St Mark's Church

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A drawing of the church, shortly after its opening, by J Harwood

Information edited from Official church website

Opening

The church opened in October 1844 after two and a half years of planning and construction. The Dean of Jersey, the Very Reverend Francis Jeune, later to become Bishop of Peterborough, gave the sermons at both morning and evening services, having been the chief mover of the project.

Licence

The Licence for the opening of the church began thus:

Know ye that whereas the population of the Town and Parish of St Helier has greatly increased and that many faithful persons are deterred from worshipping God according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, owing to the deficiency of accommodation in existing Churches and Chapels, and whence certain members of the Church of England desirous of promoting the glory of God and of providing for the spiritual wants of themselves, their families and poorer brethren, have at full cost erected and completed a suitable building by the name of St Mark’s Church, for the performance of Divine Service...

Housing expansion

Houses were springing up in the area and rival speculative builders were constructing streets such as St Mark's Road, Stopford Road and Springfield Road. Thousands of new residents were settling in the parish, many of whom were English and could not understand the services in French at the Town Church.

Dean's plans

The Dean was an able man of whom Gladstone was reputed to have said that he wished he could have him as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He established his plans before consulting anyone and found a Mr Philips who was willing to sell the plot of land on which the church now stands. He asked Mr J T Parkinson, the architect of All Saints, to draw a picture of the proposed church.

The inspiration for the name which he chose may have been the spring, later known as King's Well, at the foot of the steps that lead from Queen's Road to Mont à l'Abbé. This was known in the olden days as La Fontaine de St. Marc. As late as 1722, it was reported that three people were prosecuted for allowing their ducks to defile 'St. Mark’s spring near Rouge Bouillon.'

Controversial fundraising

Dean Jeune raised the money for the building of the church by making it a proprietary chapel. This attracted the criticism that 'it was built on the share holding system, which strangely introduces purposes of trade into the sacred concerns of religion' but it was the quickest way of getting a church built in those days. Many a rich man, who might only have given a guinea as a subscription, was prepared to pay £50 if that made him a shareholder with a voice in the management of his church.

St Mark's Church with the Deanery in the foreground

Building difficulties

The building of the church was not without difficulties. The specifications and plans which were pinned up in a lawyer's office for inspection were stolen by a builder to prevent any rivals from tendering and resulted in the following notice being inserted in the Chronique de Jersey on 27 July 1842:

In consequence of the surreptitious removal of the specifications for the carpenter's work of St Mark’s Church, by which several workmen may have been deprived of the opportunity of tendering, the committee has determined to keep up the competition for a week longer, and to receive tenders up to Saturday the 30th instant at 12 o'clock.

The next problem was that the walls of the church were so badly built that in October, when half way up, they collapsed in ruins. The Committee sacked the builder and the supervisor, and in April 1843 the building was restarted with a new firm and a new architect. By September the spire was complete with its weather-cock on the top. By the time of its completion in 1844 the building had cost nearly double the original estimate and the shares had to be raised to £85.

Further funding

The altar was presented by the Dean and a special subscription to pay for a ring of the bells raised the total of £326 10s 5d. This prompted the remark that "St Mark’s is the only church in the Island to possess a peal of bells but these are not half such an attraction as the bevy of belles who throng its walls every Sunday."

The ring of bells at St Mark’s is the most southerly ring in the British Isles. They were probably not rung as frequently in the traditional style because in the 1880s there was apparently no objection from ringers when the installation of a clock and a large clock bell effectively ended any possibility of practising the art of campanology.

St Marks' Church

Affluent congregation

The congregation of St Mark's in the 19th Century was "well-to-do" (the Westaway family were early members) and gave generously to causes that interested it, including the building of St Mark's School, the SPG and the building of St Luke's Church, a sum of £160 being the result of collections for this purpose. The proprietors were not allowed to neglect their duties either. In 1853 their attention was drawn to "the great discomfort experienced by the large congregation during the severe winter through the damp and cold state in which the church is allowed to remain. The high rate charged for sittings fully warrants the renters to expect that so serious an evil will continue no longer."

On 13 March 1917, various requirements having been met, including the surrendering by the proprietors of their pews, an Order in Council made St Mark’s an independent church with a district of its own. For more than 70 years it had been merely a chapel-of-ease to the Town Church, its Minister being Assistant Curate to the Rector.

Incumbents and vicars

  • James Hemery 1845
  • R Ward 1845-1846
  • Christopher Heath 1847-1868
  • George Handcock 1868-1872
  • Henry Price 1973-1883
  • Malcolm MacColl 1884-1887
  • Albert Henry Ashwell 1887-1897
  • Alick Charles Leech 1898-1901
  • Hugh Le Fleming 1902-1908
  • Joseph Paget 1909 - 1910
  • Edward Moor 1910-1914
  • John Henry Bromby Mace 1914-1925
  • Thomas Isaac Varteg Evans 1925-1938
  • Francis William Killer 1938-1950
  • Maurice Godfrey 1951-1966
  • Geoffrey Gorton Baker 1966-1973
  • William Hall 1973-1992
  • Christopher Ivor Buckley 1993-2006
  • Martyn Shea 2008-

External links

Official website

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