Le Seelleur of Villot
Origins and ancillary matters
Le Scelleur, Le Seelleur, Le Seleur, Le Celleur or even ‘Ie ces les’ is a surname belonging to the group of medieval surnames which identified a man according to his trade or occupation. This particular name means 'he who seals or applies the seal'. 
Seals are of various kinds, not all of which are likely to have given rise to an occupational surname. There was the seal of authenticity applied to both ecclesiastical and lay documents. In the days when the dignitary whose name appeared at the foot of a document might not be able to sign his name, his seal was applied instead.
An old French dictionary gives as one of the possible meanings of sceau Anciennement, marque de fabrique. Les draps du sceau de Rauen: A man who was responsible for checking a product, be it cloth or any other commodity for which standards of excellence were laid down by groups of medieval craftsmen, could easily have been known as Ie scelleur.
This would have distinguished him from contemporaries who bore the same Christian name. He would have taught his special skills, which probably provided him with a better than average income, to his sons and grandsons, so that, within a few generations, the surname became firmly fixed.
In this article the old spelling or spellings of Christian names and surnames have been retained as found, in the belief, firstly, that it will help to distinguish one from the other and secondly, that phonetic spellings enable us to hear the sounds our ancestors spoke centuries ago. To modernise or standardise them would be to destroy the one experience of history which is unchanging - sound.
As, in this Island of Jersey, the Le Seelleur family is almost invariably associated with the Parish of Saint Martin, it is likely that all the branches in the Island today come from the same root. Genealogies cannot with certainty be taken back into the 16th century. The records are too scanty. It appears, however, from the earliest records we have that the name Le Seelleur in the island may have superseded an even earlier sobriquet.
In the record of the Trial of Regnault Lempriere, Seigneur de Rosel, in 1463, we read, "he (Thomas Le Hardi) asked the Captain (of the Castle at Gorey) if he would give to a sailor named Jehan Le Reposey who had to go to Guernsey a note ... for Jehan Perrin ... , given to Reposey to take to Guernsey".
This name recurs as: John Le Repossey all(ias) Le Scelleur, 1576; Collas Le Reposse, 1588; Collas Le Reposse dit le Seelleur, 1606; Collas Le Reposse dit le Sceller fils aisne de Joh(a)n Le Reposse dit Le Scelleur, 1604-08-09. These same people were also called plain Le Seelleur in its various spellings.
It is sometimes said that 'alias' indicates illegitimacy. Whether this is sometimes so or not, it does not seem to be the case here. It is applied only to the eldest son over three generations. This fact could indicate that the Le Seelleurs were heirs to the Le Repose family which had "daughtered out", to quote the late Joan Stevens.
The name le repose is itself a little puzzle. Presumably it has the same root as le repos. It means peace and quiet with an element of secrecy. Applied as a nickname it should indicate a calm, quiet and reliable person. John-The-Reliable-One would be perfect for a messenger delivering an important note to Jurat Perrin in Guernsey.
The present writer suspects a link, as yet unproven, between Seal (Le Seelleur) and Lock. There were Thomas Le Seelleur of 1547 who used sanctuary in Saint Martin's Church and a certain "Thomas Lok, clerk, parson in the church of St Martin in Jersey”, 1544. It seems possible they could be one and the same.
Le Seelleur du Villot, Saint Martin
The Le Seelleur family has been established at Le Villot since at least the first half of the 16th century. Their records have been carefully preserved over the centuries by succeeding generations and their collection is one of the most diverse and interesting which it has been my privilege to examine and comment upon.
The earliest document in the collection is dated 4 May 1536, when Helier de Carteret was Bailiff of Jersey. He was frequently absent and represented by lieutenants, but he was present in person on this day for his signature appears on the document.
It concerns Joh(a)n le Scelleur filz Denys Ie Scelleur and Joh(a)n le Scelleur filz Joh(a)n le Scelleur. Their relationship is not clearly explained but the former was probably the nephew of the latter. We learn that Jean fils Jean had, at some unspecified earlier date, leased in perpetuity to Jean fils Denys certaine terre sceante en la paroesse de St Martin au fieu de Rosel ... laquelle terre estoit de la partie (share) de son fraire (sic) aincy quil disoit.
On this 4 May 1536, Jean fils Jean sells to Jean fils Denys and Felice, his wife, deulx cabots de froment Rentte; that is two cabots of wheat rente to be paid by Jean fils Denys to Jean fils Denys himself.
This was the sum of rente due on the land as a result of the earlier transaction. Jean fils Jean receives cyncq escus x s(ols) ... delaquelle somme ... se tint bien et loyallement poye ... .
In effect, therefore, the rente was extinguished and the land freed of the charge upon it. It was still customary at this date for legal transactions to be recited before witnesses on the site of the property concerned, in addition to being passed before the Royal Court as is shown by this further extract, Et accorda ledyt Joh(a)n Ie scelleur filz Joh(a)n que ces lettres fussent audiencer (sic) es lieux ou il appartient luy present ou absent touttes Joys que mestier en sera: that is whenever necessary. This contract shows that the family was established on the Fief de Rozel at this date as, indeed, it is today.
