Popular History of Jersey Chapter 5

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Religion

Christianity

It is the general belief that the Christian religion was planted on the Island at a very early date. The best authorities, indeed, state that it was introduced in the year 540 by one Marcouf, who founded a monastery at Bonne Nuit on the northern coast and in the present parish of St John, and who was afterwards canonised. However this may be, there is no doubt that a wave of religious zeal passed over it between the years 1111 and 1341, for during that period no less than twelve parish churches were erected.

There was St Brelade's, for instance, consecrated 27 May 1111; St Martin's, 4 January 1116; St Clement's, 29 September 1117; St Ouen's, 4 September 1130; St Saviour's, 30 May 1154; Trinity, 3 September 1163 ; St Peter's, 29 June 1167; St Lawrence's, 4 January 1199 — to say the least of it, a very creditable performance for one century; not to mention the other churches of later date: St John's, built in the year 1204; Grouville in 1332, and St Helier's, (the "Town" Church), consecrated 15 August 1341; whilst, besides these, numerous "Chapels" connected with them were spread over the Island, as well as a "religious house" at Longueville, the remains of which latter edifice were only destroyed just prior to 1824.

French in Guernsey

But it must not be forgotten, as showing what Jersey was made of in those old days, that amidst this religious zeal they had to fight for their general rights. It was just between the time that the Churches of St Mary and St Helier were being built (1322 to 1341) that the indenture was made between the King and Council and Sir Thomas Ferrars for the future defence and reparation of "Jersey Castle" which, it is to be remembered, was a name that Mont Orgueil used also to be known by. For three years the French had held possession of the sister isle of Guernsey and nearly that time had elapsed since they had last withdrawn their troops.

The dwellers on the Jersey Isle at this time had their natural zeal again aroused and, animated by their native valour, appear to have raised a contribution of six thousand four hundred marks for the "Service". At the same time they formed a junction with a fleet bearing troops to the King, and by their unexampled bravery defended their Island home in a manner that has seldom been equalled — a portion of which "home", by-the-bye, they seem to have been deprived of about this period by natural causes; for we read that in 1356 a large portion of the parish of St Ouen was inundated by the sea, which is also supposed at a prior date to have engulfed a forest formerly known as La Brequette, said to have been situated near l'Etacq.

du Guesclin

But coming to the year 1374, two years after the death of Edward III of England, we find, as a legacy left by Charles the Wise of France — who had not long worn the crown of that nation before ruptures broke out between the English and the French — that Jersey most certainly had its own share of ill consequences. Among other expeditions attempted by the "neighbours across the way", under the command of Bertrand Du Guesclin — at the time noted in his own country as being one of its ablest generals — was the conquest of Jersey; he having, as D'Argentre, the French historian, tells us, "eyed the Island as la retraite seure Angelois", ie the sure retreat of the English. And finding it necessary to his other schemes to, if possible, deprive them of it, he suddenly set out from France with an army, it is said, of 10,000 men, amongst whom were the Duke of Bourbon and the flower of the French chivalry, and encamped before Mont Orgueil Castle in the hope of effecting its capture and thus subduing the Island, whilst the inhabitants, being perfectly aware of the superiority of the enemy's force, wisely suffered them to land, without acknowledging that they were conquered, but with a view, it seems, of exerting their own strength at a future period.

And here is where Mont Orgueil comes in again, and once more proves itself "The Castle of Jersey". The French, immediately on their descent upon the Island, encamping before this stronghold, besieged it with great vigour for a length of time. Finding, however, that the defenders were determined not to surrender, a parley ensued, at which the following characteristic agreement was drawn up: "That they within the castle would surrender if not succoured before Michaelmas Day next ensuing, and that the Constable, or General, should for the present break up his camp and depart."

Fleet to the rescue

An English fleet, as it happened, came to the rescue, and soon afterwards the French General forbore to give the Island further molestation. At the same time, be it mentioned, this was the only instance when the arms of that great and fortunate warrior were baffled.

In the year 1396 a Royal "Guardian", in the person of Edward Duke of York, held sway over the Channel Islands, the most serious thing that happened during his governorship of Jersey being a futile attack made upon it, in 1404, by Count de Buelma, who was assisted by some lords of Brittany evidently anxious for a share of the ever-coveted spot. Following the Duke of York came John Nanfan, who was appointed "Warden and Governor" 5 June 1460, the last year of the reign of Henry VI, and momentous to Jersey as being that during which Mont Orgueil Castle and the eastern parishes of the Island fell into the hands of the French under the command of Pierre de Breze, Count de Maulevrier, a full account of the circumstances leading up to which will be found in the following chapter.

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