Friday, 4 December 2015

St Brelade's in 1834

St Brelade's Church, 1859

The 1834 Guide to Jersey, described in its title as “An historical and descriptive guide to the Channel Islands of Guernsey, Jersey, etc. embracing a brief history of their situation, extent, population, laws, customs, public buildings, amusements, antiquities, climate, and productions, vegetable and mineral, together with a complete commercial directory of both islands, coins weights, measures, etc" ..” was published by J. Collins.

It is of singular importance because it is a document which predates the following significant events:

Corbiere Lighthouse was not built. It was lit on 24 April 1874, for the first time, and was the first lighthouse in the British Isles to be built of concrete. La Corbière was also formerly the western terminus of the Jersey Railway line from Saint Helier. The first through train ran from Saint Helier to La Corbière on 5 August 1885.

This guide book predates those, and gives us a glimpse of the Corbiere rocks and headland when there was a farm beside where we now have a slipway, and no lighthouse.

In 1892 John A. Balleine was appointed Rector of St Brelade’s Church. He began the restoration of the Church, and, apart from the walls and pillars, the Church interior we see today is the one he designed and planned. He found the old Font and restored it to the Church. He also restored the Fisherman’s Chapel, previously used as a lumber room and for a cannon.

This guide book predates that restoration, and gives us a glimpse of how the traveller would have seen the Church.

Note also how rural a Parish this is. No cluster of many houses and flats at Les Quennevais, indeed very few houses outside of St Aubin.

Guide Book: St Brelade

St. Brelade's is to the South of St. Peter's, and is the most barren soil in the Island, as it includes Noirmont and a part of that sandy tract called the Quenvais,

The Towns of St. Helier's and St. Aubin's are situated on opposite sides of St. Aubin's bay. The walk from the one to the other is about four miles, and is very delightful. On the left, the eye is delighted with the beautiful bay to which the little Town of St. Aubin's gives name. On the right is the rich and fertile valley of St. Lawrence, abounding with neat cottages and charming landscapes.

Some prefer the air of St. Aubin's to that of St. Helier's ; lodgings and house rent are usually cheaper in the former than the latter, and the situation is certainly more retired.

There is a rock in St. Aubin's bay, called the Diamond Rock ; because a frigate of that name struck on it. The prospects from Noirmont Hill and Point, to the South of this Town, are very fine and extensive.

St. Aubin's. — This is a little Town, situated in the aforesaid parish. It possesses the advantage of a small pier, which was commenced at the close of the seventeenth century and completed in the year 1819 ; it is protected by a fortress mounting fourteen guns, which is surrounded by the water at high tide.

The Town, though irregularly built, contains many houses, and was formerly inhabited by a large proportion of the richest merchants of the Island ; but the completion of the very superior harbour at St. Helier's and its consequent increasing commercial importance, have contributed to withdraw from St. Aubin's many of its former wealthy inhabitants.

A small Market-place has been lately opened on a new plan, resembling that of St, Helier's.

Noirmont Point. — On the extremity of this point, which drops sharply from a considerable height, and terminates in a low rock, a martello tower is erected. The situation is judiciously chosen, as it guards the Western entrance of St. Aubin's bay ; and, at the same time, a range of coast towards St. Brelade's bay.

The vingtaine of Noirmont, like St. Aubin's, constitutes another part of St. Brelade's parish ; it is a peninsula, bounded by high rocky cliffs, separating St. Brelade's bay from that of St. Aubin's.

St. Brelade's Bay is a semi-circular basin, the regular contour of which is broken on its Eastern side, by a projecting mass of rocks, and by which a second curve is made, forming a smaller bay. The whole is bounded on the land side by high rocky hills : those on the Northern and Eastern sides are full of vertical fissures, with, occasionally, others that are horizontal, so that they have something of a basaltic appearance, though they are entirely composed of sienite, in a state of extreme disintegration. These hoary cliffs are partially covered with fern, gorse, and a scanty herbage.

The beach of the larger bay is a fine whitish sand, remarkably firm and smooth, and the shore declines very gradually.

Being completely sheltered on three sides, this bay would make an excellent place for sea bathing. The smaller inlet has also next to the sea a beach of sand, but its exterior boundary is skirted with loose pebbles. This difference, on the same beach, arises from the following cause : the rocks, on the Western side, are in general compact, and very finely grained ; they are, therefore, of less ancient formation than those on the Eastern side, the granulation of which is extremely coarse and friable.

St. Brelade's Church. — The situation of St. Brelade's church, the most ancient in the Island, is highly picturesque.

It stands on one side of the beautiful bay, on the edge of the water, which at high tide, washes the boundaries of the burying ground. Though possessing no attempt at architectural ornament, it is still a singular and interesting object.

In the church yard stands one of the chapels which were of an earlier date than any of the churches : it was called La Chapelle des Pecheurs. It retains no appearance of having been devoted to the service of God, and is converted into a store room, for the reception of the artillery of the district ; yet we must remember, as we behold it, that it was in these chapels that the sound of the Gospel was first heard, and the blessings of Christianity taught. On the walls some remains of rude and ancient paintings, representing scriptural subjects, are observable ; but the great antiquity which some persons assign to them may be disputed.

La Moye. — Upon an eminence above the church of St. Brelade, stands La Moye house, formerly the property of the Pipon family ; and upon a hillock in an adjoining field, is an old font of Mont Mado stone, which is supposed to have been removed from some church, probably from that of the parish in which it now stands, during the ascendance of the presbyterians, whose former influence may be remarked in the absence of baptismal fonts and communion tables from most of the churches, that of St. Helier amongst the number ; and, though no objection now exists to the introduction of them, yet the places where the latter should stand being for the most part occupied with pews which have become private property, it has not been found possible to restore them, except in a very few instances.

In nearly a line from Noirmont is the rock of Corbiere, forming the South- West extremity of the Island.

It is well known to sailors, as a voyage in its neighbourhood is often very dangerous.

The fantastic and inconstant outline of the Corbiere as you pass it, is a subject of surprise and admiration ; a sight that should not be lost by the passing stranger from one Island to the other. When first it is seen in the haze of the morning, it resembles a huge elephant supporting an embattled tower ; a little after, it assumes a gigantic warrior in a recumbent posture, armed cap-a-pie ; anon, this apparition vanishes, and in its stead a form in miniature arises, with pigmy sentinels stationed on its ramparts.

The precipices between the Corbiere and the bay of St. Aubin are no less worthy of notice than that promontory. They slope down to the water's edge in enormous protuberances, resembling billows of frozen lava, intersected by wide sinuous rifts, and present an interesting field for mineralogical research.

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