Guernsey in the olden times, by Curio-Antique

From The Star 29 and 31 January 1878. With this fascinating document should be compared the Library's manuscript Notebook of Pierre Henry. Henry, whose ancient house in Berthelot Street is now a tourist attraction, was a wealthy merchant shipowner and ancestor of the Tupper family, through whom the notebook came to the Library.

I have before me a very interesting note-book1 containing more specimens of antique curiosities than many an old cabinet. It is the notebook of a Guernsey merchant and general agent, of the year 1712 and thereabouts, during the latter part of Queen Anne’s reign and the beginning of George I. It is well worth an examination, for it throws much light on the manners and customs of our ancestors 160 years ago.2 The owner of this little book did a great deal of business, wholesale and retail, of one kind an another—for instance, I find him charging Thomas Le Marchant, jun., of Oxford, £1 8s 10d, for changing his old sword for another more in fashion as per Mr Bayley’s account. I suppose Thomas Le Marchant was a fast undergraduate in those days. The said merchant was also a kind of banker, and was accustomed to cash bills for the Lieutenant-Governor &c. I copy out the following interesting document:

Guernsey, the 31st day of August, 1714. Sir, I desire you to pay to —— or his order the sum of twenty-five pound, value received here out of my pay as Lieut.-Governor, wh this shall be your discharge as witness my hand. GILES SPICER. To Mr John Blake, Agent to the Island of Guernsey at his house, in ye Tower, London.

Doubtless this old gentleman, J. B., made his fortune very quickly being agent for ye Island of Guernsey. Also our friend did a great deal of money-changing. The Islanders were very fond of golden guineas in those days [and they were] exchanged for £1 1s 6d each. He also executed commissions for his friends, when in London, as I gather from the following note:

7/8/1712. Reçu ce jour de ma tante Eliza, quatre guinnées pour acheter de la [s]oye des jupes a fond d’orange, a fleur rouge: Blanche ou vert ou fond bleu[f], et des fleurs come dessus quy est pour faire une goune et jupe a ma cousine Sara, idem pour une guinée de Madame Andros pour sa fille.

[Received this day from my Aunt Eliza, four guineas for some skirt silk, orange with red flowers: White or green or blue background, flowers as above to make a dress and skirt for my cousin Sarah, and a guinea from Mrs Andros for the same again for her daughter.]

He was accustomed to take charge of money for Guernsey friends and bring it to and fro from London, as I gather from the following receipt:

Reçu, le 20th fevr. 1714, de M. ——, un pochetin d’argent que ledit  a reçu de Mons. Samuel Le Cocq, jun., de Guernesey. (Signé) NIC CAREY, Jun.

He speculated in Lottery tickets:

No. 2800 By virtue of a warrant under the hand and seal of the most Honourable the Lord High Treasurer of Great Britain grounded upon an Act of Parliament passed this sessions for raising the sum of £1,500,000 by way of Lottery for the service of yr 1710.
Copie. I do hereby acknowledge to have received of Mr. —— the sum of two hundred and ten pounds sterling, for and in consideration whereof, I do hereby promise to deliver to the bearer of this receipt twenty-one tickets to be drawn in the 8th Lottery, as soon as I shall be able thereunto, by the delivery of any book or books into my hand from the Managers appointed to deliver the same, witness my hand this 25 February, 1709. Signed JOSHUA ADAMS. Entd J. Fotheringham.

But do not think, intelligent reader, that our friend stood to win or lose entirely on his own account, for I find a note to this effect: 'account of Lottery between Mr W. Le Pelley and my friend each half.' In July 1713, he purchased two tickets in the Holland Lottery. There is a long account of it in Dutch, and appended a footnote:

Ces deux tickets de Hollande avec un autre de même tendue que celui s’y dessus signé et endorsé par les mems personnes tellemens que les trois ticqueurs sont entre J. De Saumarez, ecr., Jeames Bonamy, et ——, 611, 901; 21, 083 ; 210, 814.

He may have speculated in the South Sea Bubble : 'Le South devoit etre payé à le St Jean pour six mois d’interet, Generale Murgridge, etc.' I fear he had to whistle for this for a long time, if history speaks truth.

[31 January]: The manners and customs of those days with regard to dress are rather interesting:

A Harcourt pour ma perruque £3 10s, pour boutons de noir pour mon noir habit 9s 6d., à Mr Evans pour faire ma cassaque de camelot et racomodir mes hardes 17s.

