Parish church St Brelade
On the coast
St Brelade's Parish Church
A painting of the church published in 1892 as part of a set of 24 island views
Built at the western end of St Brelade's Bay, this is the only one of Jersey's 12 parish churches on the coast, although the Town Church, now some way from the coast behind reclaimed land, was on the shoreline of St Helier when it was built
St Brelade's Church is one of the 12 ancient parish churches of Jersey; it is sited on the south of the island at the western end of St Brelade's Bay.
The church is dedicated to Saint Brelade. Early histories of the church made a mistaken identification with Saint Brendan. St Brelade was also known as St Branwalader.
The date of the present church is unknown, but it is mentioned in deeds of patronage. In AD 1035 Robert of Normandy confirmed the patronage of the church to the monastery of Montivilliers, which shows that the church was built before that date.
The chancel is the oldest part of the building. The original building extended some six feet into the nave. It was then only a small monastic chapel. The church is unique in the Channel Islands in having one of the very few surviving medieval chapels, the Fisherman's Chapel, sited directly next to the main church building.
Early in the 12th century it became a parish church, so additions were made, and in the 14th–15th centuries, the roof was raised 75cm higher to a Gothic pitch. The roof of the Fishermen's Chapel was raised at the same time.
The church of the 12th century was cruciform in structure, consisting of a chancel, a nave (built in two periods) and two transepts forming the two arms. At a later date, perhaps a century later, the chancel aisle was built, and after that the nave aisle.
The date of the tower is uncertain; it is, however, of later date than the chancel. Once a rood screen adorned the church; the corbels on which it rested are still in place and a closed-up doorway, through which the rood was approached, is still in existence. The font disappeared during the Reformation and was found on the slopes near the church, hidden in bracken and gorse, in 1840 and restored to the church. An ornate wooden cover for the font was provided in memory of H G Shepard, long-time Churchwarden.
A processional cross dating from the 13th century is to be seen in the Lady Chapel; this was found buried in the church. Nearly all the stone used in the building of this church came from the beach; limpet shells can be noted on the stonework. The stained glass is the work of Henry Thomas Bosdet and replaced plain glass windows dating from the Reformation.
The carved text on the pulpit is a rendering of Proverbs 25:11: "Telles que sont les pommes d'or emaillées d'argent, telle est la parole dit comme il faut (A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in filigree work)."
Before the restoration of Balleine in the 1890s, the whole of the interior stonework was covered in plaster which was whitewashed; the plaster was removed to show the granite, and the whole re-pointed with cement. Balleine's restoration also saw Art Nouveau woodwork in the choir stalls and pulpit and modern paving in the chancel. It is made of five different types of Jersey granite and represents the waves breaking on the sea-shore.
The altar slab, weighing about 15 hundredweight, contains the five crosses cut by the bishop at the time of the church's consecration, represening the five wounds of Christ.
Why should St Brelade’s Church have been built at the bottom of what is now La Marquanderie at the western end of St Brelade’s Bay, at a time when nobody lived anywhere near?
Ignoring the legend which suggests that the foundations and workers’ tools were moved there by fairies, who did not want the church built, as intended, at Les Quennevais, which was a populated area, there is a theory that at the time it was constructed, it was half way between the parish’s two main communities.
The suggestion, as expounded by A Podger in an article in the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise, was that at the time the church was built there was more land off Jersey’s south-west coast than there is now, and that the area of Les Mielles in the south of St Ouen’s Bay, also part of the parish of St Brelade, was rich farmland. He says that the parish church was, therefore, sited mid-way between the farming community here and the community in St Aubin.
He does not, however, indicate why the church was built in the bay where nobody lived, rather than at Les Quennevais, where people did live and which was also midway between St Aubin and St Ouen’s Bay via an overland route.
Perhaps a great storm, which Podger suggests washed away sections of coastline and covered other areas in sand, removed an easier route betwen inhabited areas and the church around the shoreline.
Wherever the truth lies, Podger suggests that it was a great storm on 23 November 1334, when major flooding occurred all along the south coast of England, which did much damage in Jersey, allowing subsequent storms to damage the west coast still further, leading to a massive sandstorm which covered Les Mielles a century later.
- Ranulphe Maret 1296
- Robert de Cumberwell 1298
- Richard Le Pestour 1309
- John de Haselshawe 1348
- Pierre Payn 1362-1379
- Johna Prevost 1411
- Guillaume Fondan 1497-1499
- Guillaume Nicholson 1499-1500
- Richard Le Haguais 1500-1505
- Nicolas Messervy 1506-1523
- Guillaume Vautier 1523-1545
- Thomas Bertram 1546-1554
- Nicolas Alexandre 1554-1565
- Thomas Bertram 1565-1572
- John Poulet 1572-1574
- Guillaume Morise 1574-1576
- Marin Chrétien dit Bonespoir 1583-1585
- Claude Parent 1585-1601
- David Bandinel 1601-1628
- Pierre Faultrart 1629-1645, 1654-1658
- Daniel Boullain 1647-1651
- Jean Falle 1658-1692
- Edouard d’Auvergne 1693-1705
- Jean Cartault 1706-1718
- Philippe Messervy 1718-1733
- Charles Lempriere 1734-1738
- Charles Godfray 1739-1743
- Rodolphe Hue 1743-1772
- Amice Bisson 1772-1782
- Edouard Bisson 1782-1783
- Philippe de la Garde 1783-1788
- George Bertram 1788-1818
- Philippe Filleul 1818-1829
- Edouard Falle 1829-1881
- Josué Le Sueur 1882-1892
- John Arthur Balleine 1892-1942
- William George Tabb 1946-1971
- Michael Halliwell 1971-1996
- Mark Bond 2002-
- St Brelade Parish Church, a history from the 1914 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise
- German cemetery at St Brelade's Church
- The Bailiwick of Jersey, G R Balleine
- Jersey Folklore, L'Amy
- Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey
- Balleine's History of Jersey
- The Cartulaire of Jersey
- St Brelade's Church: A Short Guide by the Rev W Tabb
- The Story of St Brelade's Church by the Reverend John A Balleine
- The Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise
- Jersey Churches by Paul Harrison
- Channel Island Churches, McCormack
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Photograph by Ernest Baudoux