History of the Le Breton family

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Le Breton family history

Translation by Mike Bisson of the Rev J A Messervy's article, part of his series Notices sur quelques anciennes familles Jersiaises, first published in the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise in 1906. [1]

We don’t ignore that this family already has a place in the Jersey Armorial, but the genealogy given there only goes back to the 17th century and the notes, as interesting as they are, are a little incomplete, we acknowledge. Also we have found it useful to take the genealogy back several generations and to reunite in a short study the information, so well known but unpublished, that we have been able to gather about this ancient family.


13th Century

The name Le Breton has been known in Jersey since the 13th century. In 1236 Herbert Le Breton, who suffered ‘much damage in the service of the king’ was to receive from the Sovereign an income of 20 sols sterling ‘to be received in the Island of Jersey’. [Lettres Closes, 9th edition, page 38] Philippe Le Britun, or Le Breton, of the Parish of St Brelade, is mentioned in the Extente of 1274 [2nd edition, page 40].

14th Century

In 1309 Guillaume Le Breton was franc-tenant of the Fief du Noirmont, which was owned by the Abbey of Mont St Michel [Role d’Assize, page 275]. One also finds at the same date mention of Etienne Le Breton, of the Parish of St Helier; of Guillot (Perhaps the same as Guillaume) Le Breton and his brother Pierre, of the Parish of St Brelade [IBID pages 165 and 177]

In 1331 Richard Le Breton held the fief of Gemmesil (dependence of the fief of Orglandes) and Pierre Le Breton, of the Parish of St Brelade, was one of the jurors sworn in to assist in the drafting of the Extente [1st edition, page 28] Pierre Le Breton, probably the same, owed too, in 1331, 16 sols a year to the King for two bouvées with appurtenances. [Ibid page 69]

In 1362 and again in 1370, Guillaume Le Breton was Jurat. It is without doubt the same Guillaume who in 1367 passed a contract with Dom Gieffre Le Hardy, Prior of St Clement, and others.

In 1368 Sire Guillaume Le Breton, priest (perhaps the same as above) was appointed proxy in Jersey of the Abbot and monks of Mont St Michel to represent them at all times before civil and ecclesiastical courts [Ms belonging to La Société Jersiaise] One has to remember that in the 14th century the Abbey of Mont St Michel owned much of the land in Jersey.

1528 Extente

In the Extente of 1528 no Le Breton is mentioned as having land in St Brelade, but on the other hand one observes that Egouttepluie Mill (literal translation Rain drain Mill), situated in this parish, belonged to a Jean Le Breton who, by virtue of this possession, owed the king 3 cabots and 4 froments of rent. In all probability this Jean Le Breton lived in Trinity. It is difficult to say whether or not he was descended from the Le Brtetons of St Brelade in 1331. The lack of documents, particularly those concerning the 16th century, does not allow this question to be resolved.

Our intention is anyway not to deal in detail with all the branches of the Le Breton family, represented in the 17th century in six or seven parishes of the island. We are restricting ourselves to the most prominent, and we shall consider first the line which gave our island three deans and two Bailiffs. We shall call it Line A [[Le Breton Line A tree|see tree] But before that we list some clerics of the name Le Breton who lived before the Reformation.

  • 1368 Sire Guillaume Le Breton, already mentioned
  • 1496 Sire Laurens Le Breton, priest, signed as witness a contract of this date passed before an assembly of the parish in the cemetery of St Martin {Ms already cited]
  • 1497-98 Sire Philippe Le Breton, of Trinity, admitted to the priesthood at Coutances on 6 March [Bulletin of 1890]
  • 1554 Sire Helier Le Breton, of Trinity. He embraced the Reformation and became Schoolmaster of St Mannelier on the death of Helier Dumaresq in 1581; still held this position in 1587

Branch A

This branch can be clearly identified from 1491, the date on which Jean Le Breton, son of Thomas Le Breton, made some transactions: he transferred, for example, to Abey Le Breton, son of Raulin, a field and sold him 3 cabots de froment de rente.

