Monday, 17 August 2015

Jean Poingdestre by A.C. Saunders

Some more from A.C. Saunders “History of Jersey in the 17th Century”.

Jean Poingdestre by A.C. Saunders

At this stage of the history of Jersey, it may not be amiss to give some record, of Jerseymen who distinguished themselves in one way or another during the period. We have dealt somewhat fully with Herault, Sir Philip and Sir George de Carteret, Michael.Lempriere, and their activities during the tumultuous times of this period, but there were other Jerseymen whose fame depended not so much on their warlike services, but by the cultivation of the various arts of Civil and Religious life.

We read of John Poingdestre, Philip Le Geyt, John Durell, Philip Dumaresq and Philip Falle, all men who should be remembered by those interested in the history of this great period of Jersey history. It is due to these men that we know something about the social conditions of the Island, and the laws and regulations which strove, rightly or wrongly, to advance the conditions of its inhabitants. It would therefore appear advisable to give a short sketch of each of these distinguished Jerseymen, who belonged to a period when Jersey offered few facilities to those who wished to increase their knowledge.

John Poingdestre was the son of Edward Poingdestre, and Pauline Ahier, and was born in 1609. He was the first to obtain a Jersey scholarship at Oxford, and was elected a fellow of Exeter College. He had the reputation of having a great gift for learning foreign languages. After leaving College, he obtained a position in the Secretary’s Office in London. Later, he returned to Jersey to assist Sir George Carteret in his fight against the Parliamentarians and was with him when Elizabeth Castle was surrendered to them.

After the restoration he was appointed Lt. Bailly to Sir Edward de Carteret. Not having been elected to a Juratship, the difficulty was overcome, by a mandate from the King appointing him to the office. The irregularity was condoned by the Royalist glamour which prevailed at the time, and refused to admit that the King could do any wrong.

He wrote several manuscripts dealing with the Laws of Jersey, and the "Coutume Reformee de Normandie," but his most interesting work is " Caesarea, or a discourse of the Island of Jersey," the original manuscript of which is now in the British Museum. It was written about the year 1682, and gives us a vivid account of the Island, the inhabitants, and their customs and occupations at that period.

He tells us that in the 16th Century, Jersey was but little cultivated. The Island was divided by few enclosures, but they managed to grow sufficient corn for the use of the inhabitants. They kept sheep "whereof the females had most time foure hornes and the rams oft-time six." They planted their land with apple trees to such an extent, that towards the end of the 17th Century, there were so many orchards that they did not grow sufficient grain to supply the wants of the inhabitants, and had to supply the deficiency with importations from Brittany and other places. They kept bees “which thrived there exceedingly and made a more excellent sort of honey than is seen ordinarily."

From the honey they made a kind of mead, which they used in the snaking of a drink called “Vittoe," a drink so strong, that by taking too much people were liable to be described as “Vous esfes envittoe"as "one who knowes not what he doth."

But with the increase of orchards, cider became the popular drink, and so much cider was made that there was more than sufficient for the wants of the inhabitants. He tells us that so many orchards were planted, that little else was grown, and thereby husbandry “was decay'd." The people became lazy and avoided tillage as “a painefull occupation," and took to the knitting of stockings, and waistcoats, and husband and wife and children (from the age of six) had no other occupation than knitting. These stockings were brought into the town of St. Helery, “not Hilary as has been by writers mistaken," each Saturday, and sold to Merchants, who held a fair on that day. The merchants exported the stockings to the Continent, and the waistcoats to England.

He tells us that at “St. Albin," not “Albon," there was a market each Monday, for foreign goods, it being the only considerable port in the Island. There were many other places in the Island where good harbours might have been built and Poingdestre especially mentions a place called " Bouley in the Parish of Trinity," " where shippes of great bulke might safely ryde, enter and go out," and that if this bay, or at St. Catherine's were used ships would be nearer the Channel, and save a great deal of time in not having to go past St. Brelade's, and St. Ouen's Bays, before getting properly into the open sea.

He has a chapter about the ancient monuments, and tells us that there no fewer than fifty in the Island, called Pouquelays and Hogues, the latter being nothing else but " round hillocks or eminences raised up with men's hands.. thought to be the Sepulchers of eminent persons slayne there in battaile."

He mentions two in particular, viz. one on the road from St. Helery to Montorgueil " so high that it is seene from some leegues into ye land of Normandy, having a chappel at ye topp of it, built not long since after the modell of ye Sepulcher of Jerusalem, by one Mabon who had been a pilgrim there," and the other " The Castell de Leck " " from whose top one can see far into the Island of Guernerzey." Poingdestre suggested that it was made for defence as well as a " place of retreate; " however they say that it carves the face of statelinesse of a Roman Worke, trench't and bulwarck't from ye land side, according to ye manner of those times." He also mentions “Le Chateau de Sedman” in Trinity Parish, but he cannot tell us why it was so called.

In those days the waters around the Island abounded with fish, and " Bass come by shoales so neare ye shore, that cartloads have been taken at a draught, some of them a yard long and more." Red and Grey Mullet, Turbots, Soles, Flounders, Bream and Sea Carp, Rays, all of which are brought to the market and sold at a very low price.

Then there was the great Jersey fish, the Conger, sometimes weighing as much as fifty pounds, shell fish, and he specially seems to have enjoyed the Gurnerzey Crab which he describes as " Over lushious and blunts the appetite."

There were plenty of oysters but they were not worth fishing, as the people of Concale brought them to the Island, and sold them at a very low price to the natives. The people of the Island were very fond of fishing for Ormers at low tide, and whenever there was a spring tide, they flocked down to the low water mark, and gathered in a great harvest.

He tells us how useful the wrack was for the land and growing, and the regulations the farmers had to follow in gathering it. On the Eastern coast large quantities were brought ashore by boats, from rocks far out at sea, where carts could not go. At St. Ouen's hay it was washed ashore in such great quantities, that there was a sufficient supply for that, and the neighbouring parishes, and after a storm two sworn officers were appointed by the States to see that each one - even boys - had his fair share.

In Poingdestre's day the houses were strongly built of stone, and either covered with slate or thatch. The furniture was generally of a very solid nature, so that it could be handed down from father to son.

Then there was Mont Orgueil Castle, the most stately building in the Island, and Elizabeth Castle the best fortified, and he mentions another castle, called Grosnez, " a slight thing like a gate without a castle but famous for having been a retiring place to Philippe de Carteret, Signor of St. Ouen, and his party against Peter de Brecose, pretending to be absolute Lord of the Island in ye latter dayes of Henry ye VI ; the peere which is making at ye Fort of St. Albins, a peece for Eternity, if you consider ye breadth, materialls and workemanshipp ; the Cohue or Judgemt. Hall, and likewise the Halles both new and old, where Butchers, Bakers and Corne merchants have their stalls to sell theire meats, bread and Corne free from the injurye of weather in sumer or winter."

There were twelve Parish Churches, and twenty-five Chappells " ; two free schools, with seventy pounds endowment divided between them, one in St. Peter's called Saint Anastasius, and the other in St. Saviour's called Saint Manlier or Magloire.

Poingdestre died in 1691 at the age of 82 much regretted by the people of the Island of Jersey.

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