The Chevaliers of St Helier

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The Chevaliers of St Helier

By the Rev J A Messervy, published in the 1902 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise and translated from the French by Mike Bisson, himself a Chevalier descendant


This ancient Jersey family, whose name is written Chevallier, Cheuallier or Chevalier, etc, or in abbreviation, Chlr, is probably aboriginal. The Extente of 1274 mentions the forfaiture of Jourdain Chyvalir, of the parish of St Mary; one sees also that Matthieu dit Chivalir, priest, possessed land at St Martin (Extente of 1274, p 20 and 21).

In 1331 Robert Chevalier was one of the jurors for the Extente of that date, for the parish of St Martin (Extente of 1331, p1).

In 1507 the name of Antoine Chevalier, of St Helier, appeared in the oldest Rolls of the Royal Court, and it is he who is the ancestor of the particular branch which occupies us in these notes.

Other parishes

We hasten to say that it is not uniquely in St Helier that one finds, in the 16th century, representatives of the Chevalier family: they were established in the majority of the island’s parishes, and particularly in St Ouen, St Peter, St John, St Brelade and St Lawrence.

In 1543 we encounter in the Rolls (Catel, book 9) the name of John Chevalier, alias Knight, of St Lawrence, who perhaps belonged to a Chevalier family of which many members were established in Southampton. When Jersey people went to live in England they often translated their surnames into English; that is how De Ste Croix became Holy Cross, Blampied metamorphosed into White Foot, La Cloche transformed into Bell, Syvret into Savory, etc.

There was in the King’s fief at La Moye, St Brelade, an area of land called le Fief Chevalier (Register, book 6, pages 341 and 346).


In the 15th and 16th centuries many representatives of this family were ecclesiastics: for example Sire Raulin (or Ralph) Chevalier, of the parish of St Helier, priest in 1498; Sire Richard Chevalier, also of St Helier, deacon in March 1518 (see Bulletin of 1890, p416-418); Sire Jacques Chevalier, Rector of Grouville, 1548-1565.

Olivier Chevalier, Headmaster of St Anastase about 1525 and until about 1558 probably studied at a university. It seems certain, after the Inquisition of 1538, that he was at this date Solicitor-General of Jersey. He married (for the second time, we believe) Philippine, daughter of Thomas Botterel and Guillemine Hue, and aunt of Clement Botterel, Seigneur of the fief ès-Payns, who was Constable of St Ouen, 1601-09. The widow of Mr Olivier Chevalier and her son Helier Chevalier had to maintain a long case against Jean Paulet, Dean, on the subject of possession of a house called la maison des Goueés . See Catel, book 9, the Saturday after 14 October 1560, 24 October and the Wednesday after 10 December 1560; these Acts are printed in the 25th bulletin, pages 300 and 301.

St Peter branch

We have good reason to suppose that Olivier Chevalier belonged to one of the branches of St Peter. But we have no intention in these notes to produce a history of this particular family; our aim is to occupy ourselves specially with the branch of St Helier which produced Jean Chevalier, the diarist.

Jean Chevalier was born, as we will see later, about 1589; he was the son of Clement Chevalier and Jeanne Malzard. In 1624 we find him mentioned in the Rolls as Constable’s Officer of St Helier (with another Jean Chevalier, who was the son of Guillaume). Several years later, on 28 September 1638 he was sworn in as Vingtenier of the Vingtaine de la Ville, as authenticated by the following Act:

”In the year 1638, the 28th day of September, in front of the Lieut-Bailiff assisted by Abraham Herault and Jean Dumaresq, Jurats
Jean Chevalier, son of Clement, following the election of the the principals of the parish of St Helier, has been sworn in as Vingtenier in the said parish in the Vingtaine de la Ville”.

Elder brother

Note that Clement Chevalier, elder brother of the diarist, preceded him as Vingtenier of Vingtaine de la Ville. Jean Chevalier held office during difficult times: The political dissentions which divided England had their counter-effects in Jersey, and the island was torn by the division between Royalists and Parliamentarians. Chevalier remained faithful to the Royalist cause, for which he undubtedly suffered a lot; he recalls in his diary how he refused in 1643 to give the Parliamentary chiefs the keys to the St Helier Arsenal, despite the threats of death from Philippe Le Boutillier.