Trinity landowner

Ambroise Le Breton, one of the sons of the aforesaid Jean, was in 1542 among the principal land owners of the Parish of Trinity who accompanied their Constable to the States Assembly on 19 October. Ambroise Le Breton had a large family and two of his sons had the same forename Michel (It was not rare in the 16th century to see two sons or two sisters having the same Christian name). The youngest, Michel jnr, was the father of Thomas Le Breton, who settled in St Brelade after his first marriage.

On 9 March 1622 this Thomas obtained from Richarde Ville, daughter of Jean, of St Brelade, all her inheritance, ie house and furnishings, in the St Aubin area, in the Fief of Noirmont, land at Mont Arthur, at Val Effart, at Ville Gallays, Bunouet moor, the valleys of Portelet, land near La Hougue de Vinde, the valleys of Belle Croute, the cotil and cliff of Boulley, etc – all for the payment of rentes and 700 livres de France as a one-off payment; in addition Thomas Le Breton was obliged to pay a small rent to the aforesaid Richarde during her lifetime. ‘The boat, forming part of the property, and a cypress chest’ were also to pass to the purchaser [Registre, book 5, page 447].


The first wife of Thomas Le Breton died in 1626, of the plague which ravaged the island, particularly St Brelade. On 11 July the following year he married his second wife, Esther, one of the daughters of the Ven David Bandinel, Rector of St Brelade and Dean of Jersey. Their contract of marriage is dated 29 March 1627.

The merchant and shipowner Thomas Le Breton (1) was in 1650 co-owner with George de Carteret, Bailiff and Lieutenant-Governor, of a little armed frigate to capture enemy prizes [Ms Chevalier] Jersey was at that time under royalist domination and the privateers fitted out in the island took a considerable toll of the commerce of republican England. Thomas Le Breton was, therefore, royalist, although son-in-law of Dean Bandinel, who had been one of the most prominent parliamentarian leaders. He died at an advanced age and was buried in St Brelade Church in 1665.

One sees that by Order in Council of 27 February 1634/35 this Thomas Le Breton was represented at a hearing (held before the Council) by Michel Burton (sic). This was without doubt no other than Michel Le Breton, notaire and lawyer in London, and cousin of Thomas.

Son's death

His elder son Edouard Le Breton died in the prime of life, leaving a sole son Edouard, who married Elisabeth Lempriere, of St Helier: following this marriage he became in 1721 the sole heir of the estate of Clement Lempriere, merchant in Lisbon, his wife’s uncle. Jeanne Le Breton, only daughter and heiress of Eduard and Elisabeth Lempriere, married Pierre Villeneufve (sic), member of a family, now extinct, of Huguenot refugees who had established a very honourable rank in St Brelade for several generations.

David Le Breton, the second son of Thomas and Esther Bandinel, married Marie du Pin, of St Lo. Their contract of marriage, made without doubt in France, is dated 27 December 1678. He settled in St Helier, where all his children were baptised, but seems to have passed his final years at St Mary, where his son was Rector. Thomas Le Breton, who became Dean like his great-grandfather David Bandinel, was baptised in St Helier on 16 March 1680, ‘by Mr de Beaulieu, Mr Dumaresq (Rector) being indisposed’. He studied at Exeter College, Oxford, of which he became Fellow, and was named Rector of St Marie, and took up his duties in this capacity at St John in 1706. On 19 June 1706 ‘Mr Thomas Le Breton took over the Church of this Parish’ [Registers of St Mary]

Representative of clergy

Mr Le Breton did not delay playing an important role as a member of the island clergy; in fact one finds him effectively representing the Dean and other Rectors in many disputes between the clergy and the civil magistrates of Jersey. [Orders in Council, Vol 2, page 379 etc] In 1712 he was Dean’s Representative (The Ven Clement Le Couteur) that is to say Vice-Dean. Finally on 9 December 1714 he was sworn in before the Royal Court as Dean of Jersey by virtue of Letter Patent dated 23 October 1714. He remained Rector of St Mary, where premature death ended his career in 1728. He was only 48. He was buried at St Mary on 7 October 1728.

