Tuesday, 15 July 2014

History of St Clement's Church by G.R. Bailleine (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 Clement's Church by G.R. Bailleine  (Part 1)

Origin and Foundation

In ancient documents the Church is referred to as follows: "Ecclesia Sancti Clementis de Petravilla in Gersuis", which is the Latin for "the Church of St. Clement on the estate of Peter in Jersey".

In case anyone should make the objection that we have made a somewhat free translation of the word Petravilla, we would explain it as follows. There are several place-names in Jersey ending in the word ville, for example, Grouville, Longueville. These date back to pre-Norman days when Gallic gentlemen (even after the fall of the Roman Empire) continued to reside in .so-called Roman Villas. The Villa did not necessarily mean simply the residence, or house occupied, but the entire estate, or farm, cultivated by these landed gentry. Such an estate was one known as Pierreville, the estate of Peter.

In time, the owner became a Christian, and built a wooden chapel for himself and his employees, and no doubt one of the men from his estate was ordained Priest to minister in the said chapel. This wooden Chapel would no doubt have been burnt during the Norman raids, but, on the cessation of these raids in the year 911, work would have been begun on the erection of a stone chapel dedicated in the name of St. Clement. He was a "popular saint of the moment," his bones having been allegedly recently brought back from the Black Sea.

No later than the year 1067, there is evidence that William the Conqueror granted to the Abbey of Montvilliers half the tithes of the Church of St. Clement in Jersey. Since only Parish Churches received tithes, the Church of St. Clement was then no longer a private chapel, but a Parish Church. Another charter in 1090 shows that by that time the church had passed into the ownership of the Abbey of St. Sauveur le Vicomte in Normandy, for the Abbot was confirmed in his possession; and it remained the property of this Abbey until the Reformation.

The Early Building

The oldest part of the Church, that which formed the original chapel, is what we now know as the Nave. At first, no doubt, it was a tiny Norman building, with a low thatched roof and narrow windows, two of which remain in the north wall. A further chapel was added a few yards away, on the site which the organ chamber now occupies. This, for perhaps five hundred years, had no connection with St. Clement's but stood as a neighbouring Chapel, as the Fishermen's Chapel stands close to St. Brelade's.

In the 15th century, the Church was considerably enlarged by the addition of a chancel and transepts, giving it the usual cruciform shape of most Christian churches. It has been possible to ascertain the approximate date for these enlargements and alterations on account of the Payn arms, the three trefoils, in the chancel, for the Payns were the Seigneurs of Samares during that century. Also of this period are the gargoyle on the East outside wall, and the murals, or frescoes.

When the church was enlarged, the roof was raised and constructed in stone, the line of which may still be observed on the tower arch, and buttresses were constructed to support the weight.

Reformation Vandalism

The Reformation reached the island of Jersey in severely Calvinistic form, in approximately 1550. As was the case with all the Jersey Churches, and with the majority of the churches in England, all traces of the ancient worship were swept aside.

Altars, images, stained glass, all were smashed to pieces. Endowments for masses and lamps were confiscated to the Crown. Only one bell was left. Soler, the first Protestant Rector, a- fiery Spaniard, who had been a Dominican Friar, did his work so thoroughly that nothing remains but one empty bracket, on which once stood the statue of a Saint, the piscina in the chancel, at which the Priest used to cleanse his hands before Mass, and in the North Chapel, a much more primitive piscina, and an ambry or almery, the cupboard which contained the altar vessels, the consecrated oil for anointing the sick, and the reserved sacrament.

The Reformation and After

During the hundred years following the Reformation the Church became a "Huguenot Temple", that is to say the form of worship was that practised by the Protestants of France, except for five years  under Mary, when the Catholic ritual was restored, and for a short period during which Dean Bandinel secured a reluctant use of the Prayer Book. During this time at St. Clement's, the men entered by the West door, and the women by a -door, now walled up, at the end of the North transept.

The South door did-not then exist. In Commonwealth days a large gallery was erected at the West end of the Church. There was then no altar, but an oak table (now in the new vestry), was set in front of the pulpit, and from the North side of this no doubt the Celebrant would conduct the Communion Service on only the four Major Festivals of the Church's Year.

The 19th Century

The Act Book of the Assemblee Ecclesiastique gives certain information as to what took place in the 19th century. In 1823, the Assembly forbade the Schoolmaster to continue holding his school in the vestry, as the children had been breaking seats and windows in the Church.

The Militia cannon were kept in the Church as late as 1824, for in that year a special meeting was held to take steps to make it easier to get them in and out.

In 1826, the Reverend Phillippe Aubin, B.D. was appointed Rector, a young and vigorous man, who made many improvements. In 1828, the old cracked bell was disposed of to a French bell founder, named Pierre Le Lievre, and was replaced by the present one, cast by Marquet of Villedieu. It was hung on September 1st of that year, and bears the inscription :

`Saint Clement, Ile de Jersey, 1828
Messrs Jean Touzel, et Gedeon Ahier,.

An organ, lent by the Seigneur of Samares, was placed in the gallery. An annexe, as high as the Church itself, was added to the West end to house the cannon and to act as a vestry and Sunday School. Since this now blocked the West door, a new entrance was made, which in later years formed a small vestry, and which, later still, was discontinued as a vestry and which, at the time of writing, is used as a store for cleaning equipment. In 1833, the North door was walled up to exclude the draught. In 1837, the stone from which the parish notices had once been given out was ordered to be removed from the churchyard to make room for a grave.

The Restoration of 1880

The important Restoration of 1880 was in fact initiated by the Reverend Charles Marett, M.A., Rector from 1842-1876. In 1874, the Rector caused a Committee to be appointed to draw up plans for a complete restoration, and he himself collected £295.

The annexe, built at the instigation of Rector Aubin, was entirely removed, thus allowing for the re-opening of the West door, and the unblocking of the West window. The nearby door was turned into a tiny vestry. A new entrance to the Church was made in the South transept.

The gallery was pulled down, and the walls stripped of their plaster, thus revealing the Frescoes. The high box-pews and the great square manor-pew in front of the pulpit were removed and replaced by the present seating.

The Chancel was restored to its ancient use with altar and altar-rails. A new pulpit and prayer-desk were installed, the pulpit being handsomely constructed out of Caen stone. The reredos was presented by Edward Mourant, Seigneur; the sanctuary chair by Jean Monamy, the Constable; and the lectern by Charles Marett, the former Rector. Three stained-glass windows were also presented.

The work took three years to complete, and the total cost was £1,535. The Church was re-opened for public worship on March 29th, 1882, when the Service was conducted in English.


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