There are two interesting contracts dated 1543 and 1576 respectively, where one of the parties is an Englishman, ... dez p(ar)ties dengleter ... : called Joh(a)n Seuakemboro or Suakenborow. His mother was a Nouel and through her he is the heir of the priest "Sire nicolla (sic) nouel p (res )tre':
Firstly, in 1543, Nicollas badier filz drouet badier de la paroesse de St Martin acknowledges that he owes deulx cabots de [orment de rente which had been sold, in this case probably created, by Estien(n)e Badier to the priest, Nicolas Noel, and for which sum of rente Joh(a)n Seualeemborer has become the rentier, In all likelihood Etienne had raised some cash on the Badier property. There are two Badier 'marriage' stones at Les Mars or Manor Farm, just north of Le Villot, dated 1663 and 1711, and this is probably the property concerned.
Between 1543 and 1576 Seuakemboro must have acquired the Badier property and passed it on to the Le Seelleurs as the 1576 contract shows: suakenborow sells two cabots of wheat rente to Joh(a)n le Repossey all(ias) Le Scelleur which are due tant sur certains petits Jardines sceants au pied de la fontaine badier que sur certaine pelle de terre seante vers le suest du Jardin dudyt Joh(a)n le Reposse en la paroesse de St Martin ou (au) fieu de Rozel; which at some earlier date the Englishman had leased in perpetuity to the Jerseyman.
The small piece of land to the south-east of the house Le Villot is still known as La Pelle. La Fontaine Badier is just below Les Mars. This is clear proof that the Le Seelleur family has lived at and owned Le Villot since the middle of the 16th century at least and that they already owned some land there before the acquisition from the Englishman.
The family did, in fact, acquire some cotils in 1537. The Royal Court sat in the Parish of Trinity on 17 May 1545, and Joh(a)n le Scelleur filz Denys le Scelle(u)r showed the Court vne c(er)tain ouye escr(i)pte en papier saine & entiere, that is to say the written record of an oral transaction on paper in pristine condition and therefore authentic and acceptable to the Court.
The paper record stated that in February 1537 ... ouye fult faicte en audience en cymetiere de leglise p(a)rochialle de St Martin; that is in the cemetery at Saint Martin before the assembled parishioners, probably after Divine Service inside the Church, John and Felice his wife had taken a lease in perpetuity on some cotils from Michel Noel.
All, in fact, which Michel Noel had earlier taken on perpetual lease from Benoest le Feubure, that is all the cotils without exception on the jieu de roseI which he, Benoist Le Feuvre, had received by partage. Benoest, also present, agreed that he had passed all he would inherit from his father on the jieu de rosel to Michiel Nouel.
St Martinais witnesses
There is a list of Saint Martinais who were present at the sitting of the Court to bear witness to the passing of this contract: pierres la cloche Augustin g(er)main collas nouel thomas q(ue)nault John le scell( eu)r filz ioh(a)n clement le Roy & pluss(ieu)rs aultr(e)s: The first three were specially named as having also been present at the ouye at Saint Martin in 1537.
A contract dated 20 April 1588, along with others of later dates, gives us little other than genealogical information. This material has been incorporated in the family tree.
By April 1588, Denys Le Seelleur's elder grandson, Collas, had married Marguerite Nicolle. In the following January, also 1588, his younger grandson Jean and his grand¬daughter Gustine ceded all their inheritance from both their parents to Edouard Payn fils Jean, Com(m)e sont mesons mesnages terre froments argents pains poul/ailles ... for two quarters of wheat rente.
One week later Edouard Payn ceded all he had received from Jean and Gustine back to Collas with the proviso that he, Collas, undertook to discharge all the rentes and dues on the inheritance. These two contracts have an effect similar to a partage, but enabled the principal heir to retain the inheritance whole, while his siblings received the annual interest on the rente created. Edouard Payn's reward for his part in these transactions was that Collas leased in perpetuity to him les petitz Jardynetz de badier with their charming alternative name of escoute vent by which they are still known.
Felice, wife of Jean (Joh(a)n) le Seelleur, was the youngest daughter of Guill(aum)e Soullas. Both Jean and Felice died prior to 1588. Her sisters were Katharyne and Margueritte. The only brother, apparently, was Joh(a)n soullas, clercq filz aisne dudyt guill(aum)e.
There is a contract dated 1590 le penulthyme Jo(u)r du moys de May by which Felice's younger son, Jean, cedes his right to a share in the inheritance from his uncle the priest to his elder brother, Collas, for three cabots of wheat rente.
In 1608 there was a partage of this inheritance from which we learn that the Soullas family property was "la meson et mesnaige du parcq". The field names show it to have been a small farm with cotils and falaise probably between Fliquet and La Coupe.
The principal heiress, Servaise Coignart, a widow, had already parted with her share to Jordan Laurans prior to 1605. In that year he passed to Collas Le Scelleur a small piece of land from the Soullas inheritance called le parquet, fieu de rozel & gesant sur le havre de fliquey.