His only son Thomas, born in St Mary in 1707, settled in St Peter, the birthplace of his mother Marie Robin, and of his wife Alice Anley. Sworn in as Constable of St Peter on 16 June 1740, Advocate of the Royal Court on 3 November 1744, he was also for a long time acting Attorney-General. On 23 July 1743 Thomas Le Breton was named – being already Constable – representative of the States in England. Some difficulties were encountered with the tax levied for public works, some States Members wanting to introduce changes. [See Orders in Council Vol 3 pages 239 and following] Thomas Le Breton was also, on other occasions, notably in 1750, chosen by the States as their representative in the hearing which took place into the donation made by Mrs Marie Bartlett for the construction of the General Hospital. (O in C Vol 3, page 300 etc)

Fief purchased

On 24 October 1747 Thomas Le Breton bought the fief of La Hague from James Bernard, a descendant of the de Carterets, formerly seigneurs of this fief. He died in 1760 having been father of his parish for 20 years. By his marriage to Alice Anley, finally heiress of the fine property named, we believe, Les Aix, he had five sons and a daughter.

The eldest, Thomas Le Breton, seigneur of La Hague only had one daughter whose marriage to a younger son of La Moye passed the fief of La Hague to the Pipon family. It was probably this Thomas Le Breton who in 1800 was owner of a house and furnishings called La Caroline, in St Peter, in the fief of Vingt Livres, and let to Philippe Laurens.

The Ven Francois Le Breton, Rector of St Mary, then St Saviour, and Dean of Jersey, was the fourth son of Thomas Le Breton and Alice Anley. Baptised on 20 February 1739 at St Peter he had as godfather the Ven Francois Payn, Dean, and for godmother, Miss Esther Le Couteur, of St Jean. He became Rector of St Mary in about 1763 and was sworn in as Dean on 15 Jun 1775, by virtue of Letter Patent of 3 June of that year. On 27 February 1777 he was installed as Rector of St Saviour by Jean du Pre, representative of the Bishop of Winchester. See Orders in Council, Vol 4, page 220 etc for the interesting hearing which Dean Francois Le Breton undertook against Thomas Anthoine, Centenier of St Saviour, who had attempted to subjugate the living of St Saviour to the payment of rates and a special contribution for the defence of the island. An Order in Council of June 1785 ordered in favour of the Dean.

Dean Francois Le Breton died in 1802. Here is the text of his burial certificate, which can be found in the St Saviour registers: ‘The Venerable Francois Le Breton, MA, Dean of Jersey and Rector of the Parish of St Saviour, was buried in the cemetery of that parish against the west wall and 49 feet from the south on 9 July 1802’.

Bailiff Le Breton

Sir Thomas Le Breton, Bailiff, the eldest son of Dean Francois, was born in St Mary in 1763. He studied firstly at Winchester College, then at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he distinguished himself particularly for his knowledge of Greek, and was elected Fellow in 1786. On returning to Jersey he devoted his talents to the island of his birth and reached the highest offices: sworn in as Advocate of the Royal Court on 24 August 1799 he was named three years later Attorney-General by Letter Patent of 2 February 1802, but the Royal Court suspended ratification of this Patent and delayed the swearing in, alleging that Mr Le Breton, already Paymaster of the Royal Garrison Battalion, had been nominated on the recommendation of the Lieut-Governor, his superior officer – which was contrary to the privileges of the Island. But the Privy Council brushed aside the objections of the Court and ordered it to register the royal patent and administer the oath of office to Mr Le Breton(Orders of the Council, Vol 4, page 452 and following); this was done, but under protest, on 15 March 1802.

