The much photographed house at Le Gron, St
Saviour's, with the light brown granite front and round arch stone
doorway belongs to the "small parlour" type of Guernsey farmhouse
which always has seven small square windows, four upstairs and three
downstairs - two one side of the front door and one the other side.
Like all Guernsey houses of this particular type the downstairs
room with two windows was the original kitchen-living room with a
large open fireplace and a bread oven. It always took up exactly half
the ground floor area, the other half being shared unequally by the
front to back passage and the parlour.
Upstairs, the principal bedroom, a double one, was always situated
over the kitchen, the bedrooms over the passage and the parlour were
single ones. Access to the upper floor was by either a spiral stone
staircase along-side the back door but entered from inside the house,
or a rather insignificant wooden staircase going up from in the passage.
Additional building on to the back of the house and interior alterations
by subsequent owners have removed all traces of the original staircase
at Le Gron.
At the time the house was built Guernsey house builders did not
know that by constructing partitions all the way up inside a chimney
it could be divided into separate flues or smoke channels to enable
the chimney to be used with more than one fireplace. Consequently
Le Gron, in its original state, had only two fireplaces, one at either
end of the house. The principal bedroom could not have one because
there had to be one in the kitchen-living room below, while at the
other end of the house it could be either downstairs in the parlour
or upstairs in the bedroom, a matter of choice. At Le Gron the fireplace
was put in the bedroom as in most other houses of the period. Whether
the fireplace was put in downstairs or upstairs it was always smaller
than the one in the kitchen.
The dominating feature in the front of the
house, outside, is the round arch doorway which has the symbol known
as a Merchant's Mark cut in the keystone. These symbols are said to
have been to the trader much the same as the coat of arms was to the
medieval knight. There are a number of them in Guernsey and they all
have the usual Double-Cross and frequently the magical Sign of Four
which was credited with properties inspiring spiritual and bodily
security. The merchant used the symbol, which was a personal one often
incorporating his initials, to mark his goods and as his seal. The
Merchant's Mark at Le Gron includes initials believed, probably rightly,
to be those of Jean Carey (A28) - I.C. and Jacqueline Blondel - I.B.
his wife, owners of the property late 16th and early 17th centuries,
and almost certainly builders of the house. The property is entered
in the Extente of 1607.
History of Ownership
At the time of the Reformation, and before
the property belonged to the Henry family, thought to be a junior
line of the Henrys of Ste Appoline in the 14th century. Guillaume
Henry "du Groin" living 1499 is known to have left two daughters,
Johanne wife of John Le Messurier and Michelle wife of Jurat John
Blondel. There may also have been a son Thomas Henry living 1512 but
not heard of again in that part of St Saviours. Le Gron was not the
only property owned by the Henrys in that part of the parish, they
also owned the neighbouring estate Les Piques which appears to have
been the larger and more important of the two at that time, and both
passed by inheritance to Michelle, first wife of John Blondel. She
was still alive 1526 with a son Hellier. John Blondel married, secondly,
Cecile (A11) daughter of Laurons Careye (A5) and there was one son
and three daughters of that marriage. After Michelle's death her property
passed to her son who retained Les Piques which stayed in the possession
of his Blondel and, later, Andros descendants until early in the 19th
century. Evidently Hellier Blondel, Michelle's son, had sold the Gron
property to his half brother Thomas Blondel whose only child Jacqueline
wife of Jean Carey was the owner in 1586.
Jacqueline also owned property in the Town parish. In 1593 she had
land on "Les Costylz de Glatigny" described in 1616 as "es hougues
appelles Paris". (The hougues of hillocks which were situated in the
Salerie-Well Road-Paris Street block have been almost completely quarried
away). Also in 1593 she had a field "courtil de dessus de leeluze
de hault" (above the upper mill pond, presumably the one at the Charroterie)
and another field she had inherited from her father situated at the
north of Anne Sausmarez' field.
The house at Le Gron was built in a style suitable to the standing
in the parish of Jean Carey and Jacqueline Blondel, that is, a similar
type house but of superior workmanship to the houses of other people
of that time. In 1623 their son Thomas Carey (D5) sold "la grande
maison appellée la maison du Groin autant qu'au dit Carey appartient
à cause de Jacqueline Blondel sa mere" with its outbuildings
and part of the land to James Rougier son of James. Several fields
were sold to other people, and a portion of the "enclos" adjoining
the house was sold to Pierre Ingrouille, and that portion included
an older house, later referred to as a "maisonette".
After an interval of 18 years Le Gron came back into the possession
of the Blondels when James Rougier sold the property to Thomas Blondel
son of Hellier, in 1641, and on January 18, 1643 Thomas formally acknowledged
in the court of Fief Le Comte that he was the Seigneur's feudal "Tenant"
in consequence of the purchase, and the Greffier of the court duly
recorded in the fief register that Thomas Blondel "a esté receu
à foy et homage". He also bought back from Pierre Ingrouille
the portion with the "maisonette", that dwelling is not mentioned
again after 1663 and its site is included in the Courtil d'Aval which
still forms part of the property.
The new owner of Le Gron was a cousin of the previous Blondel owners.
