Nicolle history of St Helier - Chapter 4

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The Prioriy of St Helier

The Priory of St Helier existed until the reign of Henry V, when all the property belonging to the alien priories was confiscated by the Crown. Though its revenues went the common way, yet we find that on 26 August 1512, Jean Vasse or Wace, a priest, native of Jersey, was named Prior of the Islet and on 23 January 1517, the King's Chaplain, John Carvannell, was appointed to the Priory of the "Islet of St Hylary " probably merely to conduct the services in the old Abbey Church.

The prior's income must then have been inconsiderable and shortly after this the Priory fell into decay. In the evidence given before the Royal Commissioners sent to Jersey in 1581, it is stated that the Priory of St Helier was "en grand decadence".


In 1551 the military authorities commenced to fortify the Islet but it was not until 1594 that Paul Ivy, the Queen's Engineer, visited Jersey and planned the building of Elizabeth Castle.

The old Abbey Church existed intact until 1651 when, having been converted into a powder magazine, it was blown up by a shot fired from the Town Hill during the siege of the Castle by the Parliamentarians.

Of the history of St Helier during the days of the supremacy of the Abbey there is scarcely anything to chronicle. St Helier could hardly be as yet dignified by the name of a village. It could have been little more than the agglomeration of a few fishermen's thatch covered huts, built around the Chapelle de la Madelaine, one of those primitive chapels, similar to the Fishermen's Chapel at St Brelade.

The chapel of La Madelaine was situated to the North-West of the present Parish Church, close to the old Rectory, at the corner of the Church Yard bordering Bond Street, the ancient name of which was Chemin de La Madelaine. The Town Hill, which sloped down to the Market Place, formed part of the Fief de La Fosse, and here it was that the inhabitants of St Helier were accustomed to put their sheep to pasture.

Nicolle: The Town of St Helier
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