Trinity Parish Church

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This article by R G Warton was first published in the 1919 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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Trinity Church

Victor Hugo

Trinity, or perhaps more correctly Holy Trinity, is one of the three parish churches dominating the precipitous northern coast of Jersey, which with its sister isles and islets has been described by Victor Hugo, as "bits of France fallen into the sea and picked up by England".

To this description Jerseymen might, however object, were it not qualified by the statement that the Channel Islands constitute, "the one point of old Normandy that really maintained itself against the forces of centralization, that they were not conquered by Philip of France, or his successors, and have remained from that date to this, attached to the British Crown".

The remaining limits of the northern trio are the churches of St John and St Mary, and here, by way of parenthesis, before discussing Holy Trinity in detail, attention may be directed for a brief space to the general distribution of our Jersey parish churches.

In an area of roughly twelve miles by eight, there are no fewer than 12 of them, which, during the 11th century and early half of the 12th century emerged from the chrysalis stage of chapels, or chantries, into something like their present form. Added to these, some 40 or 50, chapels of sorts, were scattered broadcast.

Now, the present population of Jersey (1919) is about 50,000. At the end of the 18th century it was only 20,000. Diminishing in like ratio, what was it in the 11th and 12th centuries? The so-called church accommodation was certainly not deficient.

Owing to the religious fervour that followed the Norman Conquest, it was fully utilised. But yet another cause (easily overlooked) contributed to this profusion of Jersey churches, quite distinct from religion. It must be remembered, that in those far off days, neither life nor property was safe from the invader and the raider.

Hence it behoved both priests and people to organise against attack, and provide for defence of their hearths and homes. It might appear, at first sight, that parishes had grown haphazard round their respective churches, but such does not seem to have been the case. Sites for the latter appear to have been carefully selected, where tower and massive Norman walls could be used as "points d'appui ", to be converted, if the need arose, into veritable citadels.

THe view from the north

Four groups

Jersey parish churches can be resolved into four separate groups, three of which dominate the coast line, the fourth, in touch with Jersey's chief town, St Helier. Groups 1 and 2 on the north and east coasts each include three churches. Group 3, on the south and west coasts, four. Whilst Group 4, more or less central, consists of only two.

Each unit of a group is only about a couple of miles distant from its other members, or from a neighbouring group, mutual communication and support being thus provided throughout the island.

The groups would seem to sort themselves as follows:

Group 1

  • St John’s commands St John’s Bay
  • St Mary’s commands Sorel Point to Plemont
  • Trinity commands Bouley Bay

Group 2

  • St Martin’s dominates St Catherine’s
  • Grouville dominates Grouville Bay
  • St Clement’s dominates St Clement’s Bay

Group 3

  • St Lawrence’s commands St Aubin’s Bay
  • St Brelade’s commands St Brelade’s Bay
  • St Ouen’s and St Peter’s command St Ouen’s Bay

Group 4

  • St Helier’s, a rallying point for the town
  • St Saviour’s, a support for the town and rally point for the island
Trinity Parish Church before the steeple was rendered

St Magloire

The northern part of Jersey formed the sphere of St Magloire's early labours, when introducing christianity to the island. His preaching caused the greatest enthusiasm, and his name is still remembered, under the corrupted form of St Mannelier. An interesting link with Normandy exists in the fact that Rectors of Trinity were at one time charged with the spiritual care of the Ecrehous.

Maitre Ile was the largest and most interesting of these small islets. Nestling just below the stone cairn which marks its apex are the crumbling ruins of an ancient priory, dating back to King John. In 1203 a gift was made by Pierre de Preaux to the abbey of Val Richer to build a chapel where masses might be said for his soul and for the soul of "the illustrious King of England ".

References to the Ecrehous chapel are found down to 1337, but it seems probable that when in the reign of Henry V the alien priories were suppressed, the monks were withdrawn, and it fell into decay. An interesning fact in connection with the above is that the Eorehous monks were responsible for the ‘’lanterna’’ (or lighthouse) worked by manual labour, in the shape of bellows.

Dues for sundry services rendered were derived from land in Jersey which originally pertained to the Ecrehous Priory.

The chancel and Ladies Chapel

Abbot of Cherbourg

The Patron of Trinity was the Abbot of Cherbourg. The Abbot of St Sauveur-Ie-Vicomte had the sixth sheave; the Abbot of Cherbourg, the third, and the free tythe; the bishop of Avranches, half the sheaves. To the Rector appertained the Novals, (ie fees from untilled land) and 8 vergees of alms. The living was worth 30 livres tournois.