It appears that his two sisters were with him in London in July 1714, and he took them about sight-seeing for which among other charges I find:

à mes soeurs en argent à depence lorsque fut avec eux a Greenwich, £1 1s 6d., à mes sœurs en argent ce jour £1 1s 6d. At another time, pour fret de mon voyage à Winsor, Hampton Court, etc., £1 1s 6d., a Hampsted, 10s., a Gravesend pour bateau, 10s.

I have some curious school bills for the education of said two young ladies, which will bear favourable comparison with fashionable boarding schools of the present day ; I shall copy out one of them word for word with all the quaint spelling, scrupulously observed, indeed I think the following will make all the mamas and papas very dissatisfied with their Christmas bills.

Copie. Mrs ——, Dr. To Richd. Layon.

For Ball money and breaking up at Barth[o]lomew tide, 1713, for both 0 15 0
Dying, scouring, and making up two gounes and two petticoats 1 8 0
Crapey for ye bodies of ye gownes binding buttons and loops 0 5
0¾ of a yard of green Persian and rowling slieve 0 3 6
2 pr. of Stayes, raised, coverd and mended 1 0 0
6 yds of wide stuff and lignd two petticoats 0 6 6
2 peticoats quilted and 4¾ yds bayes 0 17 1½
4 pairs of shoes and silver lace for 2 0 14
612 yds of ribbon for Bridle 0 13 6
Two Muffs 0 16 04 yds and ½ of edging at 9d per yd 0 3 4½
Altering 4 gownes 0 5 0
Board for both from 15th Aug. 1713, to February 8th 20 0 0
Total 27 7 6

The following note is rather mysterious: 'at Mr Lach a Pacquers, lives a gentleman that deals in prohibited goods, in Colman Street;' a local antiquarian suggests that wool and cotton goods were imported into Guernsey, from whence they were smuggled in to England, as was the case even within his recollection.

Here is also a very plain arithmetical sum, memo:

Sugar in India for half-a-crown a hundred, if you sell it in England for 50 shillings a hundred, it is a loss to any body for ye freight and custom, &c, comes to 50 shillings.

I have before me likewise many curious addresses such as:

Monsr Jacques La Mude, proche du Marché à herbes, dans Rotterdam. Monsr Marguet, à la rue St. Colonne, a Bourdeaux [rue St Colombe]. Doctor Quinton, Essex Street in the Strand, London. Mr Bagshaw,3 in Bow Lane in Cheap side, By Bow Church at Mr Peters. Mr John Milder, In Old Street, over agst the end of Golden Lane, Printer. [BARBICAN] Mr Bowland, In Upper Moore field, Near the Flying Horse, Printer at Lambeth.

All goods I find were sent down from London by wagon to Southampton and these shipped per sailing vessel of which these are the names of some: James, Peter Canivet, master: the Extravagant, Abraham Chapman, master: the Bon Adventure, Mr Bauch, master: the Queen, Thomas Hedger, master: the Mary Galley, Capt. Peter Bonamy, master: most of these traded from Southampton but not all.

I fancy there are many other manuscripts of this description stowed away in some almost forgotten cupboard, which if brought to light would afford instruction and amusement to the present generation of Guernseymen.

1 See also: the Notebook of Pierre Henry, transcribed and annotated by his descendant, Ferdinand Brock Tupper, MS in the Library. The author of this piece takes it that the notebook's author was John Blake. Blake, a London merchant, is known to have owned the manor of Marles in Epping around 1720. For other possible original owners of the notebook, see Hocart, R., A brief account of some letters relating to the De Beauvoir family, 1892, MSS in the De Beauvoir family file in the Library; they are Richard Beauvoir, wool-merchant and agent, William Dobrée, and Samuel Lefebvre.

2 See John Le Pelley, 'Channel Island Seamen in the Wars of William III and Anne', Report and Transactions of the Société Guernesiaise XIV (1) pp. 15 ff, and Stevens Cox, The Guernsey Merchants and their world, Toucan Press, 2009, for extensive background information. The author of the notebook featured here is apparently John Blake; it should be noted, however, that he appears to write freely in French. It could also have been a member of the Dobrée, Perchard, or Le Mesurier families, typical of islanders who both lived in London and traded extensively with, and acted as, London agents at this period. The main agent at this time in London was William Dobree.