in this case, from the Dukes of Normandy, as described above, but owed no relief [16] He wrote that it owed the Crown “nothing except the service of providing a house on the fief, where the King should have stocks for the keeping of the prisoners of the parishes of St John, St Lawrence, St Helier and Trinity, the King to find the stocks but the King`s tenants of those parishes to guard the prisoners. The onus of providing this house was thrown upon the tenants of the holder, but their other dues to their lord were trifling, a total of 5s and two hens.” De Gruchy continued: “The service is interesting because we have reason to believe that the four parishes constituted the Ministerium de Groceio in 1180, and Groceium is the regular Latinized form of de Gruchy in Norman placenames and the surnames derived therefrom.” [17]

If the dues shown above are added to those due to their seigneur by the tenants of La Gruchetterie, namely the 20 sols two capons (cocks) and 30 eggs per annum, due to Thomas de St Martin, Seigneur of Trinity, in 1515 [18] there is a cash total of 1 Livre 5 sols. Comparing this sum with income received by de St Martin on some other fiefs he owned is revealing: 20 sols, or 1 Livre, for the smaller Fief de la Hougue Dirvault and 7 Livres and 14 sols for the Fief de Craqueville, which was similar in extent, being of about one carucate, or 60 acres, to the undivided Fief de Gruchy.

The slight shortfall in income from the de Grouchy fiefs may have a simple explanation. The prison house for prisoners from the four parishes that constituted the Ministerium de Groceio, links the fief, from the time of its grant, to this ministerium. The Island's three ministeria generated a considerable income for the Crown and were, it would appear, not without legitimate benefit to their holders. In 1180 Gilbert de la Hougue had considered it worthwhile paying 160 Livres to secure office as Minister of the eastern Ministerium of Gorroic. [19] Thus the early seigneurs of the undivided Fief de Gruchy would have been well provided for, so long as they retained the office associated with their fief.

At some date between 1089 and 1180, when Roger Godel was recorded as being the Minister, [20] this had ceased to be the case.

Family tradition, in the French branch of the de Grouchy family, as recorded by the General Comte de Grouchy in 1855, [21] has it that, at the Fall of Normandy in 1204, the de Grouchys were resident in continental Normandy, but fled as a result of events in that year to England and Jersey. Subsequent research by the Vicomte de Grouchy, in about 1872, edited and augmented by the Comte de Folleville, [22] identifies the then head of the family as Richard de Grouchy, one of the knights defending the borders of Normandy. Leaving behind a son who was settled upon his own fief (possibly acquired by marriage) in the Pays de Bray, he and his other issue, including several sons, fled to England, as a result of which he left descendants in England, as well as in Jersey.

This would account for no de Grouchy having been recorded as being held as an Island hostage by the English King John, unlike many others from Jersey, such as Guillaume Malet, [23] as their return to the Island will have been from England rather than directly from Normandy.

Also, the fief, once separated from its ministerium, was of little value.

For information regarding the later history of this fief, see The de Gruchy Family, a history by the Rev J A Messervy.


In 1204, after the Fall of Normandy, the majority of the above fief holders, having their principal estates in continental Normandy, rather than lose them, chose the French allegiance. Ewen thought, at the time of preparing his manuscript, that the de Grouchys were among them. However, in correspondence, he accepted as convincing, with regard to their loyalty to King John, the fact of their continued ownership of the former seigneurial house, especially as the later seigneurs, Lempriere, for this reason held, over the centuries, the fief`s court in this, the de Gruchy`s home.

Notes and references

  1. The reason for this, as given to the author of these notes, who subsequently corresponded with Ewen, was the lack of local co-operation. His unfinished manuscript found its way into the hands of La Société Jersiaise, where it remained, unseen by most future historians, its very existence virtually forgotten
  2. G F B de Gruchy, Medieval Land Tenures in Jersey, (Jersey: Bigwoods, 1957)
  3. Colonel T W M de Guérin, ABSJ IX; notes that the Fief of La Trinité consisted, in 1309, of one carucate, consisting of 60 acres, "a fief of moderate size"
  4. de Gruchy, op cit
  5. de Gruchy, op cit
  6. This uprising had an ethnic, or tribal, element. The Normans of the Cotentin and Bessin were mostly of Danish origin, many of whom still spoke Danish. Those of Upper, or Haute, Normandy were of Norwegian extraction, these being regarded by their West Norman counterparts as being Gallicised
  7. Stevens, Arthur and Stevens, Jersey Place Names 1, 160, 268, bis
  8. This fact may account for "the port of Bouley", or whatever is implied by the term, being included in what was evidently the grant by Henry III of the Fief de Diélament to Drogo de Barentin, Warden of the Isles. It may have indicated that part of the shoreline then used for landings: de Gruchy, op.cit., 74
  9. An Armorial of Jersey, First Instalment, (1858), 121
  10. The name of the eastern half of what is evidently the divided original fief. The western half has retained the name Fief de Grouchy, albeit spelt Grochy or Gruchy: see "Family Page", which gives the likely date and cause of the division
  11. The Fief`s commune, or common, is divided in two by Bouley Bay Hill. The western section extends to Les Hurets, on the high ground above Le Porteret. The eastern section now bears the name "Commune des Fiefs de Diélament et La Gruchetterie." Previously, the Commune de Diélament was situated along the valley slopes immediately to the west of that fief`s manor house. Among the changes to Diélament in the late 18th century, was a new approach road, or avenue, which would adjoin this commune. As the then seigneur owned also the Fief de la Gruchetterie, it was decided to move the commune to land he owned, adjoining the eastern section of his Commune de la Gruchetterie, which resulted in the dual identity
  12. This part of the original fief is now quite small, which led G.F.B. de Gruchy to describe what he believed was the entire fief as “the small Fief de Gruchy”: Medieval Land Tenures in Jersey, (Jersey: Bigwoods, 1957), 85. The original fief seems likely to have comprised about one carucate of land, being 60 acres, which was in Jersey a fief of moderate size
  13. Evidence, to follow
  14. Conveyancers began describing house or land sales, rentes, or other transactions on the former de Gruchy fiefs as being on the "Fief de Diélament, ou autres fiefs"
  15. A Jersey Family, from Vikings to Victorians, (Jersey: Channel Islands Family History Society, 2009), 56
  16. A feudal due owed to the Crown upon inheritance
  17. For a cadet son of a "famille chevaleresque" to be employed in fiscal or administrative roles was not unusual. The Jerseyman Gilbert de la Hougue seized the opportunity to be so employed. The de Grouchys' kinsman, Eustace de Grouchy, was in 1337, one of the Councillors of the Exchequer, in Rouen: Unpublished manuscript Histoire de la Famille de Grouchy, by Emmanuel Henri, Vicomte de Grouchy
  18. ABSJ VII
  19. ABSJ, IX Balleine`s History of Jersey
  20. G F B de Gruchy The Entries relating to Jersey in the Great Rolls of the Exchequer of Normandy of AD 1180, in ABSJ IX
  21. Described in further detail in J B Payne, An Armorial of Jersey,
  22. Unpublished manuscript and typescript, respectively, in the possession of the author of this article
  23. Payne, op cit
Personal tools
other Channel Islands
contact and contributions

Please support Jerripedia with a donation to our hosting costs