As regards the present edifice, its origin and evolution are due to much the same causes and conditions as those of its eleven contemporaries. At first no doubt an unpretentious structure, erected by some pious parishioner for private use, the old church or chapel was evidently intended, in due course, to develop into the typical Latin Cross. At one period, indeed, it did actually assume this plan, only to be added to and altered, as time went on, and, as in so many other local instances, without regard to past or future, until it is only by close inspection that the fact can now be discovered.

In truth, transepts were added in the 15th century, simultaneonsly with the erection of a tower.

The southern transept has been transformed into a porch, constituting the main entrance, whilst the north transept, or what remains of it, now serves to complete the somewhat anomalous requirements of a chancel, aisle, (or Lady Chapel,) sacristy, and a former mortuary chapel.

Its east wall was pierced to afford communication with the Lady Chapel or the chancel aisle, and its west wall to connect it with a short nave aisle, used as a mortuary chapel.

At the exterior of the western end the trace of a fairly wide gothic archway can be detected, probably to admit a funeral cortege and secure a through passage to the chapel beyond.

Between the two aisles is the sacristy, reached by a priests' door constructed in the north wall. The history of this portion of the church has hitherto been regarded as a problem. The above seems to be a possible solution.

The buttress door

Enormous solidity

The fabric of Trinity Church displays enormous solidity, due to the use of shell lime for mortar. As with the old Roman cement fractures often pass through botb stone and matrix.

In plan and elevation the building follows the genuine Jersey type. Its high pitched roof, and long, straight back, its tower and somewhat crude broach spire, its added aisle, and other encroachments (destructive of original plan), its massive walls and buttresses, its sea worn pebbles, hammered and chiselled masonry, afford types of progressive periods.

Even the missing Norman pillar, removed to secure the congregation an unobstructed view of the then all important pulpit, combines to recall past history, and render Trinity more or less a replica of its nearest neighbours, St Mary and St John. Its local environment is happily pourtrayed by Camille Vallaux, membre d'honneur of our society, in his bright little work entitled L’Archipel de la Manche. There he describes a Jersey village scene, with Holy Trinity as its central point.

"Presque toujours les paroisses ont un foyer d'attraction, ou l'activité sociale tend à se concentrer, malgré les habitudes et Ie tour d'esprit tres individualiste des Normands de Jersey. Longtemps ce foyer a été uniquement constitué par les veritables églises paroissiales. Ces églises se ressemblent toutes; elles ont toutes Ie même style sévère, et dépourvu d'ornements, toutes Ie même massif clocher de pierre. Les eglises paroissiales se trouvent au voisinage immédiat de carrefours fréquentés ou peu à peu s'entassent les bâtiments publics et prives, écoles, salles paroissiales, hôtels et auberges. Ainsi quelques carrefours comme à la Trinite, à Saint-Jean et à Grouville, prennent presque figure de bourgs, chefs-lieux de commune, tels que nous les connaissons en France.
"Quand les carrefours sont enfouis au fond de fourrés de verdure, on peut parvenir au coeur d'un "bourg" jersiais sans se douter qu'on s'y trouve. Quand on arrive à la Trinité par la route de Saint Helier, on suit près des écoles une large avenue solitaire, ombragée de vieux chênes; au fond de I'avenue il y a un croisement de routes avec deux ou trois maisons; à droite, Ie chemin gravit un raidillon rapide que suit un mur bas coupé d'une grille; il faut être dessus, en quelque sorte, pour s'apercevoir que ce mur est celui du cimetière qui entoure l'église. Plus loin, encore deux ou trois maisons, et c'est tout: la campagne déserte recommence".
The interior of the church

Oldest section

The chancel, of 11th or early 12th century date, is the oldest portion of this church, built by the parishioners of sea-worn pebbles brought from Bouley Bay, hammered or dressed, and showing later chiselled work at its north eastern corner.

The east window, of Caen stone and flamboyant tracery, is said to have been imported from France.

The western gable contains a rose window, the sole instance of this description of light in any Jersey parish church."

A low tower, with short transepts, seems to have been the first enlargement, early in the 15th century, synchronous with a nave, constructed on the old foundations.

The tower is of considerable strength, with battered walls, that is to say, with walls receding slightly from the base upwards.

