Friday, 21 March 2014

History of St Lawrence Church by G.R. Balleine (Part 2)

Here is part two 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 2)
Later Restorations
St Lawrence was the last. church in the Island to be restored. For three hundred years few changes were made in its internal arrangements. Those who remembered it as it was in 1890 knew what it looked like in the days of Charles II. The chancel was full of high-backed pews facing the three-decker pulpit. Where the high-altar now stands was the Colombier pew high and lifted up. In front of this was Patrimoine pew, also exalted above the common herd. These two families had their private door through the east wall. In front of the pulpit stood three great square pews each with its own stove, one for Avranche, one for La Chesnaie, one for Highlands. The police pew was just inside the north door. The choir sat in a west gallery with the clarinet players and the bassoons (there was no organ till the middle of the 19th century). They alone used the west door. The curiously broad door at the end of the north aisle was made to run in and out of the parish cannons, which were kept in the church from Elizabethan to Victorian times. The Communion table, stood near this door, and was brought out and set in front of the pulpit on the quarterly Communion Sundays.
The Acts of the Ecclesiastical Court are much the same for St Lawrence as those in other Parishes: A long series of reconciliations of lapsed Huguenots, e.g. in 1713, "Jacob Hemery and Louise Tancrel, his wife, of the Diocese of Bayeux, have voluntarily presented themselves, and confessed the sin they have committed and the scandal they have caused by abjuring the Protestant religion and taking part in the superstitions of Rome through the violence of persecution. They have humbly asked pardon of God and have renounced all the errors of the Church of Rome. They are ordered to make a like confession and renunciation in their Parish Church of St Lawrence. After which they will be received back into the peace of the Church". (The last of these penances in St Lawrence was            1811). A dismal series of public penances!
The two main sources of information about parochial affairs available in other Parishes, fail us at St Lawrence. No one seems to know what happened to the old Minute Books of the Assemblee Ecclesiastique or the Old Account Books of the Tresor. In 1789 however political feeling was running high. Chariots and Magots were fiercely struggling for the mastery. Amice Bisson the Rector, was an enthusiastic Magot. Elections till 1831 were held on Sunday in the church porch at the close of Morning Service!
In 1888 the Parish decided to restore the church. An unusual advertisement was inserted in The Builder and The Architect: "Competition. The Committee for the restoration of St Lawrence Church, Jersey, invite architects to submit designs for the restoration of the said church. A premium of £30 is offered for the best plan." But architects of repute do not enter prize competitions, at which the judges are persons with no knowledge of architecture. So this ingenious plan failed, and the committee had to engage an architect in the usual way. Their choice fell on John Evelyn Troloppe of Charing Cross, and everyone agrees that he made a wonderfully good job of it. The restoration cost £3,741.
The higgledy-piggledy high pews were all swept away; the church was refloored, and rows of uniform pews substituted. The chancel was restored to its old use with a new altar and altar-rails, choir-stalls, and chancel screen. A new pulpit, lectern, and font were presented. On May 18th, 1892, the work was completed, and the Re-opening Service was taken by Bishop Thorold of Winchester. At this service the four flags of the St Lawrence battalion of the Militia were laid up, the two oldest being those actually carried in the Battle of Jersey in 1781. In the Sanctuary they still hang, proud tokens of the Jerseyman's love of freedom and independence.
In 1963, expert examination. of the electrical system was made. Much of the wiring was found to be in a dangerous condition. The old wiring was entirely stripped, and new heating and lighting equipment installed. The fabric of the church is now preserved from deterioration by a system of high and low level heating. Daylight tubular lighting has revealed the natural pinks, blues and greys of the local granite. The removal of two large Victorian lamp-shades in the Lady Chapel, has brought to light two interesting bosses which bear the Hamptonne coats-of-arms; and floodlights now reveal the beauty of the only groined roof in the Island.
At the present time, the refurnishing of the Chapel is in progress, whereby it will be restored to its primary glory as a place, not only of beauty, but of prayer and meditation. Complete decoration of the church at a later date, has been approved by both the Ecclesiastical and Parochial Assemblies. When all that is necessary has been accomplished, the Parish Church of St Lawrence will once again take its place as one of the most beautiful of the Island's heritages.
St Lawrence has been called `the Cathedral of, Jersey', and certainly, architecturally, it is the finest of our churches. Twenty generations of Jersey men have worshipped in its walls. Its whole atmosphere, as one visitor said, `makes one feel good'. Long may it continue to be for its Parish a meeting place with God.

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