Aerial photograph by Digimap Ltd; courtesy La Société Guernesiaise, and © States of Guernsey 2005



MONAMY
IN GUERNSEY


Maison Monamy, St Jacques, St Peter Port

A paper prepared by Graham Guille and read to La Société Guernesiaise November 2004.
The text, as follows, is posted with the express permission of Mr Guille. Slightly amended by CHW.
     

Introduction

This paper will attempt to set out the issues that surround the house today known as Monamy at St Jacques, St Peter Port, Guernsey and seek to establish any connection with it and the Monamy family and others during its recorded past. I have drawn extensively from the work of other researchers who had in their turn examined the available evidence and recorded their thoughts and conclusions concerning the house and its inhabitants. The notes of Colonel de Guérin, Edith and Vera Carey, Charles Harrison-Wallace and Hugh Lenfestey are the most significant in this respect but many others are also included and are acknowledged where applicable.

From what is recorded of the Monamy family, it would seem that they arrived in the Channel Islands some time between the first and second quarter of the sixteenth century settling first in Jersey. Members of the family later moved to Guernsey.

A branch of the Guernsey family later removed to England and a descendant, Peter Monamy, went on to become one of the leading marine artists of his day.

The present house exhibits evidence of a number of significant structural changes having been made over its history but John McCormack will cover this aspect in a separate paper.

From the available documentation it is clear much investigative work has already been carried out, with varying success over the last hundred years or so. The most complete and substantive so far being that carried out by Hugh Lenfestey in 1992.

The Present House.

From the available evidence, the house known as Monamy would appear to be a relatively late structure built perhaps some time in the mid 18th century. In a letter to the then owner, a Mrs Lowndes, in 1992, Hugh Lenfestey, at that time States Archivist, offers us a view of the recent history of this property. This 18th century date is significant, as it directly affects any possible relationship with the Monamy family, as will be shown in the following text.

The House now existing stands on a piece of land described in the Fief le Roi 'Livre de Perchage' as the Pré du Guille or Guille's Meadow. Records for the year 1732 show that this location, the Pré du Guille, was the site of a Grande Maison, a large or fine house.

It would seem that this house was demolished some time between 1732 and 1753, as by the latter date the registers infer that no house is standing on the property.


Picture courtesy of La Société Guernesiaise

"Monamy", circa 1980

From this information Hugh Lenfestey concludes that the construction of the existing Monamy house cannot be earlier than 1753. What he does mention, which is of direct interest to any investigation of the dwelling, is that the present house contains structural elements which appear to be out of proportion to the rest of the fabric of the house. He suggests that this points to the use or perhaps re-use of over-long granite window lintels on the ground floor frontage of the building, and that perhaps these items may have been from an earlier building. There is the possibility that these items were recovered from the building that the records infer was demolished as mentioned above and incorporated in the present house.

The Fief le Roi 'Livre de Perchage' documents the existence of a dwelling on the St Jacques property as early as 1574 when it was then in the ownership of Michael Terrin and his wife Marie, daughter of Girete (Gerrard or perhaps Girard?) Nicolle. From biographical notes held at the Priaulx Library, the house standing at St Jacques was known originally as Les Hamelins, no doubt as a consequence of the family connection of Marie Hamelin, first wife of Nicolas Martin, the father of Suzanne Martin, who in 1611 would become Elie Monamy's wife.

It had occurred to me that the nearby roadway of the Fosse André might have been a reference to a Monamy connection but it is clear that from the 1574 entry that the name was already in use by that date, then rendered Fosse Landrill.

The first known member of the Monamy family to own a House at St Jacques was André, son of Elie who inherited it from his mother Susanne Martin. The Livre de Perchage records indicate that André, while still a small child, was by 1617 the owner of property on the Pré du Guille, although this seems to have been confined to land and not buildings.

