Tuesday, 12 November 2013

History of St Martin’s Church (Part 2)

Here is part two of the forgotten piece by G.R. Balleine on the history of St Martin's Church, transcribed below. Balleine had a wonderful grasp of how to make historical narrative interesting, and peppers his history with interesting anecdotes
History of St Martin's Church (Part 2)
By G.R. Balleine
XVII & XVIII Centuries
During Cromwellian days the Church was thoroughly restored. In 1658 it was re-seated and whitewashed, the north side of the roof was slated, the broken windows repaired, and a new churchyard wall built.
Churchwardens in this century seem to have been strangely remiss about opening the Poor Box. At Christmas, 1639, we read: ."The Poor Box was opened by the Parish Officers, and there was found in it 8 crowns, 4 sols, 1 double. It was three years since it had been opened", and again in 1671: "On a dark night the box outside the Church was broken open and its contents stolen. It had not been opened for more than two years."
Throughout. the 18th century, as the population increased, the Church Assembly found great difficulty in providing pews for everyone. An act of 1708 runs: "Seeing that the family of Thomas Lempriere has by the Lord's blessing become so numerous that his pew in the South Chapel has become too small to hold them, it has been found reasonable to allot to Sieur Lempriere a second pew, which formerly belonged to Mons. Le Hardy". Soon, however, the erection of two large galleries became necessary, one at the west end and one along the north wall of the nave.
In 1732 the sundial was given by Georges Bandinel, the Vicomte. In 1745 the north wall began to bulge again and fresh buttresses were added, which are easily distinguished from the older ones, because they are built of blue granite.
In 1749 we find an amusing instance of Jersey thrift. In those days the collection was taken by almoners at the Church doors. The Church-wardens petitioned the Ecclesiastical Court for permission to substitute windows for two of their doors, stating that they had four doors and only two almoners, and that, at whichever doors they stationed these officials, many of the congregation would leave by one of the others. Permission was granted.
Public Penance was still frequent. A typical case is that of Elizabeth Le Brun, for adultery. "For this" says an Act of the Ecclesiastical Court, "she has humbly asked pardon of God, and as a salutary penance has promised to kneel for two Sundays outside the principal door of St Martin's Church, and ask the faithful, as they enter, to pray that God may pardon her sin. She shall remain there till the Nicene Creed, when the Rector will send the Churchwardens to bring her into the church. She will then kneel in front of the pulpit, while one of the Penitential Psalms is sung, and remain kneeling during the sermon. She shall then read her confession aloud in the form that shall be given her. After which the Rector may receive her back into the Peace of the Church". The last Public Penance of this kind took place in 1830.
In 1837 the spire was again destroyed by lightning, but this time, when it was rebuilt, a lightning conductor was added. The Admiralty now listed the spire as a sea-mark, and insisted that it should be kept whitewashed.
The old chancel was still boarded off as the schoolroom of the Parish School. In 1842 Dean Jeune suggested that "out of respect for the Temple and the place where their ancestors were buried" the parishioners should move the School elsewhere; but the Parish Assembly would not hear of this. Three years later, however, it sanctioned a general restoration of the Church, "provided that it cost nothing to the Parish".
The School was removed, the partition pulled down, and the chancel restored to its former use with a Communion Table under the east window. A new pulpit and several stained glass windows were given, and the present Vestry made in the remnant of the Mabon Chapel.
The financial value of pews can be seen by a sale at this time. Dr Bandinel, who was then Librarian of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, sold his family pew in St Martins' by auction, and it was knocked down for £67 sterling.
The next restoration took place in 1877, when Thomas Le Neveu was Rector. A strong party opposed it, and it was eventually carried in the Assembly only by two votes. But the work was done thoroughly, and the cost covered by printing banknotes, a form of finance much in favour in the island at this time.
William Lempriere, a retired clergyman, who was now Seigneur of Rozel, generously undertook the entire refurnishing of the Chancel, Choir-stalls, altar-rails, and east window were his gift, and in addition he presented a new font and lectern.
The chief glory of St Martin's is its stained glass. No church in the island has finer. Most of these windows were added from this time on-ward.
Recent Years
Concerning recent improvements, the most notable is that of the restoration of the South Aisle and Side Chapel. Although mooted long before, the work started seriously in April, 1963, inspired by a generous gift of £400, for the purpose of erecting a stone altar in Jersey granite. This gift encouraged the Rector to appeal to all parishioners and friends to play their part generously. Within fifteen weeks, the appeal had reached its target of £I000, and to encourage this restoration the municipality voted a further £1000.
Many additions and furnishings have been given in recent years, notably the Lempriere Screen, the Priests' Stalls, and the Altar ornaments. The Bishop's Chair at the East end was a thank offering by parishioners and friends for the Liberation in 1945. It is interesting to note that carved on the altar riddel posts and imprinted on the silver ornaments, is the Wedgewood Pottery Coat of Arms.

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