Thursday, 20 March 2014

History of St Lawrence Church by G.R. Balleine (Part 1)

Here is part one of the forgotten piece by  G.R. Balleine  on the history of the 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 Lawrence Church by G.R. Balleine (Part 1)
By G.R. Balleine
No one can date our ancient churches. Old parts were pulled down and rebuilt. New chapels and aisles were added, and at St Lawrence this process was so complete, that no part of the original structure remains. Before the parochial system arose there were at least four chapels in what is now St Lawrence parish, St Claire's, St Eutrope's, St Nicolas', and St Lawrence; of these, the last gradually developed into the Parish Church.
Early History
The oldest document to mention it is a charter of 1198, by which John (then Lord of the Isles and later King of England) gave to the Abbey of Blanchelande in Normandy "the church of St Lawrence in Jersey with all its appurtenances" and that Abbey remained patron of the living till the Reformation. But the church had probably been standing for centuries before John gave it away!
It almost certainly started life as a small Chantry chapel on the site of the present chancel. When the family that owned it threw it open to their neighbours, a short nave was built. As the population increased, this nave was lengthened. Then a tower and two transepts were added, giving the church the form of a cross. (The north transept was swallowed later by the building of the north aisle. The south transept is now the south porch). In the 13th century the parish demolished the old nave and built the present one, longer and loftier than its predecessors. (The stonework shows that it was added to the tower and not vice-versa). The nave was now much finer than the chancel: so in the 15th century the latter was pulled down, and the present one built.
The two last sections of the church can be dated exactly. Sire Louis Hamptonne was Rector for fifty-six years (1502-1558). He was rich and generous. Chevalier says in his Diary: - "He gave two quarters of wheat rente in perpetuity for the upkeep of the roads and made at his own expense slips for the vraicing-carts to go down to the rocks". But his chief benefaction was the addition to the church of the beautiful Hamptonne chapel, with its gargoyles representing the spirits of evil driven out by the worship within. This is the finest piece of architecture in the Island. The date of the Chapel, 1524, is carved on the N.E. buttress. Hamptonne was still Rector twenty-two years later, when the North aisle was added. In 1546 the Royal Court authorised the sale of some wheat rentes belonging to the Tresor to pay for "the enlargements of the church by constructing a chapel alongside the nave". The building then attained its present shape and size.
Celtic Relics
Very few relics remain of the church's earliest days. The oldest is a broken pillar in local granite, dating from the 4th century A.D., the only remaining piece of a villa in Roman style. The late 6th century Christian inscription, cut on the flat top of the column, stands as a memorial to a Celtic monk of some importance, one who, probably with other Celtic missionaries, brought the Christian Faith to this Island. On the planed side of the column are Celtic interlacings of the early 9th century. The pillar was found some eight feet below the nave during the restoration of the church in 1890-1892, when the north pillar of the west arch was being strengthened at the foundations. Evidence that a form of Celtic Christianity flourished in Jersey, in a period before the Viking conquest, is thus definite, added to the fact that the column is "important as evidence of the existence of an important late Roman settlement in Jersey."
Other crudely carved stones, some of great antiquity, may be seen built into the exterior buttresses of the chancel. Eight of these bear Celtic crosses in three designs, and are of 7th century origin. In the East wall of the old South transept, now, the South porch, but in Norman times a chantry chapel, may be seen a deep arched-recess. It is suggested that this held the tabernacle in which the Blessed Sacrament was re-served, the chantry chapel being used for the normal purpose of reciting masses for the dead. A plain brass cross now marks this sacred spot. In the Hamptonne chapel the             16th Century piscina where the priest washed his hands before Communion, and the sacred vessels afterwards, is still to be seen. In 1963 the old Victorian plaster was removed, revealing Puritan white-wash, and the conduit down which the water ran into consecrated ground. The piscina is again in use. Two stone altar slabs were discovered during the restoration of the church in 1892. No trace of them was found, until in 1964, the present Rector discovered a piece of a stone altar which bears a consecration cross, hidden in the recess of the S.W. buttress near the West door. It can be safely assumed that the two old altars were cut up and used in the reconstruction of walls and buttresses.
