Nestled at the head of a valley in St Lawrence, Hamptonne with its numerous granite buildings provides a story of Jersey rural life across the centuries. Its very location typifies a trend of building farms where there would be not only a ready source of water, but also shelter both from the coastal elements and raiders from France.
A key element of rural tradition within the Island was the characteristic of the many smallholdings working alongside the larger farms, in fact as late as 1914 nearly 88% of holdings fell under 45 vergées. While Hamptonne, certainly from the 17th century with over 100 vergées, was considered a fairly large farm it nevertheless reflected the ethos of self-sufficiency and mixed farming prevalent across the Island. Through the evolution of its buildings the site also provides valuable insight into the major developments of cider production, Jersey Royals and the Jersey Cow.
In the present day Hamptonne’s role as a museum enables it to portray not only Jersey’s rural history, but also some key moments from the Island’s political past. In late 1987 the then owners the Emmanuel family sold part of the farm to the National Trust for Jersey, who bought it for £400,000 with assistance from the States of Jersey. At this point the Société Jersiaise agreed to undertake the cost of restoration and development of the site into a rural life museum. The culmination of the first phase of the project, which involved collaboration between the Société Jersiaise and Jersey Heritage Trust, led to the museum being opened in 1993.
As the visitor walks around the present day museum, key moments and trends of Jersey’s agricultural past reveal themselves. The cider barn and the subsequent use of Langlois house was once a potato store, however other discoveries can also be made.
The pigsty to the side of Langlois indicates the importance of pigs as a source of meat for many farms in the Island. Furthermore it highlights the idea of self-provision, which from early on was as vital as the cash economy provided by knitting, cider and later on the Jersey Royal potato and cow.
A major occurrence across the Island’s farms and smallholdings came with the development of the Jersey cow during the 19th century and accompanying aspects such as the introduction of the Herd Book by the Royal Jersey Agricultural & Horticultural Society in 1866. This increasing importance of the breed to local farmers and the escalating international recognition from the period into the 20th century can be found at Hamptonne. The presence of cattle and calf sheds in the Langlois buildings highlight this well, however two other major connections emphasise this even more in the form of the Parish shows and a champion cow.
The Parish Shows for years provided an important platform for breeders and in October 1927 the owner of Hamptonne at this time a Francis P. Dutot began hosting the autumn St Lawrence Cattle Show, continuing to do so for several years. Prior to this, however the Dutot family was also responsible for breeding one of Hamptonne’s most famous bovine residents. Lavender Lady bred by the Dutot family was born on the 3rd August 1923.The booming live cattle export business at the time led to the cow being sold to Meridale Farm, New York, and shipped out on the 9th March 1927. In 1932 she went on show in the Aged Cow Class at the Minnesota State Fair, by which time she had become the only cow to be National Champion three times. Ultimately she became an important part of the breeding stock for future generations.
Horsepower was also important for a working farm, which is reflected in the stables and coach house at Hamptonne, however the closed shed in the present day museum also reflects another aspect of this. The vraic (seaweed) cart known as Lé Hèrnais à Êclon emphasises the importance to farms island-wide of this natural fertiliser. For the Jersey farmer having a horse for working the land was often coupled with owning a faster/lighter horse for not only the family wagonette, but also ensuring that they won the race to the best collection points for vraic on the Island’s beaches. An interesting side note is that the Dutot family kept a racehorse in the stables during the 20th century.
Hamptonne provides a significant insight into not only the Island’s political history, but also a reflection of Jersey’s rural developments and the dedication of its many smallholders and farmers to the land. Further detailed information can be found across the site.
Images can be found at Société Jeriasie