Candie and L’Hyvreuse: Condatum et Eboracum or ebriaca herba

Suggestions for the origin of these interesting place names. Comments welcome!

Here at the Library we get asked a great variety of questions by visitors, but one of the most common is one we can't easily answer: what is the meaning of Candie, the place where the Library has its home?

Many people who are interested in Guernsey history are curious about the origin of the place names of Guernsey, and these are usually fairly straightforwardly arrived at. They are either physical features of the landscape, often of Viking or Norman origin, or the names of the families or sometimes individuals who were the owners of the land or property when the place names became fixed.

There are some place names, however, which seem to defy an easy explanation, the names of the islands themselves, for one. These are ancient names that predate the Norman settlement. Two other places that have unusual names that cannot be easily derived are coincidentally next-door to each other; the estates of Candie and L’Hyvreuse. Another unusual feature of Candie is that the name occurs in two places in the island, which usually indicates a physical feature rather than a family name. An ancient etymology is also indicated by the lack of a definite article.


Candie estate in St Peter Port is first mentioned in the Livre de Perchage of 1686: ‘Sr Pierre Gosselin en sa maison et jardin de Candie qui fut a Pierre Preye’ (Folio 62). Pierre [du] Pré is merely described as owning a ‘maison at jardin pres Livreuze’ in the preceding Perchage of 1663. The area known as Candie at this period was, then, quite small, 24 ¾ perches. By 1706 Sieur Nicolas de Jersey, who is married to Pierre's daughter Rachel Gosselin, has put together four adjoining lots, including ‘sa maison et jardin de Candie.’1 The Route de Candie, however, is on the Castel /St Andrew borders at the foot of the Talbot valley.

Both Candie and L'Hyvreuse estates look out to the harbour of St Peter Port and are raised significantly above sea-level. L’Hyvreuse covered a large area. The Pierre de l'Hyvreuse and the Petite L'Hyvreuse were two menhirs, the larger of which is supposed to have stood on top of the mound where first a mill was built and which is now occupied by the Victoria Tower. The smaller menhir seems to have been located 'somewhere on on near the estate of La Petite L'Hyvreuse, of which the old house is now (1920) Mr C W Perchard's Stables.'2 An early mention of L’Hyvreuse occurs in 1357, in a Royal letter to the Warden of the Isles. It asks whether there are any objections to the King acceding to Lucas Nicholas’s request to be granted ‘the windmill in St Peter Port in a place called Lyvereuse near the vill. Robelyn; the windmill in St Sampson's in a place called Vardels or else in a place called la Hougue de Mousler in Guernsey; & a windmill in Alderney in a place where one stood antiquitus.’ One of the menhirs, at least, seems to have co-existed with a mill at this point; De Guérin mentions a Letter under seal of 1442, in which it is called 'la Pierre de l'Hivreuse.'

Candie is found as a French surname, but a very unusual one. Candy, on the other hand, is a relatively well-known English surname. It is said to derive either from Medieval French conduit, a drain (as in the Guernsey douit) or the French place-name, Condé. Early English documents in Latin seem to show the name, but it is very difficult to extrapolate modern names from these type of Latin documents with any degree of certainty. Condé is the Roman Condatum, a Celtic word that was adopted into Latin as a place-name; it means ‘place where the rivers converge’ and in the Roman period was the name of over one hundred settlements, including Cognac, Lyon, and Rennes. Many places in France still retain a form of it as a name, mostly as Condé, several in Normandy and environs; one is even today called Candie. Both Candies in Guernsey are situated at the confluence of streams, and the word Condatum describes a physical feature, which fits the requirements.

J P Warren describes how the streams in both the areas of 'Candie' meet.3 That the Candie in Talbot Valley takes its name from this confluence seems a reasonable conjecture. But what happened in 1686 in St Peter Port? Assuming that the other possible derivations that have been previously put forward in the case of St Peter Port’s Candie, such as a relationship with the isle of Candie (now Crete), are not correct, Gosselin may possibly have transferred the name from the Candie in Talbot Valley, or more likely he may have felt the need to distinguish this newly-acquired house from his other properties (he had other property nearby), and was aware of some physical feature in one of his fields that bore the name Candie, or ‘confluence.’