The Town Church Register records that Elie Monamy, his father, died on the 30th November 1613. By 1640 the records speak of an André Monamy owning property at St Jacques, but which was then the site of ruins, so the house (Les Hamelins ?) would appear to have fallen into a state of disrepair. The issue of exactly who owned what is somewhat clouded by the fact that this André Monamy's mother, Susanne, had remarried and her new husband, Pierre Etur appears to be the owner of the original house on the property, as well as a new house, recently constructed. By 1663 however the property records detail the existence of a Grand Maison et Court de St Jacques owned by André Monamy on this same property. We do not know if this house had by this time been given a name. As only one house is mentioned at this time it is unclear if one has been demolished.

It would be reasonable to suppose that this latest house, which was the one later demolished to make way for the present-day dwelling, was built for Jean David.

The property records seem to indicate that present house was not built directly on the site of the previous one, which might be seen to confirm that this was the later of the two houses once owned by Pierre Etur at St Jacques.

In a letter dated 1983, to a Mde Monamy, who appears to have been a chance visitor to the house while on holiday on the island, the then owner Mr Eric Waddams attempted to trace the history of his house at St Jacques. He states that the house was built between 1411 and 1470 but clearly this does not accord with the records from the Livre de Perchage pedigree provided by Hugh Lenfestey.

He correctly mentions the taking of an oath of allegiance by the first Monamys in Jersey and the later banishment of one Gilles Monamy from that island for introducing 'Catholic' materials there.

Left: Mr and Mrs Waddams, circa 1980.

The Monamy Family

Research into the Monamy family is somewhat complicated by there having been no less than six individuals with the name André born during a very short period between 1572 and 1648. °

All of these were closely related, being descended either from André, who had moved to Guernsey around 1560, or his nephew Aaron who also arrived from Jersey some time later.

It is from the notes of de Guérin we learn that this family was of French descent and had arrived in the islands, as mentioned above, some time in the first or second quarter of the sixteenth century, settling in the first instance in Jersey in the parish of St Saviour. As mentioned briefly above there is mention in the notes of the family members taking the oath of allegiance sometime around 1540 - 1544 before the Royal Court in that island.

This event is no doubt the one referred to by Mr Waddams. A possible link with the French town of St Lô is also mentioned although no supporting detail is available from the de Guérin papers.

The first member of the family to settle in Guernsey appears to have been André, son of Étienne of St Saviour's Jersey, who was probably the grandson of the first settler in Jersey. The exact date of his arrival is uncertain, perhaps around 1568. He was later to be joined by his nephew Aaron.

André Monamy became a successful merchant and a man of some wealth and standing in Guernsey.

He purchased a house in St Peter Port in 1569 in High Street, at the bottom of Berthelot Street and de Guérin writes of him rebuilding the property shortly afterwards. Wallace tells us that the work was probably carried out around the time of his second marriage (1577) and he remained at the house until his death in 1590. One of its carved beams (dated 1578) is presently on display at the Guille Alles Library.

This house passed to Gilles de Germain and eventually to Jean Briard. Both of these families provided marriage and trading partners with the leading merchant families of St Peter Port.

André later bought a piece of land further up Berthelot Street and later more land to the north of the Elizabeth College. His grandson, André the Jurat, later inherited these properties.

André is recorded as having married on the 29th of June 1572 Elizabeth Perrin but sadly she seems to have died young and childless.

He married for a second time on the 17th of November 1577 to Bertranne, daughter of Nicolas Estur and Marie de la Marche (who is thought to have been the daughter of Jean de la Marche, Jurat, and Barbe Naont.) With his new wife he was to have four children and de Guérin lists the children as André, Elie, Marie and Elizabeth. (See will, here).

By the terms of his will made on the 2nd of March 1590/1 André makes gifts to the poor in the parishes of St Clement in Jersey and to those in St Peter Port. A type-written version of this will exists but it contains a number of questionable translations both of names and details. The executors of the will were Peter de Beauvoir and William le Marchant, supervisors of his will and administrators during the minority of his children.

André, the eldest son, seems to have died without children before he was 25. The second son, Elie, also died before reaching his 25th birthday but not before producing a son, whom he named André. As a result, all of the landed property of André senior passed to his grandson André, who later became known as the Jurat.

