Tuesday, 5 March 2013

History of St Mary's Church by G.R. Balleine (Part 2)

Here is part two of the forgotten piece by  G.R. Balleine  on the history of St Mary's Church, transcribed below. Balleine had a wonderful grasp of how to make historical narrative interesting, and peppers his history with interesting anecdotes.

The "Mother's Union" is mentioned in the text. In fact, St Mary is now the only Church to still have a Mother's Union. Those in all the other Parishes have ceased.

To set the scene, this picks up from part 1, when there was very raucous and drunken merry making with the practice of ringing the Christmas bells. A barrel of beer or cider would be rolled into the church, and. those who were not actually pulling the rope would' drink often and deep. Rector after Rector had tried to regulate this at St. Mary's. This is where our story continues.

History of St Mary's Church by G.R. Balleine (Part 2)

Clement Dumaresq, the next Rector, persuaded his Ecclesiastical Assembly to pass an Act in 1818: "Considering what grave disorders and scandals have occurred at Christmas even in the Church itself under pretext that an old custom authorizes anyone to ring the bell without restraint and without permission of those to whom the care of the building has been entrusted by the Bishop, the Assembly has decided that in future the bell shall never be rung without the Rector's permission, and that at Christmas it shall not be rung later than 10 p.m." But, when the ringers found the church doors locked against them, they broke them open, took them off their hinges, and threw them away in a field, and rang to their hearts' content.

The Ecclesiastical Assembly then forbade any ringing in the future, but it could not enforce this rule.

In 1835 the bell was broken at the Christmas ringing. In 1844 under Philippe Guille the question was brought up again, and the Ecclesiastical Assembly ordered the Churchwardens to appoint two men to ring the bell at Christmas, and called on the honorary police to exclude all others, but the police refused to interfere.

The battle royal however began when Le Couteur Balleine became Rector. The Minute Book of the Dean's Court records: "The Reverend Le Couteur Balleine stated that he was appointed Rector of St. Mary's in 1856; that on the Sunday before Christmas he announced that on Christmas Day the Services prescribed by the Prayer Book would be held in the church; that on the evening of Christmas Day certain persons barricaded themselves in the belfry" and they rang the bell without intermission till a very late hour, so that no Service could be held; that on the Sunday before Christmas 1857, the Rector again announced the Services as in the previous year, but certain persons, who had got into the belfry in the afternoon, again rang the bell without intermission; so that the Service could not be held; and seventy persons who had assembled for the Service had to return home; that on Christmas Eve Philippe Sorsoleil, one of the Churchwardens, came to the Rectory and demanded the church key; but the Rector refused to part with the key."

He put strong locks on the church doors and the belfry. He removed the ladder that led to the ringing chamber. He carried away to the Rectory the bell-rope and the clapper of the bell. But the ringers with Sorsoleil at their head were just as determined. They broke the locks and deposited the doors in the Rector's garden. They fetched a ladder and got into the bell-chamber. When they found the rope missing, one of their number rode into town on horse-back and secured another. They roused the blacksmith, and blew his bellows, while he forged a new clapper, and they rang the bell from 10 p.m. till 4 in the morning, meanwhile celebrating their victory with a drunken orgy in the church, leaving the building in such a state that no Services could be held next day.

This tussle established the custom so firmly, that the bell-ringing has continued down to the present day, though fortunately it has been purged of its disgusting and un-Christian features.

Despite the rather sordid history so far, it should be mentioned that there were brighter moments though these cannot be made such exciting reading. There was, for example, a very distinguished Rector who was also Dean of Jersey while remaining Rector of St. Mary, who is commemorated by a splendid plaque behind the Rector's stall. Thomas Le Breton was born in 1679, was scholar of Pembroke, then Fellow of Exeter, 1696-1702, Rector of St. Mary 1706, Dean 1714-28. He is buried beside the South Wall of the Church.

In such a small homogenous parish the coming of Methodism was probably the major historical event next to the Reformation, perhaps even more revolutionary in its effect. An account of John Wesley's visit to St. Mary and of the attack on Methodism by the then Rector of St. Mary, who seems to have grasped this point even before most of his fellow clergy (as well he might), can be read in `The history of Methodism in the Channel Islands by the Reverend R. Moore. It was this Rector who raised the questions in the Ecclesiastical Court, where he was quashed by the Dean.

Bethlehem Chapel was built in 1826. Methodism meant the end of the old Church-State-people relationship which the Reformation had only accentuated. If you were dissatisfied with the Church there was "somewhere else to go". Once this was allowed, that was the end of compulsory Church; attendance altogether, and of many Church privileges. On the other hand the history seems to show that the Church, though depleted numerically, gained spiritually. The Church was no longer the entire responsibility of the Tresor; people began to give for the enrichment of the House of God.


The story of the Church now becomes an almost continuous catalogue of gifts and improvements. In 1844 some of those who owned pews in the Chancel surrendered their seats in order to make room for a communion table. In 1850 a new pulpit was bought. In 1851 the pillar between the Chancels was removed, and the two arches thrown into one; and a silver paten was presented by ladies of the congregation. In 1857 a committee collected £110 for an organ, which was placed in the West Gallery. In 1861 the ornate west door replaced a rather beautiful old door like those at Rozel and St. Lawrence, and a row of windows was pierced in the north wall, which hitherto had had none. In 1862 two new east windows were inserted, one in each Chancel.

In 1863 the church was re-seated with pews, and the south door replaced by a window. In 1864 the restoration was completed by the addition of a third span to the South Aisle; and the old windows in the south wall, which were of different shapes and sizes, were removed to make way for six uniform ones. All this cost £1,790, most of which was raised by the issue of Parish one-pound notes.

In 1874 the spire was struck by lightning and a large part of it crashed through the church, roof. In 1888 a striking clock was given by Dlle A. M. Vibert, in memory of her father, John Este Vibert, a former churchwarden. In 1910 the bell, which had again become cracked, was refounded.

In 1926 the spire was damaged by earthquake and had to be repaired.
In 1929 Miss Binet left £200 to the church for a new pulpit. In 1930 a big change was made. The communion table was moved into the South Chapel, which now was transformed into the main Chancel, and the South Aisle became the most frequented portion of the Church. In 1932 a new altar and altar-rails were presented. Sanctuary chairs were added in 1933, and in 1935 an oak screen was erected to divide the two Chapels. In 1937 the Girls' Friendly Society gave a silver cross and candle-sticks.

The font is of solid granite and was given by Madame A. Poingdestre. Stained glass windows were given by members of the Collas, Le Rossignol and Vibert families. They were designed by a local artist who was said to have used local models.
The Cross and Candlesticks are in brass, the oldest set of which were given in 1909 by Eliza Hamon.
A new organ was installed in 1947. A silver alms dish, in memory of the ministry of the Reverend C. C. Ouless, was given in 1960 by members of the congregation.

More recently a heating system has been installed (1961), a choir Vestry (1964), and the Lady Chapel has been furnished through numerous gifts recently mentioned in the Pilot (1965).
Since the war a branch of the Mothers' Union has been formed, and 1962 saw the formation of the robed Choir and servers.

No comments: