It's standing room only in 'cattle market' conveyance

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Regular contributor Trevor Cooper considers the endless activity in Guernsey's housing market...

Regular contributor Trevor Cooper considers the endless activity in Guernsey's housing market. .

MOVING house is an arduous experience and the fact that 305 individuals, couples or families did so during July, August and September illustrates the continual activity in Guernsey's housing market. This, incidentally, compares with 266 sales in the corresponding months of 2011.

Little wonder sometimes there is standing room only in the conveyancing court – or 'cattle market' as it has been likened to in the past – between 9.30 and 10am every Tuesday and Thursday.

That house sales are not the only documents being consented to during the court sitting only compounds the situation. To begin with, the figure of 305 conveyances for the third quarter of this year does not include the handful of commercial property transactions, or family transfers changing hands for nominal sums.

Contracts court, as it is also known, will also witness agreements between neighbours for rights of access, shared services, etc.; others will be consenting to bonds when taking out or extending mortgages and wills of realty can be signed in court as they take the form of conveyances by transferring real estate upon a person's death.

In fact, the type and nature of business covered on any Tuesday or Thursday morning is almost endless.

The Guernsey Press House and Home supplement lists the monthly house sales and of particular interest among the 88 transactions completed in July was St Briocq, Rue de St Briocq, St Peter's.

This magnificent farmhouse is featured on the front cover of John McCormack's definitive book, The Guernsey House, with parts listed as dating back to circa 1400-1550 and having been refronted in 1799.


Included with the property, intriguingly, is a seat in pew 31 in the parish church.

The Anglican Church reflected people's standing in society during the 18th and 19th centuries and the best pews in most churches were often owned or rented by wealthy landowners and so attached to the proprietor's seat – that is, that person's residence in perpetuity.

As part of the 'What's Your Story' project, sponsored by Appleby, Jersey Archive staff invited people to find out about their family's religious roots.

To quote Stuart Nicolle, senior archivist, and Michele Leerson, archives assistant at Jersey Archive, 'Pew holders held a great deal of power within the church.


When in 1833 the rector of St Ouen in Jersey, Philippe Payn, took the decision to change the layout of the church he did not appreciate the repercussions of this action.

Jean Arthur, a disgruntled patron of the church, served an Order of Justice on him. His pews had been in a perfect viewing position for the pulpit and the desk of the minister but after they had been moved, he felt that his pew had significantly depreciated in value.

He demanded compensation of £500 for the loss (a great deal of money in 1833) or for the furniture to be moved back to its previous positions. Unsurprisingly, the Ecclesiastical Assembly decided to move the furniture back.'

Another conveyance completed during July was for Les Petils at Bordeaux, which sold prior to its public auction.

A keen buyer will sometimes try and secure a property in this manner rather than take his chances at an auction.

This can encourage the owner to wait and see but at the risk of losing out if a close or higher bid is not made at the auction.

Les Cordeliers in Les Gravees was sold to the Duke of Richmond Hotel in July, most likely for use as staff accommodation. Regulars regret the loss of this popular hostelry but the sale emphasises the Red Carnation Group's commitment to the island.

First prize for the most unusual but nonetheless charming name of a property sold during July must go to Wibble Cottage in Les Croutes, St Peter Port.

Among the 113 sales during August was Ebenezer Church in Brock Road, which was sold with proposals for residential redevelopment.

One of the most attractive buildings in Guernsey was also sold in August. The Granary was previously known as Hotel du Moulin and incorporated Cafe du Moulin.

The property is set within an idyllic valley around Rue de Quanteraine, St Peter's, and in addition to the residential unit there are four self-catering units and a log cabin outbuilding.

There were 104 sales during September, including another delightfully-named property, this one in Amherst changing its name from Valona Cottage to Honeypot Cottage.

There are no strict regulations about changing a house name – it can be done often and at any time without formal documentation, although it is advisable to notify the States Cadastre department and Guernsey Post to avoid confusion.

Deciding on a new name at the point of purchasing a property is the best option as it enables the new name to be shown on the title deeds – not essential but beneficial as it is then recorded by the Cadastre department as part of the conveyance process.

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