St Ouen 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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Six miles NW from St Helier, two miles from the village of St Peter, and 1½ miles from the well-known La Mare, or pond of St Ouen, stands the venerable Parish Church of St Ouen.

Dripstones

St Ouen's Manor

St Ouen is the home of the de Carterets, whose manorial mansion stands hard by. "Voila le paternel Manoir des Carteret, nid d'aigle de cette race ambitieuse et illustre, dont l'histoire est celle de I'ile, dont les branches ont embrassé tout l’archipel".

It was whilst fishing at the pond, during the struggle from 1461-67 between Philip de Carteret and the French, that taken unawares, the said Philip only escaped capture by clearing the Val de la Charriere, some 20ft wide and 18ft in depth, on his splendid black horse, which on reaching the manor doors fell dead from exhaustion. A picture of this celebrated animal adorns the wall of the manor hall.

The inhabitants of St Ouen have always been distinguished for their patriotism and tenacity, and can boast that in the Island's darkest days, they never lost heart, and never gave way before the attack of a foreign invader, whilst they always took the lead in resisting the attempts of English Parliamentarians to deprive them of their rights and liberties. These sturdy qualities of conservatism and independence they still retain.

St Ouen's Church

Patron saint

The patron saint of this Church, (St Ouen, known also under the name "Dodon" or "Dadon") was born in 609 AD at Sancy, near Soissons. He became Chancellor, (référendaire) to Dagobert I, founded the Abbey of Rebais in the diocese of Meaux, and was elected Bishop of Rouen in 639. He wrote a life of his friend St Eloi, considered one of the most remarkable literary and historical monuments of the 7th century, and died in 683 at Clichy, near Paris, when his body was taken to Rouen, the Abbey containing his tomb becoming celebrated under his name.

The right of patronage to St Ouen's Church in ancient times appertained to the manor; but some years after the return of Regnault de Carteret from the Holy Land, in 1125, his son presented to the Abbey of St Michel, the Church of St Germain de Carteret, in Normandy, and the Church of St Ouen, Jersey.

Hence it is evident that at this date nothing more important than a primitive chapel existed at St Ouen. Probably this building consisted of a small chantry, with massive walls, lighted by narrow splayed slits along the sides, and a larger window in the eastern gable, beneath which stood the altar, on a dark floor of beaten earth, raised slightly above the general level. The doorway was at the western end. Here, no doubt, may be traced the nucleus of the present chancel, which was to develop later, by sundry alteration, and addition, into the edifice we see today.

St Ouen's Church

Thatched roof

The roof of this early chapel was probably of wood, possibly of thatch, for which, in due course, was substituted a barrel vault of stone. This required extra support, as marked by buttresses, which may still be seen within the chancel.

The church, as it stands today, is striking rather from its "tout ensemble" than from any dominant feature. Originally cruciform in plan, with chancel, nave, and transepts, it now forms an oblong, more or less, owing to the fact that aisles to north and south have taken the place of transepts.

It was early in the 13th century that the nave was added and at the same time a north chancel aisle, to serve as a Lady Chapel. Recessed Norman arches communicate between the two, resting on massive, octagonal, dressed granite pillars. In the 13th century a second chancel aisle, on the south side, a tower with low spire, and transepts, supplied a fresh addition. Pointed arches between chancel and aisle, and pillars chisel worked, for the first time now appear, marking the change in style from Romanesque to Early English. This constituted the second enlargement of St Ouen.

A feature worthy of notice in reference to this enlargement is the exceptional strength of the original masonry used to carry the tower. Nevertheless, it was found necessary to supplement it yet further, by means of interior support. The reason is not clear, but possibly the necessity arose from the installation of a heavy peal of bells during the 13th century, causing a severe strain. These bells were later seized and sold by Sir Hugh Paulett and the other Commissioners appointed by Edward VI in 1550 to sell church property.

The chancel and Lady Chapel

Christmas bells

It was customary in olden times to ring the church bells the whole of the afternoon and evening up to 10 o'clock, on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. This custom has fallen into disuetude, save in the Parishes of St Ouen, St Peter, and St Mary, where it is still observed. The bell-ringers are furnished by the parishioners, and are chiefly young men, who take turn and keep up a continuous ringing.