Elie had been married on the 20th of November 1611 to Susanne, daughter and co-heir of Nicolas Martin of Grande Bosq, Les Martins, St Sampson and St Jacques and his wife Marie Hamellin, daughter of John Hamellin of St Jacques.

It was therefore through his mother, Susanne Martin, that André the Jurat became the owner of the old house at St Jacques. André Monamy the Jurat, son of Elie Monamy and Susanne Martin, was born on the 19th August 1612.

On 22nd June 1634 he married Michelle, daughter of Jean Dobrée and Elizabeth Roland (query?) with whom he had one son, André, who was born on November 7th 1641. This André junior died in infancy and on the death of Michelle André remarried, this time to Anne, daughter of Pierre le Feuvre de L'Espine and Catherine, daughter of Nicolas Careye, Seigneur de Blanchelande.

The couple were to have four children of whom André, the eldest was born in May 1648. (NB. This André probably died young. A second André was probably born 1661. CHW) In later life André married Marie, the daughter of Elie le Boutillier, an advocate, and Anne Tramailer.

It is not known when André died but his widow, who apparently must have been many years his junior, was recorded buried on the 27th of November 1751.

It would also seem likely that with the death of André the Monamy family became extinct in Guernsey, although the name still appears in the nearby island of Jersey to this day.

It is worth mentioning at this point that there is a record of an André Monamy having been registered on the 2nd of July 1705, before the Royal Court as being the guardian of one George Guille, son of George. George senior, it seems, had recently died.

George's widow, Marie le Toc, was left with three young children to care for. She was George's second wife; he had previously been married to Elizabeth le Quetteville.

George senior was known to have been living in The Pollet, St Peter Port, for some time, possibly since 1677, and was descended from the Rohais branch of the Guille family. George was distantly related to John Guille who had married André's great-aunt, Marie Monamy. The Pollet is a very short distance from Berthelot Street.

In his notes de Guérin records the birth of André senior's second son, Pierre, as having been born on 7th March 1752 but he surely must mean 7th March 1652. The next child was a daughter, Marie. The last mention of her so far located is that in 1680 she was unmarried. Lastly came Catherine. No record of her birth seems to have survived, but in 1680 she married Henry Perkins junior on the 29th of December. Henry was the son of Henry Perkins and Marie Hansone.

Concerning André's second son, de Guérin records that: "Of Pierre, the second son, nothing is known". For more information on the younger son, we must turn to Charles Harrison-Wallace's comprehensive history of the Monamy family, following Pierre's removal to England.

It appears most likely that this took place sometime around 1670 although Wallace speculates that the possibility must exist that, as he had regular contacts with associates in Jersey, he may have spent time in that island before moving permanently to England.

The story of the Monamy family in England does not concern the House at St Jacques further so is not relevant to this piece. For those wishing a more complete account of the English branch of the family, this may be found in an article by Harrison-Wallace in the publications of the Société Jersiaise.

De Guérin tells us that André, son of Elie, was among the leaders of the parliamentarian party in Guernsey during the Civil Wars and for a time was among the twelve commissioners who were, on 23rd March 1643, vested by the English parliament with the government of Guernsey. One of their actions was the removal of the Bailiff, John de Quetteville from office.

By 1651 André was a Lieutenant in the Guernsey militia and Wallace tells of his involvement with the storming of Castle Cornet. (NB. A Guernsey correspondent informs me that this proposed assault never took place. Following the capture of Jersey by Parliamentary forces in 1651, Castle Cornet surrendered. CHW). In 1654 he was using a recorded seal or merchant's mark in connection with his business activities.

Examples of these marks have appeared in back issues of the Transactions of La Société Guernesiaise.

Following the removal of five Jurats who were Royalist sympathisers, in 1653, he was elected Jurat. Wallace tells us that by 1656 however he was in financial difficulties. His tenure of office was cut short in 1660 with the return to the throne of Charles II. His fortunes seem to have gone from bad to worse as by his death in 1680 he was substantially in debt.

