Charles William du Heaume
The du Heaume family headstone in the parish cemetery
In 1850, there descended upon the Parish of Trinity a whirlwind that continued to blow for much of the second half of the century. From his first days as Rector of Holy Trinity Church Charles William du Heaume raised dust and ruffled feathers in a way that is unimaginable these days.
The Church was much more prominent in parish affairs and the position of rectors considerably more central to Island life at that time.
Having been brought up in St Helier and then graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge with an MA at the age of 25, du Heaume had a rather superior attitude to his parochial administration. He was, after all, the senior member of the Island's Ecclesiastical Assembly.
No working relationship
Having inherited a somewhat run-down parish church building he lost no time in addressing what he thought were the necessary tasks required of him, but did so without first establishing a working relationship with his flock. This brought him into immediate conflict with his churchwardens and the wider parish administration, setting the pattern for 50 years of dispute, aggravation and Royal Court intervention.
The new Rector saw his first task as the complete refurbishment of his church, but within a year his methods compelled two of his Churchwardens, Jean Falle and Philip Benest, to raise a Clameur de Haro against him to prevent his carrying out work in the Church which they said had not been granted the necessary approval by themselves, the Constable or owners of Church pews.
Already at this early stage a battle of wills was developing. The Royal Court intervened, found fault with du Heaume, and ordered him to settle the dispute with the Parish forthwith: round one to the Parish.
It took only a few years for the next crisis to erupt when a parishioner, Ann Gruchy, claimed that the Parish had refused to pay interest she was due on a loan of £600 made to the Ecclesiastical Assembly to guarantee the Tresor fund in 1851.
The Parish Assembly, believing the loan to have been agreed by the Rector and the previous Constable, Thomas Gallichan, without proper parochial consent, had instructed the new Constable, Philippe Le Vesconte, to withhold payment until the terms of the loan could be investigated. Du Heaume, however refused the Constable sight of the relevant Comite Pariosialle minute books.
Miss Gruchy had little choice but take her grievance to the Royal Court which, exasperated by the intransigence of Parish authorities on both sides, eventually had the Rector, Constable and the Churchwardens imprisoned for non-payment of the debt. They quickly agreed to pay, but relations between parish and church were rapidly disintegrating.
In 1853 Clement Messervy was elected as a churchwarden by a majority of only four votes. Messervy was not a supporter of du Heaume, who complained to the Ecclesiastical Court, saying that Messervy, '…is not a member of the Anglican Church and has never taken Communion'.
Messervy had caused controversy by apparently being in the habit of walking around the outside of the Church during services and somewhat sinisterly, continually opening doors to watch the congregation. A hearing on 30 May 1853 heard that Clement Emile, one of the existing Churchwardens, whose job required him to keep order in the Church, had, on a number of occasions slammed the Church door in Messervy's face when he had opened it to listen to the Rector’s sermon, puffing a cigar, ‘to the great scandal of the faithful’.
Messervy declared that once he was elected a Churchwarden, his old adversary would no longer be able to throw him out. All the Churchwardens were replaced on 19 May 1856, after a three-year battle to get the Church accounts approved. The Rector was censured by the Ecclesiastical Court for allowing his Parish to get out of control.
A year later the Constable and Rector were again at each other’s throats when work was carried out to remove a door in the east gable of the Church. The work involved the removal of Constable Le Vesconte's personal pew in that part of the Church and he was infuriated when he discovered what was happening. He raised another Clameur against the workmen to halt the work.
The Rector claimed that the work had been approved by the bishop, but the extent of the disruption had, perhaps, not been fully appreciated. The builders continued their work, possibly believing that the Clameur held no sway inside the church, but the Royal Court ruled against them and they were fined.
In 1857, the Rector's wife gave birth to William Charles, the first of their four children. Another son, Edward William was born in 1864. William Charles died tragically, drowning off the coast of Africa en route to Calcutta aged 16, and his brother died aged 19 in the Cape Colony. Mary Mildred was born in 1858, married Charles Gruchy and died in 1920. Emily Margaret was born in 1868 and died aged 64.
Continuing his renovation work in the church, du Heaume rebuilt the medieval nave on its original foundations. All this work on the church, however desperately needed, came at a huge cost, and the Rector's accounts seem to have reached a crisis point. He had borrowed money on behalf of the Church from more than 40 individuals, but seemed to think it was the parish's duty to service the loans.
The Royal Court intervened and declared that du Heaume was personally responsible for the debt, and promptly declared him bankrupt with debts of £10,000. When he failed to attend a reception for the Bishop of Winchester owing to his temporary residence in the debtor's prison, the parish moved for his removal from office, but there was no mechanism in law which allowed them to achieve this end.
The following year, his wife, having continued to borrow in her husband's name, suffered a similar fate of bankruptcy. This seems to have resulted in a vigorous dispute over land rights, no doubt tied up with the Church debts, which boiled over and threatened catastrophe when du Heaume raised a Clameur in the summer of 1868 to prevent Philip Binet and other farmers from cutting wheat crops in disputed fields.
For several weeks the wheat stood uncut and at risk from the weather. When the case was heard, du Heaume failed to appear in the Royal Court to defend his actions and was fined, although it is not clear how he was expected to pay.
When yet more work was started inside the Church, du Heaume, although forbidden from getting personally involved, instructed Churchwarden John Coutanche to carry out the work. Du Heaume's old adversary Clement Messervy raised the Clameur in an effort to halt the work, but it was argued that since he did not own the property in question, the Church building, the Clameur was invalid.
The Royal Court made clear its exasperation with the case, with a general lack of respect for the Rector, and with the whole atmosphere of petty feuding that seemed endemic in the Parish. Messervy was reprimanded for wasting the Court's time and ordered to pay costs.
One final act was to play out before du Heaume finally gave up the fight. Age seemingly had not blunted his enthusiasm for the Clameur as he raised it one last time, in 1887, to prevent Constant Le Tourneur and Thomas Le Breton from demolishing a wall to the west of the cemetery. When the Rector failed to appear in Court to defend his action, he was fined for frivolously raising the Clameur.
In 1895, Edward Le Brocq, in his memoirs, recalled the following event: 'I myself saw him (du Heaume) come into Nick le Gallais’ pub near the Church (The British), his rusty black coat buttoned up to the chin and a scowl on his face for the assembled company. He didn’t say ‘good evening’ to anybody, neither did he receive any greeting even from the landlord who, knowing perfectly well what was demanded of him, filled a tumbler three-parts full with hollands (gin) and handed it to the visitor, who put it down his neck very quickly (holding it with both hands because of the shakes).
‘The Rector then pulled out a medicine bottle from his breast pocket and, the landlord having filled it, restored it to the pocket and went out after another general and comprehensive scowl. No money passed.'
A spectacular career, which had promised so much, came to an ignominious end in 1901 when du Heaume died.