It was adjacent to the share which came to Collas Le Reposse dit le scelleur (the same as above) in the partage of 1608. His own share consisted of les deulx courtilz de la couppe and le parquet de sur le parcq. He was also to receive deulx cabots de froment et deulx poulles ... de Joh(a)n picquot and half a cabot of wheat rente from Collas ie scelleur du moulin.
In 1604, under the Bailiff George Poulet and King James, Sire Jacques p(re)mier de ce nom, the Seigneur of Rozel who at this time was honorable homme Jean Perrin leased and ceded in perpetuity to "Collas Ie Repose dit Ie sceelleur ... vne certaine piece de terre nommee la piece de au dessus du moulin de la Perrelle auecques les costils ioionantes a ladite piece au pourportant d'icelle & allant droict a val gaigner au costil de la mare et dempuis ledit moulin agaigner droict a mont vers la pointe du houguillon ... . Specifically excluded were ... ne sont point comprises les autres terres ny les communes audit Seigneur appartenantes et qui es terres de cette baille sont ioignantes.
It is clear from the description that this land was a very important addition to the Le Seelleur holding. It is clear also that in 1604 this area was still open land because permission was granted to Collas to enclose ... ledit Collas ou ses hers po(ur)ront clorre to(u)te ladite terre quand ils verro(n)t bon et a le(u)r profit.
It is further stated that it was possible to enclose because there was no way, or right of way, across the land which would prevent enclosure. There were, however, to be claims to the contrary as we shall see later.
The area of the land is not given but it was considerable in local terms. It may be that it was already being farmed by Collas, or someone else, under an ordinary lease from the Seigneur, or it may have been entirely virgin or 'waste' land. It was specifically described as not common land, and cannot have been part of the Commune at any time unless, of course, the Seigneur had persuaded all his other tenants to cede all such rights as they had in it.
It is possible that the latter was the case as, in 1848, Thomas Le Seelleur and others were described as proprietaires de la Commune de Rozel. However, the opportunity to acquire the land was undoubtedly to the Le Seelleur family's advantage. There cannot be many Island families who built their own hedges at the time when their land was first enclosed and still own and farm that same land today. Vive les Le Seelleur!
The consideration payable to the Seigneur of Rozel was les prix et somme de trois quartiers de froment de rente par chacun an afin d'heritage a la St Michel archange audit Seigneur de Rosel et a ses hers Seigneurs de ladyte seigneurie.
Livres de Quittances
The family's Livres de Quittances show that this and other rentes were paid regularly, except for a period from about 1718 to about 1730, when the heirs of Collas were finding it difficult to make ends meet.
Entries show that the rente was not paid in money or even in wheat but in whatever farm produce was acceptable to the Seigneur Jean Ie Seeleur nous devoit quatre quartiers trois cabots de from(en)t de rente S(eigneu)rialle po(u)r 1718 et 1719 et po(u)r l'auenir Iesd(i)tes deux anees se montoient a Ia som(m)e de 129 Ii(vres) 2 sols 6 d(enie)rs. Sur quoy nous avons receu de Iuy une Vache au prix de 36 li(vres) et 12 quart(ie)rs de pom(m)es a 4 francs Ie quart(ie)r et du foin a dix francs tout quoy se monte a 94 livres. De sorte que led(i)t Ie Seeleur ne nous doit plus po(u)r Ies susd(i)tes deux an(n)ees du from(en)t que trente une livres deux sols six deniers.
Anne Renouf, 'anne ernoufe' is the interesting oral/aural interpretation of her name on paper in one instance, who was the widow of Jean Le Seelleur, pays the rentes as tutrice de ses enfants and later as having la garde de son fils or agissant pour son fils, which implies that only one of her children survived. It seems that this was the case and his name was Thomas.
Let us retreat in time to consider whether the acquisition of the extra land from the Seigneur in 1604 may, in fact, have been something of a strain for Collas Le Seelleur. As we have seen, shortly after this date he parted with part of the Soullas inheritance. In 1606, described as Collas Ie Reposse dit Ie Seelleur Ie plus viel, he established two attorneys called Onfrey and Jean Godfrey, father and son.
This may simply mean that as he was getting old he needed the help of men of business to act on his behalf or, possibly, that he was going to sea in an attempt to improve his fortune. However, in November 1609 Collas Ie Reposse dit Ie scelleur filz joh(a)n leased and gave in perpetuity to Leonard Le Masurier the piece of land called "Ie parcquet", another portion of the Soullas inheritance, for the price of the fouailles or fuel, that is wood and geon, growing thereon, probably mostly the latter, for heating the bread oven.
In December he gave Leonard douze escus dor to be secured as a rente of two cabots of wheat on the same land. The following month, in January 1609, Leonard Le Massurier sold it all back to Jean Le Reposse dit le Scelleur fils Collas ... parquoy ledit Jean en demeurs possesseur affin dheritage dequoy il en a requis Iettre que luy ottroyasmes selon droict ... . The consideration is not stated, but presumably Jean had to pay the interest on the two cabots of rente in perpetuity and Leonard only got one season's fuel. One cannot help wondering whether the whole transaction was not engineered to overcome a November cash-flow problem.