By 1686 the records show the house at St Jacques in the ownership of the heirs of one Pierre Monamy, presumably André's brother (and son of André died 1680). One can only speculate why the property did not pass to the eldest son, André.°

The 1706 Livre de Perchage entry records that André purchased the property from his brother's heirs, but by 1732 he too had run into financial difficulties. The house and property were seized by creditors to settle his debts, and the property finally passed out of Monamy ownership. Sadly this fate was to befall several subsequent owners of this fine house. Title eventually passed to a member of the David family, when Jean, son of Thomas, purchased it.

It will therefore be seen that in connection to a possible link with the sundial date of the early 14th century, no member of the Monamy family owned the old house (whichever that was) at St Jacques before André, son of Elie, who inherited it through his maternal grandmother in the early 1600s.

It might be also worth mentioning at this point that no record has been found so far for a marriage between any André Monamy and Rebecca Guille.

Livre de Perchage records

It is clear from even a brief review of the records that the house and landed property have been drastically altered on numerous occasions over time.

It also seems conclusive that the Monamy family first became involved with the house at St Jacques some time around 1611-1617, the house already being in the family of the wife of Elie Monamy, Susanne Martin.

André, son of Elie, is mentioned in an entry for 1617 and as mentioned above he seems to have only been the owner of a meadow, some ruins, a garden and part share in a stack yard and driveways. He acquired this property from Étienne Guillmotte and James Ollivier, who were guardians of the children of Thomas and Jean le Marinel, who were the heirs of their grandmother, the daughter of Nicolas Guillmotte.

The property then amounted to 6 vergees and 31 perch. Also confirmed at this date was the ownership of the main house at St Jacques as being Susanne Martin who inherited it from her mother Marie.

The property underwent one of its many amalgamations at this time, as Susanne became the owner of a number of small parcels of property on the Pré de Gaulle, descending from various individuals, many of whom seem to be relatives.

As mentioned above, by 1640 the widowed Susanne Martin had evidently remarried, this time to Pierre Etur; and a Livre de Perchage entry of this date in respect of the property at St Jacques speaks of a neufre maison de St Jacques. André was still holding his meadow and other minor items of property, but clearly a new house had recently been constructed on this site, perhaps the one which was demolished circa 1753. Pierre Etur is recorded as being the owner of the main house at St Jacques and a new house was also built on the site, with Pierre Etur having title as a consequence of his marriage. Pierre also took possession of a number of small parcels of land and property at this time. Again, as mentioned briefly above, we see that by 1663 André Monamy now held the meadow, gardens and vegetable plots, a tannery and more importantly the main house at St Jacques. By 1680 André was dead and the property passed in 1686 to the heirs of his son Pierre. (NB. It has become clear, since this article was written in 2004, that Pierre was the eldest son, and that André, called Andrew in London, was born in 1661. Correction by CHW 2008).

In 1706 André (Andrew) Monamy, aged 45, son of André, died 1680, purchased the property at St Jacques from his brother Pierre's heirs. André (Andrew) acquired the meadow, the Pré de Gaulle, gardens, vegetable plots, a barn and a stack yard, together with the main house and courtyard of St Jacques, which had up until that time previously consisted of a number of small parcels of land.

Also acquired at that time were a number of small fields and other lands at St Jacques to the East of a nearby roadway, Foss André.


Picture courtesy of La Société Guernesiaise

The André Monamy and Rebecca Guille Sundial Stone.

The stone tablets appear to be of limestone and are 14 inches tall and 13 1/4 inches wide. It was not possible to ascertain the thickness of the panels, as they are set into the wall of the lounge chimneybreast.

The two were for many years affixed, side by side to the frontage of the Monamy House but at some time, perhaps in the 1980s, they were removed and placed over the mantelpiece of the ground floor room to the right of the front door.

The left hand panel carried two names, a date and a sundial. The names are incised into the surface, as is the register of the sundial and the date.

The name 'André Monamy' is rendered with capital or larger initial letters and is unusual in that the 'N' is carved the 'wrong' way around, almost as though the carver was using a stencil and had traced the letter 'mirror' fashion. Immediately below is carved the name Rebecca Guille again with enlarged capitals.

