11 September 1248, rights of islanders in the time of King John

Extracts from the bound collection of transcribed MSS known as the Nicolas Dobrėe MSS. All in beautiful copperplate, they include versions of charters and other Royal Orders and Acts, and various letters patent and so on that were obviously regarded as highly significant by the volume's owner.

1248.¹ Du Rolle de l'Echiquier de l'an Trente-deuxieme de Henry Troisième l'an mil deux Cents Vingt. [p. 1 ff.]

The King requested that the Warden of the Isles, Drogo de Barentin, should make an enquête into the rights and liberties of the inhabitants of Guernsey as enjoyed under his predecessors as Kings of England. A previous request from the King for this information having provided unsatisfactory results, he requires De Barentin to seek help from those men of the island who are best qualified to both 'know and speak the truth.' Henry is also keen to establish exactly what laws his father John had given to the Channel Islands. De Barentin (a notoriously slippery customer) is to provide this information, together with proper descriptions of his sources and exact methods of acquiring it, to the King himself.

'An inquiry made in to the Duties, customary laws and rights [Services, coustumes et liberté] of the island of Guernsey and the laws established therein by our Lord King John. Sworn witnesses under oath: Robert Blondel, Guillebert Malconvenant, Richard des Capelles, Raoul De Havilland, Raoul Burnel, Pierre Gros, Raouil Corneille, Guillaume des Roheis [Rohais], Guillaume De Grentey, Guillaume Vivier de la Court, Olivier De Vaugrand [Vaugrat], Guillaume Gosselin, Richard L'Herichie, Guillaume De Noirmont, Guillaume de la Loue, Richard le Moyne du Castel, Jourdan du Hamel, un autre Guillaume Vivier, Raoul Paisant, Richard Peley, Richard Goubey, Raoul Tarestain, et Raoul Pesant. These men state that half of Guernsey belongs to the King and his dependent Lords, and that the other half is shared between the Abbey of Mont St Michel in peril of the Sea, and Robert de Vere, and that the quarter belonging to de Vere is known as the terre du Comte.'

They describe in detail the collection of wheat to pay the king's campart, how those liable to the tax had to take what they owed in their own carts to the King's manor, and themselves stack it and guard it, and other rights and duties relating to this tax; the Bailiff's duties, and how the official collectors got a free dinner and nine livres tournois from the King for their trouble. If the King wanted the wheat sent in to Normandy (between Mont St Michel and Cherbourg and nowhere else!), they had to hire boat crews for a fortnight at their own expense. Each household owed two chickens. Those with pigs owed pasnage, which was originally the right to graze the pigs in the king's forests; the tax per pig, which was a denier tournois, became payable on the day the tax was cried at the market, and if it was not paid by sunset on that same day, the pig was forfeit and you were fined five sous tournois. The duties of the millers of the King's seven mills are listed, as are the specific obligations of the Prior of St Lenfrey, Guill[aum?]e of the Rohais,² and the fief d'Anneville concerning the treatment of prisoners; and the terms of other types of tax, such as bancage and frottage. The special prescriptions for the conger farms, or esperqueries, are particularly interesting.

This and other similar inquests can be found in full in English translation in Thomas Fiott de Havilland's Some remarks on the constuitution of Guernsey &c., Barbet, 1847, pp. 17ff. Philip Falle, Rector of St Saviour in Jersey, examined these rolls at the Tower of London, and gives what he feels is the relevant part of the text in Latin, in his Account of the Isle of Jersey, 1694, in the Library.

Other items included amongst the transcriptions are: p. 7: Sark camparts etc., 27 January 1220, Exchequer Rolls of Henry III, Folio 89; pp. 8 ff.: The rents and emoluments of the four churches and the Vale Priory, 25 January 1358 (S3 No. 92, Tower of London); pp. 55 ff.: Ancienne traduction de la Foundation du Collège Eliz. en Guernesey; p. 59: 3 May 1770, Samuel Bonamy Bailiff presiding, Extract from Registers, Act of Royal Court, Order of Privy Council during reign of Elizabeth I, copy originally made 2 May 1707 as was not in public record in island at that time, Westminster 22 June 1565, Right of islanders to have cases heard in Royal Court according to charter; p. 61; 27 October 1329, Currency values in the islands; pp. 62 ff.; 1331, Précepte d'assise; p. 72. 1439, letters patent, John Philippe appointed Receiver; remuneration of officials; jurats' rights to dinners etc.; p. 73; 4 July 1674; Act of Privy Council, 21 November 1693, suggestions for regulating activity of Royal Court and Jurats, amended by the Privy Councillors, extracted by Joshua Gosselin; p. 74 letter patent 4 August 1444, includes duties of islanders to attend coronation and six weeks' worth of transport when required by the King at own expense etc.; p. 76, Loys Bastard de Bourbon, etc., letter patent; MSS The Constables of the Forest re a new Market. March 1726/7 (Chief Pleas 16 January 1726): p. 351


¹A reprise of this is given in Documents relatifs aux Iles de la Manche tirés des rôles des lettres closes conservés au PRO a Londres, 1205-1237, ed. Nicolle, W., Soc. Jersiaise, 1893, II part, p. 42, dated 11 September 1247. It begins: 'The King to the Bailiff of the islands of Guernsey, greetings. Having received the results of an inquiry we tasked you with conducting ...' and goes on to list the rights and duties he obviously thought particularly important. Thes included the King's grange and rules for dealing with grain; taxes on animals; transport to and from Normandy for the King's grain and the islanders' own goods; the maintenance of the King's seven mills; treatment of prisoners; rents payable to the Crown; and congers. 

² This is here written 'Guille,' but the e is deliberately raised and dotted underneath.