The same Collas' last transaction, apparently, was in 1610. He leased in perpetuity to Lucas Coignart un costil de t(er)re ... fieu de Rossel gesant par laest du Jardin Collas le Scelleur fils Jean Jnr (possibly a great-nephew) au pourportant de Ia mer ...
As was not infrequently the case at about this date, part of the deal was that the purchaser had to build a house ... sur leq(ue)l costil de t(er)re ledyt lucas sera subiect de bastir vne petite maison deda(n)s le terme de de(u)x a(n)s p(ro)chains venainjts. Collas was to receive four and a half cabots of wheat rente and two fowls, or rather the interest thereon, annually.
In 1626 Lucas Coignart's son Jean leased this property in perpetuity to Jean Godfray filz Onffray. It is now described as vne certaine siene maison mesnaige Jardins te(r)e ysues et appartenances ... ala contree De la mare (probably the area below Ie Moulin de la Perrelle) au nord ou viron de Ia maison dudyt godfray et joyg(n)ant a sa terre ... for one quarter of wheat rente.
Finally it was stated that between the date of the contract and the date when vacant possession was to be given nenlevera Iedyt coignart aucune chose de ladyte maison que tiene a cloucq ou mortier et partant.
Then, in 1630 Jean Godfray fils Onffray ceded and resigned the same property to Jean le Hardy Junior gentilhomme. Finally, in 1632, Jean le Hardy passed the property on again to Jean Richardson fils Edouard. This time it is said to be to the east of the Godfrays' house.
The price paid was quatre cabots et demy de froment et deux poulles de rente to the heirs of Collas Ie Scelleur comme ils sont deubz sur ledit tenement; which is precisely what Lucas Coignart had had to pay to Collas in 1610.
No doubt the income was a help to Collas in paying what he owed for the land from the Seigneur, and no doubt also the reason why the last three contracts are to be found in the Le Seelleur collection.
In addition Jean Richardson had to pay vne poulle au Seigneur de Rossel and a cash payment of Dix neuf Escus soixante Sols par Escu. It would be nice to be able to announce that the above digression from the main Le Seelleur story had led to the discovery of the little house built by Lucas Coignart but, unfortunately, it has not been found.
Collas' son, Jean le Reposse dit le Seelleur fils Collas, to whom Leonard Ie Masurier resigned le porcquet on 25 January 1609, gave, on the same day, power of attorney to Comes Cabot. In all probability he was going to sea. He must be the Jean Le Seelleur who married Jeanne de la Haye. She was a widow by 1613.
There was one child, also Jean, of whom she became tutrice in 1615. Amongst the electeurs were Philippe and Pierre le Scelleur but their relationship is not known, they are likely to have been uncles of the child. He, Jean le Scelleur fils Jean, was 'approuvé en age in 1634.
Picking up again the thread of the story in December 1604, we learn that Collas and his brother Jean had to go to the Royal Court once more. It was a sad occasion. They had to name a meneur or tuteur for Jean's baby daughter Marguerite. Her mother, who was a daughter of Michel Asplet, had died.
The dates suggest that the death occurred at or very near the date of the birth. The friends and neighbours who went to court to appoint the guardian were: Jean le Celleur (father), Jacques Asplect, Philippes Amy, Nicollas le Celleur (that is Collas, the uncle), Jean Mallet, Edemond Machon.
Seven electeurs are required. Either the scribe omitted a name or this tutelle was one member short. However, the document continues in time honoured form: De nostre office il nous pleust sermenter ... Jean le celleur pere de la sudyte fille ... estant desia comme meneur ou tuteur naturel ... pour estre meneur et garde tant du corps et sante de sadyte fiIle que de tous et ytels biens meubles et heritages comme a luy peult ou pourra appartenir en toute ceste Isle de Jersey ... The tutelle is signed by 'Ge Poulet baylly' and the Jurats Helier Lempriere and Clement de Maresq and sealed with the seal of the Bailiwick and with the bailiffs arms on the reverse. Appointing a guardian for a child is a very solemn matter.
When she was 20 years old, in September 1625, Marguerite was approuvee en age. Jacques Asplet was the only one of the original electeurs amongst the five who were present to affirm before the Royal Court that she was capable of conducting her own affairs. Within a few years she had married Martin Badier. In 1635 Marguerite Le Seelleur, fille de feu Jean et femme de Martin Badier, sold her share of the inheritance from her father, Joh(a)n Ie Seelleur fils Joh(a)n fils Denys, to her elder brother Jean.
It is clear that there were two men with the same name who could very easily be confused: Jean Ie Seelleur fils Jean fils Collas fils Joh(a)n fils Denys, who gave power of attorney to Cosme Cabot and the brother of Marguerite who was Jean Ie Seelleur fils Joh(a)n filsJoh(a)n fils Denys.
Those transactions for a Jean fils Jean which are in the family collection under examination must relate to the heir of Collas. Had the main line died out, one would expect Marguerite and her brother to feature in the collection as collateral heirs but, as they do not, it seems safe to assume that there was no break in the senior line.
Complaint of obstruction
Firmly following the story of the senior line once more we discover that there is an extract from the Roles of the Court of the Fief et Seigneurie de Rozel, dated 1627, which reveals that Jean Badier fils Jean must have been obstructing the way to the common meadow and common land of Le Fief de Rozel above the mill-pond.
