Perquages of St Ouen

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Perquages of St Ouen
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This article by Frank Le Maistre was first published in the 1948 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

As everybody should know the perquages (or perquage paths) of Jersey were at one time routes of a width of a perch which led from the parish church to the sea and by which criminals who desired to escape justice had the right of passage to take refuge in the church and then flee the island, always by this path.

The right of sanctuary was of very ancient origin in Europe but it appears that the perquage paths were unique to Jersey. We do not know a lot about them but the little that we have discovered is due to Lieut-Bailiff Poingdestre who gave an account in his book Caesarea written about 1680.

Among other things he said that often a similar path crossed a marsh, followed a stream and passed through the valleys by the shortest and most direct route to the sea.

Last occurrence

The same author also gave a short description with regard to the procedure the criminal had to submit to to abjure the country. I think it was in 1558 that a criminal last used the right of sanctuary in Jersey and this in Trinity Church. (Catholicism was restored temporarily during the reign of Mary Stuart.

A thief, Rene Le Hardy, took refuge there but nevertheless was arrested by the Bailiff. However, the Dean and the ministers of all the parishes protested so vigourously before the Royal Court against this violation of the ancient privileges of the Church that the life of the criminal was spared and he was allowed to leave the island.

Contrary to what Mr G F B de Gruchy believed (in a talk to members of La Société Jersiaise on 12 July 1933), it seems to me very probable that it was not only the parish church which retained the privilege of sanctuary in Jersey at the time of the Reformation, or more or less just before this era.

Second perquage

In support of this assertion I can say that I have traced a second perquage path in the parish of St Ouen, which one can see in a note published in the Bulletin of 1936. This path led from the Chapelle du Prieuré de Lecq to Greve de Lecq.

There has never been a mention, to my knowledge, of two perquages in a single parish but it seems to me most likely that they existed in St Ouen.

The church being situated sufficiently distant from the inhabitants of the north of the parish, is it not possible for this reason that the use of a perkage at Lecq persisted longer than others in a subsidiary nature?

The fact remains that the perquages ceased to exist when King Charles II gave them in 1663 to Edouard de Carteret, Viscount of Jersey, as recompense for services rendered. Edouard de Carteret started immediately to sell sections to those with land bordering the perquage.

Having recapitulated a little as a matter of introduction, we will now attempt to walk the length of the Perquage of St Ouen. Miss Julia Marett has lent me six copies (which she owns) of contracts forming part of a collection regarding the sale of perquages and waste land in the island by Edouard de Carteret and his heirs, coming from the gift of Charles II. With the aid of these copies and my knowledge of places in St Ouen, also with patience and having questioned those who willingly gave me information which has proved useful in my research, I believe that I have been able to reconstruct the ancient perquage path which has been disused for about 400 years.

Upper section

I need first to say that I have not been able to trace what I call the upper part of the perquage from documentary evidence. I am not aware which heirs of Edouard de Carteret had been able to sell portions of the perquage to others.

Editor's note: This may well be because the upper reaches of the route from the church suggested by the author were never part of a perquage. See more recent article which has an entirely different explanation for the perquages.

It would perhaps be possible to determine this through research at the Public Registry but that would be a task demanding much time. Suffice it to say that this section can be assumed as such for reasons which will become apparent.

Thus, much as it is a theory which I advance on the subject, I dare say that it appears to me to be sustained by uncontestable evidence.

First contract

The first contract, dated 1664, shows that "Edouard de Carteret sold to Pierre Dauverne the perquage starting at pont des croix du Roy (my italics) heading south-west to Val les Vaux Cuisin finishing on the south-west boundary of the land of Jean Dauverne, son of Jean, son of Jacques, the perquage situated in St Ouen on the fiefs of Morville and Haubert".

So here is the start of the section section, or lower section of the perquage. It seems to me that there can be no doubt that the pont des croix du Roy was situated between the houses Le Canal and Grantez (belonging today to H F Vibert and J Pirouet, respectively), one on the Grande Cueillette and the other on the Cueillette de Grantez.

It can be seen on a map that Les Croix (J Le Maistre) is very close as well as the fields in the neighbourhood called La Croix, Clos de la Croix, Grandes Croix and Petites Croix, etc.

Le Canal gets its name from the stream passing immediately opposite just a few paces away. It flows under the road now into the meadow opposite called Vaux Cuissin.

What could be more natural than that this road we know today was constructed on the bridge crossing the stream? That must be le pont des croix du Roy.

As further proof it is said that the perquage went a val les vaux cuisin, which are still called Les Vaux Tchessin by the natives of these parts.

According to the Registers of St Ouen, "Jean du Val, son of Francois, wife of Jeanne, daughter of Philippe Syvret of Vaux Cuissin, 7 October 1702."