At the end of 1651 when the Republicans took possession of the island, Jean Chevalier had to quite his post of Vingtenier. In 1665 he was sworn in as one of the officers of St Helier for the Extente of 1668; he became also, and remained until his death, deacon of the parish of St Helier.

It is most regrettable that due to the lack of sufficient contemporary documents, the life of the diarist is so little known, Two historians only give any details about him: the Rev Edouard Durell in the notes which he has added to the History of Jersey of Philippe Falle, and Mr Hoskins in his book entitled Charles II in the Channel Islands.

We have little to add to what these historians say relating to the manuscript of Chevalier and its author; permit us however to give a few impressions we have had from reading the work.

Serious intellectual

Jean Chevalier was certainly a serious intellectual, religious, intelligent and methodical; he had without doubt received an education very uncommon in this era, and was strongly interested in politics, and the prosperity of his country; he set himself the task of noting with care, from day to day, the principal events of the struggle between Royalists and Parliamentarians. This enterprise was not the easiest: it was a question of recounting what happened on land and sea, in Jersey and Guernsey, even in England; of producing an impartial and accurate account of the cruises made by thye King’s frigates, armed by George de Carteret; of speaking of the supplying of Castle Cornet, besieged by the Guernsey parliamentarians, etc; such appears to have been the programme of our diarist and one can only admire with what conscience, what precision, what exactitude of details he acquitted his voluntary task.

Evidentily his role as Vingtenier enabled him to learn quickly and accurately what was going on in the island in general and St Helier in particular; the town, although still very small, was however in some ways the centre of the life of the island.

Besides, by his marriage to Marie La Cloche, daughter od Edouard La Cloche, of St Helier, he was allied to one of the island’s best families. The Rev Etienne La Cloche, Rector of St Ouen, was his brother-in-law; and Jurat Benjamin La Cloche, Seigneur of Longueville, his first cousin, had married one of the sisters of Sir Philippe de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen, Bailiff and Lieut-Governor.

Important relatives

Jean Chevalier thus had important relatives. from the social and political point of view. It is impossible for us to therefore to share the view of Hoskins, who called him in a passage in his book Charles II in the Channel Islands’ “a subaltern parochial officer, whose most authoritative source of information could have been little more than second hand backstairs gossip”. This gratuitous malice did not prevent Hoskins from drawing largely on Chevalier’s manuscript; he recognised moreover, from the preface of his work, that the Jersey diarist was entirely reliable.

We have already said that the aim of our author in writing his diary was above all political. It is true that from time to time he touches on other questions, but he does it very soberly and so to speak with some repugnance: gossip and tittle-tattle were not to his taste. It is a great shame that he so rarely deviated from his political agenda becasue we would have liked him to have spoken of himself, his family, his profession, etc. On searches in vain for information on this subject in Jean Chevalier’s own work.

Also we would have had the greatest difficulty in identifying him among his numerous contemporary namesakes if we had not found in the manuscript the following note, evidently written by a son of the diarist:

”November 1675. My mother Marie La Cloche, wife of my father Jean Chevalier, has died at the age of 83.”
”30 November 1675, Jean Chevalier died aged 86.”

These facts are fully confirmed by the Registers of Burials of the parish of St Helier, of which these are two extracts:

”Marie de la Cloche, wife of Jean Chevalier, Deacon, died and was buried on 23 November 1675.”
”Jean Chevalier, Deacon, aged 86, died on the last day of November and was buried on the first day of December 1675.”

We thus see that the diarist attained the advanced age of 86 and only outlived his wife by eight days. We can also conclude that he was born about 1589; but it is impossible to fix the exact date of his birth, because the Registers of St Helier did not start until 1596.

Great-grandson's baptism

Note also that a short time before his death the diarist presented at baptism on 6 September 1674 his great-grandson, Clement Chevalier, who became Constable of St Helier in 1717.

After these details of the author of the manuscript we return to his work and remember that it covers the period from 1643 to 1651, and finishes on the arrival of the Parliamentarians in October 1651. Chevalier appears to have had the intention to continue his diary for seceral years: this appears from several passages in the manuscript and above all from an allusion to a new volume in which he intended to speak of a crown which Sir George de Carteret, Bailiff and Lieut-Governor, had placed on the bell tower of St Helier.

