Samarès Manor dates back to Norman times and has gardens laid out in the late 1920s, although the manor was noted for its beautiful gardens over three centuries ago. Today there is a Japanese garden, herb garden, water garden and willow labyrinth with living willow tunnels.
The home of the long-established Jersey families, Payn and Dumaresq, for many years, the manor was first owned by the de St Hilaires, from about 1160 to 1337. The de St Hilaire family lost Samares when they decided to support the French king in the Hundred Years War, and so retain their lands at St Hilaire du Harcouet in Lower Normandy, in addition to which they were given part of the de Carteret property in the Cotentin.
It was owned for a short time by Philippe de Barentin, who sold it to Guille Payn in 1367. In 1498 the Bishop of Coutances issued a licence to "the noble lady Thomasse, widow of Philippe Payn, late Seigneur of Samares" for Mass to be celebrated in the new manor chapel. Philippe and Thomasse's daughter Mabel eventually inherited the manor and married Jean Dumaresq, of Vinchelez de Bas Manor, probably in 1500. The manor then remained in Dumaresq hands for eight generations over 200 years, partly thanks to Jean and Mabel's great-granddaughter Esther marrying a distant Dumaresq cousin.
Esther Dumaresq and Jurat Jean Dumaresq, also of Vinchelez de Bas, were married at Mont Orgueil Castle on 10 January 1580, the same day that Philippe de Carteret, son of the Seigneur of St Ouen, married Rachel Paulet, daughter of the Bailiff, George Paulet
During the Civil War the manor was in the hands of Henri Dumaresq, who was a supporter of Parliament, and his wife Marguerite, née Herault. When George Carteret captured the island for Charles I, Henri fled to London. Carteret ordered the felling of all the trees on the estate, which was turned into an internment camp for the wives of the Parliamentarian exiles, until they were deported to France.
Henri's son Philippe eventually reclaimed the manor, and was the first to develop its famous gardens. They included a small vineyard, which was still in existence 70 years later when the property was sold by his daughter Deborah. The last Dumaresq to own the manor was a strong-minded woman who claimed possession of Les Minquiers, although she failed in her claim to the Privy Council.
Nevertheless, the Dumaresqs had been gradually extending their holding into surrounding fiefs, La Fosse, Crapedoit and Le Homet. The last of these had a curious custom that when its dame had a baby, the Rector of St Clement had to escort her to church on a white horse. In 1695 the Fief es Faisants was added to the estate eventually inherited by Deborah.
She was childless and sold her entire estate to Jean Seale in 1734. Twenty years later it was again sold to Jacques Hammond, whose grandson sold it to Edward Mourant in 1846. The Mourant family retained the manor for three generations and then sold it to a merchant from Japan.
In 1924 the manor was bought by Sir James Knott, who created a new garden which has been maintained and developed to this day. He filled in the canal, brought earth by the cartload (thousands of them) from all over the island to reclaim the marsh, and imported exotic plants from Mediterranean countries. For 40 years he employed 40 gardeners and spent a fortune on the property, which he left to his wife, who married again to become Mrs Elizabeth Obbard. Today the manor is owned by her son Vincent.
Over the centuries the manor has been extended and demolished and rebuilt on several occasions, although some original thick granite walls remain, albeit heavily disguised, to give some clue to the house's origins.
George Balleine's The Bailiwick of Jersey records the unusual rights and duties of a Seigneur of Samares:
- "Like the lords of Rozel and Augres, it was the seigneur's duty, whenever the King came to Jersey, to ride into the sea to meet him, till the water covered his spurs."
It is not clear how this tradition arose, because until Queen Victoria's visit to the island in the mid-19th century, no reigning monarch is known for certain ever to have visited Jersey. The tradition has, however, been perpetuated on the occasion of visits by 20th century sovereigns.
- "But we hear more about his rights than his duties. He had his own private gallows on which to hang his tenants. At the Assize of 1309 this prerogative was challenged, but he replied that his ancestors had always possessed it; later it was confirmed under the Great Seal, and ratified again as late as 1695. The position of this gibbet is uncertain, but, since in 1517 the Governor borrowed it to hang a particularly obnoxious criminal, because the market-place was not large enough to hold all who would profit by witnessing his fate, it looks as though it may have stood somewhere near the present signal-post on Fort Regent. And it was no empty symbol of authority. Tenants not infrequently swung from it. But the culprit would have had to be sentenced by the Royal Court, and not by a seigneurial court, as is so often supposed. A vast crowd assemble in 1625 to see a witch hanged and burnt."
In 1678 Philippe Dumaresq transferred Mont de la Ville, which was part of his fief, to the Vingtaine de la Ville, so that a fort could be built there, but Fort Regent was not commenced for over 100 years thereafter.
- "The seigneur had the right to license a taverner and a baker for his fief; and as late as 1763 his tenants were compelled to make his hay. to cart it and to thatch it, to fetch his wood and wine and all that the manor needed for repairs, to clean out the colombier when necessary, to place their carts two days every year at his disposal, and to carry him to four ports of Normandy once in each tenant's lifetime. These duties were not peculiar to Samares, as most of them referred to all other important fiefs."
A windmill in the manor grounds is mentioned as early as 1218. All the seigneur's tenants would have had to take their corn there to be ground. At the end of the 13th century the mill's sails were confiscated and sold, because a man had been struck by them and killed.
The colombier (dovecot) in the manor grounds is the oldest in the island. It was a seigneur's exclusive right to keep pigeons, which were fattened by eating the tenants' crops. On 18 May 1647 there was a tragedy in the Samares colombier when a servant of Sir George Carteret called Wright fell while climbing the interior wall, after being ordered to collect young birds. He was cared for in the manor by the Dame but died of his wounds two months later.
Salse is Old French for salt water, so salse marais, which evolved into samares means 'salt marsh'. In the Assize Roll of 1309 the name is spelt 'Sausmarys'. The manor grounds were reclaimed from the marsh by the construction of a canal to drain the land by Philippe Dumaresq in 1685. It is said that a later Seigneur, Jurat Edward Mourant, used to travel part of the way to St Helier by boat.
Only the crypt survives of the manor's chapel, which was where the west wing now stands. It is believed that the chapel was dedicated to St Martha, the housewife of Bethany. She is supposed to have tamed a dragon at Tarascon, in the south of France, giving rise to suggestions that the de St Hilaire family may have had a link with that part of the country. The chapel was built with a north/south orientation, rather than the usual east/west. Although it was permitted to build a chapel or church other than in the customary orientation, if site restrictions required it, this is unlikely to have been the case at Samares and there are some doubts about the ecclesiastical origin of the chapel building.
The roof of the crypt is supported by two ancient pillars.
- The Manor's website
- Samares in the Middle Ages, an article by Peter Bisson in the 1987 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise
- Philippe de Barentin and the Payns of Samares, a sequel from the 1996 Annual Bulletin
- Seigneurs of Samares, and an earlier bulletin article from 1931
- Samares Manor's owners: A further article by Peter Bisson in 2009
- List of Seigneurs of Samares