Friday, 14 July 2017

Beautiful Britain - Jersey - Part 4

My history for the next few weeks will come from “The Channel Islands” by Joseph E Morris, B.A., published by London, Adam and Charles Black, 1911. It is fascinating because, firstly, it is a guidebook from 1911, depicting a Jersey before the Great War erupted across Europe, and secondly because it is very much an outsider looking in, and making very personal observations mingled with the history.

Beautiful Britain - Jersey - Part 4

Mystery of James de la Cloche

St. Helier, we have hinted, is a somewhat tedious town ; by which we mean only that the place contains few objects of special interest, and is a trifle too large and urban for so very small an island

No doubt some of its aspects are agreeable enough. The parish church is a restored building of small architectural interest, but contains the grave of the gallant Major Pierson, who fell in Jersey, in 1781, in the conflict with the French in the Royal Square. His adversary, Rullecourt, who also perished, is buried on the north of the churchyard.

Rullecourt landed to the east of St. Helier during the night of January 5, and took the town by a sudden assault. The Governor, Major Moses Corbet, was captured in his bed; and was forced to sign a capitulation, as well as an order to Major Pierson to surrender the troops in his charge. Pierson, however, charged the enemy in the Royal Square, where they had barricaded themselves, and fell at the first assault. Undeterred by the loss of their leader, the Jersey soldiers and militia-men continued fighting, and cleared the French from the town.

St. Helier possesses yet other claims to historical distinction, in the mystery of James de la Cloche. This last was the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II., and is known to have been a Jerseyman. His story has recently attracted much attention ; and Mr. Andrew Lang, in his Valet's Tragedy, once even went so far as to suggest that de la Cloche was “The Man with the Iron Mask."

This theory he afterwards abandoned; but it is still stoutly maintained by Miss Edith Carey in her beautiful volume on the Channel Islands.

It is remarkable, indeed, that James de la Cloche disappears finally from history after November 16, 1668, whilst "The Man with the Iron Mask" makes his first appearance on the scene on July 19, 1669. De la Cloche may also, when in London, have easily learned secrets from his father, as to Romish plots, that imperilled the crown of Charles II., and may well have caused anxiety to Louis XIV.

"Doubts," says Miss Carey, " may be cast on a theory which involves an apparently affectionate father consigning his son to a living tomb, and a King of France spending money and trouble to keep a King of England's secret. But in reply it must be urged that Charles's conduct is consistent with all we read in history respecting his cowardly selfishness.

In reply to complaints made to him of Lauderdale's cruelty in Scotland, he said : ` I perceive that Lauderdale has been guilty of many bad things against the people of Scotland, but I cannot find out that he has acted against my interests.' "

Charles' headquarters, when a boy in Jersey, were in Elizabeth Castle, whither he was sent by his father for greater safety in 1646. Later in the same year he left for Fontainebleau, but returned to the Channel Islands in September, 1649.

In the meanwhile the elder Charles had perished on the scaffold at Whitehall ; and Jersey, unlike Guernsey, still loyalist to the core, was one of the few places - Pontefract Castle, in Yorkshire, was another - where his son was immediately proclaimed as King, on February 17, 1649.

Elizabeth Castle itself is another of those picturesque places of semi-insulation that are not uncommon among historical sites-Holy Island, and the two Mounts St. Michael, are other famous examples. At time of low water it is picturesquely approached by a rough and rocky causeway across the sands ; but the building itself has been greatly altered, and presents very little archeological interest.

From St. Helier westward, round the half- moon curve of St. Aubin Bay, past West Park, Millbrook, and Beaumont, is now largely a crescent of continuous houses. St. Aubin's itself is a picturesque little watering-place,  with far greater natural advantages than its bigger neighbour.

Immediately to the south of the town begins at once the fine, red line of granite cliffs, which, turning definitely westward at Noirmont Point, continues, past Portelet and St. Brelade's Bays, to the south-west corner of the island at Corbiere Point.

Portelet Bay is a charming recess, with the rocky little Ile au Guerdain in its centre. On the summit of this last is Janvrin's Tower. It is said that Philippe Janvrin, returning home from Nantes, then desolated with plague, was forced to undergo quarantine in this bay in 1721 ; and that here the poor wretch died within actual sight of home, but without ever exchanging a word with his wife and children. He was buried at first in the Ile au Guerdain, but afterwards removed to St. Brelade's churchyard.

St. Brelade's Bay

St. Brelade's Bay, nearly two miles across, if we measure from Le Fret to La Moye Point, is perhaps the most gracious on the Jersey coast. The church has a very picturesque outline, with a saddle-backed tower like that of St. Sampson's, in Guernsey.

It was admirably restored a few years ago, when the plaster was stripped from the vaulted roof that is common to most old churches in the Channel Islands, and is probably analogous to the vaulted roofs of the fortified churches of Pembrokeshire. Mr. Bicknell, however, is wrong in saying that the interior walls . . . look very dignified in their original condition."

Nothing is more certain than that medieval churches-at any rate in cases where the walls are of rubble masonry were plastered, and commonly covered with wall-paintings. Such plastering and old wall-painting may still be found at St. Brelade's in the Chapelle es Pecheurs, or Fishermen's Chapel, that remains in the parish churchyard.

These, according to Mr. Keyser, represent parts of two Dooms or Final Judgments, Our Lord before Herod, an Annunciation, the Assumption of the Virgin, and the Offering of the Magi.

They probably date from the fifteenth century, and the attendant makes them visible by the simple expedient of throwing the light on them with a mirror. The existence of this old chapel side by side with the parish church - the same thing seems formerly to have happened at Grouville - is a subject of curious inquiry.

Chantrey chapels were sometimes built in churchyards - there is still a fourteenth-century example at Carew, in Pembrokeshire, and there was formerly one at Newdigate, in Surrey - but these would be generally of later date ; whereas the Fishermen's Chapel is supposed to date from quite the beginning of the twelfth century.

In the grounds of the St. Brelade's Hotel is an ancient cross of the kind that is stated by Mr. Bicknell formerly to have " stood at nearly every place where four cross roads met in the island."

1 comment:

lerake said...

Fascinating, as usual, thank you, Tony