The Court ruled that Philippe Mallet, Thomas Le Feuvre, Jean Richardson fils Hugh and the heirs of Jean Ie Scelleur (the heir, see above, did not come of age till 1634) owned a right of way to the common lands and, therefore, ordered that Jean Badier ... mettre ledyt Chemin Audelivre - Sur peine d'Amende.
When he was 20, in 1635, young Jean le Scelleur fils Jean leased in perpetuity to Philippe Mallet fils Jean du fieu de roszelle clos du gras vallet. Its description shows it to be the field which bears the same name today. It was terre campartiere, that is it owed to the Seigneur the twelfth sheaf of corn or flax.
Philippe Mallet was to get proprietary possession when his lease expired. A lease and a sale of land suggest that young Jean was not farming his land in person at this time. In 1644, however, he was extending his holding. He acquired trois camps ... avecq Ie camp de l'espine, ladite terre campartiere ... In 1668 his eldest son Philippe acquired Le Clos du Gros Vallet adjacent to the one of the same name which went to Philippe Mallet in 1635.
By 1676 Philippe Le Seelleur had died leaving a widow, Marguerite le Ber and children. Clement le Febure was elected tuteur. In 1679 Marguerite le Ber became tutrice. The eldest child, another Jean, came of age in 1685 and at the same time he gave power of attorney to his mother. It is likely that he also went to sea for a while.
A year later, on Christmas Eve 1686, a very interesting contract was passed between this young Jean and his uncle Thomas. It looks like a substitute for a family partage between the members of his father's generation, or maybe it was a recompense to uncle Thomas for acting as head of the family since the death of his elder brother Philippe.
In the event nephew Jean leased in perpetuity to his uncle Thomas a small house to the east of the principal family dwelling with a strip of land in front of it running south as far as Le Clos du Menage. Thomas was to build a hedge to separate the properties.
He also got Le camp de la Rue, Le quart des Communes and le Costil. Finally, simply because it is so unusual, I quote in translation the following information: the uncle was to have half the grazing on Jean's Costil’s beyond his arable land, the gorse and bracken being wholly retained by Jean; they were both to be able to come and go to their various pieces of land as of old and they might hang gates if they pleased for their mutual convenience. In return for the property which uncle Thomas received, he was to pay on behalf of his nephew a rente on le gras vallet and one quarter of wheat and twenty fowls' eggs, both the latter were seigneurial rente. Marguerite le Ber, Jean's mother, promised not to claim a dower on her brother-in-law's property. Uncle Thomas' wife, Jeanne Macon, was a widow by 1711. In that year their only child, Jeanne Le Seelleur, wife of Clement Noel, parted in perpetuity with all the property her father had acquired on Christmas Eve in 1686 to Jean Badier fils Renault fils Renault.
The dated stones at les Mares or Manor Farm are
The property remaining in Jean's hands after the Christmas Eve contract of 1686 is shown in an undated Aveu du Tenement de Jean Ie Seelleur delivre aux Seigneurs de Rozel. It reads, Prem(ie)r sa Maison ou Maisons haye, hosgard, Jardins, ysues y comprenant leurs fossets tout autour contenant deux vergees vingthuit perques It(em) le Clos de Mesnage fossets tout autour Saufe celuy de l'est Contenant huit vergees treize perques douze pieds terre campartiere It(em) les Costils & Landes appelez les houguillons mesures [usque au Rochers de la mer (this confirms the firm belief of 20th century members of the family that their land extended right down to the sea) & venir au Boulleuart joinant aux Cotils de mr phip le Feuvre par Ie suruoest treize vergee douze perque Ies Chemins Rabatus It(em) Ie parquet sur Ie plain de fiiquet nom mesure tel qui! est.
The seigneurial rentes are listed.