If we suppose Condatum to lie behind Candie, we might look for the same sort of derivation for its next-door neighbour L’Hyvreuse, in other words, a Celtic one, predating the Normans. A common Celtic place name that fits the bill is Eboracum, or Eboracium. It is well known as the Latin name for York. Around 615 Saint Fare, daughter of the Bishop of Meaux, founded a monastery at Eboracium, now known as Faremoutiers, which came to be of great importance. The word Eboracum has given to the French such placenames as Yvry, Ivry, Yvre, Yevre, Yvory, Ivrey,and Ivreux [Evreux], amongst others; it was, like Condatum, adopted into Latin and retained. Places called Eboracum derived either from the personal name Eborus, or Ivorus, these places being settlements on land that once belonged to a man named Ivor, or are more simply derived directly from the Celtic word Eborus, from which the name Ivor itself comes, and which means 'yew-tree.' This is an extremely ancient word-form that can be traced far back into the earliest Indo-European; an old Scandinavian river name, Ive, meant yew-stream. There is a later attestation of a form Eboretum, or yew-grove, which developed into Evoray and could give us L’Ivreuse. We would then have two places next to each other of potentially deep spiritual significance to the Celtic and Gallo-Roman population; a confluence of streams, two menhirs, one visible from the harbour, and a yew-grove.

This explanation based on the yew-tree, (or even that the land was the property of a certain Ivorus), for the name L’Hyvreuse is a very tempting one, but we also have to account for the initial h that in modern times appears at the beginning of the word. There is one Celtic language that has an h at the beginning of its word for yew-tree: Cornish, hivin; but as the h cannot be derived from the ancient word that gives us our 'yew,' this alone does not make a convincing argument. What would suit this supposition of a relationship with Eboracum, however, is for the initial h to be spurious, added by scribes attempting to make sense of the word and relating it to a word they would have been very familiar with, hiver, or winter; perhaps for some of the more precious of them it was better that than ivreuse, meaning a drunken woman in modern French. The earliest mention of it cited above, as Lyvereuse, does not feature the initial h, and neither do most other early documents such as the Livres de Perchage, which write it as, for example, ‘la Petite Yvreuse,’ but again this is not decisive in any way.

Interestingly, however, a woman named Jeanne L'Hvroye from Dielette was buried in Guernsey in 1676. Hers was an an unusual surname, which supports another, similar, and more compelling derivation for L'Hyvreuse. In Edith Carey's Scrapbook 2, at the end of a transcription of a manuscript on the artist Matthias Finucane by George Métivier, is found Métivier's own suggestion for its derivation. He is attempting an explanation of the surname De Havilland, which he says is 'a Dutch word, meaning a field sown with oats, haver, Old French avenerie, English Oat-land.'

English haver is also l'avernon (haveron), Guernesais avenon: gasse, zaie, ivraie, herbe sorcière. So Robert de Haverland could well have been Robert de l'Ivreuse, that is, land on which the wild ivraie grows.  According to certain deeds (the contents of which the Misses Harvey are contesting) it is from this that the name of L'Ivreuse or Hivreuse derives, once part of the estate of the King's Procureur, William Le Marchant. 

Guernsey has its ivraïe, which Marie de Garis in her Dictionary defines as 'wall-barley.' L'ivraie is French for rye-grass, which is also known as la zizanie; it derived its name from the fact that the seed, ingested in large concentrations, acted as a drug, inducing feelings similar to drunkenness, or l'ivresse. Edith Carey points us to E H Marquand's Flora of Guernsey, p. 206. In this we find the darnel, or Lolium temulentum, which in France is known as l'ivraie enivrante, or 'intoxicating rye-grass.' Its 'magic' properties caused it to be regarded as a poison; it induced the symptoms of drunkenness, and taking too much of it could result convulsions and even death. Like ergot, it is the result of the grass being infected by a parasite. Marquand notes that:

a specimen of this grass, without locality, is found in Gosselin's Herbarium, though the name is not mentioned in his list. In Flora sarniensis, it is noted for Guernsey on the authority of H O Carré. It has not been found in the island of late years.

