Friday, 23 October 2015

Excavation shows Fisherman’s Chapel Site was used before

Having a clear out, I came across this rather interesting cutting from the 1980s JEP. The wall paintings mentioned have indeed been restored, and are one of the finest in Jersey. Dr Rodwell looks very young!

Excavation shows Fisherman’s Chapel Site was used before
By Chris Lake

The archaeological dig at the Fisherman’s Chapel Brelade, is coming to an end.

Within the next few days the archaeologist in charge, Dr Warwick Rodwell, will be completing his work and the site will be filled in again and the flooring replaced.

Considering that a great deal of the history of the chapel was destroyed in 1926, when the Rector, the Rev. J. A. Balleine, removed most of the buried remains and replaced them with concrete to underpin the building's foundations, Dr Rodwell has been pleased with the amount of historical evidence that has remained.

Almost certainly the building was used in the 14th century as a mortuary chapel, where the remains of an influential Island family were buried. There is some speculation that this was a branch of the de Carteret family, but as yet this has not yet been confirmed.

Prayers would be recited daily for the benefit of the departed souls and their pictures were added to the mural on the ceiling above.

This will be restored to some extent in July when a team of experts from Germany visit the Island.

The biblical setting and the colours used over 600 years ago are still remarkably vivid. Below the paintings, deep in the day, are the skeletal remains of some of the people the mural portrays. Ten complete, or partly complete, skeletons have been unearthed, and the bones of three of them, including those of a young child, have been left uncovered at the far end of the chantry building.

Near to these bones is a large round pit, blackened at the edges, which was used in 1753 to cast the bell for St Brelade's Church. The bell was used until 1883, when a- replacement was needed.

The mouth of the bell, made by Jean Catel, has a diameter of 27 1/2 in. across. From the middle of the 16th century, and after Edward VI's government had forbidden the purchase of prayers and the use of chantry chapels, the Fisherman's Chapel fell into disuse.

Yet it remains as an important, piece to the jigsaw of the Island's past.

From an archaeological point of view, the most interesting evidence that Dr Rodwell has unearthed relates to the building's predecessor.

For, some way below the 14th-century stone floor, is another piece of flooring, older, and not as even, but undoubtedly evidence that the Fisherman's Chapel was not the original building on the site.

The scraps of an older grave also suggest that many centuries ago a man of importance was buried on this spot, which then' became sacred to his memory.

In time his name and importance were forgotten, but the use of the site as a burial ground remained until the prohibitive Acts of King Edward VI.

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