Clameur de Haro
In September 1697, Jean, in the presence of and with the approval of his uncle Thomas, successfully raised the Clameur de Haro. An extended transcription of the record, which is self-explanatory, follows:
- L'An Mille Six Cents Nonante huit Ie Vingtdeuxieme jour de Septembre Veu Ie defaut de Mr :Clement Ie Febure fe deffaut precedent obtenu demeure maintenant adjuge Instant de Jean Ie :Seeleur et partant le Ressort de Veiie de Justice dentreux demeure enterine I I
- dont la Teneur Ensuit
- Ce troisieme novembre 1697 Jean Durell gentilhomme Lieutenant d'Honorable Homme Edouard :de Carteret Escuier Bailly de Jersey assisté de Charles de Carteret Escuier Philippe Le Geyt Estuier :Elie Dumaresq, [urets, Le Procureur du Roy, Ie Vicomte, Ie stipulant IoJfice d'avocat de Sa :Majeste et Ie Griffier Setant trouves Sur Ies lieux en Conteste entre
- Jean Ie Scelleur dune part
- et Ie Procureur du Roy et Clement Ie [ebure adjoint de lautre part,
- pour voir Vuider Ia Clameur de Haro qu'il auroit jnteriettee en presence et de lapprobation de :Thomas Ie Seeleur par opposition a Vn Chemin et passage dont ledit adjoint Se vouloit ayder :comme danciennete par dessus Ies Costils dudit Jean Ie Seeleur pour aller et venir a Ia Commune :de Rozel Suivant a l'acte du 18e Septembre 1697 de Veiie termer Sur Ce Sujet ou lesdites parties :ayant Jait Conuenir dou ze hommes Six de Chaque Coste non reprochee (sic) Scauoir:
|Richard Dumaresq gentilhomme age de 54 ans||Mr Nicollas Richardson age de 64 ans|
|Mr Francis Amy age de 43 ans||Mr Philippe nicolle age de 74 ans|
|Mr Philippe Amy Age de 33 ans||Charles Machon age de 45 ans|
|Mr Clement Machon age de 53 an||Thomas Sohier Age de 69 ans|
|Mr Thomas Syuret de 47 ans||Edouard Schier age de 76 ans|
|Mr Michel Payn age de 63 ans||Jean Perchard age de 46 ans|
- lesquels apres avoir été sermentés pour passer en qualité d'hommes de Veue pour cet effet, les papiers droits et evidences de part et dautre leur ayant été Communiqués Conformement a leur rapport, ledit Clement Ie febure est dedouté de Ses pretentions audit Chemin, et la Clameur de Haro jnterjetée pour cet effect jugée bien interjettée, et ledit le febure a l'amande et aux fraitsl
- Signes a L'original
- JD CDC PLG Ed J Pipon Griffier
Ressort de Voue de Justice
There was another Ressort de Voue de Justice in 1702 on 11 November, following upon an Acte à la Cour d'heritage du 24 Septembre 1702. The parties were the tuteur of the child of the late Drouet Godfray and Jean Le Seelleur fils Philippe. The boundaries of the Godfray property are redefined and Jean Le Seelleur has to pay the costs. Boundary stones were later planted as a result, in 1820.
This Jean Le Seelleur fils Philippe married, as we have seen, an Anne Renouf. There is an unregistered Renouf partage of 1722 which shows that the Renoufs were neighbours of the Le Seelleurs. Jean also died leaving his widow, Anne, with minor children but the only one whose name is revealed in these records is Thomas.
In 1748/9 this Thomas' cousin Susanne Noel and her husband, George Starck, were ‘’en decret’’, in serious financial difficulty, bankrupt. Thomas took over their property and their debts ... se Seroit porté heritier tant de Jeanne Ie Seelleur que de Thomas Ie Seelleur & de Jeanne Machen sa fe(m)me père et mère de ladite Jeanne Ie Seelleur après le Decret vuidé sans Insertions sur les faits dud(i)t George Stark et de lad(i)te Susan(n)e Noel sa femme fille de Clement Noel et de deffunte Jeanne le Seelleur sa femme sans quil se soit fait de Tenant’’ ... .
Susanne had a brother called Jean, apparently a half-brother because in 1733 she was said to be the sole heir of her grandmother Jeanne le Seelleur. In 1751 Jean Noel claimed back from Thomas Ie Seelleur that property which Susanne had received from the ‘’partage’’ of their father, Clement Noel.
Thomas married Elizabeth Le Feuvre who had died by 1756 when there was a Le Feuvre partage. A further partage of the Le Feuvre inheritance in 1767 reveals the names of her children - Thomas, Isaac, Jean, James and Elizabeth. Her eldest son Thomas named Elie de Quetteville as his Procureur (Attorney) in 1777. His wife Marie Renouf acted as his Procuratrice in 1806 and 1810.
The initials of both their sons, Thomas and George, are carved into the upper side of the beam in the middle of the floor of the west bedroom at Le Villot. They were uncovered during recent renovations by the present owner, John Alexander Le Seelleur, in 1982. They read TLSL 1792 and GLSL 172•. It looks as if George cut the 2 in the wrong place and gave up as he could not correct it. The boys would have been 28 and 26 years old respectively.
This evidence, along with the general conformation of the building, strongly suggests that the house was rebuilt at this time using family labour at least in part. Alternatively, it may be a new house of that date. There are the remains of an old wall in the garden which are thought to be part of a former house. The evidence of family memory is not to be discounted.
Thomas, husband of Marie Renouf, died in 1816 and an inventory of his Meubles or moveable effects made in December of that year has survived:
|1 Cheval viron 12 ans||150|
|1 do de 6 ans||150|
|une Vielle vache||120|
|une do brune||105|
|une Genisse d’un an||105|
|Un Vaux (sic) de l’année||50|
|4 vielles pipes, deux futailles||50|
|Veuve||243 6s 8d|
|chacun des fils||243 6s 8d|
Tout le reste des autres Meubles et effets estimés entre les parties à, sans compter les Meubles de la Vauve quant à l’obligation de £500 due par mr Nicolas Le Quesne il a été convenu entre lespartie qu’elle restera pour que le Montant en soit applique au Maintien et entretien de Mse Rachel Le Seelleur un (sic) des fille.
