St James was built on the east side of town. The Garrison at Fort Regent regularly attended Church Parade here, and the Regimental Band would often play after the service. The church has now become a venue for arts events.
In 1983, the vicar at St James, the Reverend Jeffrey Hollis, began adding to his Pilot notes extracts from the records relating to the building of the church.
It is fascinating to see, one the one hand, how the pews were divided up, to rent out, or for personal use, and I rather suspect that those pews freely available to the public were at the back.
The mercenary nature of the rationale for building the church is also interesting. The population of St Helier had grown, and existing Anglican churches could not accommodate all their members, hence there was a fear that they might go elsewhere – to “dissenter” chapels, such as the Methodists. It was the same kind of reasoning which led to the building of the Anglican chapel at La Rocque, to keep the fishermen there in the fold. It is an attitude which modern sensibilities may find sits badly with spiritual aims.
I’ve compiled all the history into one document, but Reverend Hollis originally had it split up over four months.
St James Church - History of its Foundation
by Jeffrey Hollis
My Dear Friends,
Each month I thought it might be a good idea to tell you a little of the history of St James Church.
In the record book of St James Chapel, as it was then called, we read the following: - "1826. June 3. A meeting was this day held, William Le Breton Esq. in chair, for the purpose of taking into consideration the necessity of erecting a Chapel for the performance of divine worship, according to the liturgy of the Church of England; the undersigned unanimously approved of the measure, and consented and agreed, to the following Twelve Resolutions, provided each Subscriber to one Share or Twenty Sittings, shall not be called upon to pay more than One Hundred Pounds, British Sterling, for his proportion of the cost and expense of the building of said Chapel according to the plan proposed. 1st. Resolved -
That the under Subscribers engage to build a Chapel, within the Parish of St Helier, for the exclusive performance of Divine Service, according to the form and order of the United Church of England and Ireland, either in English or French, or in both languages, as soon as permission can be obtained from the Diocesan.
2nd. Resolved - That Baptism, Matrimony, Churching of Women, and the Burial of the Dead, shall not be administered, solemnized or performed, in the said Chapel, which Offices shall be left, as are in fact acknowledged exclusive privileges of the Parish Church.
3rd. Resolved - That the right property and patronage of the said Chapel, shall be invested, and belong to the original Subscribers, or Founders and to their Heirs or assigns for over, whose number shall be limited to Thirty-One.
4th. Resolved - That the Founders shall elect and appoint by secret Ballot, either in person or by proxy the Chaplain, Clerk and Organist and other inferior officers of the said Chapel.
5th. Resolved - That the Chaplain shall hold his situation quamdiu se bene gesserit or during the space of Five years, when the period of his term shall cease - There shall be a new election and the former Chaplain may be re-elected, and continue for five years longer, and so on at every future election.
6th. Resolved - That the Chaplain shall be remunerated for his exertions by a certain allotment of Pews as hereafter stated."
7th. Resolved - That on the same principle of remuneration the Clerk, Organist, etc. shall have in the same manner, a proportionate number of Pews, allotted to each, which they may respectively let, or the Subscribers for them..
8th. Resolved - That One Hundred and Sixty free Sittings shall be appropriated to the sole use of the Public, during Divine Service.
9th. Resolved - That the Rector for the time being, shall always be entitled to the benefit of Fifty Sittings, which he shall have the liberty to let.
10th. Resolved - That the Founders shall draw respectively by Lot for the best Pews, and each to select his own particular Pew, and only one Pew.
11th. -Resolved - That after the selection shall have been made, the remaining sittings to. be allotted thus - Viz. To the Chaplain, 150; Clerk, 25 ; Organist, 30; Beadle, 10; Incumbent of St Helier, 50; 265 Founders, 265 =530 total, said Five Hundred and Thirty Sittings to be allotted in a fair and equitable manner, in proportion to the number of each.
12th. Resolved - That the further remainder of Pews shall be equally divided by the Founders, with the exception of four, marked No. 1,2,3,4. which will be sold for the benefit of the Chapel."
There then follows the list of the founders, which .was to be limited to thirty-one, each with one share. The total number of Sittings was 1,205.
