The Maison des Pauvres and the old Brouard house

15th September 2015

An extract from a set of notes by Mildred Brock 'from information derived from Mr Arthur Brouard, the owner of the two houses, and her own researches into the records of the parish of St Pierre du Bois.' Read at a meeting of the Société Guernesiaise, 22 July 1933.

La Maison des Pauvres

[Examination of will of Thomas de Lisle, d. 1627.]

Monsieur de Lisle left to the poor of St Pierre du Bois a certain house and ménage owned by him but formerly belonging to John Brehaut des Islets, situated near the house of Pierre de Garis, fils Jean (descendants of this Pierre de Garis still live in the house across the way.) He instructs that this house shall be put into decent and suitable order, at his own cost, so that it may be used to house a certain number of the poor of the parish who shall be chosen and considered worthy by the Rector and other of the Parish Consistory. From that day this house has been known as the 'Maison des Pauvres.' It is in fact still called so in the latest extente of the Fief St Michel, in which fief it is.

Mr Arthur Brouard, to whose family it has now belonged for 135 years, has very kindly looked out all the old contracts in his possession, connected with the property and with the almost equally old house built against it, which has been in his family for six generations.

Both houses are now used as stables or farm buildings and store rooms, but the old Brouard house was occupied as a dwelling house till March 1890, 42 years ago.

The first record we have of the two properties after the recording of Monsieur de Lisle's bequest is one of September 12 1710 (223 years ago), when the old family house was baillée à rente, together with the other property, by Guillaume de la Mare senior, fils Jean, of the Parish of St Pierre de Bois, to Guillaume Brouard, fils Jean, of the same parish. This Guillaume Brouard was Mr Arthur Brouard's great-great-great-grandfather.

The house was described as lying to the south of the house of Jean de Garis des Islets (the name of the present holder) and to the west of the Maison des Pauvres. Eighty-eight years later in 1798, in another contract, it is still described as being to the west of the Maison des Pauvres and one presumes that at this time the house was still being used for the poor. Later in the same year, however (1798), 181 years after Thomas de Lisle's death. Monsieur Jean de Garis senior du Gree [Graies], Messrs Nicholas and Abraham Le Mesurier, Curateurs, and Sieur James Paint, Procureur des Pauvres of the parish of St Pierre de Bois, were authorised by the parish to sell to Mr Daniel Brouard, fils Jean, and to his wife, Judith Le Messurier, a house and ground and all such rights the house has to a well and trough on the opposite side of the road, the said house belonging to the poor of the parish through the gift of the late Thomas de Lisle Esq.

The house is here described as lying to the east and joining a house belonging to the said Daniel Brouard, to the south of a cider press belonging to Sieur Jean de Garis, the road between the two, to the west of a house belonging to Philippe Dumont (this house was demolished when the Arsenal was built), and to the north of a field called the Courtil Moulin à Vent belonging to Sieur Jean Brouard. It is signed by William Le Marchant, Bailiff, Charles Andros and Jean Guille, jurats.

Since then, 135 years ago, the two poperties have been one and have been in the hands of Mr Brouard's family.

Jacob, writing 200 years after Mr de Lisle's death, tells us that from the inscription on his tombstone in the churchyard of St Pierre du Bois, we know that Mr de Lisle was buried there on 21 April, 1627. He adds:

There is, however, no monument to be found in any of the churches of this Island recording this good man's deeds, it not having been the custom in those days to blason forth virtues, though meriting a reverential regard from succeeding generations. 

And now, one hundred years after this was written, even the inscription on his tomb has worn away, though it is known that he lies in one of the old vaults on the north side of the church.

But Mr Brouard has kindly invited the members of the Société to inspect what remains of Monsieur de Lisle's 'Maison des Pauvres,' and also of his own old family house, and he has made several notes on both properties which he hopes will be of interest to his visitors.

The old Brouard house at Les Islets

This house is first mentioned in a contract of 1710, when it first came into the possession of Mr Brouard's family.

The front of the house, and the Ruette des Islets

The front of the house is about hte same as when built. The arch over the door is the same, although the door itself is of more recent date. The windows have been renewed. The small one at hte west has been filled up with bricks. The house was probably built at a later date than the Maison des Pauvres, as there is no gable at the east end. The roof was thatched like every old house but was covered with slates before Mr Brouard's time.

The two gate posts are probably the original ones. The wall was rebuilt (except the lower part round the corner) in 1839, according to a rapport de bornement which Mr Brouard holds.

The little Ruette des Islets behind the stables was originally a public way, but was sold by auction on January 1 1822 to Jean de Garis and Daniel Brouard, the two proprietors of the neighbouring land, for £4-10, and was then closed to the public.