Rector Hamptonne
Rector Hamptonne lived long enough to see great changes in his church. For years Protestant propaganda had been undermining the old faith, and many of the clergy themselves were attracted by the new views. In 1548 the States imported two French Huguenot Pastors "to expound the Word of God to the people purely and sincerely," and, since the Rectors contributed voluntarily to their support, we may assume that they were not opposed to reform. But Hamptonne cannot have been so pleased, when Royal Commissioners began to confiscate church property. First, all endowments for Obits and Masses were seized. In this way St. Lawrence lost twenty-four endowments, as well as the bequests left to the two Fraternities of St Nicholas and St Katherine. In 1549 the Act of Uniformity forbade Latin Services; and this was obeyed, for in the following year the Privy Council thanked the Island "for embracing His Majesty's laws concerning Divine Service".
But Jersey could not use Cranmer's Prayer Book, for this had not yet been translated into French. The only French Prayer Book available was that of the Huguenots; so Hamptonne and his brethren had to make use of that. Then came the order to remove all images, closely followed by another to surrender all but one of the church bells. (The size of the belfry, before the present floor was put in, suggests that it once held a full peal of eight).
Rector Hamptonne is unlikely to have made any more drastic changes in his church than the letter of the law required; but some of his successors were root-and-branch extremists. Edouard de Carteret was one of those who signed the Discipline Ecclesiastique, which imposed the Calvinistic System on the Island; and Claude Parent, who followed him, was a Frenchman, who had been Huguenot Pastor at Bayeux. Their respective reigns as Rectors were-de Carteret 1572-1576, Parent    1577-1 580. Under them St Lawrence Church was transformed into a Huguenot Temple. The stone altars were broken down, and four times a year the long, narrow wooden Communion table, which now stands in the porch was set in front of the pulpit, and the people stood all round it to receive their Communion. In 1964 it was restored, and is now used as a nave altar at Family Communion. It is over 340 years old!
The chancel was filled with pews facing the pulpit. The stained glass windows were smashed. The old wall-paintings were blotted out with whitewash. The `work' was done so thoroughly that, whereas in most of our churches stone corbels show where images once stood, in St Lawrence even the corbels have disappeared.
The Calvinist regime lasted till 1623. During this period the stone sundial, now in the Museum of the Société Jersiaise, (which sundial the Rector is most anxious to see restored to its rightful place in the churchyard)-and the bell, which is still in use, were added to the belfry. The latter bears the inscription: "Cette cloche est pour la paroisse de St Lorans a Jarze. 1592. I.W.". It is the oldest bell in the Island.
Then Dean Bandinel enforced for a time the. reluctant use of the Prayer Book, but under Cromwell the old Huguenot Service was resumed. The French Prayer Book was finally restored in 1660, when the king regained his throne.
Laurens Hamptonne during the civil War had been a leading Royalist. As Vicomte he had proclaimed Charles II as King, as soon as the news of his father's execution reached Jersey. His tombstone and that of his son outside the chancel wall on the south side, attract the notice of everyone who approaches the church. Jersey gentry in those days prided themselves on their skill as Latinists. The two grammar schools of St Mannelier and St Anastase had not been founded in vain. Translated, the inscription runs: "Hail, passer by! I would have a word with you for a moment. Within this Temple lies buried that illustrious man, Laurens Hamptonne, who deserved the best from his country, once Vicomte of this Island, and Lieutenant Bailiff, and Captain of this Parish, now, alas, snatched from us. Born 1600. Unborn II Feb.
and buried V. F. 1664. and Edouard Hamptonne Junior. If anyone in this island in his life-time was polished, it was he. He too was Vicomte, and now, alas, had been torn from us by an untimely death. Ripe in Heaven, he was taken away 27 Jan. and buried on 29th, 1660. Farewell passer by. Live in the light. Remember death and Heaven." (The above dates are confirmed in the Parish Church Register of 1650).


Sparky said...

What an interesting and informative read, looking forward to part two Tony.

Sparky said...

Brilliant. Look forward to part two.

Sparky said...
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