Founders as inserted in the Contract were - Sir Thomas Le Breton; James Hemery; Philip Raoul Lempriere; Thomas Le Breton; William Le Breton; James Robin; Clement Hemery; Francis Janvrin; James Hammond; John De Veulle Jun,; Matthew Amiraux; Charles Pipon; John Callas; Clement Le Breton; Francis Godfray; John Matthews Jun.; Hugh Godfray Jun.; John Benest; Francis Bertram; John Lewis Janvrin; Lewis Poignand Jun_; Philip Godfray; Isaac Hilgrove Gosset; William Le Brocq; Philip Le Gallais; Robert Brown.
Now we see what action they took in preparing for the building of what was to become the Island's Anglican church with the largest seating capacity.
On June 3rd, 1826, the following Subscribers were requested to act as a committee to select "a proper spot for the erection of the said chapel, and to ascertain the cost thereof, and to report the same to the general meeting of subscribers. William Le Breton; John Matthews Jun.; Francis Bertram; Francis Janvrin; Lewis Poignand Jun."
On June 8th, 1826, the committee reported to the Subscribers that they had received an offer of a plot of land at La Motte from Thomas Le Breton Esq. Amongst other conditions, such as not opening any windows on the south side of his house, the said Thomas Le Breton agreed to widen the public highway by ten feet. The total cost of the plot and the road widening was "Four hundred and twenty-five Louis."
On June 28th,1826, the Subscribers "unanimously approved of that which the committee have selected, as also of the terms and conditions in their report. They have in consequence directed that a contract shall be immediately prepared, and passed in the usual forms agreeable thereto as soon as permission can be obtained from the Diocesan, for the establishment of the said Chapel, according to the resolutions entered into on the 3rd inst, copy of which Resolutions, together with the following petition to the Diocesan, they have requested the Very Rev the Dean to transmit together with the plan of the proposed Chapel, and to request the Dean be pleased at the same time to give his support to the said Petition."
The Petition to the Diocesan was sent on July 31st setting out the reasons for the erection of the Chapel. "The population of the Town and Parish consists at present of upwards of 12,000 souls and is in a state of rapid increase. The Parish Church and St Paul's Chapel, the only places where Divine Service is performed according to the forms of our Liturgy, cannot accommodate one quarter past of this population. Therefore with the best disposition to attend the service of the Church, many persons from the present want of sufficient room in the existing places of worship and are obliged to repair to conventicles of dissenting houses, amounting already to seven in number, besides those now erecting."
As we continue the story of the history of St James' Church we find that the Bishop's Licence for the building of the church was "given under our Episcopal Seal this fourteenth day of August in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six, and in the seventh year of our Translation."
It was received by the Founders on August 21st. They then "examined and approved of the Contract for the purchase of the ground, and have fixed on next Saturday, the 26th inst., for passing the same in the usual form."
A committee was elected to "examine plans prepared by Mr Way and to obtain the opinion of professional men on the said plan," and on October 21st the order for "foundations five or six feet thick to be laid as soon as possible" was given.
The founders having decided that the ceremony of laying the foundation stone should take place on the First Day of January, 1827, "accordingly met at No 1, The Terrace, together with the Very Reverend Corbet Hue, D.D., Dean, Sir Thomas Le Breton Bailly, Philip Marett, Esq., Lieutenant Bailly, the Jurats of the Royal Court, the Reverend the Rectors, Thomas Le Breton, Esq., King's Procureur, John W. Dupre, Esq., King's Advocate, Philip Le Gallais, Esq., Depute Viscomte, and Francis Godfray, Esq., Greffier of the Royal Court, and proceeded in procession to the spot marked out for the erection, where the principal inhabitants and an immense concourse of People had assembled to assist at the Ceremony.
Sir Colin Halkett, K.C.B., the Lieutenant-Governor, who was unable to attend, had ordered a Guard of Honour on the Ground. On the approach of the procession, the Band of the Town Regiment played "God Save the King". The Ceremony commenced by singing the 84th Psalm.
A Brass Plate, on which was inscribed the Names of the Authorities of the Island was placed over a cavity in a stone containing different Gold and Silver coins. The stone was then lowered and adjusted. James Hemery, Esq, who had been requested by the Founders to perform the Ceremony, struck the stone three times with a mallet repeating "May God prosper this our Work." The other founders having individually performed the same ceremony, the Very Rev the Dean offered up a Prayer, after which the 100th Psalm was sung, followed by the Benediction.
The Ceremony was concluded with the National Anthem by the Town Band.