Friday, 11 August 2017

Beautiful Britain - Guernsey - Part 3

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 Guernsey 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 - Guernsey - Part 3

The South Coast of Guernsey

Though Vale is not uninteresting, it is with a feeling of relief that one turns one's back on this north corner of the island that once perhaps was so beautiful, but is now so hopelessly spoilt.

The glory of Guernsey, as already stated, is now wholly confined to its south coast. Moulin Huet is a gracious bay, too well known from photographs to need further description ; whilst the little Saints Bay to the west of it-a shrine within a shrine-is almost equally charming.

Westward from Icart Point, itself a splendid promontory, the coast sweeps round in another great curve to La Moye Point ; beyond which, again, to Pleinmont, at the south-west corner of the island, the cliffs, though everywhere deeply indented, continue, on the whole, a more uniform direction. The great hollow between Icart and La Moye Points is apparently nameless, unless it be Icart Bay.

There is no authoritative Ordnance map of the Channel Islands, to which one might adhere whether right or wrong; and the best map of Guernsey with which I am acquainted, in the late Mr. C. B. Black's guide-book, gives the name Icart to the eastern recess of the great main bay,, and Petit Bot and Portelet to the two small recesses to the west of it.

Anyhow, Petit Bot is the most secret and intimate of the three, and entirely picturesque with its disused mill and martello tower. This is one of the points on the coast to which the chars-a-bancs descend from St. Peter Port; and the drive down the glen by which we approach it is delightful.

The next calling point is Le Gouffre, just beyond La Moye Point, which here runs out into the sea in long ribs of warm red granite. Here the cars generally halt for a couple of hours, whilst the tripper feasts on lobster in the pleasant little inn. The Gouffre may be taken as roughly the centre of the grand seven miles of cliff line of this splendid south coast.

The section hence to the west is less frequently explored, though the picturesque cave of the Creux Mahie, again roughly half- way, is often paid a visit, and is well worth visiting. - Pleinmont and Torteval come into the “Toilers of the Deep " ; and this corner of the island, the farthest of all from St. Peter Port, is luckily less injured than the rest.

The northwest coast of Guernsey, from Pleinmont Point to Vale, past the huge sweeping hollows-some of them singularly symmetrical of Rocquaine, Perelle, Vazon, and Cobo Bays, is chiefly a matter of rocky beach and of slight elevations shelving down in gentle declivity to the sea.

The glasshouses, moreover, which have languished much at Torteval, flourish again in- amazing vigour as we draw near Cobo Bay.

The Chapel of St. Apolline

There are two points of interest, however, in this corner of the island that justify even the dull, direct journey by which we approach them from St. Peter Port. The first of these is the little Chapel of St. Apolline, which is stated in all the guide-books, on documentary evidence, to have been founded by Nicolas Henry in 1394, or thereabouts.

Even documentary evidence, in architectural matters, is not always to be trusted. Only the day before writing these lines the writer was re-visiting the Lady Chapel at St. Albans Cathedral, which is said to have been built-again on documentary evidence-circa 1310; though the Inventory lately published by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments adds cautiously : " The tracery of these windows . . . is very advanced in character for the date."

The tracery, indeed, is so advanced, if the date be really right, as hopelessly to confuse all previously held notions as to the systematic evolution of English architecture. That the building was at any rate finished by this date is altogether incredible. I notice that the late Lord Grimthorpe, in his pugnacious little handbook, after setting out the evidence from the Abbey Records, adds significantly, " but the style of the windows suggests a much later date."

And the case is much the same with this Chapel of St. Apolline. On October 13, 1392, Nicolas Henry received permission from the monastery of Mont St. Michel, in Normandy, to alienate certain fields to provide an endowment for the Chapel of Notre Dame de la Perelle, which he had recently erected; and in an Act of the Royal Court, dated June 6, 1452, we come across the phrase, " La Chapelle de Notre Dame de la Perelle appellee la Chapelle Sainte Apolline."

Certainly the identification seems complete. On the other hand, the writer believes that no one visiting this chapel who has previously read Professor Baldwin Brown's beautiful volume on Saxon Architecture-and it so happened that the writer paid his first visit to the Channel Islands almost immediately after its perusal-can fail to detect in this building quite a number of criteria that are there set out as indicating, at any rate in England, a pre-Conquest era of building.

Unfortunately I have kept no note of these features, but the impression then made on my mind is vivid. I may, of course, be wrong; but it seems to me at least possible that we have here the solitary survivor-far older than the Fishermen's Chapel at St. Brelade's in Jersey-of those many chapels that are known to have been built in the Channel Islands in the eighth and ninth centuries by the successors of St. Magloire.

The Island of Lihou

The other point of interest in the neighbourhood of L'Eree is the rocky islet of Lihou, approached by a causeway across the sands, or more properly the rocks, but only at low tide.

Here are the scanty fragments of the Priory and Chapel of Notre Dame de la Roche, apparently a cell to the monastery of Mont St. Michel, which seems to have had so much to do with the spiritual matters of the Channel Islands. The tide at St. Michael's Mount is said to rush up across the level sands more quickly than the fleetest horse can gallop, and visitors to Lihou will be well advised to remember that here again its onset is unexpected and swift.

At L'Eree village is another dolmen, the Creux des Fees, to which passing allusion has already been made. St. Peter's Church in this neighbourhood-in full,

St. Pierre du Bois-is perhaps the handsomest, though not necessarily the most interesting, of all the twelve churches in the island, and exhibits some Flamboyant work of a very pleasing character.

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