Friday, 7 April 2017

All Saints Church – Part 2

From the 1947 edition of "The Pilot", this historical sketch of All Saints Church in St Helier from G.R. Balleine under the headline "Our Younger Churches". Part 1 appeared last week.

I rather enjoy "mining for gold" in these old magazines! And this explains why the Church has its distinctive name.

All Saints Church – Part 2

By G.R. Balleine

All Saints Church started with an unfortunate nickname. It was popularly known as “La Chapelle des Pauvres” which suggested a kind of adult ragged school. The result was that the poor were too proud to enter it, while their more comfortable neighbours felt it beneath them to do so. Gradually-, however, it outgrew this handicap.

But in 1848 fresh trouble arose over the bones of the dead. In broadening Saville Street, the Parish cut seven feet off, the old Cemetery. Dean Hemery was dying of consumption in Madeira but Frederick Godfray, his Curate, saw to his horror cartloads of sand full of bones being taken to ships for ballast. He raised the Clameur de Haro, which brought the matter before the Royal Court, who postponed their decision till the Dean returned. He was then however too ill to attend to business, and the matter was dropped, but the “Constitutionelle” newspaper unkindly suggested that the new street should be named Impious Road.

Of the first three incumbents we have failed to find any information. Touzel only remained a year. Then John Meadows ministered for nine, and Charles Robinson for seven. Then came Edward Heale who worked for eighteen, until in 1870 he was accidentally drowned while bathing.

In 1868 in Order in Council made All Saints an independent Chapelry (no longer merely a Chapel of Ease to the Parish Church) with a district of its own extending from Great Union Road to Millbrook.

In 169, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners endowed it with £200 a year, and pew-rents were abolished with the proviso that they could be resumed, if ever the collections failed to meet the Church expenses.

The next Vicar, Richard Bellis, had been for fifteen years Incumbent of St. .James. He was a Hebrew scholar, well-read in theology, a botanist, geologist, and archaeologist, and Vice-President of the Société Jersiaise. In 1871 he built the wooden Mission Church on Mont Cochon that eventually developed into the present St. .Andrew's.

In 1893 the French Service, which for some time had been poorly attended, w a, discontinued, and so the trustees felt bound to withhold Dean Hue's endowment. Toward the end of his life, Bellis became blind, and an operation failed to restore his sight. In 1894 he died.

Under his successor. Minton Senhouse, the work went on quietly for five years. Then came a distressing interlude. The next Vicar seemed for a time almost too good to be true. .A Doctor of Divinity, he had been incumbent of a large parish in Birmingham. His powerful preaching filled the church. He formed a surpliced choir. He lectured in Public Halls on such subjects as the Origin of Man. It looked as though All Saints would become the leading church in the Town.

But the old gentleman was nearly eighty, and soon began to show signs of senile decay. One form which this took was neglect to pay his bills. Twelve times in twelve months he appeared before the Petty Debts Court. In other ways too he was clearly unlit to have charge of a parish. Both the Dean and the Bishop tried to persuade him to resign, and promised him a pension but he was obstinate and refused ; and, as he had been appointed for life, he seemed irremovable.

Then one day a couple came to be married. He did not want the bother of going to his church, so, though they had no licence, he read the Marriage Service over them in his study, telling them to come to the church next day to sign the Registers. They arrived with only one witness : so the Vicar entered an imaginary name on the second line. This brought him within the grip of the Criminal Law  and the Royal Court fined him £20 with 48 hours imprisonment. His two churchwardens and 104 of the congregation then petitioned the Ecclesiastical Court to remove him, and, he was suspended for ten years, but allowed to draw a quarter of his stipend, so that he should not he destitute.

His place was taken by a Cambridge graduate. Leonard Foster Ward. This was a very happy appointment. Assisted by a strong choir, which under Mr Marguerie, the organist, became the best in the Town, the church was  again crowded. The Choir  Excursions were a great event in the church life. One year they went to Dinard, the next to Guernsey. Ward was enormously helped by his devoted wife. They re-established the Sunday School, and secured as premises the Ragged School in Cannon Street.

But he was only Curate in charge. The Vicar had merely been suspended, not deprived. The Court had expected that ten years’ suspension would get rid of him for good ; but at the end of the time he was still alive, and, though 88, determined to resume his old position : and there seethed no way of preventing this. It looked as though Ward would have to go, and all his work be undone. But at the last moment nature intervened : the old gentleman died : and Ward was appointed Vicar.

Now great improvements were carried out in the church : the barn-like building, entirely devoid of architectural beauty, was skilfully transformed into a place of real charm and seemliness;. A granite font was bought in memory of the congregation who fell in the First World War. A copper cross and candlesticks were placed on the Holy Table. A pulpit was given : then an oak screen in memory of
 Mrs. Ward : then a reredos.

More than £1,000 was raised or the work of restoration : and this scheme was not seriously checked. thought the earthquake of 1927 shifted the roof, and caused great additional expense. Yet the congregation did not become self-centred. It supported liberally three Missionary Societies and the Winchester Diocesan Fund, public charities like the Dispensary and the Blind Society; it maintained a child in one of the Waifs and Strays Orphanages ; and in addition there were frequent collections for such objects as rebuilding a Flanders village, Japanese earthquake relief, and Russian refugees.

In 1928 the Royal Court sanctioned the alteration of Dean Hue's Trust Deed ; so that the interest could again be used for All Saints', though there was no French Service. In tine following year part of the old parish of St.. Andrew's was added to All Saints', when St. Andrew's was moved from the Weighbridge to First Tower. In 1937 a new Schoolroom was built on a site adjoining the Church at a cost of £2,300. Mr. Ward died in 1943 leaving many happy memories.

Today, All Saints' with its 5,335 parishioners has almost the largest population of any parish in the island. Only the Town Church exceeds it. Under its new Vicar it is facing its task of making these five thousand Christians. 

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