There are two other common types of rye-grass found in Guernsey. The name is thought to be derived from the Latin ebriaca [*herba], 'the plant that causes drunkenness,' but only the darnel, l'ivraie enivrante, a Mediterraean plant, rare and now probably extinct in Guernsey, was toxic. Of course rye itself could have these properties, both when used in bread for brewing beer. Victor Hugo mentions la folle avoine once in Les Misérables and once in Les Travailleurs de la mer, in which it grows in a wall near M Lethierry's house.

L'ivraie was expressed before the 19th century as l'ivroye. As well its primary meaning of the darnel, or rye-grass, it referred to a disease of wheat which gave the grain similar toxic properties, and sometimes to rye itself. The Atlas Linguistique de la France which compares the dialects and patois of France at the end of the 19th century, confirms the basic proposition suggested by Métivier: in the Pas-de-Calais ivraie is known as ivron and in Nord, avro[n]. Thus are linked the French and Norman haveron, 'wild oat,' and l'ivraie, the rye-grass. In the Côtes-du-Nord l'ivraie is expressed livre and ivra, and similar in the Ille-et-Vilaine; in Jersey, livyez, Alderney and Sark, ivràie—although they have recorded no data for Guernsey.4 If one takes the form found, for example, in the Côtes-du-Nord, one can form an adjective such as e.g. *livreux, or *ivreux, with a meaning of 'where the darnel grows.' Alternatively, it could be formed from the root *havar-, the wild oat/darnel; it may be that there was a conflation of these two plants in early times. An original [terre appellée] *Livereuse would be easily interpreted as L'Ivreuse, and the initial H would again be spurious, as detailed above, or would be a memory of the initial h- in *havar-. This explanation has the virtue of simplicity; it does not force one to go back for its origin to pre-Norman times, and there are other field-names in Guernsey describing the kind of grain or wild grass growing in them. The fact that the corn produced around one of the most important windmills in Guernsey was blighted would be a fact worth remembering. This derivation for L'Hyvreuse, although not without its problems, is I think the more satisfactory of the two proposed here.

I would welcome any comments or information that might shed light on this interesting puzzle (or knotty problem, depending on how you look at it), or any new suggestions for derivations!


Roger Albin made this contribution to the discussion, for which I am very grateful:

'Hyvreuse/Petit Hyvreuse my suggestion for the '-reuse' suffix is the Brythonic Erse sometimes rendered as ouse meaning river as in River Ouse. There are five Ouse in Britain plus an Ouseburn from an estuary in Orkney to Sussex and the Meurse/Mouze/Maas on the Continent. As to the 'H-' in Breton, hivinenn and ivinenn are both given.

L'Hyvreuse, the stream from Doyle Clos, and Petit Hyvreuse, the Vauxlaurens stream, being in agreement with the Candie suggestion. Métivier dismissed the Cornish H in the prefix but Cornwall and Cornuaille straddle the Channel. I also recall a line in McCormack's Guernsey House" quoting a St Gervolt in Jersey 8th? cent stating the islands spoke 'British Celtic' so I go with [a derivation] 'Yew.''

1 Livre de Perchage 1706, Folio: 187 'Sr Nicolas De Jersey fils Henry a cause de Rachel Gosselin sa femme en son jardin du vaulorens qui fut au Pierre Priaulx le Conte joignant a la fontaine des vauxlorens [1/15];' 'Le dit De Jersey au dit nom en ses jardins de vauxlorens qui fut à Jean Fautrart joignant au son dit jardin [7/20];' 'Le dit au dit nom en son jardin qui fut à Nicolas Le Page au nord de l’hyvreuse la rouge rue entr’eux [0/32];' 'Le dit au dit nom en sa maison & jardin de Candie qui fut à Pierre du Prey au ouest ou viron de son dit jardin les quels quatre derniers articles sont présentement en un [0/24¾].'