The right hand panel is given over to a representation of screen within which a series of heraldic designs are carved. Below again is the 1312 date also rendered in Arabic numerals. One must wonder, if the date is purporting to be authentic, why the more usual Roman numerals were not used.

Between the personal names and the screen but fully on the right hand panel is the carved word 'Conshiotirma', the word being rendered in the vertical plane. The meaning of the word is unknown. In the opinion of the noted historian Gregory Stevens-Cox, the possibility must exist that it might be of Masonic origin or be a secret password of some kind. It might also be entirely spurious.


Photograph courtesy the generosity of Mr and Mrs Bearder

Today the panels are housed indoors and protected from the effects of weather and erosion.The tablets appear at first sight to be in reasonable condition but closer examination reveals numerous deep fissures, running across the surface. The left-hand panel is the more damaged of the two.

The right hand panel, although the limestone is in better physical condition, has suffered a greater degree of surface deterioration such that now much of the original carved detail is almost lost. One must wonder if a process such as sand blasting has been carried out on the property at some time in the recent past and if this has contributed to the rapid deterioration of the artefact.

As the present house can be shown to be of mid-eighteenth century origin the plaques must either be re-used from another site or building or there must be another explanation altogether.

Why the plaques carry a date as early as 1312 when the Monamy family did not arrive in the Channel Islands until the mid 1540s is also as yet unexplained.

De Guérin records his thoughts on the puzzle thus. Either the stones record the names of some remote ancestors and are therefore a relatively modern addition to the house, or the tablets come from an altogether older building.

In a letter to the then owner of Maison Monamy, Mr Waddams, historian Maurice Ouseley wrote in 1976 his thoughts on the subject of the limestone tablets.

He reports having carried out extensive research trying to match the heraldry from the right hand panel. Despite searching through numerous reference works, including D'Hoziers Armorial General de France he could find nothing that corresponded with the arms depicted on the plaques at the Guernsey house at St Jacques.

A Monamy reference was found in the records of the Society of Antiquaries but the arms depicted in no way resemble those carved on the panel of the Monamy stone.

He listed three possible explanations. 1. He suggested that Mr Trotter (Priaulx Library?) had been correct when he considered the representation of the arms fictitious; 2. If the arms were indeed of the Monamy family they were unique as no other examples have so far been located; or 3. They were legitimate but related to another family entirely. He concluded his letter with the cautionary warning that even today it is possible to obtain a plaque carrying your family arms from numerous sources, all equally spurious.

Following a letter to Dr Darryl Ogier, the present States Archivist, on the historical issues surrounding the plaques, he offers the following thoughts. To begin with he, like John McCormack, doubts whether the date of 1312 can be authentic, rendered as it is in Arabic script.

He further makes the point that the house cannot be much older than the seventeenth or eighteenth century. Also, the sundial is quite unlike those of known medieval examples.


Picture courtesy of La Société Guernesiaise

It is unfortunate that the sundial has now been moved from its apparently original position as a test of its validity might have been a check to see if it was telling the correct time when in situ. One point he does raise, is the co-incidence of the date 1312 also being the date given for the dedication of St Peter Port Church in Les Dedicaces des Eglises, a document now regarded by most researchers as a forgery. He cites the example of the date 1111, over a house door in the parish of the Vale, suggesting that the property is of that date. This is another date widely regarded as having been 'lifted' from the Dedicaces.

His comment on the supposed heraldry is that the background on which the representation is depicted closely resembles a 16th to 18th century fireback, and makes the point that these were indeed sometimes decorated with a heraldic device.

Who first placed these enigmatic panels on the house at St Jacques will in all probability never be established with any certainty. One would have to consider what the person might have hoped to achieve by such an action and to what end.

I initially thought that one explanation might have been that a member of the Monamy family had attempted by such means to deceive or hoax the casual viewer, in an effort to gain some standing in local society. What seems fairly conclusive, if the tablets were indeed removed from an earlier property, by virtue of the date of the present house's construction, is that it could not have been a member of the Monamy Family.

