Friday, 4 July 2014

The Lemprieres of Jersey Part Two: Rosel Manor

Rosel Manor, Jersey Island

The Lemprieres Part Two: Rosel Manor
By David Bell
In our family history discussions much has been said about Rosel (an historical manor house on Jersey Island) and our family connections to it. This article is a summarised history of the place.
In feudal times (medieval-middle ages) the Channel Islands were owned by the king who
administered them as fiefdoms; a fief being land, properties and people gifted to someone by the crown. There were several different types of fiefs, Rosel being a Seargenty, a fief granted because of some honourable act or service to the king. The Seargenty fief was under the stewardship of a Seigneur who was essentially the Lord of the Manor with the power and authority to administer his own form of law and justice over his fief. However, whilst they were termed freehold and inheritable, they were still the ultimate property of the king who could reclaim and redistribute them if the current Seigneur fell from favour. There were two fiefs on Jersey; St. Ouen and Rosel.
Rosel was probably named after the Rosel family who owned a large fief on the west coast of Cotentin in Normandy (France). This same family secured two other fiefs on both Jersey and Guernsey, probably in the early to mid 12th Century (1100's). There is no documentation but it is probable that the Rosel of later times was at first part of their Jersey fiefdom long before the Lemprieres came on the scene. 

The Fournets and de Barentins
The first documented owners were the de Fournet family around 1200 AD. When the islands of Jersey and Guernsey were separated from mainland Normandy in 1204, the Seigneurs with fiefs on both the mainland and the islands were compelled to choose between French or English allegiance. The de Fournets chose France and consequently got offside with King John of England who seized their Jersey estates. He then redistributed it to de Fournet's younger brother who was loyal to England ( more about the 1204 situation later). In 1233 King Henry III confiscated it and took ownership, thus ending the de Fournet stewardship. He later granted it to his Jersey Warden (like a Governor), Drogo de Barentin in 1247.

The de Barentins were a Norman family who had lost all their lands in Pays de Caux because of their fierce loyalty to King John. Rosel was obviously a reward for that loyalty. The Barentins did quite well from their allegiance to England by receiving large tracts of land in Trinity, Jersey, as well as in England. Monseigneur de Barentin was also awarded the important and lucrative post of Seneschal of Gascony. A Seneschal is the overseer of the domestic affairs and administration of servants in the royal household or on any of its numerous estates.

Rosel had a long and colourful history under the five generations of de Barentin stewardship (1247 to 1354).  The first Seigneur, Drogo de Barentin seems to have done well enough but his grandson, Sir Drogo II de Barentin, who succeeded him as Seigneur, was a dreadful person; arrogant, bullying, lecherous, and criminally violent. His behaviour became intolerable even for the long-suffering islanders who lived in poverty and relied on the aristocrats for a livelihood. He was a law unto himself with one of his worst behaviours being the regular seizing of women to be brought to Rosel to satisfy his lusts. Complaints flooded in about his actions but he was notoriously difficult to pin down for punishment. Firstly, he enjoyed the support of the king as long as he paid due homage. Secondly, as Seigneur he had total authority over his fief to administer the laws as he saw fit. The poor had practically no rights at all. Thirdly, when confronted by other authorities he used denials and threats. Furthermore, he had the capability of seeing his threats through and consequently was able to scare accusers and jurors into silence. Lastly, he was so wealthy that if all his other tactics failed he could simply buy his own justice. It must have been a great relief to the islanders when he died and was succeeded by his nephew, Guillaum de Barentin. The last de Barentin Seigneur was Philippe.

The de Barentin dominance in Jersey came to a sorry end when Philippe's wife became enraged that the Seigneur of Trinity, Jehannet de St Martin, had called her an adulteress. "Avenge this insult to your mother," she raged to her two sons. "Such slanderers should have their tongues torn out!" The sons dutifully carried out her wishes by ambushing Jehannet and ripping out his tongue. It is not known whether Jehannet de St Martin died before or after his tongue was removed, but this atrocity went beyond the pale and even the powerful and wealthy de Barentins couldn't bully or buy their way out of it. The two sons fled to Normandy where the oldest was eventually tracked down, arrested, and hanged. The younger brother must have been deemed less culpable because he was allowed to resettle near the town of Rouen in Normandy. This was the era when the Lempriere family became involved with Rosel.

In his later years Philippe de Barentin was accused by his cousins of having leprosy. In those days the moment you contracted leprosy you were considered legally dead and all your inheritances were taken off you. In truth, Philippe's relatives were seeking to add Rosel to their lands and Philippe's leprosy would make that all the more possible. Philippe was indeed afflicted, not with leprosy but with a slowly deteriorating mental state.