The ancient peal having been sold, as previously stated, a single bell remains today to represent it. On 5 April 1812 it was discovered that the then solitary bell had been so cracked, at the previous Christmas festival, that it was useless. A new one weighing 1,700 Ib was bought, but apparently suffered a similar disaster, since in 1844 yet another was obtained, weighing some 1,800 Ib. This is the bell actually in use, bearing the following inscription:

Philippe Payn, Recteur
Jean Hacquoil and Jean Bailhache, surveillants
Philippe Le Cerf, Constable
Philippe Jean Le Brun and Francis Arthur Jnr, Centeniers
Ile de Jersey, le 10 Aout 1844, Paroisse de St Ouen
St Ouen's Church nave

15th century enlargement

The 15th century saw a third enlargement, in the form of north and south nave aisles, which replaced the transepts, Thus disappeared the cruciform plan adopted at St Ouen at its second enlargement, when transepts first were introduced.

A stone staircase, unique, as regards the Channel Islands, was built inside the church adjacent to the southeast pillar, by way of providing access to the belfry. It is conspicuous from all parts of the interior, and perhaps is rather curious than ornamental.

Doubtless before the days of Reformation ardour and vandalism, St Ouen was a church of importance and interest second to none, containing valuable relics, and held in affectionate regard by the stalwart parishioners.

Reforming zeal, however, was to change all this. The Roman Catholic cult was to be destroyed root and branch. Its sacred edifices desecrated, the stately dignity of its ornate services ridiculed, and every vestige of its existence, so far as possible, eradicated. Its churches, whilst utilized for the services of the new creed, now served for various secular purposes.

Parish meetings and elections were held within the sacred walls, and even auction sales permitted. Decorations were damaged, sculptures defaced, the altar supplanted by a plain wooden table, wheeled out and put away as occasion required, the sacred vessels treated with contempt, or made away with, all in the name of religion.

The church in 1870

Galleries

Galleries were erected that congregations might listen to wearisome discourses, though, with a curious but amusing inconsistency, one of them was devoted to the use of smokers.

The parish artillery was housed within the western porch, the jambs of which, to permit its passage, were rudely hacked away. Thus, during this dark age, St Ouen, in common with its sister churches, suffered both loss and injury never to be entirely repaired. Yet there is cause for satisfaction at what has since been achieved, and reason for hope that, as the years pass by, the memory of these troublous times may sink into oblivion.

The final restoration took place between the years 1860-90 under the Rectorship of the Rev George Clement, Canon of Winchester, when the chancel was extended and a new east window, presented by Colonel E C Malet de Carteret, installed.

The western gable of the nave was reconstructed and crowned by a finial, more ingenious than artistic, being none other than a chimney pot, in connection with the newly installed heating apparatus. The church was repewed; the pews appropriated to the manors of St Ouen and Vinchelez bearing the de Carteret arms.

Differing window styles

Marble pillars

A very beautiful pulpit in Caen stone, presented by two ladies of the congregation, contains panels enclosed by marble pillars, each containing a statue. These statues represent eight writers of the New Testament with their symbolical figures, as follows:

  • St Matthew (a man)
  • St Peter (the keys)
  • St Mark (a lion)
  • St Paul (the sword)
  • St Luke (an ox)
  • St James (the scrip)
  • St John (an eagle)
  • St Jude (the staff)
The interior of the church

A font of Jersey granite was the gift of Philip Ie Feuvre, of Trodez. Lastly, the unsightly galleries were removed, a south porch constructed, and an organ installed. The cost of this restoration was some £5,000, and it has been on the whole admirably carried out, though exception must be taken to the lavish application of whitewash and plaster to the interior. Possibly of practical use, as an antidote to damp, it yet sadly detracts from the general appearance of the building.

de Carteret family

Of course St Ouen's Church is rich in monuments of the de Carteret family, amongst which may be noted a memorial brass to Sir Philip de Carteret, who so bravely defended Elizabeth Castle and died there in 1643, during the Civil Wars, being denied the last consolations of religion by the Parliamentary leaders. He was buried in the church, and his mother, (Rachel Paulett) who died in 1650, was also buried near her son, in the NE corner. A memorial in copper, bearing a mounted effigy, was placed in the church in 1872, in memory of that branch of the de Carteret family, which at present owns the manor.

Many other mural tablets and monuments recall the names of Payn, Mallet, Le Cornu, Arthur, d'Auvergne and others, who helped to make Jersey history.