So there was a house here at that time of which no trace can be found today. However, there were certainly remains of a ruin in the corner of the field just below Mr Pirouet's house.

It seems to me that Pierre Dauvergne must have been the brother of "Jean, son of Jean, son of Jacques", who lived at Les Sablons. We are told that the perquage was situated partly on the Fief de Morville and partly on the Fief Haubert, which fits well with the assertion of some old parishioners that it is the stream which divides the fiefs in this area. Note, too, that the perquage must have been half of each bank of the stream.

Second contract

The second contract (not in chronological order) which dates from 1663, says that Sieur de Carteret sold to George Dumaresq the perquage starting from the garden of Edouard Le Rues going north to the a piece of land called Le Maresquet and belonging to the heirs of Jean de la Perrelle, lying between Le Maresquet and the Edward Le Rues' field in Fief de Leoville.

Dumaresq took all the perquage going north to the cotil of Richard Gasnier between the land of Nicolas Le Montais and Servais Le Cerf on this fief in St Ouen.

I have not been able definitely to establish either the garden of Edouard Le Ruez nor Maresquet, much as I suppose that the latter was the field marecageux shown on the map, and remained in the de la Perrelle family until recently. It belonged to J Vautier (formerly of La Chasse); his wife was a de la Perrelle.

Beyond this field lay an extensive sand dune and no trace of the ruins can be seen where this house must have been, assuming that 'garden' presupposes a house relatively close by.

As to the cotil of Richard Gasnier and the lands of Nicolas Le Montais and Servais Le Cerf, it would be possible as I have said to find these properties in the Registry but this would be a formidable task. Suffice to say that one knows that certain land in the vicinity belonged to the Le Montais and Le Cerf families.

Incidentally I have noted on 23 January 1655 in the St Ouen Registers that "Servais Le Cerf married Jeanne, daughter of Philippe de la Perrelle". And also, "Susanne Gasnier, wife of Audre Le Montais, was buried in April 1759". I imagine that the Fief de Leoville must actually have been the Fief de Morville.

Third contract

A third contract, dated 1664, alludes to "neuf parques de terre le long en percage (nine perches of terre along the perquage) sold to the same Dumaresq, joining at the northern end the garden of Edouard Le Rues, running to the valley between Le Maresquet, of the heirs of Jean de la Perrelle, son of Philippe, and the meadow of Edouard Le Rues, and further to the beginning of the cotil of Nicolas Le Montais and of Servais Le Cerf, as far as the valley towards the sea and the boundary markers and generally all of the perquage which belonged to de Carteret towards the sea in Leoville and Fief de Leoville in the parish of St Ouen". Again I suppose that Leoville was substituted for Morville.

Fourth contract

The fourth contract of 1690, by which de Carteret sold to Jean Le Rues, son of Edouard, refers to a certain becquet de percage ( small section? ) lying between Jean Le Rues' land and on the east of the land of Philippe de la Perrelle, and generally as much as de Carteret had sold to the late George Dumaresq in the Fief de Leoville.

Fifth contract

The fifth contract, dated 1715, says that Francois Le Maistre, curator of Charlotte and Sara Hussey, heirs of Anne Brevin (sister and heir of Edouard de Carteret) sold to Jean Vibert, son of Jean du Marais, the perquage from the perquage of Pierre Dauverne, son of Pierre, running west between the land of Vibert in St Ouen on the fief Haubert, and partly on the fief Morville.

From these last two contracts it is not easy to establish the limits of these parcels of land, because being dunes or waste land the boundaries are not clearly visible.

It is interesting to observe that the lower part of the stream which, as we saw at the start of this article, flows past Les Vaux Cuissin and across Les Mielles to the sea, is called Le Canal Vibert and certain pastures immediately to the south Les Patures Vibert.

It would not be too difficult to establish a connection between these placenames and Jean Vibert, son of Jean.

Sixth contract

The sixth and last contract, of 1702, although not relating to the perquage, is nevertheless of an absorbing nature. "Jean Durel, curator of Anne Brevin, sister and heir of the late Edouard de Carteret, sold to Francois Ricard certain waste land on the east of the field belonging to Elie du Heaume, as far as the house of Philippe Le Cras and his wife, daughter of Jean Perrier, called La Tannerie, and generally as much as Anne Brevin had rights to following the counter-exchange betweeen Mr de Carteret and Anne Dumaresq, widow of Philippe de Carteret, and curator of his children on 9 October 1661, the land situated in the Fief de Morville, St Ouen."

