St Saviour Parish Church

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This article by R G Warton was first published in the 1914 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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The lychgate in front of the church was built just before the First World War after the demolition of the hotel shown in the picture at the bottom of this article

Commanding position

The beautiful Church of St Saviour, whose nucleus was the Chapelle de l'Epine, dating back perhaps to the 9th century, stands alone, in a commanding position at nearly the centre of the Island. [Editor's note: Six Rues, St Lawrence, is generally acknowledged today to be the centre of the island, some way distant from St Saviour's Church.]

According to the will of Sire Macye Collet (Priest) the parish itself was in old times known as St Sauveur de l'Epine, lending force to the suggestion that the name bore reference to a famous thorn tree, (as at Glastonbury, in Somerset) rather than to the Saviour's crown of thorns.

Its lofty crenellated tower has often in times of stress formed a dominating centre of interest. From it have flashed signals in those anxious days of threatened invasion. To it have been despatched messages of success, or calls for aid.

Within its precincts, when plague was raging in 1563, the Royal Court of Jersey found a refuge, by permission granted of Hugh Perrin, on whose fief the building stood. Upon its walls are memorials of many noted families, native and French, laid to rest from earliest times.

The Assize Roll of 1309 AD states that at that date St Saviour stood on the fief of the Abbess of Caen, but at least four other fiefs meet in its immediate vicinity. Amongst them, that of Petit Rozel, (à St Sauveur), of which the Perrins were Seigneurs till 1621; also St Ouen (à St Sauveur) now called La Motte , of which the Manor House, since 1825, has been Bagatelle, prior to which time this manor was at La lIotte, the former Government House.

On the wall to the south of the church may still be seen a dilapidated building, erected by Darid Bandinel, Seigneur of Bagot, about 1697, as a place to stable his horse when he attended service, a condition being that tbe building should form a portion of the fief of Bagot. Another adjacent fief is that of La fille de Carteret, to the south of the church.

An 1840 drawing of the church

Archdeacon of Vire

The cure of St Saviour was originally at the nomination of the Archdeacon of Val de Vire (St Lo) in Normandy. When, however, Henry VIII was establishing his cynical title of "Defender of the Faith", its monastic property was confiscated, and the patronage of the churches in this Island was transferred to the Governors.

Since 1878 the Home Secretary has nominated on the recommendation of the Lieut-Governor. Until a few years ago the sum of one pound sterling was annually paid to the British Sovereign, which levy was commuted during the tenure of the present Rector, for the sum of £25 15s 8d in full quittance.

Book of Rentall

The following is an interesting extract from “A Book of Rentall of the Kings Majesties rents & revenues" in 1607 :

St Saviour

"Pentions". Nicollas Effart, Minister of the Parish oweth yearly for the pentions of his benefice, payable at two termes of the year, by equall portions (viz) at Easter & Michaelmas, per annum 13 escus 10 sols.

Four chapels

According to the memoirs of Benjamin La Cloche, four chapels stood in close proximity on the site of the present church, named respectively:

  • St Sauveur de l'Epine (east)
  • La Ste Vierge Marie (west)
  • St Jean (north-east)
  • St Martin (north-west)

The above were most likely chantry chapels, unconnected with each other. Benjamin La Cloche thus describes them:

"Les 4 chapelles du temple de St Sauvr selon que lay extraict dung viel manuscript furent fondées, cest Assavoir la chapelle du coeur dudt temple de least p Ie sucq au nom de St Sauver, & la chapelle a voest dicelle au costé du sucq au no de la Ste Vierge Marie, et les deux chapelles Dudt temple du nord diceluy celie de Least au nom de St Jean et celle du voest dicelle au nom de St Martin".

A fifth chapel, detached from the present church, existed, the remains of which may be seen to the NW at the corner of the old and new cemeteries. This chapel was at one time used as a powder magazine, and subsequently as a toolhouse.

Judging by its style and masonry there can be little doubt that of these buildings, La Chapelle de St Sauveur is the most ancient.

During the last restoration part of the foundation of its original west wall was laid bare. A massive section betokens the character of a building lighted by narrow splayed windows, and covered by a low pitched roof of wood, or possibly thatch. It was from this chapel that the present church has developed, of which it now forms the chancel.

Chapels joined

The existing nave of St Saviour is an outgrowth of the former western Chapelle de la Ste Vierge. In the 12th century, (probably 1154) the Chapelles de St Sauveur, and de la Ste Vierge Marie were joined by the construction of a transept, resulting in an approximately cruciform edifice.

Stone roofs were now substituted for the former thatch or wood, the walls being raised, as shewn by the description of stone employed, which is distinctly visible. A main entrance was opened in the western facade, lancet windows replaced Norman slits, whilst the walls were plastered and probably beautified by frescoes.

A proof that the two chapels were at one time separate buildings is afforded by the fact that the south wall of the chancel and nave display a different type of workmanship and are not in an exact alignment.

In the 13th century the nave was extended westward to its present limit and the chancel (La Chapelle de St Sauveur) thrown out some ten feet to the eastward, its roof being at the same time raised.

