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Jersey & Guernsey Law Review – February 2007



Oliver Pickering

1       The Channel Islands collection, received by Leeds University Library in 1982, was the personal collection of John Le Patourel, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Leeds (and subsequently Research Professor) from 1945 until his retirement in 1974. Le Patourel was born in Guernsey in 1909 – his father, a lawyer, became Attorney-General for the island – and the Channel Islands were always of close personal interest to him. Given their geographical and cultural position between France and England, it is no coincidence that he made the relationship between these two countries in the Middle Ages the major focus of his mature academic work. His magnum opus was The Norman Empire,[1]  but a sequel on the Angevin Empire sadly remained unfinished at the time of his unexpected death in 1981.

2       John Le Patourel was educated at Elizabeth College in Guernsey, from where he proceeded to Jesus College, Oxford. When it came to doctoral research he remained faithful to the Islands, and the resulting thesis, The Medieval Administration of the Channel Islands, 1199-1399, was published in 1937.[2]  The book was republished by the Guernsey Bar in 2004, with a new preface by Gordon Dawes. Further publications on the history of the Channel Islands – not to mention numerous talks and lectures – punctuated his working life, and reveal his continuing close association with Channel Islands institutions, despite his location in Yorkshire.  Thus his The Building of Castle Cornet, Guernsey: Documents Relating to the Tudor Reconstruction was published under the authority of the Royal Court of Guernsey in 1958, while the Guernsey Society had earlier (1949) brought out his edition of AJ Eagleston’s  posthumous The Channel Islands under Tudor Government, 1485-1642: A Study in Administrative History. Already in 1946 Le Patourel had been appointed archivist to the Royal Court of Guernsey, and he later served on the island’s Ancient Monuments Committee. With others he published in 1969 the first volume of the List of the Records in the Greffe, Guernsey.

3       At Leeds his scholarly excellence, increasing reputation, and the very practical ways in which he had thrown himself into the study of local Yorkshire history led to further honours: President of the Thoresby Society (the Leeds local history society), 1949-55, of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 1965-69, and of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, 1966-68. Within the University he founded the inter-departmental Medieval Group, the Centre (now the Institute) for Medieval Studies, and the journal Northern History, all of them still flourishing. And beyond Leeds he became nationally and internationally known, especially as the scope of his scholarship widened. The crowning honour was his appointment as a Fellow of the British Academy in 1972 (the Proceedings of the Academy for 1985 contain a substantial memoir of his life and work), but the University of Caen had conferred an honorary doctorate on him as early as 1957.

4       One notable feature of Le Patourel’s time at Leeds was his longstanding support for the University Library, the Brotherton, not least through his virtually continuous membership of the Library Committee, of which he was (inevitably) chairman for a substantial period. Not surprisingly he took a special interest in the development of the Library’s history collections, which he transformed and helped to build into the major research resource they are today. It was therefore natural that after his death his widow, Jean (herself a noted archaeologist), should have arranged for both his papers and his personal collection of works relating to the Channel Islands to come to the Brotherton.

5       Le Patourel’s personal papers are very extensive. The main body (MS 822) comprises over 13,000 separate items, and a preliminary manuscript listing still awaits final editing and publication. Much of this material relates to his professional life at Leeds, academic and administrative, but the introductory ‘Personalia’ section contains a large body of correspondence on Channel Islands matters (especially his work on the Guernsey Greffe), and there is a whole separate section of papers (some 320 items) relating to the Channel Islands. These fall into the following main groupings -

         (a)        doctoral work on the medieval administration of the Islands;
         (b)        the excavation of Castle Cornet, Guernsey;
         (c)        the Guernsey Greffe;
         (d)        Lihou Island, Guernsey;
         (e)        Guernsey, miscellaneous papers;
         (f)         The Guernsey Society (very extensive);
         (g)        Jersey, miscellaneous papers;
         (h)        Channel Islands shipping history projects;
         (i)         Semaine de Droit Normand, Guernsey, 1938;
(j)         Colloquium on Channel Islands law, 1960/61;
         (k)        post-war reconstruction of the Channel Islands;
         (l)         lectures on aspects of the Channel Islands given by Le Patourel;
         (m)       Lectures and papers on the Channel Islands by others.

6       Catalogued separately are lecture notes made by Le Patourel whilst a student at Oxford (MS 578); notes for lectures that he gave to the Forces during the Second World War (MS 580); and correspondence relating to research on the medieval manor of Bradford (MS 818).

7       As with all materials held by the Special Collections department at Leeds, bona fide researchers are welcome to consult these papers, subject only to the provisions of the Data Protection Act. (In fact certain sections of correspondence have always been officially ‘closed’, for data protection reasons, but not those relating to Channel Islands matters.)