On 7 October 1816 Mr Le Breton took the oath of office of Lieutenant of Lord Carteret, Bailiff. Some years later the States nominated him as their delegate to defend before the Council the interests of the Island. On 7 October 1824 the States had received advice that the oyster fisheries were threatened with a reduced level of protection than previously given by the English government; also, judging that the measures proposed by the government would have a disastrous effect on the oyster fishing and business they that day nominated Lieut-Bailiff Le Breton to defend the interests of the island in England. [Orders in Council Vol 5, page 580]. Because of oyster fishing, the village of Gorey had become a little town and the port of Mont Orgueil had been created. [See representation of the States to the Council, 18 October 1824 It was in pursuit of the mission, which he no doubt carried out successfully, that Lieut-Bailiff Le Breton was knighted.

On the death, without direct heirs, of Lord Carteret in 1826, the right of nomination to the office of Bailiff returned to the Crown and Sir Thomas Le Breton, nominated Bailiff by Lettres Patent of 24 August 1826, was sworn in to this office on 7 Dec 1826. He resigned, probably for reasons of health, in 1831, and died at Bagatelle on 11 March 1833.

Knighted by Queen Victoria

Of three sons of Sir Thomas Le Breton, the eldest, Thomas, had a Crown career as distinguished as his father’s through knighthood and the office of Bailiff. Baptised in St Helier on 13 July 1791, he studied at Caen and sworn in as Advocate of the Royal Court on 28 May 1810, aged barely 19. On 16 November 1813 he took oath as one of his Majesty’s Receivers General, a function he exercised until 1823; and on 25 March 1824 he was sworn in as Attorney General, by virtue of a Patent of 15 January in the same year.

From 1820 he was Colonel of the St Helier Batallion and he had the honour of commanding the Militia of the Island when in 1846 the Queen visited Jersey. It was on this occasion that he was knighted by Her Majesty.

On the death in 1848 of Sir Jean de Veulle, Bailiff, Sir Thomas Le Breton was chosen to succeed him, and was sworn into office on 6 July 1848, by virtue of Letter Patent dated 1 July 1848.

Sir Thomas Le Breton had bought in his father’s lifetime, about 1822, the fief of La Motte, also known as the ‘fief of St Ouen in St Helier and in St Saviour’. He obtained permission, by Order in Council of 5 August 1822, to separate the fief of la Motte with the house and land which were previously incorporated and to join it to Bagatelle, which his father had bought from Admiral Philippe d’Auvergne – then Lieut-Bailiff – in order to permit him to transfer the house and land [Orders in Council, Vol 5, pages 296 and following]. Sir Thomas, Bailiff from 1848 to 1857, died without immediate heirs on 24 November 1857 at the age of 66.

Foreign rum

William Le Breton, younger son of Dean Francois, and brother of Sir Thomas Le Breton snr, was born in St Mary in 1773. He took hardly any active part in public affairs; however he had occasion, in 1821, to render his country a signal service. These were the circumstances: A proposition prohibiting the importation of foreign rums in the Channel Islands was put before Parliament. There was considerable fear in the islands that the adoption of this proposal would cause serious prejudice to local interests. So it was that the States nominated on 11 June 1821 Mr William Le Breton, who was in London at that time, their delegate to plead their case with the English government. He carried out this mission with such success that the States, in recognition, voted him a piece of silver. [Acts of the States, about July 1821]

William Le Breton died in 1853 in his 80th year, leaving an only son, the Ven William Corbet Le Breton, MA, Dean of Jersey. Baptised in St Helier on 17 March 1815, William Corbet Le Breton studied at Exeter College, Oxford, of which he became Fellow, at aftger having spent several years in the ministry in London, was named Rector of St Saviour, Jersey, in December 1849, and installed on 17 January 1850. Eventually, by Patent of 11 January 1850, he was named Dean Of Jersey and sworn in as such on the 16th of that month. In 1875 he became Rector of St Helier replacing the Rev Philippe Filleul.

