Wednesday, 12 November 2014

a little lane with a big history

At the end of October a great little book came out, 
'A short history of Guernsey' by Peter Johnston, published by the Guernsey Society.
(You can get it in The Press Shop and the Lexicon)
Its well written and easy to read, and last night it explained a little mystery for me.

Up at the top of town are Havilland and St Johns Street, just off The Grange opposite Elizabeth College.  These two streets are parallel, the same length and both end in Union Street.  They are also short, it only takes a minute, two if you are feeling very lazy to walk them. So why on earth is there a tiny snicket connecting the two?  Ok, there are two small houses on it, so that is probably just the weird way towns evolve ( reason why I love old cities and find cities on grid formations strange).

But the really big question is why has such a tiny lane got such a big name as
 'Battle Lane' or to give its proper name 'La Rue de la Bataille'

So to explain this I am going to quote straight from 'A short history of Guernsey', about an attempted invasion of the island by the French in the middle ages.
'A well-documented invasion took place in May 1372 as told in a ballad entitled
 La Descente des Arougousais.  
Charles V of France sent a force of 4,000 men under the command of Evan or Owen Prince of Wales, and Morelet de Montmaur. Evan had gone over to the French to avenge the beheading of his father by Edward III.  The attacking force landed at Vazon Bay where islanders were awaiting them, having been warned, so the story goes, by Jean Le Tocq, an early riser who had been tending his sheep.  The first battle took place near La Carriere not far from La Houguette, in the Catel.  The invaders proved too strong and the Guernsey men retreated towards Town, making a last stand on the plateau between Clifton and Vauvert then wooded country side.
 Here a bloody battle was fought somewhere near a lane now known
 as La Rue de la Baitaille
 between Havilland and St Johns Streets.  Apparently there were so many dead on the battlefield 
that it was possible to walk over them and blood ran down the valleys into town.
  The islanders lost some 500 men out of 800, before retreating to Castle Cornet. 
 The ballad does not mention French losses but they must have been considerable.'

So next time you walk past, stop and have a think......

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