Trinity fiefs

From Jerripedia
Jump to: navigation, search


Trinity fiefs

Jardin d'Olivet, an area of common land in Trinity, has been used for a variety of parish activities, including horse racing in the 1930s

This article was first published in the parish magazine, Trinity Tattler

Fourteen fiefs are situated in whole or in part in Trinity — de la Trinité, La Lande, Diélament (the largest fief in the Island), Gruchetterie (a sub-fief of Rozel at Jardin d’Olivet), Saval and Petit Rozel (also sub-fiefs of Rozel to the west of Rozel Bay), L’Abbesse de Caen (above Bouley Bay), L’Evêque d’Avranches (at Ville-à-l’Evêque), Tourgis, Cambrai, Ponterrin, des Augrès, ès Godeaux and ès Gruchy, though the precise boundaries are not known in most cases.

No doubt there were more recorded in the past, as Joan Stevens in Old Jersey Houses Volume 2 refers to some 245 named fiefs. However, many have been lost or subsumed by larger fiefs over the centuries.

September Assize

Every September the Assize d'Heritage is held in the Royal Court. The seigneurs of the five chief fiefs, of which the Fief de La Trinité is one, and the seigneurs of several other minor fiefs which owe ‘suite de Cour’, are summoned to the Court to answer for their fiefs. If they fail to appear without good excuse, they are liable to be fined.

Mrs Pamela Bell, La Dame de la Trinité, of Trinity Manor, also has the unique honour and obligation to present two wild ducks to a Sovereign visiting the Island. Major John Riley had the honour of doing so on three occasions to Queen Elizabeth II.

The most tangible advantage that parishioners enjoy as a result of their Norman heritage is the recreational use of the open spaces afforded by some of the Island’s commons by licence of the seigneur’s tenants. Tenants are owners (strictly, by Norman customary law, tenants) of property situated on the fief where a common is situated and to which rights to the common attach, such as the right to graze animals or to cut furze.

Jardin d’Olivet is perhaps the best known example in Trinity. Philip Larbalestier, late of Sous les Bois, recounted that in former times a bell would be rung before tenants were permitted to cut furze on the common, to avoid unfair advantage being obtained by one of their number. Trinity church fetes were held at Jardin d’Olivet, and it was also the site of the parish football pitch.

Feudal system

The feudal system was introduced to the Island by the Normans after 933 when the Channel Islands were incorporated into the Duchy of Normandy. Land was divided into fiefs granted by the Duke of Normandy (also to become King of England after 1066) to seigneurs or religious houses subject to different forms of tenure. The Duke’s rents or taxes were farmed out and administered in three districts called Ministeria. Trinity, St John, St Lawrence and St Helier were part of the Ministerium de Groceio in 1180 which almost certainly takes its name from a member of the de Gruchy family, who presumably administered the district.

The people who lived on the fiefs owed duties to their seigneu,r which varied from fief to fief. A fat ewe was due to the seigneur of Dielament when his eldest son married; and carting the seigneur’s hay and vraic or cleaning his colombier were other conventional duties. The seigneur provided a mill for his tenants to grind their corn, subject to payment in kind, and had an obligation to preserve order and to settle disputes in his court, with more serious matters reserved for the assizes before the King’s Justices or before the Royal Court and Jurats.

The small Fief es Gruchy in Trinity was recorded in 1382, and again in 1608, as owing the King the service of providing a house on the Fief where the King could keep stocks for holding prisoners from Trinity, St John, St Lawrence and St Helier. The King retained fiefs in the Island, and today’s King's interests in the Island’s Crown Fiefs are administered by HM Receiver General.

The Fief de l’Abbesse de Caen extends over land at the top of Bouley Bay, which includes the shed where the Trinity Battle of Flowers float is built.

Conqueror's wife

William the Conqueror granted land in Trinity to his wife Matilda, the first abbess of Holy Trinity, known as the Abbaye aux Dames in Caen, together with a mill (almost certainly Ponterrin,l specifically named later in 1257). This fief, along with other fiefs held by religious houses in France, was subsequently sequestered by the english Crown. Balleine’sHistory of Jersey recounts that until about 1600 seigneurial court rolls indicate that the system generally worked to the benefit of both seigneur and his tenants.

New ideas and political and economic forces were soon to overtake the feudal system, which was based upon a static agrarian society. Fiefs were often subdivided and degenerated by proliferation and the main business of the seigneurial courts became exacting dues and fines to the advantage of the seigneur. It was the duty of the Prevot, elected by his fellow tenants, to collect dues owing to the seigneur, from which he derived his commission. Unusually, on the Fief du Ponterrin, this office appears to have attached to the ownership of Field 1003A Le Pré de la Commune.

Tenants were summoned by the prevot to appear before court to make a sworn declaration of theirr holding, which was recorded in the Livres des Aveux. On the transfer of a property a fee was payable to the seigneur, and if a tenant died without direct heirs, the seigneur was entitled to take possession for one year and take all the gross profits. If there were no known heirs within the Norman canons of descent the seigneur was entitled to take the estate (including property) into his ownership by escheat (‘déshérence’).

These rights were not abolished until the passing of the Seigneurial Rights (Abolition) (Jersey) Law 1966. The last seneschal, the officer who presided at a sitting of a manorial court, was sworn in before the Royal Court at the instance of La Dame de Rozel, Diélament and other manors in 1936. Raoul Lempriere in Customs, Ceremonies and Traditions of the Channel Islands quotes an apocryphal story about a Seigneur de La Trinite of years gone by who was invited to a gathering of Norman seigneurs in Normandy. He arrived at the hall where it was being held but delayed making his entrance until the last so as to be sure to be noticed. The major domo at the door asked the seigneur his name in order to announce his arrival. The seigneur informed him that he was Le Seigneur de la Trinite. The poor man looked puzzled and asked the Jerseyman to repeat what he had said. Having twice verified what he had originally heard the major domo turned to the assembled company, banged his staff on the floor and announced in stentorian tones, no doubt to general hilarity, Le Bon Dieu ('The Good Lord').

Personal tools
other Channel Islands
contact and contributions

Please support Jerripedia with a donation to our hosting costs