Where was La Tannerie and the Perrier family? I ignore this. I know that the Ricards and the Le Montais were allies and living in the area, but where could these waste lands be? The de Heaume family (of La Robeline) still owned sand dunes below Les Monts in the middle of the last century. If I may be allowed to stray a little I think that the Elie du Heaume mentioned above could be the one who in 1669 set down "before Justice on the occasion of a contract between the Seigneur of St Ouen, for the Fief of Morville, and the Seigneur of Vinchelez de Haut, for the Fief d'Aval, concerning the limits of their fiefs in St Ouen's Bay. At this time this Elie du Heaume was aged about 70.

Little information

It can be seen that the majority of these contracts do not give us very much information. It's only the first which allows us to put our finger on one end of the perquage. This is sufficient enough as long as the other parts are certain to follow the watercourse as far as the sea.

The Canal Vibert, as well as the perquage, flow across the dunes bordering the sea south of La Crabiere, This part of the dunes is called La Pierre Butée and Mare de la Pierre Butée. The works of the Occupation troops and also the recent practical drainage close to this area has undoubtedly changed things a little. I digress again in saying that this butée stone which was moved some years ago by the Germans was supposed to mark the boundary between the Cueillettes, and another stone which still exists was to mark the free vraic and the vraic of the marée. Incidentally, I also own a piece of the dunes in the area.

Upper section

We now examine the upper section of the perquage. It has been necessary to reverse things and describe the second part first, because, as I have said, we have no information on this subject. However, if one traces the stream upwards it can be seen to be quite logical to presume that it was thus that the perquage came from the church.

The fields below the house Le Canal are known collectively as Les Tihelles. As an aside we mention that in the baptismal registers of the parish there is a mention on 1 May 1701 of "Philippe de La Perrelle snr of La Tihelle and Judith de Caen his wife" who were godparents respectively of the newly born. And also on 29 April 1684 "Jean Le Vesconte of La Tihelle dies".

So there was a house somewhere in the fields known as Les Tihelles and an old inhabitant of the area has told me that the foundations of a house can still be seen in La Petite Tihelle.

The de la Perrelles still lived in La Chasse (today Pine Farm), some distance to the east of Les Tihelles, until the beginning of this century.

Returning to Les Tihelles. Here the stream is still visible throughout the year, although it is not very strong. One arrives now at a basin (in Clos de Martin) which dries out in summer, and drains the neighbouring fields, more or less marsh, two of which are called Clos des Champs and belong to the Presbytery of St Ouen.

This is situated directly above the basin on the road known as Les Ruettes, or C'min d'Pieton and which leads from the Presbytery straight to the church. This road, which was blocked by the Germans, and is currently out of use, becomes muddy in winter.

|Chemin des Pietons, disused at the time the article was written, has since been reopened and provides a pedestrian access to the back of St Ouen's Church.

Today there are still four fields, two on each side of Les Ruettes, which belong to the Presbytery or Rectory. They are called Clos du Benefice, Clos Soldat, and Clos des Champs, already mentioned. Another interesting observation is that from Les Ruettes to the house Le Canal there are only two or three small banks or hedges where the perquage passed, simple mounds of earth which could easily have been put in place once the ends of the perquage were no longer valid.

The fact that certain fields in the vicinity are still church property seems surely to indicate a connection between the Church and the Presbytery. Not far away is Rue du Prieur and closer to the church Piece de l'Hermitage.

Is it not probably that the fugitive, once out of the confines of the church, proceeded along church land as far as the watercourse, which would explain perhaps why the perquage from the outset heads north before proceeding straight to the sea?

However, an alternative route for the upper portion of the perquage would undoubtedly be the road running north direct from the cemetery to pont des croix du Roy, a part of which is called Rue du Couvent.

This theory should not be completely dismissed because it is not as important as that I have given. Only if our perquage has to follow a stream which has been suggested by Poingdestre and Miss Marett I think my theory is more admissible than the other.

In addition, if anyone protests that the marshy state of this upper section excludes the possibility of a perquage path, I would say that this applies equally to the lower part, and yet on knows now that there was certainly a perquage there.

In conclusion I should mention that certain old men have pointed out some boundary stones (which I otherwise already knew of) as forming part of this perquage path, and only 40 perch to the south of Canal Vibert and west of Chemin du Moulin, pointing out also that these stones are one perch from each other.

What is also strange is that this border does not appear to belong to anyone. I am unable to suggest its origin; nevertheless I have no hesitation in dismissing this other theory, having sufficient evidence that the perquage followed one bank or other of the stream, as has been demonstrated above.

It is also indisputable that these stones are a comparatively recent introduction.

According to the author, the St Ouen Perquage left the parish church (right hand marker) heading north and then followed a stream direct to the sea at the point (left hand marker) where Canal Vibert flows into St Ouen's Bay

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