However, he was not mad enough yet to be fooled by his cousins' trickery. He decided to sell Rosel to his two attorneys, Guillaum Payne and Rauol Lempriere, perhaps to get a lot of money and at the same time thwart his cousin's plans. The sale went through in 1367 but it was by no means a smooth transaction and ended up costing the purchasers far more than they bargained for. Firstly, they had to pay out all the de Barentin heirs of which there was not a few, the only exemption being Philippe's disgraced son in Normandy who lost all his inheritance rights because of his involvement in the Jehannet de St Martin murder. Secondly, Rosel, being a fief, required the king's permission to change hands. This, Lempriere and Payne failed to do and incurred a stiff fine. Next, Philippe's nephews tried to block the sale causing more expense and delay. This had barely been settled when Walter Huwet, the Royal Warden for Jersey stuck in his oar by falsely advising King Edward III that Rosel legally should revert to the crown in cases such as this. King Edward believed it and confiscated Rosel and put it under Huwet's stewardship. Huwet died about ten years later and the new king, Richard II released it back to Raoul Lempriere's son Drouet and Guillaum Payne. It appears that Raoul had died in the interim. It should be known that Rosel in those days was part of the fief which included another de Barentin estate called Samares, which means the sale also included Samares. Guillaum Payne and Drouet Lempriere divided the two between them; Payne took Samares and Lempriere took Rosel, thus starting the Lempriere occupation of Rosel for the next two and a half centuries.

The interesting twist to the whole saga is that the de Barentins, Lempriere's and Paynes were all related. Genealogical records show that both the Paynes and Lemprieres descended from the de Barentins. Another possible hint towards this is that Drouet is the 'softened' version of Drogo, suggesting a family connection to the original Drogo de Barentin. The whole business was a family transaction in the end.

The Lempriere Seigneurs of Rosel 1382 ~ 1930's 
1. Drouet Lempriere.
2. Jean Lempriere: died 1648.
3. Regnaud Lempriere and his English wife, Katherine.
4. Jean Lempriere: Jean had no issue so his sister Catherine inherited Rosel after his death. Her descendants held it for a further four generations to 1625 when it was sold to Sir Philippe de Carteret, the Seigneur of neighbouring St Ouen Manor.
5. Philippe Carteret died in 1643 and Rosel passed through other hands until 1733 when heiress Elizabeth Corbet married one Charles Lempriere.
6. Charles Lempriere (born 1714) and Elizabeth Corbet. Rosel was now back in the Lempriere family after an absence of about ninety years, and 366 years from Raoul Lempriere, the ancestor who set the Lempriere ball rolling in 1367. The new Seigneur, Charles, was unpopular because he was somewhat dictatorial in his zeal to please the king. He was a ruthless pursuer of taxes and set up his Lempriere and Corbet relatives in all the important positions of government over the island. His nepotism became so intolerable the islanders revolted and attacked the Royal Court where Charles and his cohorts ruled and threatened them bodily harm unless a list of demands was met. Charles appealed to the king for help to quell the rebellious citizenry. The English government despatched soldiers to Jersey but the Commander quickly saw the other side to the story and reported it to his superiors. He was subsequently given the duty to clean it all up. Charles remained as Seigneur of Rosel but probably had his legislative wings severely clipped. It seems he must have used the free time to do home improvements because he demolished the original Rosel which was becoming uninhabitable and built a new one. In his later years the opposition became too stressful so he resigned the powerful post as Lieutenant-Bailiff and died in 1806 aged 92.
7. Philippe Raoul Lempriere, Charles' grandson. With the Lempriere political influence well on the wane, Philippe put his energies into reshaping Rosel House and giving it the castle-like appearance of today. He died in 1859.
8. The Reverend William Lempriere, Philippe's son.
9. Reginald Raoul Lempriere (died in the 1930's).
 The Lempriere family at Rosel around the late 1800's
Agricultural show at Rosel 1905
I have been researching our Lempriere family genealogical records to see what connection we may have had with Rosel, but have found none. It appears to me that our line thorough Jean Aubin's wife, Ann Elizabeth Lempriere, might have been on a lower branch of the family tree and it was our wealthier cousins that inhabited those hallowed halls. Certainly, we had some association with Rosel because it is remembered in our family history, even to naming the Aubin homestead in Pirongia, Rozel. This homestead was inhabited by Jean and Ann's descendants for generations and while it has passed from the family's hands it still stands in Pirongia as a registered historical building. 
Rozel, Pirongia.

End part two






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