Friday, 20 January 2017

St Brelade in 1953

Today is a brief extract from Stuart Petre Brodie "SPB" Mais's account of a trip to Jersey in 1953. Stuart Petre Brodie "SPB" Mais (1885–1975) was a prolific British author, journalist and broadcaster, and wrote many travel books. Here is a glimpse of Jersey, just post-war, as the tourism industry was starting to take off well, but before the rise of finance.

When Mais visited St Brelade, he was able to see the German war graves at St Brelade. They remained there until 1961.

In 1961, the bodies were exhumed and reburied in France. Lord Coutanche, Bailiff of Jersey, wrote to the German War Graves Commission, on 14th July 1961, as follows:

“PERMISSION is hereby granted to the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegs-graberfitrsorge'), of Kassel, Germany.--

“TO EXHUME two hundred and twenty-one (221) bodies which are now buried in the Church Yard of the Parish of St Brelade in the Island of Jersey, and particulars whereof are set out in the Schedule hereto. “AND TO REMOVE them out of the Island for re-burial in a Military Cemetery in France.”

More on the history of the graves can be read at extracts from The Pilot at the links below:

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

I should point out that GR Balleine points out that the date of consecration mentioned below by Mais is a incorrect.

"We must first dismiss from our minds the assertion, made in all the guide-books, that the church was consecrated in 1111, and is therefore the oldest in the island. The only authority for this is a list that falsely claimed to be copied from the Bishop of Rouen in 314.....Whether St Brelade's is really our oldest church no one can say. It is first mentioned in a charter of William the Conqueror, which is older than 1066, for he calls himself 'Duke of the Normans', not 'King of England'."

St. Brelade's Bay-Corbière Point
by SPB Mais


We are given pats of butter at breakfast. This presumably is our ration. The rules prevailing are those of many English hotels. Gongs ring to announce luncheon at one o'clock and dinner at seven o'clock and most guests seem to take their places as if they were on parade. Breakfast is from 8.15 till 9.30 and there is no service of any kind before 7.30, which makes it difficult for me to do my writing during my usual early morning hours, while if I write at night I am distracted by the bridge players.

We went to church and arrived at eleven o'clock to find the Choral Eucharist just finishing. Matins was sung at 11.30. It was a somewhat spiritless service attended only by a handful of elderly regulars. I was glad to get into the open air.

After lunch a taxi-driver called Stone came for us at two o'clock and drove us first past Lady Trent's house and the Coronation Park bordering St. Aubin's Bay. We then drove on through the town of St. Aubin to the high flat plateau of Noirmont and inspected the derelict fortifications of the German Occupation and listened to the bass bell of the black and white Noirmont Tower and the higher bell of Pignonet beacon.

After this we descended into the lovely St. Brelade's Bay at Ouaisne. We were so charmed with this broad stretch of sand that we decided to walk across the mile or more stretch of bay and ask Stone to meet us on the other side. As I gazed at the lovely scene it seemed to me that Jersey has everything you can dream of for a holiday; it is everything you wish yourself.

The pine trees and the red rocks and the red-streaked sand and the white villas with their tiled roofs reminded me of the Riviera: it was certainly cleaner than any Riviera beach that I have seen. The same continental gaiety was, however, there. St. Brelade's Bay has even livened up its Martello Towers by painting one of them half-white and the other half-red. Here is a suggestion for my friends of the Cinque Ports.

Elevated in spirit by the scene and in body by the fresh air, we came to the other side, admiring on the way the two large white hotels. One of these is, I am told, decorated with the paintings of a former German occupier-turned-prisoner, and his pictures include a number of striking Bavarian Alp scenes.

Just above the stretch of beach beyond the modern hotels the beautiful old granite Church of St. Brelade which boasts itself to be the oldest of the twelve parish churches of the island, the alleged date of its consecration being A.D.1111.

This church is by far the most picturesque and interesting in the whole of Jersey. It has a saddle-back tower and Celtic turret. Its chancel, an old Monastic chapel, and nave date from the twelfth century. Its roof was raised in the fourteenth century.

More interesting still is the sixth-century granite Fishermen's Chapel which stands in the churchyard. This is the oldest place of worship in the island.

It is a tiny building, measuring only 43 feet long by 18 feet wide. The walls are 9 feet high and 3 feet thick. There are five little windows and the roof is made of small stones.

On the inner side are traces of old frescoes, the best preserved of these, which represents the Annunciation, stands over, the Altar. This was accidentally discovered as the result of rain leaking through and saturating the plaster. The work dates from 1320 to 1330. 1 saw that the church had a list of rectors from 1206 and that the monuments were mainly to the Pipon family.

But the outstanding feature of the church and chapel is their position. They stand at the end of the bay on a slope directly above the sands commanding a delightful view across the whole beach. A view over the churchyard shows; ancient and modern in happy combination.

Adjacent to the churchyard is an extension filled with some two hundred white wooden crosses. These we found, to be the graves of German soldiers, members of the Occupation Forces who died during the last war. It seems that the Germans, finding in 1942 the graves of six Germany military prisoners of the First World War in this part of the churchyard, commandeered the remainder of the space as a military cemetery.

The six original graves were conspicuous as having the customary marble headstones. More conspicuous still was the large wooden replica of the Iron Cross under one of the tall trees. This bore the name of O'Feldw Josef Kunkel.

From here we strolled along the lane on the other side of which was a beautifully kept lawn with an old stone cider press neatly displayed in the centre of it, and beyond that a building which seemed to be the new parish hall.

We passed by the lych-gate, given by the first Lady Trent in memory of her husband, who was, of course, originally Jesse Boot, founder of the great business. This was hung with a fisherman's lantern, and on either side were commemoration plates to Lord Trent in English and French respectively.

A well-contented looking padre was explaining the sight to two lady visitors. Two or three sleek brand-new cars came-by: I reflected that many of Christ's lambs in this parish must have golden fleeces.

We joined our chauffeur again and drove over the hill to the lovely little bay of Beau Port, standing below grass slopes on rocks. This was given to the States by the present Lord Trent in 1949.

We drove back through St. Brelade's and then into and along the Route Orange past the famous La Moye golf links.

Then on along the ridge of the point to view the Corbière Lighthouse poised out on the rocks at the south-west corner of the island. On our left we had passed the ruins of Corbière village on which the Germans had done their usual thorough job during the Occupation. 

On the rocks of the point opposite the lighthouse is a highly Teutonic looking cylindrical German concrete occupation post, sliced into on the seaward side by the formation of a number of breast-high galleries, and now used as a direction-finding station in conjunction with the lighthouse.

2 comments: said...

First time I've heard reference to a 'Corbiere Village' Tony. Any idea of its location?

TonyTheProf said...

No idea I;m afraid. I've seen some old photos with structures close to the top, and some thatched houses, but I've really no idea at all.