Tuesday, 31 January 2012

St Helier in 1932 - Harbour and Town Church

A few more extracts from the 1932 Guide Book to the Channel Islands...

It is interesting to see a grumble about the "unattractive, bare-looking Harbour approach" - we've had that in the last 20 years, especially when the reclamation work was all going on. It's a lot better now, with a fairly nice avenue past the roundabout and Cineworld car park, but the chief problem today is that it is a long way to go, especially for foot passengers. Guernsey has always had an advantage in this respect - from Harbour to St Peter Port is a short distance.

I remember the Weighbridge Gardens with the statue of Victoria, all shifted to make way for the bus stops. The open space that exists now is perfect for open events, but looks rather bare the rest of the time. It seems a shame that a garden could not have been restored, especially as there is photographic detail of how it looked.

The Post Office is still in Broad Street, but the train offices are long gone, alas!

The history of the Town Church seems to be quite deficient. It certainly doesn't date from "the middle of the
fourteenth century" - the choir and a small part of the nave which show clear evidence of early Norman, tenth or eleventh-century architecture. And the date of the church can be placed before 1066, because William, Duke of Normandy (not yet King of England) endorsed his father's gift of half its revenues to the Abbey of Cérisy la Forêt.

What is more, the North Chapel has a stone-built half-vault which is unique in Channel Island Churches. So much for the dismissive "little architectural interest" of the guide book. The other note that "unlike nearly all the other parish churches, it has retained its square tower". One can only assume that the author of the guide was basing his architectural comparisons on English churches, not Jersey ones.

The restoration of 1863 is covered in more detail on the Parish Church website:

In 1865, The Revd. Philip Filleul Rector and Vice-dean, with the support of the Constable and parishioners, undertook a thorough restoration. A south transept and western extension to the nave, both with galleries, were built, the chancel, altar and font replaced and the church furnished with uniform pews. An organ was installed in the north chapel, which had been used for many years as the town mortuary. In 1930, the choir was raised and new stalls erected and over the years the organ was enhanced to become a first-class instrument. (1)

It is interesting to note that 142 years later, more restoration has taken place, and the burial site of Major Peirson, mentioned in the guide book, has actually been uncovered.

The Town Church is currently undergoing a period of restoration. During 2007-2008 the exterior has been completely re-pointed and re-roofed. Starting in 2009 the focus of the restoration work has moved inside. The work will include the installation of under floor heating, re-plastering, maintenance of the wall monuments, and lighting.

I've not been able to find any major reasons for the mention of tombstones, except that one was a little over 4 years, and the other one over 100 years old. Jean Laffoley, born in 1659, dying in 1759, would have lived though the end of the Republic, when Richard Cromwell was forced to resign, and through the reigns of Charles II (1660 - 1685 ), James II ( 1685 - 1688 ), William and Mary ( 1689 - 1702 ), Anne ( 1702 - 1714 ), George I ( 1714 - 1727 ) and almost to the end of the reign of George II ( 1727 - 1760 )!


Having reached the landward end of the Harbour from the landing-stage on the pier, one passes between the Western Railway Station and the Weighbridge Gardens, a small grass-plot with beds of flowers relieving the unattractive, bare-looking Harbour approach, and containing a Statue of Queen Victoria, erected in 1890.

Facing the sea hereabouts are some of St. Helier's many hotels. Extending to the left is the fine Esplanade. To-
wards the right rises Fort Regent, at which we will presently look more closely, and ahead, leading into the town, are two thoroughfares. That on the right, MuIcaster Street, goes to the Parish Church and to the immediate neighbourhood of Royal Square, both of which can also be reached by way of the left-hand thoroughfare, Conway Street, which ends at Bond Street on the right and Broad Street on the left. A few steps along the latter is the General Post Office. In Bond Street are the offices of the Southern Railway and the Great Western Railway. On the right also is

The Parish Church.

The town church of St. Helier is one of the twelve parish churches of the island. It dates from the middle of the
fourteenth century, but is of little architectural interest.

In 1863-7 it was thoroughly restored. Unlike nearly all the other parish churches, it has retained its square tower.

Stained-glass windows display Biblical subjects. At the eastern end of the south wall is a tablet to the memory of the gallant Peirson, who was buried under the tower.

On the west wall of the south aisle is a tablet removed from the floor near the north door, in memory of Maximilian Norrey, who died in 1591 while serving in the army of Henry IV of Bourbon, King of France and Navarre. The inscription is in Latin. French and English translations are given on adjacent slabs. The Norreys, whose arms are on one of the gateways of Mont Orgueil Castle, were buried in a vault in this church.

The organ, placed in the church in 1922, is the finest in the Channel Islands.

In the churchyard, against the east wall of the church, is a flat tombstone recording in French the death of P. H.
Durell, Jun., on the 31st April, 1755, aged 4 years and 8 months.

On the north side of the church, in a line with the west front, is an upright stone inscribed : " Icy repose le corps de Mtre Jean Laffoley decede le 30eme Jeanvier, 1759 age de 100 ans et quatre mois."

(1) http://www.townchurch.org.je/st_helier_town_church_town_church_jersey_history.htm

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