The 14th century (1346) saw the central tower added, an echo of the Continental Romanesque. Carried on four pointed arches, and crenellated, it resembles many of the watch towers erected by the English in Normandy, between 1346-56. The subsequent inclusion of the the Chapelle de St Jean in the main building, caused the north transept to disappear, and formed a chancel aisle, finally becoming a Lady Chapel.

Its communicating arches are semi-circular (Romanesque) resting on heavy Chausey granite columns. The last addition required to complete the building as it now stands was the Chapelle de St Martin, which was incorporated as a north nave aisle, by means of a pointed and moulded arcading, of transitional or early English type.

THe interior of the church

Different opinions

Some difference of opinion has arisen as to whether the Chapelle de St Jean or that of St Martin was the last addition to St Saviour's Church. The present Rector (Canon Luce,) influenced by the opinion of the architect (the late Mr Curry), considers that the Chapelle de St Martin was incorporated with the main building,prior to the Chapelle de St Jean. On the other hand the late Colonel Le Cornu, who devoted much careful attention to the Jersey churchcs, came to the conclusion that the Cbapelle de St Jean was the more ancient addition, a conclusion in which the writer is disposed to concur.

In the 15th century, like many other of our parish churches, St Saviour underwent extensive alteration. Pillars and arches, windows and doorways bear witness to this. The curious anachronism occurs here, to which attention has been drawn elsewhere, that the pillars between the original nave and chancel, and their aisles, are of later date than the roofs they support.

During this 15th century the windows were enlarged and filled with flamboyant tracery, the west doorways surmounted by ornamental dripstones, and a new entrance opened in the south transept, above which an upper story had been constructed as a priest's chamber.

Interior

The interior of St Saviour's Church presents some points of interest. On the south wall of the chancel, the increased height of the walls, when stone roofing was introduced, can easily be recognised by the variety of stone employed.

Buttresses are of several types, from flat Norman, with small projection, to the narrower Transition, or early English, standing out boldly and divided by sloping stages. The western facade displays several niches, now vacant, formerly filled by saintly figures, doubtless including one of the Virgin Mary. In the SW buttress may be noticed a moulded alcove, surmounted by pilgrim's shell, on the sill of which the gothic letters GL can be deciphered, in memory of George Lempriere, Constable of the Parish in 1464.

A small shield has been inserted between the letters, but the arms are worn away. On the NW buttress, however, the Lempriere Arms, (three eagles displayed) are plainly visible. A Porte aux femmes on the south side of the church, and a "Porte des morts" on the north, existed in former days. The former a reminiscence of the time when men and women were separated during divine service, the latter an exit for the excommunicate.

Returning to the interior of the church, it is a curious fact that no piscina exists, nor is there any trace of one. On the other hand, sedilia remain on the north side of the chancel, and niches are apparent on the western bay of the nave which formerly contained figures.

We now come to the Reformation period, When St Saviour, as was the case with many other sacred buildings, was mutilated and defaced, its chancels were abolished, the main entrances converted into windows, and the south transept into a porch. To meet the prejudices of the new cult, galleries were introduced, and a high pulpit installed on the NE corner of the nave, to secure an unobstructed view of which a pillar was hewn away at the entrance of the nave aisle.

Pews like bedsteads

Pews of all shapes and sizes were installed as the property of private individuals. The close resemblance of some of these pews to the elaborate tester bedsteads of Elizabethan and Jacobean date led Swift to satirize them thus:

A bedstead of the antique mode.
Compact of timber, many a load
Such as our ancestors did use
Was metamorphosed in pews;
Which still their ancient nature keep
By lodging folks disposed to sleep.

Altars were, of course abolished, and aught else that savoured of popery.

For 50 years the Anglican form of worship was conspicuous by its absence, and even then only gradually assumed its normal aspect. For the celebration of the Holy Communion a moveable wooden table was used, and placed in front of the pulpit, When required, this table was often telescopic (ie arranged to draw out) or provided with leaves for lengthening, so that participants at the "love feast" could seat themselves round the extended board. After the Restoration, altar tables were replaced in their proper position, against the east wall of the chancel. In Evelyn’s Diary 1661 we read:

6 April. Being of the vestry in the afternoon, we order'd that the Communion table should be set as usual altarwise, with a decent raile in front, as before the Rebellion.

In the 19th century an altar with reredos and rails was installed in the Chapelle de St Jean, which for a time was regarded by many as the chancel of the church, though there was a difference of opinion.

The chancel

Lawsuit

The question, however, had been raised by a lawsuit, between Dumaresq, Seigneur of Samares and Bagot, and Nicolle, Seigneur of Longueville, relative to their respective claims to pews within the Chapelle de St Sauveur. It was then decided that St Sauveur formed the chief chancel of the church.

So things continued until the dawn of the 20th century saw a final restoration of St Saviour's Church, carried out by an able and enthusiastic architect, (the late Adolphus Curry) under the wise and careful tutelage of its present Rector, Canon Luce. Of this restoration it may be truthfully said that it is a model one.