Conclusions.

On the basis that Hugh Lenfestey is correct and the house presently standing on the site is no earlier than 1753 and the last male Guernsey Monamy died around the first quarter of the 18th century then it is clear no member of the Monamy family ever lived there. From the Livre de Perchage data it would seem that the first owner of the present house was Jean David son of Thomas, being the purchaser of rentes from the estate of André Monamy, en desastre.

It would also seem established that one André Monamy owned a house on this site before the date of the presumed 1753 demolition. The property would have come into his possession by way of marriage and inheritance as described above.

Mr Waddams writes in his letter that the house was originally built in 1411 - 1470 but he offers no supporting evidence for this statement.

It is certain that the house André Monamy lived in was not the first to be built on this property and that a succession of dwellings has occupied this site over time. If the present house is any guide, these houses in all probability were also altered and rebuilt many times.

The site would have been an attractive location, in a sheltered position close to the Town of St Peter Port but far enough away to ensure a level of peace and tranquillity, denied to the average town dweller. A nearby water supply would also have been seen as a valued asset.

Where the Monamy Stone originated and who might have placed it over the door will probably never be known with any certainty. Perhaps if the meaning of the word 'Conshiotirma' can be discovered then we might be some way to answering these questions. So far no one has offered a rational explanation of the word.

Finally, of the nine women with the name Rebecca on file in the Guille database, the earliest occurs in 1662 and the latest in 1734. Both Dr Ogier and John McCormack made the point that the name Rebecca was not in common use before the Reformation. Further, no Rebecca Guille is known to have married into the Monamy family.

With all the circumstances taken into account it is my belief that the Monamy Stone is a contrived artefact whose purpose was to lend credence to a claim of association and establishment by a successful merchant family at the height of their wealth and influence.

The curious affectation of a heraldic display together with a wholly implausible date leads one to the inescapable conclusion that the whole is a work of fiction with no shred of authentic information present.

That said, there were a number of substantial contacts between the Guille and Monamy families during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including at least one marriage between John Guille son of (Ni)Colas and Marie Monamy in 1597. The match was evidently successful as it produced ten children.

I have been as yet unable to reconcile the present structure with many of the architectural aspects described in the numerous property documents.

For example where might there have been a Cache and Portiere relating to the present house, despite a clear reference to these features in the 1837 Livre de Perchage ? The close proximity of the public roadway seems to preclude the possibility of a driveway and formal entrance suggested by this entry in the document.

One might also find it difficult to envision the existing house, clearly in situ by 1837, set about with a range of barns, a cider press and linking courtyard. This despite these also being listed in the property records. If these features then existed, where are they now?

Which leaves us with one final puzzle: as it would seem proved that there has been no direct Guille family connection with the property, why is the land at St Jacques called Pré de Guille ?

Like most place names, those in Guernsey are subject to almost constant change. In 1837 the property was referred to as Pré de Guille but only half a century earlier it was Prey de Guille.

In 1752 it was Prey de Guielle and in 1732 it was Prey de la Guelle. In 1706 it was termed Prey de la Gaulle and earlier in 1574 the property was described as Courtill de la Gaulle.

Despite the clear reference to the Guille family on the sundial and the land on which the house stands latterly being referred to as Pré de Guille, no family connection with that family and the Monamys who lived at St Jacques has come to light in the course of this investigation. Furthermore no documentary evidence has so far come to light to associate the Guille family with any of the other families who have owned or lived on this site since records began.

In addition to the acknowledgements listed within the body of the report I should also mention the very great assistance of Geoffrey Mahy, President of the French Circle for his invaluable help with the transcription and translation of many old documents in connection with the investigation.

Graham Guille 2004


Map image courtesy of La Société Guernesiaise
               



The family tree posted below was drawn up two or three years ago, and in the light of Graham Guille's researches is now subject to several corrections and additions. See linked page of notes and comments.
       



January 2008: For a comprehensive update of Monamy genealogy, with many additional details, and differing in several ways from earlier accounts, see new page. Click.



               
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