It even seems probably that he took notes with the aim of drafting another volume; but, for reasons unknown, he was not able to achieve his objective and these notes have been lost.

Poor vision

In 1645, when he was about 56, he spoke in passing about the weakness of his sight: “My eyes are tarnished”. Perhaps this was the reason why he did not continue his interesting account beyond 1651. What a shame that he did not do so. There are so few sources of information about Jersey for the period between 1652 and 1655; the Rolls of the Royal Court and the States are virtually all missing duing these years when the Parliamentarians again came to power and undoubtedly introduced changes which it would be interesting to know about. Chevalier would not have failed to inform us about this little known time in our history; he would havecarefully recounted the principal deeds, without including the ordinary and extraordinary incidents which would have been found “at the end of his journal”, following an expression which was familiar to him.

But while expressing regrets, realise that what we have in the work of Jean Chevalier is an infinitely precious contribution to the history of our country during the Civil War of the 17th century.

Tradition has it that our writer’s house was on Market Square, close to where one today finds the offices of the Chronique de Jersey. This is confirmed by an act of the States of 22 March 1698, permitting Clement Chevalier, descendant of the diarist, to rebuild his house, situated at the top of the Market, to make it more comfortable. There were columns of the old house and in their place he put the foundations of the new one. In addition the act informs us that after the prison had been built in the town and cage was done away with; this we say, spoiled the view of Chevalier’s house. The States decided to erect in place of the cage a pedestal, with five or six steps, on which to mount a sundial.

The new Chevalier house carried the initials CC (Clement Chevalier) and the date, we believe, of 1715, still legible after many years; these signs disappeared in the course of repairs to the building. The property in question was inherited by the Hemery family.

Town merchant

We have reason to believe that Clement Chevalier, the elder son of the diarist, was one of the principal merchants of St Helier; it appears to us to be interesting to note that in 1687 Mrs William Button (Bouton), nee Jeanne Bailhache, was ordered to pay Mr Clement Chevalier, son of Jean, the sum of 100 livres tournois for wedding dresses supplied by him. According to the Registers of the parish of St Lawrence, William Button and Jeanne Bailhache were married in Sark in 1684 by Mr Benoist, minister of that place.

Clement Chevalier, grandson of the one we have spoken about, was for several years Centenier of St Helier and, on 11 May 1717 he was sworn in as Constable of that parish, replacing Philippe Patriarche. But he was not to occupy this position for very long because he died suddenly two years later; he was buried in St Helier on 2 May 1719.

His eldest son, Clement Benjamin Chevalier, became Seigneur of Anneville in 1738 on the death of his mother, Marie Dumaresq. He did not live long in Jersey because an important inheritance he received in December 1722 took him to live in England. His cousin Temple Chevalier, of Aspall Hall, Suffolk, who died on 5 December 1722, left him this property in his will dated 10 November 1722. Temple Chevalier had sold much of his property in Jersey from 1702, no doubt to buy Aspall Hall from the Brook family, of which Lord Cobham was a member.

Clement Benjamin Chevalier (described in the Rolls of the Royal Court as Clement Chevalier gent) settled at Aspall where his family continue to this day. Among his descendants, the best known, perhaps, was John Chevallier MD, who died in 1846. He was the first to grow and introduce to practical agriculture the famous barley known as “Chevalier barley”, and Temple Chevallier (died in 1873) canon of Durham and professor of mathematics at the University of Durham. The representative of the family at Aspall is John Barrington Chevallier.

Lord Kitchener

Lord Kitchener of Khartoum and Aspall belongs to the Chevallier family of Suffolk through his mother, born Frances Chevallier, daughter of the Rev John Chevallier, and aunt of J B Chevallier.

The arms borne by the Chevalliers of Aspall Hall are described as “Argent on a cross, gules, five escallops of the field”.

The General Armoury of Burke and the Armorial of Jersey give another description of the arms of Chevallier:”Azure, a unicorn’s head, erased, argent, on a chief of the last, three winister wings, sable.

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