Benetier at Bandinel Farm

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This article by J E Taylor was first published in the 1974 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

A drawing of the Bandinel Farm benetier
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During recent alterations at Bandinel Farm, St Martin, it was found necessary to hack off the whole of the internal plaster, and in the course of this work on 17 August 1973, Terry Gell, the foreman of Haycock Bros, contractors for the alterations, noticed the distinctive shape of some of the stones, and reported his findings so that at the site meeting on 20 August we were able to say that a benétier had been found.

We use the word benétier because we have always known these interesting stone alcoves by that name, and not because we are able to prove that this example was in fact used or intended for any form of religious rite.

Having exposed the outline, Mr Gell removed the stones which were blocking the opening, and it is significant to note that these stones were bonded with clay mortar, which suggests that this benétier was blocked up at a very early time, possibly as far back as 1750, but almost certainly not within the last 150 years, during which time one would more reasonably have expected either a cement mortar, or even bricks to have been used.

We know from Joan Stevens' book Old Jersey Houses that in many cases benétiers were found either in the wall adjacent to the front door, or at the foot of the stairs. At Bandinel the benétier is an example of the latter, and is approximately 5 feet east of a doorway which almost certainly led to a tourelle staircase; it faces south, set in the north wall of the south-east room, originally, in all probability, the kitchen. The tourelle staircase was removed approximately 100 years ago, when the north side was extended and the roof pitch altered. The entrance to the two bedrooms at first floor level would correspond with the likely position of the tourelle, and these two entrances still have chamfered door openings.

This is the first benétier to be found since 1950, and it is interesting to note that, barring a highly doubtful example at Grouville Court, it is the only one to be discovered in the eastern half of the island.

This benétier is made of a pink granite, very similar in both texture and colour to the circular headed front doorway which bears the date 1619. It is made up of nine separate stones:

  • A base stone, which is approximately rectangular and measures 28in wide, contains the bowl which is 14in across from side to side, 13½in back to front, and the depth in the centre of which is a maximum of 2in. The overall visible back to front measurement of the base stone is 17in.
  • Two chamfered stones forming the front main feature of the benitier, which stand on the base stone and measure 35in high x 8in thick.
  • Behind these two, a further pair of stones 16in high x 8in wide, acting as side walls and forming the full depth of the opening.
  • Above these a pair of roof stones set at an angle, with a visible measurement of 11in x 8in.
  • A square back stone, 15½in x 13in.
  • Above this a triangular stone as a form of inner gable, measuring 10in high and 9in at the base.

A hook of not less than 6in in length is held between the two front stones and may well have been used for suspending a vessel containing water (or possibly wine), but from the size of the hook one can only suppose that the weight of the vessel must have been substantial.

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