Dean Le Breton was an erudite man of a strong classic culture. He died in London in 1838. He is represented today by William Le Breton, of London, his eldest son. Another of his sons is Clement Martin Le Breton, KC, who occupies a distinguished position at the English bar.


Trinity branch

This branch, which remained in Trinity, is descended from Servais Le Breton, brother of Ambroise (son of Jean, son of Thomas) about whom there was a mention earlier. Servais Le Breton married Helene Le Sueur and was father, among other children, of Roger Le Breton. He married, in or before 1560, Elisabeth, daughter of Jean Hamon, Constable of Trinity, 1551, and of his wife Collette, daughter of Richard Payn, Jurat 1524-44. Roger Le Breton died while still young towards 1574, leaving several children of tender years. His eldest son Servais Le Breton married first Juliane Pallot and second Esther, daughter of Matthieu Le Montais; Esther Le Montais married again in 1616 to Jean Le Boutillier, son of Philippe. Of this marriage were born Pierre Le Breton; Helene, wife of Thomas de Gruchy, son of Helier; Jeanne, wife of Raulin Maret; Thomasse, wife of Simon Esnouf; and Susanne, wife of Jean de Gruchy.

Pierre Le Breton, son of Servais, was married in about 1640 to Sara de Gruchy, with whom he had Thomas Le Breton, born 1645/46; Sara, who married Thomas Labey in 1675; Elisabeth, wife of Jean Ahier; Esther, wife of Abraham Esnouf; and one other daughter, wife of Jean Esnouf.

Thomas Le Breton, son of Pierre, married in 1678 to Sara, daughter of Pierre Poingdestre, of St Saviour, and Jeanne Pallot. Of this marriage were born Thomas Le Breton, b 1679; Josue, who in 1722 married Jeanne de Rue and died without issue in 1726; Sara, b 1680; Esther, b 1694; Elisabeth, who married Jean Pelgue, Jean Amy and Michel Larbalestier; and Jean, ob innupt in 1743. Thomas Le Breton above married Elisabeth, daughter of Philippe Balleine, of St Peter, and his wife Elisabeth, daughter of Aaron Journeaux, Seigneur of Catelet, at St Lawrence in 1715. Their children were Philippe Le Breton, baptised at St Peter in 1717; Francois, b 1730; Francoise, b 1727, who married George Pelgue, of St Saviour, in 1770.

In 1742 Philippe Le Breton (son of the said Thomas) married Elisagbeth, daughter of Philippe de Carteret, of Mont-au-Pretre, and without doubt sister of Philippe de Carteret, Jurat and Judge, 1790. Of this marriage were born Daniel Le Breton, b 1749, ob innupt; 1816; Amice, b 1755, ob innupt, 1785; Sara (1) b, 1750, d 1796, eldest daughter, who in 1780 married George Emily, and their children were the principal heirs of this line; Elisabeth, co-heiress, b 1752, in 1780 married Edouard Le Vavasseur dit Durell, of St Helier, and was mother of the Rev Edouard Le V did Durell, MA, Rector of St Saviour, who edited the History of Jersey of the Rev Phil Falle. Mrs Durell died in 1835.


Father of Advocate

The founder of this branch was Jean Le Breton, youngest son of Ambroise (son of Jean, son of Thomas) and brother of Michel, from whom is descended Branch A. In 1608 Jean Le Breton, eldest son of this Jean married Isabelle, daughter of Edouard Messervy, Advocate of the Royal Court, 1529, and widow of Michel Bisson, Centenier of Trinity, 1594. He was, we believe, father of Pierre Le Breton, Advocate of the Royal Court, 1644-51, who, in 1638, married Marie, daughter of Jacques Payn, of Grouville, and of Marthe Damocq, his wife. Of this marriage there were several sons, of whom one, Josue, died without issue away from the island, about 1677, and another, Philippe Le Breton, seems to have been the one who settled at Mont-au-Pretre, St Helier, in a property inherited from a branch of the Chebalier family. The representative of this line was in 1785 Mr Philippe Le Breton, son of Philippe, son of Jean, son of Philippe and of Mrs Anne Chevalier, his wife, daughter and principal heir of Mr Jean Chevbalier, son of Jean [Catel 39]. This line, now extinct, was represented in the 19th century by the La Cloche family and the property at Mont-au-Pretre which belonged to them passed by sale to the Le Brocq family.

