St Pierre du Bois Douzaine - 1870

The twelve Douzeniers (the Douzaine) and the two Constables who assembled in front of St. Pierre du Bois Rectory for this photograph in 1870 would have been confident of their status and influence. They were elected by and from amongst the 'chefs de famille', that is the heads of households who owned the larger farms in the parish and who were liable to pay parish rates. Through their representatives, the 'voice of the people' in the States of Deliberation, they were involved in the major political and fiscal reforms of the 19th century.

However the story of the next hundred and forty years would be one of the Douzaines, and the Parish Assemblies that they served, steadily losing control and responsibility, sometimes voluntarily but more often reluctantly, to a States of Deliberation which was evolving into a modern democratic institution.

Until the 19th Century a Douzaine’s functions had been customary. In the course of that century most of these customary functions, together with the taxation and penalty systems to fund them, were enshrined in statutory law.

A Douzaine's primary functions at the time of the photograph were;

i) to assess and record the ownership, extent and rental value of land for parochial and States taxation and for inheritance purposes.
ii) to advise the Parish Assemblies on the sums to be raised through the rates to support primary schooling, a police force (if any), the hospitals and the poor.
iii) to oversee the ancient public highways, including any new work within ten feet of the roadway, and to ensure that the roads and their boundaries were maintained by landowners.
iv) to nominate jurats and to vote at the States of Election.
v) to elect and brief their representative before assemblies of the States of Deliberation.
vi) to elect Douzeniers to sit on States' Committees.

Today all that remain of the primary functions listed above are those in connection with the States of Election and the control of the boundaries to public highways eg issuing notices regarding dangerous structures, granting bornements, etc. Some new functions were added in the 20th century but with the growth of the services provided by the States through taxation, in particular education and healthcare, the relative importance of the Douzaines declined.