Charles Blampied

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Charles Blampied:
Methodist pioneer


Charles Blampied (1769-1849) a stone-cutter by trade, was one
of the pioneers of the Methodist Church in Jersey, who fought a
long battle to exempt Methodists from Sunday Militia drill sessions


The son of Thomas Blampied and Magdelaine, nee Morrison, Charles was born and baptised in Trinity in 1769.

In 1787, when only 18, he married Marie Le Mesurier. The Methodist movement was just beginning in Jersey and his wife persuaded him to attend one of meetings at St Mary, and he became a zealous convert. In 1793 she died, and the following year he married Jeanne Le Quesne of St John.

His conscience had for some time been troubled about the Sunday Militia drills. He absented himself, and took the consequences, which at first were only a fine and an extra drill on a weekday.

But a few days after his second wedding he was arrested, and lodged in the Town jail. Here his father-in-law visited him, and said that he would not allow his daughter to live with a jail-bird, and that she would leave him unless he made his peace with the authorities.


No uniform

So he promised to parade on the following Sunday, and was released. But he found that his wife was proud of the stand he was making. On the Sunday he appeared on parade, but without uniform, and told the officers that his conscience forbad him to drill on the Lord's Day.

He was rearrested, and on 3 June 1794, sentenced to eight days imprisonment. On 7 May 1795 he again received the same sentence. On 8 June he was condemned to eight days solitary confinement, and on 18 June 1796 to a month solitary confinement.

Meanwhile other Methodists were stirred by his example. On 21 June 1794 28 militiamen petitioned the States for permission to do their drill on weekdays. Dean Le Breton presented their petition, but it was rejected.

Methodism suppressed

They then refused to pay their fines, so their goods were sold. The military authorities then resolved to suppress Methodism. Several of the protesters were sent to prison. The English Methodist ministers were expelled from the island. The Methodist Meeting House in St Helier was closed. And in October 1798, in spite of protests from Dean Le Breton, the States passed an Act banishing from the island all militiamen who absented themselves from drill.

As most of the men were farmers owning their own land this was very severe. They appealed to the Privy Council; English Methodists and sympathizers such as William Wilberforce used their influence; and on 28 January 1799 the Council advised the King to refuse to sanction the Act.

Henceforth Methodists were allowed to do their drill on weekdays. For more than 50 years Blampied remained a devoted Lay Preacher. He died in his house at La Ville à l'Eveque on 23 August 1849.

Further biography

This history of Charles Blampied is taken from Trinity Tatler parish magazine

Charles Blampied was born in Trinity and baptized in Trinity Church on 31 March 1769. He was a stone-cutter by trade and married at the age of 18 in 1787.

His wife, Marie Le Mesurier was a committed Methodist – the Methodist movement was in its early days in Jersey – and she persuaded him to attend a meeting at St Mary, following which he became a zealous convert. Marie died in 1793 and the following year he married Jeanne Le Quesne from St John.

By 1794 the threat of invasion from France was growing and militia regulations were tightened to include Sunday drills and exercises. That was accepted by the Anglican church but troubled the Methodists, including Blampied. It was not merely the breaking of the Sabbath that troubled him, but also the fact that after drill the boys would get together for an evening of heavy drinking and “licentiousness”.

At first he absented himself from Sunday drill, earning him a fine and an extra day’s drill during the week. This worked for the first few times, but then a line was drawn. In March 1794, shortly after his wedding to Jeanne, he was arrested after parade.

As he was getting ready to accompany the sergeant and escort to the town gaol a group of his new wife’s relatives arrived and made him promise to serve on the following Sunday as Jeanne had said she would leave him if he persisted in refusing. He duly promised, and was released.


Accounts of this episode vary. The alternative version is that his new father-in-law visited him and told him he would not permit his daughter to be married to a jailbird and he would ensure she left him if he persisted. Whatever the version, the outcome was the same.

When Blampied got home he asked Jeanne about this, and she assured him it had nothing to do with her. She encouraged him to persist in his stand. The following Sunday he reported for drill, but in civilian dress, and told his officers that his promise had been extracted under false pretences and that he was prepared to suffer for refusing to serve on a Sunday. He was imprisoned for eight days and ordered to pay costs.

The same happened on 7 May 1795, but on 8 June 1795 the screw was tightened and he went to gaol for 8 days in solitary confinement, followed the next month by a month in solitary.

