Friday, 22 January 2016

Guide Book: Grouville

As usual, the 1830s Guide Book gets the date of the Parish Churches wrong., and rather than the 14th century. The Church of St Martin de Grouville was built in the 11th century, with the earliest mention of it in a charter of Robert, Duke of Normandy, in 1035.

The mention of Hougue Bie is interesting because at this time it was a hotel in private hands. The Prince’s Tower was started in 1792 by Philippe d'Auvergne, the nephew of Major-General James d'Auvergne. The building was demolished in 1924 as it was deemed unsafe. There is still, however, the Princes Tower Road reflecting the lost building.

Regarding Dean Mabon, it is clear the guide book is simply reproducing Protestant propaganda, for which there is actually surprisingly little evidence. I'd refer the ready to my study "The Image at Hougue Bie: Catholic Deceit or Protestant Propaganda"

It is interesting that back in the 1830s there was a clear realisation that the mound was artificial. There had long been speculation that the mound at La Hougue Bie was in fact a barrow, and when the Société Jersiaise took possession of the site in 1924 no time was lost in exploring this possibility. Excavation of the mound began on the 3rd of September 1924 with the digging of a trench into the eastern side of the mound By luck or design, the dig was started in best possible area for the discovery and entry of the passage grave, after only ten days of digging the original entrance was found and the passage entered.

Gorey is referred to in the representation of the States in 1832 as a town having sprung up in a short time, where before only a few huts were seen. A church was built in 1832 to provide services in English for the English families engaged in the fishery, to the building of which the States contributed £200.

Because of overfishing, the oyster trade, which is described as flourishing in this guide book, went into a fairly rapid decline and ceased by 1872.

1838 - oyster riot leads to Militia being called out
1856 - exports exceed 500,000 bushels
1872 - industry no longer in existence after over-fishing
Guide Book: Grouville.

Grouville parish is in the East, and contains several interesting places, one of which, the most striking, is La Hougue Bie, or the Prince's tower, so called from its having belonged to the Duke de Bouillon, an admiral in the British navy. It is erected on an artificial ground or tumulus, and embowered in a grove of fine trees; it commands an extensive prospect, with a bird's eye view, of nearly the whole of the Island, and a vast sweep of the French coast. Its beautiful walks and pleasure grounds, in addition, induce thousands in course of the year, to visit its lofty tower. It is a place of public resort, where parties may be accommodated with whatever they desire. Here one may exclaim—

Caught lie the varied prospects that appear,
The wanton eye just glances o'er the whole;
No single beauty charms :—the fancy here
Hoves like a libertine without control.

The original construction of this building, which has claims to great antiquity, is the subject of that romance and fable with which the history of distant ages is so frequently obscured. It is said that in ancient times the marsh of St. Lawrence was infested with a serpent or dragon of enormous size and proportionate strength, which, devouring all the inhabitants, without regard to age or sex, spread terror and desolation through the Island.

The fame of this monster having reached the ears of De Hambie, a Norman nobleman, he determined to attempt its destruction; and, arriving for that purpose with one attendant only, succeeded in overpowering his formidable opponent and cut off his head; but while sleeping after the fatigues of the fight, he was himself slain by his treacherous companion, who, it seems, was moved with the designs of obtaining his master's property and widow; and returning to Normandy, he so worked upon her feelings by asserting that the dragon had killed her husband, and that he himself had killed the dragon, and by feigning that De Hambie had urged as a last request that she would marry the person who had avenged his death—that she was moved, as the story relates, from love to her departed Lord, to espouse her servant, and gave him possession of her estates.

But his guilty conscience did not allow him any enjoyment from the success of his scheme; he was betrayed by his restlessness and agitation, and the exclamations he uttered in his sleep, and a full confession of his crime having been drawn from him, he was delivered into the hands of justice, suffered according to his deserts, and his fate was accorded to paint a moral and adorn a tale.

The widow after this, raised upon the spot where De Hambie's murder had taken place, a funeral mount or barrow, on which she placed a tower and chapel for the celebration of masses, of such a height that she could see it from her habitation in Normandy; and this is said to have obtained the appellation it now retains—from Hougue, signifying amount or barrow, and from Bie, terminating the name of the person to whose memory it was constructed,

Many years afterwards, Richard Mabon having been, on his return from Jerusalem, appointed to the Deanery of the Island by the bishop of Coutances, made many alterations in the original building, and added to the chapel, which he tailed the chapel of Notre Dame, or our Lady of Hougue Bie.

In those superstitious times nothing could be too gross or absurd to be willingly received, and Mabon does not appear to have been slack in taking advantage of the credulous temper of the age. He excited 'a peculiar reverence for the place by encouraging the idea that the Virgin Mary, frequently honoured the spot by appearing there to him; and he placed her figure in an excavation underground, formed to resemble the holy sepulchre at Jerusalem, and communicated with by arched passages, through which the people passed to pay their devotions; at the end of these passages, the figure was seen through an opening, leaning on one elbow, and with one hand extended to receive the gifts, which all who visited the chapel were expected to present.