8       The Channel Islands Collection itself, i.e. the printed material on the Channel Islands collected by John Le Patourel, totals over 850 items occupying some thirteen and a half metres of library shelf-space. Approximately one-sixth of the items are in the French language. The classification scheme that was devised for the collection on its arrival reveals the wide scope of Le Patourel's collecting, the main subject divisions being history (including archaeology); genealogy; laws and government; social history (including industry, farming, tourism, and education); transport; folklore and customs; language; architecture; natural history and geology; and works by local writers alongside literary works by others that are set in the area. Guidebooks, almanacs, maps, and views of the Islands are naturally also represented, and there are pamphlets and periodical publications (for example, of local historical societies, and of Elizabeth College) as well as bound volumes. The overall scheme of organisation is that works covering the Islands as a whole come first, followed by sections devoted to Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, Alderney, and then the lesser islands.

9       Not surprisingly there are numerous publications on the constitutional history and laws of the Islands (including sets of the Ordres en Conseil, the Actes des Etats and the Receuil d’Ordonnances), these being subjects in which John Le Patourel took a particular interest. And it is only to be expected that he made a point of collecting older works on these topics as well as newer ones. Altogether there are four items in the collection printed before 1700, twenty-three printed in the eighteenth century, and 232 that date from the nineteenth century. The oldest item of all is a map of 1636, while the oldest bound book is Peter Heylyn’s A full relation of two journeys: the one into the main-land of France, the other into some of the adjacent islands.[3]  The oldest book on the subject of Jersey is Philip Falle, An account of the Isle of Jersey: the greatest of those islands that are now the only remainder of the English dominions in France,[4]  but this is only one of sixteen pre-1800 books that name Jersey in their titles. One other, with a more political slant, is John Shebbeare, An authentic narrative of the oppressions of the islanders of Jersey.[5]  A quite different eighteenth-century book – one of those in French – is the Pseaumes de David mis en vers (with music), which was printed in Guernsey in 1791.

10     Items dating from the period of German occupation in the 1940s are also represented. On the one hand there are single issues of the Deutsche Guernsey-Zeitung (13 May 1944) and the Deutsche Inzelzeitung [Jersey] (4 October 1941), and an unauthorized reprint of AS Macpherson’s well-known text-book Deutsches Leben, published by the Guernsey Education Council in 1941 to teach German to adults and children. On the other, we find Conditions in Guernsey as revealed in certain issues of the Guernsey "Evening Press" and "Guernsey Star" between September 16th and October 2nd, 1942, produced in London by the Channel Islands Refugees Committee, and Nos Iles: a symposium on the Channel Islands, published in 1944 by the Channel Islands Study Group, Teddington, England.

11     All the printed items in the Channel Islands Collection are included in Leeds University Library’s computer catalogue,[6]  and can be searched for either individually by author or title, or found collectively through a ‘classmark’ search for Channel Islands Collection. The collection is not actively developed, but offers of gifts to supplement its existing holdings would be welcomed.

12     Complementing the printed material, finally, is a collection of historical documents (originals or transcripts) assembled by John Le Patourel in connection with his researches on the Channel Islands. Among the original items are a small number of documents relating to rents and land holdings in Guernsey dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century (MSS  601, 602, 629, 699); ‘Anecdotes relative to the Island of Jersey’, probably compiled by Thomas Howard in 1767 (MS 599); and the 1820-21 letter-book of (probably) the Guernsey wine-merchant Sausmarez Carey (MS 630). Transcripts of older documents include a compendium of materials relating to the history of Jersey, copied towards the end of the eighteenth century (MS 581); a notebook of transcripts mainly relating to Guernsey, made c. 1800 (MS 576); another volume of Guernsey-related transcripts put together c. 1821 (MS 587); and mid-nineteenth-century transcripts of sixteenth-century Guernsey court rolls (MS 582). Lastly there are photographs of manuscripts and deeds relating to the Channel Islands, including aerial photographs (MS 1555); and miscellaneous documents, 1940-53, relating to Guernsey during the Second World War (MS 796).

13     Interested researchers from the Channel Islands would be most welcome to visit Leeds to consult any part of the collections described above, as the use of the material is at present fairly small. (In common with the other constituent parts of the Special Collections department, books and documents are not lent out, except occasionally for exhibition purposes.) The present writer, who can be contacted as, or at The Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, will be glad to answer particular questions if he can.

Oliver Pickering is the Deputy Head of Special Collections in Leeds University Library, and Senior Assistant Fellow in Medieval English.  He is editor of the Library:  the Transactions of the Bibliographical Society and a Fellow of the English Association.  He has published widely in the field of medieval English.

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[1]  Pub. by Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1976

[2]  Pub. by Oxford University Press, 1937

[3]  London, 1656

[4]  London, 1694

[5]  London, 1771

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