Jersey Island 2015 ~ the Land of our Ancestors Lempriere and Aubin
Written by David Bell
|The Township of Saint Aubin at dusk.|
During our 2015 May-June trip to Europe to visit Winnie's brother and his family in Holland, we took a two day detour to Jersey Island, the ancestral land on my father's side. And as it turned out we were very glad we did so.
Jersey was not like I imagined; probably because everything I had learned about it was old history. I was not prepared for the bustling, modern Jersey that greeted us. I knew it would not be as primitive as when our ancestors lived there, but I still sort of half imagined it to be a quaint, quiet place; a lot slower than France and Britain, the two mainlands it shares. Instead, we immediately discovered a favorite holiday spot and prosperous business center.
Jersey is not part of the United kingdom, even though closely allied both ideologically and culturally. It is, instead, a Crown dependency which is like having a monarch who reigns but does not rule. Under such a system Jersey is a self-governing possession of the crown with its own parliament and its own laws. Being a Crown dependency excludes it from membership in the Commonwealth but it is part of the European Union with the Euro as currency.
We also found out that it's some kind of tax haven that attracts a lot of wealthy people from England. An elderly local lady we chatted to on some steps leading down to the pebbly sand of Gorey Bay informed us she was waiting for her son to moor his small yacht; he had a successful business in England and kept a holiday yacht in the bay. He flew over frequently, even if just for the weekend, the flight being a mere 30-40 minutes and cheap. Looking at the hundreds of boats moored in the bay and all the other bays across the island, it appeared there were many others like him. I don't know how but apparently there are some financial benefits to be exploited by having Jersey residency.
Above:Looking out over the wing of our plane to catch our first glimpse of Jersey Island
Below: A closer aerial view.
We stayed in a small hotel in St Heliers, the island's capital. The island is not huge so it was a good base for the couple of days, the bus terminal being within walking distance. The bus system was excellent which was good because it was by bus we planned to do all our sight seeing and family history things. The buses were clean and comfortable and we were struck by how friendly and courteous the drivers were. More than once we found ourselves well short of the bus stop and seeing us hurrying the drivers pulled over and picked us up. I mention all this because Jersey just has the feel of a nice place to live. The climate is mild, the land very fertile, small well kept parks abound, and the houses have that neatly painted look of prosperity and wealth about them. Nearly all the homes are of stone or some permanent material and keep a modern but 'old' look; no doubt a deliberate effort to maintain an historical kind of charm. It worked because we were impressed with how nice everything looked and how well the buildings blended with their surroundings. Also, the streets are immaculate; quite narrow in parts but well maintained, many with trees or stonework walls running alongside. I learned later that Jersey has an abundance of its own unique pinkish rock which has been used since old times for buildings, roads and dry-walls, which explained why, to my eye, everything had a sort of uniform look about it.
Our accommodation was the Staffordshire Hotel, three floors and old in style. It was classified two star but clean and comfortable enough and well located for our two day stay. The big bonus was its restaurant which was very reasonably priced with excellent food.
The lamb shanks were the best I've ever had. The desserts were good too. We didn't need to look elsewhere for a nice dinner.
Above: Some of the many parks and gardens across the island. Notice the New Zealand cabbage trees which suggests a climate similar to ours. Our cabbage trees were everywhere.
Above: We saw a lot of small farms and gardens all over Jersey, like this potato field with its neat stone wall.
Castles and big stone forts are common sites; some in better repair than others. Throughout their history the Channel Islands have been regularly fought over by the English and the French, with England finally gaining the upper hand. Consequently, Jersey and the other islands are now British. This old squabbling explains the numerous castle-like forts all around the Jersey coastline; the largest and best preserved being Elizabeth Castle at St Heliers and Mont Orgueil at Gorey Bay. Both are tourist attractions and for a price we could have taken a tour through one of them but we chose instead to be satisfied to walk around the outside.
Above: The Elizabeth Castle at St. Heliers has a long path leading to it which is exposed at low tide.
Above: A closer view of Elizabeth Castle.
Above: Gorey Bay and Mont Orgueil Castle.
Above: Gorey Bay is a popular tourist spot boasting a delightful township with cafes, restaurants and other tourist businesses. It also sports a sheltered, scenic bay where boats are moored, and a grand old castle watching over it like a giant stone sentinel.