Branch D

Les Ifs, Trinity

This line is distinct from the preceding back to the 15th century. It ascends to Raulin Le Breton, who died before 1486, and was father of Abey Le Breton. He had a son called Raulin Le Breton and a daughter who had the relatively rare name Vincenne. From his marriage to Perrine, daughter of Robin de Gruchy, Centenier of Trinity in 1527, Raulin Le Breton had several children, Raulin; Sire Helier, priest; Francois, osp; Philippe; Rauline, wife of Clement de la Rocque; and Jeannette.

Constable of Trinity

The eldest, Raulin Le Breton, Constable of Trinity 1580-1585, married Genette, daughter of Nicolas Bisson and his wife Thomyne, daughter of James de Grochy, or de Gruchy. Sire Helier Le Breton, his brother, was Regent of St Mannelier from 1581 to 87, and Philippe, the other brother, left only a daughter, Marie Le Breton, wife of Helier Godfray.

The children of Raulin Le Breton, Constable, were: (a) Jean Le Breton; (b) Martin, who apparently settled at St Brelade; (c) Collette, wife of Philippe Larbalestier; and (d) Genette, wife of Pierre Gallichan.

Jean Le Breton (son of Raulin), treasurer of Trinity, 1609, married first Thomasse, daughter of Etienne La Cloche and his wife Blanche, daughter of Clement Le Bastard, and sister of Banjamin La Cloche, Seigneur of Longueville. Of this marriage there was just one daughter, Jeanne, who married Pierre Cabot, son of Thomas, ancestor of the Cabots of Augres Farm, Rondin, Trinity. (1) In 1617 Jean Le Breton (2) married again to Elisabeth (3), second daughter and co-heiress of Raulin de la Rocque, Seigneur of Saval, etc. They had two sons, Francois and Josue. The latter, born in 1628, married in 1666 Elisabeth, eldest daughter of Pierre Le Breton, Advocate of the Royal Court 1644-51. The elder, Francois Le Breton, married Rachel, daughter of Jean Cabot, and was father of (a) Aaron Le Breton, b 1656; (b) Francois, b 1658; (c) Jean, b 1663, died without issue in Guernsey around 1702; (d) Josue, b 1666, and Elisabeth, who died young.

(1) This branch of the Cabots died out in the male line with the death in about 1901 of Susanne Cabot, wife of Daniel Lempriere.

(2) By will dated 14 Sep 1630 Jean Le Breton, son of Raulin, left 4 cabots of wheat to the poor of Trinity.

(3) Elizabeth de la Rocque seems to have married for a second time to the Rev Jean Mollet, Rector of Trinity.

Aaron Le Breton, eldest son of Francois, married first at St Lawrence on 12 Dec 1680, Miss Susanne du Coty, probably of French origin. She died in March 1688, leaving, subject to error, a son Edouard Le Breton, who died without issue. Aaron Le Breton married for a second time at St Brelade in July 1688, Marie Jeanson, or Johnson, who died in 1729, and by whom he had two daughters, Rachel, the younger, 1692-1703; the elder, Marie, b 1689, unique descendantof this line, married in 1709 Nicolas du Feu, son of Richard, and died in 1754.

Aaron Le Breton died in 1732. Following the tradition (which we believe correct) the property of these Le Bretons was that which is now called Les Ifs, situated three miles from the town on Grande Route de la Trinite. It comprised a quite widespread holding next to Dielament.

Family trees

Notes and references

  1. French phrases which do not easily translate have been shown in italics
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