It was formerly roofed in by a saddle-back similar to that of St Lawrence, for which subsequently a spire was substituted. The quadrilateral spire is also battered, probably to be in keeping with the tower, certainly not for effect. It is devoid of ornament save for four long and narrow arched slits, one on each face, to light the belfry.

Bells

It was early in the 15th century that bells were first installed in Jersey churches, Trinity amongst the number. The bells of this period were commandeered by Governor Paulett, and quitted the island, if tradition may be trusted, for the bottom of the sea. However, a bell was hung in 1690 bearing the following inscription:

"Au nom de Dieu je fus refondue à l'an de grace 1690 du reigne de notre souverain Guillaume Henri de Nassau et de Marie Stuart, Roi et Reine, Ecosse, France, et Irlande.
F Le Couteur, Josue Le Boutillier (Connetable), Josué Gruchi (Centennier), Aron Cabot".

The first name is that of the then rector and the last that of a churchwarden. The bell bears the arms, crest and mottoes of Dumaresq, de Carteret, and Lempriere (Trinity) fami lies.

In 1883 a clock for the spire was purchased by public subscription, to which a brass plate is attached, inscribed as follows:

"Set going July 4th 1883 by Miss Martha Messervy".

Desecration

This church in common with the rest suffered from Puritan desecration. Altars, rood screen, and font were removed, the latter never since recovered. A gallery disfigured the east end, access to which was obtained by stone steps passing through the gable from outside. There is but one stained glass window, placed in the south wall of the chancel, by t he late Jurat A Messervy, in memory of his wife. Its subject is the Anuunciation. Various other gifts for the service and adornment of the church have been made, by different persons at different times. Amongst them, an altar and reredos, a lectern and an organ.

The de Carteret Tablet

Sir Edward de Carteret

One of the finest mural tablets in the island will be found in the chancel. It was raised to the memory of Sir Edward de Carteret, Bailiff of Jersey, and Geutleman Usher of the Black Rod to His Most Sacred Majesty Charles II. He died in February 1682-3.

The following is the inscription on the monument:

P M S

of

Sir Edward de Carteret Knt

Gentleman Usher of y Black Rod

To

His most Sacred Majesty Charles y Iid

And

Bailiff of this Island

Who dyed

Febrvary the xviij MDCLXXXII

Being

The First Day of y LXIVth year

Of

His age

Quo Justior Alter

Non erat in terris alter nec amantior

Aequi


Inserted in the pavement of the chancel is a Pierre funebre to Hugh Lempriere, Seigneur of Dielament.

Trinity Church in 1934

Churchyard

The churchyard contains the remains of many parishioners whose names are still household words - amongst them de Carterets of the manor and Dumaresqs of Augres, to whose memory tablets are inserted in the south wall. The wife of the present Seigneur of Triuity (1919) also found here her last resting place.

In 1863 the churchyard was considerably enlarged, and the following year a scheme of restoration was undertaken, under the supervision of the Rev William du Heaume, Rector. A curious excrescence was at this time introduced in the SW angle of the tower, in the shape of a huge buttress, with a doorway and staircase, by which access is obtained to the belfry. This, together with the new south porch, removed the last trace of a transept, and at the same time the original plan of a Latin Cross.

The Church Plate is not of special interest with one exception, a chalice, which is probably the only pre-Reformation specimen included in the collection of any Jersey parish church. It is described in the paper by Major Curtis, of Guernsey, published in the Société's Bulletin for 1918.

That Trinity was associated with civil as well as religious matters would appear from the record of an historic event described by Charles Le Quesne, in his Constitutional History of Jersey, from which the following is an extract:

"The island was under Parliamentary rule from the month of March 1643 until the arrival of Sir George Carteret, but during this time the castles were held for the King. The arrival of Sir George Carteret struck terror into the breasts of the parliamentary leaders, most of whom fled from the island. Dean Bandinel remained, and was made a prisoner. The States were convened to meet in Trinity Church, on 24 November 1643, by Captain Carteret, who gave a personal pledge that members should uot be molested. His commission as Lieut-Governor, and his patent as Bailiff, were laid before that body and he took the oaths of office. The government of the Parliament had ceased in Jersey; that of Monarchy was restored ".

Another incident of interest and possibly historical romance may be mentioned to rouse the curiosity of present day "quid-nuncs". It consists in the fact that a portion of the page of the parish register upon which births for the year 1648-9 were inscribed, has been cut out. It has been suggested that possibly here was recorded the birth of James La Cloche, a natural son of King Charles II.

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