He was one of the Douzeniers who compiled a new Livre de Perchage
for Fief de Longues in 1663 and was selected by Nicholas Ozanne Seigneur
of the Fiefs du Groignet and des Videclins to be Seneschal of their
joint court. He married Marie daughter of James Gallienne a well-to-do
land-owner of Torteval. His eldest son James Blondel was Constable
of St Saviours 1663 and a Douzenier in 1672 by which time he had inherited
It was James son of this James who sold Le Gron to his first cousin
and neighbour Nicholas Blondel son of Abraham, of Les Ruettes. Nicholas
Blondel's mother Susanne Dumaresq was the grand daughter of Pierre
Brehaut of Les Frances who was sworn in Jurat of the Royal Court in
April 1648, a fortnight after the Court had set aside the objections
of the Constables and Douzeniers of St Peter Port who alleged irregularities
in the way the election had been conducted. Pierre Brehaut was one
of the five Jurats dismissed by Order of Parliament dated August 29,
1653 because of "their great age and infirmity of Body", and that
was after he had been Jurat for only five years and four months!
Nicholas Blondel, born 1677 was twice married. His first wife was
Marie de Garis, their first child, Marie, was born and died 1702.
Marie de Garis died the next year at the birth of their son Nicholas.
Some four years later Nicholas Blondel married Anne Du Val and they
had ten children born at fairly regular intervals from 1708 to 1727.
The initials A.B. cut in the stone lintel of the upstairs fireplace
probably are those of the eldest of the ten, Abraham Blondel, born
Some time before 1721 Nicholas Blondel sold Le Gron to Pierre de
Lisle his neighbour, owner of the adjoining property, now called Petit
Vallon, at Le Gron. Because her stepson Nicholas, born 1702, would
inherit Le Gron, as his fathers eldest son, and her own eldest Abraham
would inherit only a younger son's portion, Anne Du Val persuaded
her husband to sell Le Gron and so deprive Nicholas of his birthright.
Nicholas Naftel, grandson of the disinherited Nicholas Blondel,
wrote in his Memoirs that on the death of their father Thomas Naftel
in 1764 he, aged two, and his brother Thomas Andrew, aged five, were
taken by their widowed mother Elizabeth Blondel to live with their
grandfather Nicholas Blondel in the house in Cornet Street he had
bought from Mr. William Brock.
Nicholas Naftel describes his grandfather as "a man fearing God
and hating covetousness who took it upon himself to have us instructed
according to his light and knowledge. His wife, our grandmother (Nicholas
Naftel does not tell us her name) was a virtuous woman. It was their
practice to have the Scriptures read according to the order of the
Church of England every morning at breakfast time and as soon as we
were able to read my brother and I read them in turn, which good practice
gradually made us acquainted with the Sacred Records. Mr grandfather
was a clockmaker, an art that he acquired after the 20th year of his
age being obliged to seek his bread in a very different way from that
wherein he was brought up as he was heir to one of the best estates
in St Saviours but his father having married a second time had a large
family by his second wife. Therefore when he became of age he left
his home and came into Town with a very small sum in his pocket. Having
some knowledge of spoon and buckle making he hired a small shop where
he cooked his own victuals and with one trade and another made enough
money to marry on. About this time a travelling French clockmaker
arrived in the island and asked to be allowed to join his shop. He
then taught my grandfather his trade, who so took to it and became
so proficient that he could not turn clocks out quick enough and even
had to order some ready made from England so as to supply his customers
but many preferred waiting a long time in order to have clocks of
his own workmanship. After a while he also undertook watchwork and
soon became famous as a watchmaker also... At our grandfather Blondel's
death in 1775 my brother was 17 and I not 15 but as our mother well
understood the clock and watch business my brother worked under her."
Nicholas Naftel was a clerk in an Ecrivain's office in Guernsey
when he came under the influence of Claude Gay, a French Roman Catholic
who had joined the Society of Friends, for which he was imprisoned
and banished from France. He wandered around and visited the Channel
Islands, finally settling in London. Nicholas Naftel left the lawyer's
office and joined his brother in the clockmaking business, by that
time he was a Quaker and had been exempted from service in the Guernsey
The clocks made by Nicholas Blondel and his grandsons are now highly
esteemed and some of them still keep excellent time. Nicholas Blondel
also tried his hand at bell casting and two of his mid-eighteenth
century bells are still in constant use, one of the St Sampson's Church
bell and the other the St Saviours School bell.
After Pierre de Lisle's death the property passed to his second
son, Pierre, who in 1781 and aged 56, was Colonel of the 4th or West
Regiment of Guernsey Militia. He died in 1806, his wife Martha Allez
was aunt to the celebrated Thomas de la Rue, printer. Their son, also
named Pierre, did not keep Le Gron long. It was sold to James Torode,
dead by 1834. The Torodes were still the owners in 1894 but by 1914
Le Gron belonged to Miss Amelia Renouf. First Mr S Bougourd and then
his father-in-law Mr T Le P Martel purchased the property, and it
was during Mr Bougourd's period of ownership that the old thatch roof
was very badly damaged by fire and replaced by the present slate one.
At the end of the last war Mr T M Vidamour, Dean of St Saviours Douzaine,
bought Le Gron which was then passed on to his daughter Miss Marion
Vidamour, who died very recently.
Coq du Gron
© Kind permission by Sherri Gallichan
Original Sized Image -
Contributed by Stuart Place