This spectacle failing, when the charm of novelty was over, to attract the attention of the people in the numbers desired by Mabon, he had recourse to the expedient that the Virgin would for the future perform many miracles at the Hougue; and on the days appointed for the exhibitions by various impositions, such as the suspension of lighted tapers from the roof, by means which were concealed, the people expecting to see a miracle, and perhaps unwilling to be deceived, were led by him to believe that supernatural wonders had been manifested; and indeed, so gross and ridiculous were the schemes he practised, that, in after times, (here arose, in consequence, many proverbial expressions scarcely yet forgotten in the Island, and anything^ very marvellous was declared to be a miracle of La Hougue.

Farewell, rewards and fairies,
Good housewives now may say.
For now foul sluts in dairies
Do fare as well as they:
And though they sweep their hearths no less
Than maids were wont to do,
Yet who of late for cleanliness
Finds sixpence in her shoe?
Lament, lament, old babies,
The fairies' lost command;
They did but change priests' babies.
But some have changed your land;
And all your children sprung from hence
Are now grown Puritans,
Who live as changelings ever since,
For lave of your domains.
At morning and at evening both,
You merry were and glad,
So little care of sleep and sloth
Those pretty ladies had.
When Tom came home from labour.
Or This to milking rose,
Then merrily, merrily went their labour.
And merrily went their toes.

Witness, those rings and roundelays
Of theirs, which yet remain.
Were footed, in Queen Mary's days,
On many a grassy plain;
But since of late Elizabeth,
And later, James came in.
They never danced on any heath
At when the time hath bin.
By which we note, the fairies
Were of the old profession,
Their songs were Ave Marias,
Their dances were procession.
But now, alas they all are dead,
Or gone beyond the seas;
Or farther for religion fled,
Or else they take their ease.

In a tempest a few years since, some tons of lead were stripped from the roof and rolled up as a piece of paper. The tower is now the property of F. Le Breton, Esq.

Gorey.—Leaving the Prince's tower we proceed along a newly cut road to this village, which is fast increasing in size and importance. The population is fluctuating, but considerable during the season of the oyster fishing, which commences on the first of October, and finishes on the twentieth of May. About one half of the vessels engaged in it belong to the Island, the rest are from various parts of England: the number thus employed, take one season with the other, are upwards of two hundred.

This fishing is of great benefit to the Island in general as well as to Gorey, of which it is its chief support. It creates a very large circulation of money, and affords employment to several hundreds of persons. The oysters brought are laid on the beach, and sorted according to their size: the largest are left for consumption in the Island, and the rest are purchased by dealers, who lay them on particular parts of the coast of England, where they are allowed to remain some time, previously to their being brought into the London market. Twenty thousand pounds and upwards is annually introduced by this fishery. The constant bustle occasioned by the sailing and returns of the many vessels engaged, the necessary repairs they require, the various trades requisite to supply the wants of so numerous an assemblage of persons, cause the village of Gorey, during the period of the fishing season, to exhibit a singular scene of busy life.

From Gorey towards town, we next arrive at the little village, bearing the name of the parish, and containing the church, which appears to have deviated from many others in the Island in its construction from the general archetype, without entirely abandoning the crucial standard. It comprises three aisles; and over the central one, which extends in length, both Eastward and Westward, beyond the other two, riser" a spire.

Being one of the least ancient of all the Christian edifices, it probably has not been subjected to so many alterations as some of the others. It was consecrated on the twenty-fifth of August, 1312; has three fine gothic windows, in which are still some very ancient remains of stained glass. The church is one of the prettiest in the Island, and is situated in the middle of the village; has an excellent parsonage, with a quiet and rural appearance.

Sweet solitude has charms to sooth thy soul;
To puree thy mind from thoughts that wound thy peace,
And fill that reason which should be thy guide.
But let the guilty murderer beware
He comes not near these happy plains of peace;
Each bush he meets shall make him start amazed.
And each bright star strike horror to his soul!
Lost as he wanders through the mazy grove,
(Affrighted nature shrinking from his touch)
The warbling birds, whose notes melodious sound
On every hush their great Creator's praise,
And Philomel strike murder to his ears!
Dagger to the guilty minds I and balm to those,
Whose conscience, free from guilt, affliction feels.
O solitude thou spring of earthly bliss,
Where honest worth may meet a sure reward,
And, free from scandal, pride and envy, live
Content on earth, till it grows ripe for Heaven!

On an elevated spot near the church, is a venerable and solid structure that, in days of yore, was a chapel, dedicated to St. Margaret. It is now a house of merchandise: the interior of this fabric is plastered, which was probably the case with all similar buildings that no longer exist. The cemetery of the chapel is now become a garden. In the church yard, some years since, an oak was cut down that contained fifty tons of timber; it yielded six .cart loads of bark.

In this yard also is to be seen a monument or tablet, erected by private subscription to the memory of seven private soldiers, who fell in defence of the Island, in the attack made by the French in 1781, with the following inscription :—


Near this place are deposited
the Remains of

Grenadiers of the 83rd Regiment;
Who in a Party
led on

Against a detachment of French Troops
That invaded this Island,

In the midst of their victorious Companions
at la Rocque Plate,
On the 6th day of January,
In the year of our Lord, 1781,
To the memory
of these brave men
The Principal inhabitants of this Parish
Erected this Monument. 

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