One of the family history tasks we set ourselves was to visit at least a couple of cemeteries in search of some old ancestors. I knew the Aubins and Lemprieres were buried in several different cemeteries across Jersey, but from my records the names Grouville, St. Martins and Trinity came up as the parish graveyards where most were laid to rest. We caught buses to St Martins and Grouville to see who we could find. Luckily, the two were not too far apart so we were able to spend a few interesting hours searching out familiar names. It was a buzz each time we discovered an Aubin or Lempriere.
The old churches on Jersey, like St Martins (above), are over a hundred years old, superbly kept and judging by the notices outside the entrances, still well used for worship services.
The St. Peter La Rocque Church, Grouville parish where we found several Aubins.
A cluster of Lemprieres under the shade of an ancient tree.
Reginald Raol Lempriere. Seigneur of Rosel and his wife Clemintine Baroness von ? 1873 - 1935
William Lempriere, Seigneur of Rosel, died 31 January, 1895 aged 76. And his wife Julia Anne Wayne, died 18 January 1892 aged 72.
Francois Aubin, died 4 February 1892 and his wife Elizabeth De Quetteville, died 27 July 1903 aged 79.
This is an interesting one. George Aubin, died 20 March 1895 shares this grave with Jane (nee Stone) Aubin, Thomas Letto Le Quesne 1994, Alice Emily Aubin Le Quesne 2003, and Maurice Phillip Boots as recent as 2011. I think the later burials must be cremations. I can't see how so many coffins can fit in one plot.
Phillippe Aubin, died 9 March 1861 and his wife Marie Madeleine Caudin, died 13 January aged 69. Also, Elise Esther Aubin and Upton Edward Boots and other family names.
Josue Aubin, died 21 February 1885 aged 74 and his wife Susanne Queree 1882 aged 68. Also Eugene Aubin, Eugene Perredes, Susanne Aubin died 5 June 1883 aged 25. Other names listed on this head stone are: Eugene Perredes, Susanne Aubin, Josue Aubin, and Ann Queree. It appears that several generations share the same plot - as well as the same names.
Finally, I wish to conclude this article with our search for Rosel the old Lempriere estate which has been discussed in an earlier article.
Winnie and I considered it a 'must-do' while in Jersey. It just wouldn't be right to leave without setting foot on that piece of our family history soil. We had hopes of actually visiting the old Rosel manor which is still Lempriere owned. We had information that being a place of historical significance it was open to the public on certain days. But when we arrived in Jersey we were told that it was now closed to the public. This was confirmed when we struck up a conversation with an elderly lady sitting on the steps going down from the Gorey Bay township to the beach. She was waiting for her son to come in from his small yacht moored in the bay. As it happened she was a friend of the Lemprieres of Rosel. She said we could probably contact the Lemprieres and being relatives they might possibly let us have a look. But it was getting late and we were leaving the next day.
We had been told that there was a public walking trail that went through the Rosel estate and at one point you could see across the fields and get a good view of the Manor, so we decided to take a bus and see if we could find Rosel before sunset. With the help of the bus driver we disembarked near the walkway. A lady walking her dog knew the trail and took us to where it began and gave instructions on how to find the field to view the Manor. The following pictures tell the rest of the story.
The start of the walkway to the Rosel estate; It was a very nice track that wound its way past a few country homes that were obviously owned by wealthy locals, through a forest and up a walled country lane.
The walled lane which was obviously very old. I could easily imagine our old ancestors walking or riding horses along it.
The end of the lane opened onto green paddocks with Jersey cows grazing in them. I looked across to my right and to my delight spotted the unmistakable outline of Rosel House. There was a small gate opening into the field so I quickly opened it and went into the paddock, just to prove I have trod the soil of our ancestors. We hung about for a little while and Winnie took some more photos of the cows.
The next day we left Jersey after a delightful two days in which we enjoyed near perfect weather, some great sightseeing, excellent food, a walk through the War Tunnels with it's fascinating history of Jersey during the German occupation of World War Two, and a bunch of family history. We found Jersey to be one of the nicest places we visited on our trip to Europe. Of course in two days we didn't see or do a tenth of what's there is to see and do.
We made this visit thinking it to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but now I'm not so sure. If we ever again visit Winnie's folk in Holland I would be sorely tempted to go there once more.