This little ruette originally went right through to the lane leading off the main road and running along the further boundary of the two properties, and was in existence before the main road was made. It was the Chemin de l'Eglise, and Mr Brouard has heard that even after the main road was made, the good people of past years on their way to church, whether early or late, deliberately turned off the main road, though it was the shorter and more direct way, and made the round through this little lane, returning to the main road by the other lane.

Even funerals would take this way, but then it is an old custom that these must always take that way to church along which it was the custom of the dead person to pass, in his lifetime, on his way to church.

The back of the house

Many alterations have been made. Mr Brouard believes that the windows are in the original position though the frames have been renewed. The small one was originally made up with diamond panes, like those of the church. Unfortunately it was smahed by a car a few years ago. The original staircase was outside the house, circular and paved with stone. The upper door is made of oak and is probably the original one, and may still last hundreds of years.

Interior—the passage

The walls and part of the floor (made with clay) are the same as when the house was built.

The cellar. This room was called the cellier and was used for storing cider etc. Later it was altered, and made up as a parleux, or sitting room. There was no fireplace in this room. It is now used as a stable. 

The kitchen. The big old fireplace is the same, the green-bed (lit de fouailles) was in the corner with the little cupboard above. An old grandfather's clock was in the corner opposite. This clock was placed there by Daniel Brouard, Mr Brouard's great-grandfather, on 15 November 1806, and is still keeping time remarkably well in his own kitchen. The big beam in the centre is made of oak and is the original one. The floor is of clay and in the good old times was sabrounai (sanded). Mr Brouard has done it himself. The oven was originally in this room, but has been closed.

The back passage. This pasage now used as a coal store, is about the same as when built. The old fougues, or pitchers, were kept there in a deep hole in the wall at the back. The floor also is of clay.

The room under the loft. This room is known as la croisée. The fireplace is the original one. The floor is also of clay. The door at the back is the original.

The loft or chenas. This was used for storing vraic and dry furze for burning. The stones which project out of the gable of the Maison des Pauvres can be seen here. When the roof was thatched they were used as support. Two holes, called in patois huzettes, have been discovered here in the back gable of the Maison des Pauvres.

The room above the kitchen. This has seen many alterations. The only one worth noticing is the chimney, which has been plastered. There is also an opening in the wall used for getting to the loft to mend the thatching.

The middle room. This room is now joined with the next room. The partition between can still be seen.

The room above the stable. This room has a fireplace. Mr Brouard remembers having seen a grate many years ago. Ths stones suporting the chimney may be seen. In the old days the flue was made with wood (ash) replaced later with bricks, very thin bricks, seldom seen now. The chimney itself is made with earth and straw, a mixture known as badouille.

The big trough in the yard is very old and deep. The small one is mentioned in a bill of partage dated 1802, and was valued at three shillings.

The old pitchers, weights and contracts.

The Maison des Pauvres

First mentioned in 1627, when it was bequeathed by Monsieur Thomas de Lisle of St Pierre du Bois to the poor of the parish.

The front of the house. Part of the front of the house was demolished when the road was widened in 1810 during the governorship of Sir John Doyle. The old door and the arch are the original ones. The door is still very strong and made of oak, but unfortunately the parts on which it is hung are of inferior wood and are falling to pieces. Mr Brouard has never seen it opened. The curious narrow window is part of the original house.

The back and cartshed. The cartshed and the barn over it form part of the original house, but they were shortened when the road was widened. The interior of the cartshed was divided in two. Part of the wall can still be seen. The back entrance was demolished in 1900. Mr Brouard remembers that when one of the stones supporting the door was removed, a shower of ancient cions (liards, or half-farthing pieces) fell over him. He kept them for many years, but they have been mislaid. One of the stones is in the yard opposite the entrance. The lower gable-end is the original and is four feet thick.

The heche. The two properties were divided by a heche, or large door, and the old iron hinges on which the latter hung still exist. The maiselle, or door cheek opposite is still there, though not in the same position.

The barn. Only the original walls of the upper floor remain. It was also divided, and a fireplace was in this room. Part of the flue can still be distinctly seen across the western gable.

The well and trough on the opposite side of the road, as mentioned in the contract of 1798, belonged to three different parties: Mr Jean de Garis, Mr Daniel Brouard and Mr Jean Tostevin (the latter as preneur à rente of the property now occupied by the Arsenal) and the pump bore the initials JDG, DB, JTV. Very unfortunately this old pump, which was standing till a few years ago, disappeared one night.