Friday, 12 January 2018

A Guidebook to St John in the Oaks Jersey – Part 4

This guidebook is no longer available from the church, so here is a transcription over the next few weeks. Photos are my own.

A Guidebook to St John in the Oaks Jersey – Part 4

6. Present Nave (former North Aisle)

Beneath the rose window of the West gable once ran a-musicians' / choir gallery, which would have been reached by steps behind the present organ.

Underneath the gallery was the Rector's vestry, which was lit by a semi-circular window which filled in the door frame. During the extensive restoration of 1925-1927, the Victorian organ loft-cum-gallery was taken down and a small vestry constructed on the North side, near the pulpit. When altering the West front, a large, possibly Georgian window, was removed from above the West door, and in its place appeared the present rose window.

The stained glass was donated in 1972 by the Falla family of Les Issues and is the design of John Stevens A.R.C.A. The strong colours seek to interpret in an abstract manner the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

On a Summer's evening, the sun's rays stream through this window and focus on the High Altar with dramatic effect. The two chairs at the back of the nave are communion chairs from the sanctuary of the former St. James' Church in St. Helier.

The slate plaque, with its exquisite engraving, records the list of known Rectors beginning with Richard Guesdel (1294-1297), and was presented in memory of Brigadier R. M. H. Lewis (1897-1972), a former Government Secretary.

The most Westerly window, designed by a former Rector, Rev. Michael St. J. Nicolle, and executed by Mr. Alfred Fisher of Chapel Studios, replaced a nondescript plain leaded one. It was given in 1990 by Mrs. Lucille Coutanche in memory of her husband Herbert, a skilled master stonemason and devoted churchwarden. The panel on the left portrays Mont Mado Quarry, now alas filled in, which was worked for some 5,000 years. The beautiful pink granite was employed, not only in ecclesiastical and domestic buildings, but among other uses furnished some of the capstones of the Neolithic tomb (3,000 BC) at La Hougue Bie and some of the pavements at Millbank, near the Houses of Parliament in London.

The right-hand light proclaims the fact that Jersey was a part of the Diocese of Coutances from AD 431 to 1496, when Henry VII obtained a Papal Bull transferring the Channel Islands to the Diocese of Salisbury. In 1499 this was altered to Winchester, in which Diocese the Islands have remained.

However, another 50 or so years elapsed before the Bishops of Winchester gained effective control over these far-flung Islands!

The likeness of Coutances Cathedral is based on a 19th Century French engraving by Benoist. The Cathedral is visible from Jersey on a clear day. The four shields carry, respectively, the symbols for St. John the Baptist, St. Blaise, Our Lady and St. Stephen.

In the Middle Ages our Northern cliffs were grazed by flocks of sheep, and at the top of Bonne Nuit hill there was a chapel to St. Blaise, the Patron Saint of Woolworkers. St. Blaise was martyred in Armenia during the Fourth Century by being scarified by a woolcomb. The fleur-de-lys confirms the existence of a priory to Our Lady on the Trinity side of Bonne Nuit, and the three stones and crown of martyrdom bring to mind a chantry chapel near Chestnut Grove, dedicated to St. Etienne (St. Stephen).

Several times down the centuries the steeple has been struck by lightning and so there is a section depicting its repair in about 1500. In the trefoil, we see our font which reminds us, in baptism, of the life giving water, Jesus Christ.

On the day when the Coutanche window was dedicated, the Rector was approached by a lady member of the congregation who expressed a desire to give a window in memory of her family who had lived in the Parish over ten generations. For his design inspiration, the Rector employed the two texts from the Lady Chapel reredos: "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel", and "Grace and Truth came from Jesus Christ".

The left-hand light has as it background Bonne Nuit Bay before the building of the harbour in the mid19th Century. The ship at anchor and with sails furled is the "Janvrin", a Jersey-built ship.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, ships from Jersey sailed all over the world and even took part in the Tea Clipper Race. Bonne Nuit, although it literally means "good night", actually indicates a safe anchorage where a sailor could I have a good night's rest. Hence that appropriateness of the text from
Psalm 107: "He bringeth them to a haven where they would be".

The right-hand light reveals the Rev. Philippe Dupre, Rector (1819-1848), preaching from the two-decker pulpit on the text: "Grace and Truth come from Jesus Christ." Wearing a Geneva Gown for the sermon, he addresses his flock seated in the horse box pews. The well dressed lady and gentleman are the Seigneur and Dame of St. John's Manor comfortably ensconced in their amply plush-lined manorial pew.

The donor's father, John Vaudin, was "Sergeant de Justice" (who carried the Royal Mace, given by Charles II, in the Royal Court), and so the mace is shown at the top of the Vaudin Window. The oak leaves remind us that the full title of the Parish is St. John in the Oaks. This Vaudin / Le Marinel window was also made by Chapel Studios under the direction of Mr. Alfred Fisher.

The beautiful mahogany pulpit was installed in 1791 and originally was set at right angles, with the banister against the North wall. The Rector and his Parish Clerk sat at ground level during the service, but for the sermon it was a case of "friend, come up higher", and from his lofty perch the Rector could survey his flock after a benevolent gaze on the Rectory family in the front pew.

The window to the immediate right of the pulpit (from the William Morris Studios) is in memory of Ada Le Boutillier, widow of Rector Ernest St John Nicolle. It's theme is the beauty and splendour of God's creation and the artist probably had a sense of humour when he introduced a toad in the bottom left-hand light: "crapaud", French for toad, is a nickname for a Jerseyman!

Opposite the pulpit is the Rector's nave stall, which complements the Litany Desk. The stall was given by Miss Beryl Vaudin in memory of her parents, John and Olive. It was made from two pew-ends found at Le Marinel and bears a remarkable  resemblance to those in St. Peter's Church.

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