Unlike so many so-called restorations, the utmost care was taken that there should be absolutely no alteration from the type of the original work. Where from the decay of age it became necessary to rebuild portions of the masonry, accurate photographs were taken, so that every stone might be replaced in its original position. Ancient windows and doorways, which had been blocked up or defaced, victims of Puritan rancour, were searched for and reopened, the object being to present the building in minutest detail, exactly as it appeared when first completed.

For this reason, if for none other, St Saviour's Church is well worthy of careful inspection, as a unique example of the way in which restoration should be carried out, and as a lasting protest to the many instances in which a perverse desire for something new has vitiated the efforts of well-meaning restorers and debased their work.

Architect's report

From the late Mr Curry's report, above referred to, the following facts are culled :-

"The south wall and its buttresses, for a height of about 15 feet, is the only part remaining of the original structure, built in rubble work very crudely, and composed of a variety of stone not regularly quarried. The Chapelle de St Sauveur is the most ancient portion of the church. The Chapelle de la Ste Vierge was the first extension. The piers of the arcading rest upon the centre of the foundations of the north wall, some five feet in width. The east end of the old roof penetrated the west wall of the tower, proving its existence prior to the construction of the latter.
"The Chapelle de St Jean was the next extension. In the demolition of the north wall several stones of red syenite were found, having a deeply incised cross. These have been built into the jambs of the windows. This chapel is separated from the Chapelle de St Martin by an arch of the same size, and with the same mouldings as the four other arches supporting the tower.
"The Chapelle de St. Martin was the last extension to complete the church as it now exists. The gable of the south transept has been partially reconstructed, and the central door, which during the Presbyterian regime was made the main entrance, has been blocked up, the original doorway being reformed. A small lancet window at the top of the gable was found and reopened. The paths immediately surrounding the church were lowered some three feet.”
The hotel in front of the church shown in this 1909 picture was demolished shortly after to make way for the lychgate, shown in the picture at the top of the page

Gifts

In connection with this restoration the interest and affection of the parishioners, for their parish church has been marked by numerous costly gifts.

Amongst them may be mentioned a pulpit of carved oak on Jersey granite base. This pulpit was entirely the work of a Jerseyman, who died at an advanced age, having never been beyond the shores of his native isle; a lectern, depicting the pelican vulting herself; a Feld-stool in memory of a former Rector, the Rev Chas Marett.

The tower clock was presented, in 1876, in memory of General Touzel, of d'Hautree. In the gable of the south transept may be seen a recess for a sundial, which the Rector hopes shortly to fill. Lastly, a beautiful lych gate, as a memorial to the late Dean Balleine, the gift of members of that family. It stands on the site of a public house, recently removed, and near that of a drill shed, formerly used by the local Militia.

The carved oak screens of chancel and Lady Chapel, by local craftsmen, are worthy of attention, whilst a further proof, if necessary, of the intimate connection between church and people, is to be found in the colours of the old East Regt, of Mlilitia, which adorn the walls of the nave. On these walls, too, may be seen memorials to many illustrious families, who have helped in the making of Jersey, though few are anterior to the 16th century, the 19th claiming a majority.

The older inscriptions are in Gothic characters. Amongst them may be mentioned the Seigneurs of Longueville, Durells, Lemprieres, Poingdestres, Le Bretons and Godfrays. In 1797, Mgr de Cheylus, Bishop of Bayeux, was buried in St Saviour's Churchyard. In 1856 representatives of the Town of Bayeux, who were anxious to render homage to their Bishop, tried to locate his remains, with the object of transferring them to their Cathedral, but without success.

French families

Members of many French families, refugees after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and during the Revolution, here found a last resting place. In 1626 John Herault, Bailiff, was buried in St Saviour, "an upright; judge and patriotic Jerseyman", who neither required nor received any tablet to record his worth; also George Paulett (or Powlett) Bailiff in 1601. A somewhat effusive epitaph to Lieut-Bailiff Poingdestre, in Latin, by Falle the historian, may be seen on the south wall of the chancel.

The church plate of St Saviour is not perhaps as interesting as that of some of the other parish churches. It comprises several baptismal or alms dishes, the oldest being one presented by Rachel Messervy, Lady of Bagot, in 1700; a paten, the gift of Falle, the historian; and flagons and chalices, of later date.

No pre-Reformation glass remains. The Parliamentarians took care of this. In keeping, however, with the spirit that animated those concerned in the final restoration, very beautiful modern glass has been inserted in the several windows, which surpasses any to be found in the Island. The two east medallion and canopied windows, depicting scenes from the Passion, are remarkably fine, and amongst the others appears that favorite subject in Jersey, St Martin dividing his cloak with a beggar; also various scenes from the old Testament. Many are the work of a Jerseyman, Mr H T Bosdet, of whose artistic skill and refined taste the Island may well be proud.

The lover of church architecture, on quitting the restored church of St Sauveur de l'Epine, experiences a sensation of having had the privilege of inspecting delicate work conscientiously performed, a lasting monument to those engaged in its execution, and a credit to the generosity of those who provided the sinews of war.

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