The inventory was taken at the instance of the two sons, Thomas and George, and the widow, Marie Renouf. It is witnessed by them. Marie makes her mark. There must have been considerable differences in the degree of education given to the daughters of country families in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Many farmers' wives would have had no difficulty in signing their name at this date. Thomas and George signed their names in very unsure fashion.
In January 1817 the heirs sort out the inheritance. Three of the daughters, Marie, Jeanne and Douce, cede all their shares in both "Meubles et heritages" to their elder brother. The youngest daughter, Rachel, had already been taken care of as we have seen in the inventory. One hopes that Nicolas Le Quesne's ship did not founder but that his business prospered and that he duly paid up. Elizabeth is not mentioned.
At first sight the girls seem to be getting a particularly raw deal and one wonders whether the family fortunes were at an unusually low ebb. However, they were not entirely forgotten for there is a receipt, dated 1819, from Elizabeth for 255 livres 12 sous argent cours de france for which she makes her mark and there is evidence that Marie, Jeanne and Elizabeth had purchased small amounts of rente in 1810 for which, no doubt, their father had, in fact, paid.
Douce seems to have had to wait till 1830 for some rente of her own. It was George who sold it to her, one can only guess as to where her money came from. The 1841 census returns show that Douce was one of three aunts living at Le Villot with their nephew Thomas and his family. She was aged 69 and a retired shop-keeper. She must have been a competent business woman. As she seems not to have got anything from her father's estate, it is likely that he had helped her to set up her shop earlier in the century. When her brother Thomas died in about 1847 he owed her 2,400 livres.
Back in January 1817, George also ceded all his interest in the inheritance to his elder brother, on condition, however, that Thomas was responsible for all dues or debts payable and that he, George ... jouisse & possede de la maison qui etoit echue audit difunt en sa qua lite de principal heritier de [eu Monsr James Le Seelleur son frere avec tout & autant de terrain issues appartenances et dependences comme a ladite maison en peut appartenir situee en la Paroisse de St Martin sur le fief du Roi et generalement tout et autant comme ledit James Le Seelleur en avoit pris de Philippe Picot fils Philippe par droits de I' an mille sept cents nonante ... Both brothers had to pay the dower due to their mother, Marie Renouf.
This Thomas Le Seelleur (fils Thomas fils Thomas fils Jean fils Philippe) makes his Aveu to the Seigneur de Rozel in April 1817. On comparing it with the one made by his great-grandfather, Jean Le Seelleur fils Philippe, in 1685, one is immediately aware that it is considerably more detailed, that the family estate once again includes all that which went to uncle Thomas in 1686 and that ’le bichot ... une vergee vingt-huit perches sept pieds de terre campartiere is a new piece of land. It comes from Anne Renouf's share in the Renouf partage of 1722. The rentes due to the Seigneur are the same. His signature appears: he is William Lernpriere.
Surprisingly, considering the lapse in time since 1702, there is an ‘’Accord de Bornement’’ on paper dated 1820. A boundary agreement passed before the Royal Court at this date would have been on parchment with the Bailiwick seal attached. The parties, Thomas Le Seelleur fils Thomas and Thomas Le Hucquet fils Abraham, had agreed " ... ‘’conuenus de borner leurs terres en Cotils ... dans la mime direction com me est porte en certain resort de vue entre le Tut(eu)r de l'Enjant de Drouet GodJray et Jean Le Seelleur fils Ph(ilippe) le on zieme jour de Novembre 1702’’ ...
Five boundary stones, pierres ou devises, were planted and described as mitoyienes en separation de leurdites terres a fin d'heritage. Both Thomases signed the agreement before witnesses. Thomas Le Seelleur's writing is dreadfully spidery - no scholars these Le Seelleurs. In 1821 Thomas had a sizeable bill of 127 Livres 16 sols cours de france to be paid to Thomas Gallichan his 'man of business'. It covers the period from May 1817 to September 1821 and includes the costs of some litigation with the Crown. The reasons for it and the results of it would have to be sought elsewhere.
This Thomas Le Seelleur married Susanne Le Seelleur fille de George. They were not first cousins; Susanne's father must belong to another branch of the family. There is a stone dated 1820 at Le Villot which records this union. It is built into the wing which overlooks the road. The date is a likely one for the rebuilding of what had been uncle Thomas' house in 1686.
Susanne was the second of five daughters amongst whom there was a partage of their father's estate in 1808. Susanne, wife of Thomas Le Seelleur, Jeanne, Marie and Elizabeth ceded their shares to their eldest sister Rachel, wife of Philippe Aubin. Susanne was to get 4 qr 5 cab. 2 sixt of rente and the others got 4 qr each. All five daughters had to contribute to the dower of Rachel, their widowed mother.
Unfortunately, the document does not reveal to us what house and land, if any, Rachel Le Seelleur inherited. All the daughters except Elizabeth predeceased their mother who lived on till about 1840.
There is a very clear receipt dated 1828 which also serves as family agreement, obviating the need for a more formal contract. It states: Nous les soussiones Enjans de Jeu Mr George Le Seelleur lequel etait fils puisne de Jeu Mr Thomas Le Seelleur et deJunte Mse Marie RenouJ sa [emme Reconnoissons avoir Reiu de M. Thomas Le Seelleur fils arne ... la somme de 196 livres 2 sous argent cour de [ranee ... Partani no us Declarons tenir ledit M. Thomas Le Seelleur et ses hoirs quittes de toutes demandes et reclamations de notre part a l'egard de la succession hereditaire de ladite defunte Mse Marie Renouf notre grande mere Temoin nos seings.