Passing to the exterior of the building, some incised monuments of the 13th and 14th century may be noted. Amongst them are the following:

  • In the south-east buttress a patriarchal cross, similar to those at Bakewell and Brougham (in England).
  • A tablet under the south-east window, depicting a chalice and book. It is rather curious that in shape, the former whilst not resembling any of the usual forms of chalice with which we are farmliar, is very similar to the inkstands of the 7th and 8th centuries, rendering it possible that this stone may be of much earlier date than that generally assigned. It is no doubt a memorial to some Roman Catholic priest.
  • A monument at the eastern end of the south chapel erected to Mr de la Place which bears the following inscription:
CY LE COR

DE M P D

I P GIST

AUTRE FOIS

R DE CETTE

PAR II MOUR

LE 26 DE JUIN

1681 AGE

DE 53 ANS

IL NEST

POIN MORT

MAIS IL DORT
The church plate

Parish register

In the parish register the following appears in reference to this rector:

On the 6th Jan 1652, Mons Pierre de la Place received the laying on of hands in the church of the Parish of St Ouen by his brother Mr Josué de la Place; on which occasion the pastors, M d’Assigny and M Bon-Homme, were present, who gave him the hand of fellowship. Thus he remained in office in the Parish of St Ouen by order of Colonel James Haines, the Parliamentary Governor. This took place after the death of Charles I, and whilst Cromwell was Protector. Hence Mons De La Place did not belong to the Anglican Church, but was a Presbyterian, and there was no Dean in the Island at this time.

He continued as Rector until the time of Charles II. Later we find in the Register:

On the 6th Sept 1663, Matth Jean was buried, the service being taken by Mr Gruchy, in the absence of Mons de la Place, who had been suspended by the Dean, and allowed 40 days to consider whether be would take the oath to the Bishop of Winchester".

This he evidently refused to do, as some 11 months later, Mons Jean Francois Guillet was inducted to the benefice by the Dean.

Mons De La Place, however, continued to reside in the parish, for he died in 1681, probably at the place which today bears the name of La Place.

The following is the record of his burial :

Le Mardy 28eme jour de juin 1681 fut enterré Mr Pierre De La Place qui avait esté ministre en cette Paroisse et avoit quitté La Place environ seize ou dix-sept ans auparavant".

Glass

The glass is not remarkable, though the three-light eastern window, which as already noticed, was presented by Colonel Malet de Carteret, is a good specimen of modern work. It represents, in medallions, St John Baptist, the Crucifixion, and Christ blessing little children. The west window, also in medallions, depicts somewhat crudely Adam and Eve, the Deluge, and the Sacrifice of Abel.

The colours of the old North-west Regiment of Jersey Militia find a resting place in the church.

Plate

The church plate is entirely Post-Reformation, but comprises a large and valuable collection, the most ancient in date being "Une Coupe : Don de Edouard Vautier, 1604".

The following is a complete list, with inscriptions:-

  • Le petit flacon: Don de Francois de Carteret Esqr à l'eglise de St Ouen, 1662.
  • Le grand flacon: Don de Dlle Anne de Carteret, femme d'Andre William Gent de Lundres por Lusage de Vin de La Ste Cene en La paroisse de St Ouen, Jersey, La Quelle Deceda Le 9 Jan 1699 audit Lieu de Lundres.
  • La Patène: In usum sacrae Synaxis in Ecclesia St Audoeni D D Philippus Falle, MA, Recteur, 1743. Traduction: Pour I'usage de la Sainte Cene dans l'Eglise de St Audoenus. don fait par Philippe Falle, MA, Recteur, 1743.
  • Une coupe: Don de Edouard Vautier, 1604
  • Une coupe: Don de Mr Gedeon de Carteret, 4th fils de St Ouen en son vivant Vicomte de Jerse pour lvsage de la Sainte Cene, en la Paroisse de St Ouen 1620
  • Deux coupes: Pour la Paroisse de St Ouen du don de Capitaine George de Carteret, Admiral des navires de sa mat en lexepediaon contre des Turgs sur la coste de Barbaric: au retour de son 2eme voyage An 1638.
  • Un plat: Don fait à la Paroisse de St Ouen par Mr Helier Le Montais et son fils aisné Mr Elie Le Montais
  • Un plat: Fond de Bateme pour l'Eglise de St Ouen donne par Elizabeth Payn, fille de Charles Payn Escr en 1806
  • Une patene: Donné à l'Eglise St Georges, St Ouen, Jersey, par Francis G Jean, (Surveillant de l'Eglise Paroissiale) et Elizabeth J Le Feuvre son épouse en reconnaissance de la celebration de leurs noces d'argent 21 September 1910." (St George's Church forms a "Chapel of ease" to the Parish Church).
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