Today it is hard to appreciate the real antagonism that existed towards Methodists in Jersey in the late 1780s onwards. People were denied employment if they admitted to being Methodists and on one occasion, in 1786, shots were fired through the windows of a meeting house in St Aubin and the pulpit and pews taken out and hoisted to the shrouds of boats in the harbour.

Refusing to drill on Sundays was seen as rubbing at an already sore spot. Moreover there were growing concerns that the protest was affecting military efficiency at a time of heightened threat.

Blampied was the first to decline to drill, but he was not the only one. On 21 June 1794, 28 militiamen petitioned the States to be allowed to drill on weekdays only, stating that they would be more than content to drill on weekdays and, if need be, to fight on a Sunday. Dean Le Breton presented their petition, and it was rejected.

States double down

The States had two choices: negotiate or double down. They chose to double down. More imprisonments followed, and, in the case of Francois Jeune, banishment for three years. English Methodist ministers were expelled and the meeting house at 22 King Street closed. And on 18 October 1798 they passed an Act enforcing banishment on any member of the Militia who persisted in refusing to drill on a Sunday.

They tried to word the Act so it applied to any militiaman, but there was no doubt it was Methodists who were the target. As many of them were farmers who owned land, this would have been a severe punishment.

Methodists in England had been observing the difficulties of their brethren in Jersey with increasing concern and the passing of this latest Act triggered a response. A group of leading Methodists, accompanied by Pierre Le Sueur from Jersey and supported by William Wilberforce, the noted social reformer, petitioned the Privy Council to refuse to sanction the Act.

George III heard the petition, turned to the Earl of Portland and said: “Portland, I must not have my subjects oppressed in this way” and refused to assent to the Act. This was duly conveyed to the Governor in Jersey and formally acknowledged by the States on 28 January 1799.

Thereafter Methodists and other Non-Conformists drilled separately and, it is said, were informally referred to as “Gideon’s Army”, and the same acknowledgement of conscience was later extended to all military forces serving in the Island.

The lone protest of a young man from Trinity gradually snowballed into such a major battle with the States that it took the King to sort out and, in turn, helped to secure the position of Methodism and its beliefs in Jersey. Charles Blampied remained a lay preacher for more than fifty years and died peacefully on 23 August 1849 at his house at La Ville à l’Évêque.

There was an interesting sequel to his victory in 1799 some nine years later when, on 7 September 1808, Philip Arthur, a private in the South West Regiment of the Jersey Militia, appeared before the Royal Court “for absenting himself from the Military Drill on Sundays from scruples of conscience.”

States sitting

The Samedi Court sat with eight Jurats and was presided over by Sir John Dumaresq, Lieut-Bailiff. Also sitting was the Lieut-Governor (and Commander-in-Chief) General Don. In those days it was usual for the Lieut-Governor to sit and advise on military matters.

Philip Arthur’s defence, Advocate Poingdestre, said his client admitted the facts of his absence but pleaded that there was no law enforcing the performance of military drill on Sundays. He agreed he belonged to the Church of England but cited the King’s refusal to sanction a law banishing those who absented themselves.

Advocate Poingdestre went on to argue that in British regiments those who had grounds of conscience were merely required to attend roll-call with their side-arms on Sunday mornings and evenings. The argument of the Procureur-General, Le Breton, prosecuting, was simply that the dispensation applied only to Methodists and other dissenters.

Summing up, the Lieut-Bailiff declared it was his decided opinion that the defendant was “clearly amenable to the law”. General Don sought to correct Advocate Poingdestre’s assertion that British regiments permitted non-performance of drill on Sundays. In his own experience, commanding in Kent, Devonshire and the Isle of Wight, even Methodists “and other religious sectaries” cheerfully attended their military duties on Sundays.

The account goes on : “He then drew a melancholy picture of the total subversion of all religion which must inevitably ensue if the present despot of France, who was alternately a deist at Paris, a papist at Rome and mahometan in Egypt, were permitted to prevail.”

Philip Arthur lost his case, and was obliged to pay the fines already imposed. But it did not end there. He continued to fail to attend drill on Sundays, was fined on each occasion, and wrote to General Don appealing for his fines to be remitted. The polite but curt response invited him to take his case to the Royal Court.

So keenly did Philip Arthur feel the injustice that he privately published a pamphlet on his trial, somebody kept it, passed it on and eventually it ended up in the library of the Societé Jersiaise.

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