It is signed George Le Seelleur, Thomas Le Seelleur and Elizabeth Le Seelleur, all of whom can write very competently.
In 1832 Thomas Le Seelleur pays off to the Seigneur the Champarts which had been due in his father's day. In 1834 Julia Deslandes signs a receipt on behalf of her father for un baril de tarre which sounds an unlikely purchase for the farm.
There is a Thomas Le Seelleur who is listed as a shipbuilder in 1827. They could be the same man.
In March 1847, two years before he died, and when Thomas Le Seelleur was delegating responsibility to his son of the same name, he received an important communication from the Procureur General and Avocat General on behalf of the Crown. He was required to give up two portions of his cotils, He was invited to state his price within fifteen days ... par la vergee en quartiers de froment de rente annuelle, payable ou assignable la moindre somme d'un quartier ainsi qu'en argent.
One can imagine all the land owners who were to be affected by the Admiralty's great development at Saint Catherine, meeting, stopping to chat over the hedge, discussing, trying to decide what to do for the best and finally, under protest, stating their price and placing it at the top of whatever was the current range of values, both in terms of wheat rente and in cash as requested, as an expression of their righteous feelings of outrage at having to give up any of their hard-won land, notwith¬standing their loyalty to the Crown.
Old Thomas got his son to reply. There is no copy of what he wrote but the result was a further missive from the Procureur General and the Avocat General which says that as they had had no reply and ... considerant excessif Ie prix que Mr Thomas Le Seelleur junr, votre fils, a demandé comme agissant pour vous, ... par son soussigne en date de 26 Mars 1847, nous vous offrons les prix suivants ...
Understandably, Old Tom and Tom junior would have none of this. Our next information is dated June of the same year. The Prevot de Saint Martin, that is the Queen's Prevot, delivered a formal notice to Old Tom to appear at 10 am on Friday 11 June 1847 ... a la maison de Noe Noel proche La Mare de Ste Catherine ... pour ensuite evaluer par des Experts ... la propriété (the same land as had been listed in March) ... qui est requise pour Ie service de sa Majeste.
Le Prevot de Saint Martin knocked at the door again early in December to warn Old Tom to appear dans le Cohue Royale devant Justice on the 11th of the month in connection with the valuation of the land made in June. The records of La Cour du Samedi reveal that Old Tom did not turn up and that the valuation of his land was confirmed in his absence.
In March 1848 there were lawyer’s bills to pay for the case against the Crown. Evidently, Edouard Nicolle, Philippe Richardson, Thomas Le Seelleur and Jean Richardson, described as proprietaires de la Commune de Rozel, had clubbed together to retain the services of l'avocat Le Sueur.
In April of the following year all the family's land was valued by Thomas Messervy, Thomas Gaudin and Jean Nicolle, Apprecieurs de Saint Martin, in preparation for the partage of the late Old Tom's property. At this point the supply of family records fizzles out. Tom junior must have kept his papers in a different box.
However, this is a very good date at which to end this chapter in the history of the Le Seelleur family of Le Villot. In this same year the Godfray map was published and is a useful historic watershed. The Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society was 16 years old. The agricultural enthusiasts who founded it had a profound and widespread effect on farming methods as the century progressed.
Agriculture became more than subsistence farming with only sufficient excess to pay rentes, seigneurial and ecclesiastical dues. The idea that in our island cow we had a very special commodity to launch on the world market, was still in embryo. The thought that we might be able to boost farm incomes by selling produce to the English markets, expanded by the industrial revolution, had hardly been conceived.
The seafaring activities of our farmers, which had over the centuries provided their somewhat erratic monetary income and enabled them to educate the occasional bright youngster or to rebuild their old granite buildings when physically they had slumped beyond further repair, were slowly coming to an end during the 19th century.
The ship-building yards would not, for more than another generation, provide local employment for younger sons. Wooden ships propelled by wind and sail were giving way to ships of iron powered by coal and steam. Soon there began the mass exodus, almost, of younger sons for whom there were no prospects in the island. Their sturdy entreprenurial spirit enabled them to prosper abroad and accounts for the fact that island families are proud to keep contact with cousins all round the globe.
The last Tom died, aged five months in 1894, his brother Thomas William became the principal heir. Their nephew John Alexander Le Seelleur fils John Thomas and his son, John Robert, farm their land with as much enthusiasm and interest as any of their ancestors. To them and to their heirs falls the task of recording the subsequent chapters in this fascinating family story.
I am grateful to living members of the family and to the late Miss Kathleen Mary Le Seelleur for allowing me to study their papers and for encouraging me to prepare this article for a wider readership.
Notes and references
- ↑ This is just one of a number of suggested derivations for the Le Seelleur family name. Much depends on whether one accepts that the original spelling was Le Scelleur, gradually changing to Le Seelleur, which is not borne out by church records