Indication that Gosselin and du Pré were perhaps connected: Town Church Rental, 1567, 'à la decharge de Guillome Preye sur la maison de la rue de la Fonteyne [...] est de l'assignation des hers du dit Preys savoir est et Katheryne Gousset à cause de leur mere et Nicholas Pageot tuteur des fils de Thomas Gosselyne &c.'

2 De Guérin, T W M, 'List of Dolmens &c,' Trans. Guern. Soc. Nat. Science, 1921, p. 9. '[La Petite L'Hyvreuse] is mentioned in a Letter under seal of 20/9/1729 as lying to the north of Le Courtil du Port.' Perchard's stables were off Brock Road; the house is now called 'La Vieille L'Hyvreuse.' Another menhir, known for convenience as 'La Pouquelaye à la Grange Godel,' stood even nearer to the Pierre de l'Hyvreuse, as it is thought to have been located 'somewhere at the top of Smith Street, not far from Forest Lane.' In the 15th century documents in which it occurs it is referred to only as 'La Pouquelaye.' 

3 Warren, J P, ‘Streams of Guernsey,’ Rep. & Trans. Soc. Guern . XIV(1948) (3) pp. 246 ff.:

Talbot Valley: ‘From the Niaux mill-house the stream is kept up in a dam …. and continues down the widening Talbot valley unseen from the main road. It curves away to the left and receives a small tributary that, coming from Candie, and behind the house called Le Gardinet, descends a steep glen. Then the mill-stream curves again, crosses the Candie Road passing from one valley to the next, and runs though the Videclin into a reservoir conjointly with the stream that has come from Les Vauxbelets and Les Fauxquets. This then marks the beginning of what we may call the Kingsmill river, but observe that the residual and natural drainage of the Talbot continues along the deep valley floor below the Groignet’ (pp. 253-4).

Town: ‘An interesting course in which the waters are occasionally visible as ornamental ponds and reservoirs may be said to commence from the depression on the east side of Doyle Road (The Close). It follows the dip of the old Nursery Grounds (formerly Messrs Rideout) now a building estate and site of the Regal Cinema, thence under the old Strangers’ Burial Ground and Upland Road, by the northern side of the Elizabeth College playground. The water supplying Candie Gardens also drains in to the same declivity by way of the Vauxlaurens Brewery and the Town Hospital. The site of Candie House and Grounds originally belonged to Mr Peter Mourant. A small reservoir supplied water for his goldfish, thence the stream passed into the Vauxlaurens, joining with that which came from the Hospital and Hirzel Street, on through the Truchot and so to the harbour near St Julien’s.' (p. 262.)

De Guérin in his above-mentioned article defines a ring of five Holy Wells in St Peter Port, near to the sea: 'La Fontaine Fleurie,' near Havelet, 'La Fontaine Sainte Pierre,' at the bottom of Fountain Street, near the Pont d'Orson (a large stone which spanned the mill stream to the west of the Town Church); 'La Fontaine Nôtre Dame' at the foot of Le Mont Gibel, 'La Fontaine du Vau Laurens,' in the lane north-east of Candie Library, and 'La Fontaine des Corbins,' half way down the steep hill below Les Cotils.'

4 Please consult the Atlas Linguistique de France for the map and correct diacritics, which I could not reproduce here (we have copies to view in the Library). Marie de Garis has l'ivraïe as 'wall-barley.' This is Hordeum murinum, in French l'orge-des-rats. The term l'ivraïe had probably become generic in Guernsey. George Métivier makes no mention of l'ivraie as a Guernsey word at all in his Dictionnaire Franco-normand of 1870. He refers to it instead (p. 87) in the context of the Guernsey adjective meaning drunk, bragi; all the words derived from the Latin ebrius, or 'drunk,' retain the -i as an element, he says, and are connected with the Provencal word for 'l'erbe enivrante, l'ivraie, l'herbe qui embrage, guern.' (his italics.) He concludes that the Guernsey bragi is not derived from the Latin ebrius. For haveron, the wild oat, Old Frankish *hadaro, see DEAF; the same source in column 531 under ivraie lists an adjective yveré, formed from a past participle. It referred to wheat that had been infected with ivraie and occurs once only, in a text from the first half of the 14th century.