Tesson Chapel

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Tesson Chapel


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This article has been provided by the Chapel trustees and is based on the history in their own website


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Bible Christians

The story of Tesson Chapel began before its construction and before the purchase by contract dated 2 November 1861 of the initial small piece of land (44 feet by 30 feet), on which it now stands, by trustees representing the Bible Christian Society. The work of the society, which was later to become a part of the Methodist denomination, was commenced in Jersey on 2O August 1823, when Mary Ann Werrey arrived from England to evangelise the Island.

In 1825 the society erected a small chapel in Great Union Road, St Helier. Improvements were made in 1849 to this chapel, which enabled it to seat 700 when opened in January 1850. It was further enlarged in 1864. It was from the work at Great Union Road that a Sabbath school for children developed in St Lawrence Valley. This Sunday school was a satellite work of the main St Helier Sunday school and a lease for two rooms at 'St Lawrence Valley' for £3 per annum was agreed in June 1858, it being decided at the same meeting to take down the partitions dividing the rooms.

Work commences

In October 1861 the elders of Great Union Road chapel received a report from a special committee appointed relative to the building of a chapel in the valley. On 2 November 1861 trustees purchased the land from Mr and Mrs Richard Simes for £5.

The chapel was erected on a piecework basis with individuals responsible for each aspect of the construction. The work commenced in November 1861 and went on through to the following summer. One record shows a total cost, including land, of just over £163, another £135. A part of the money needed was borrowed from individuals and by June 1866 £60 of debt remained outstanding.

In 1867 Bible Christian Trustees in the island laid the foundation stone of a new church designed to seat 1,200 people in Royal Crescent, Don Road, St Helier on the site of an old theatre and, whereas by 1880 no debt was outstanding for St Lawrence chapel, the total circuit debt was £3,305.

First service

The first recorded service at the St Lawrence chapel was on 7 September 1862. The chapel was part of the circuit that appointed and supported two full-time ministers and it participated in the missionary endeavour (for which the Bible Christians were noted) by having missionary speakers on a weeknight. The key work however remained with the Sunday school. he circuit Sunday school outing was held each year at St Lawrence Valley ‑ in 1864 for 350 persons, in 1869 the 'Mill Room' being requested (presumably a room in Tesson Mill) for 200 and in 1871 the chapel, when 100 people were expected.

In 1864 the chapel had nine members (compared with 179 for the circuit), in 1870 15, and in 1874 six. By 1880 the membership had fallen to three (circuit ‑ 243) and the scene was beginning to be set for another change.

Sale

In 1883 a decision was taken to close the chapel and to request the trustees to sell it. On 29 October 1888 the trustees auctioned the property and the reserve price of £80 was reached. The net proceeds were shared among circuit chapels.

The buyer of the chapel was William Pellier. His daughter, Elsie Mary, who later became Mrs Pitts, inherited the chapel on his death in 1893. The building was brought back into use as a chapel in 1897. Sunday 18 July saw the first of the fortnightly evangelistic services that were held at 3 pm on Sunday afternoon. An advertisement in the Nouvelle Chronique heralded the opening and the chapel was identified as 'proche le Moulin de Tesson' – near Tesson Mill. The chapel became known for a while as Rock Chapel.

From the summer of 1904 onwards Miss Pellier leased Rock Chapel to Philip Sorsoleil Langlois. Mr Langlois' connection with the chapel was to continue until his death in 1933, and was to be extended through his daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren – and their spouses - to the present day.

Brethren

Mr Langlois had, prior to 1904, married Ann Bichard. The couple, principally through their friendship with Mr and Mrs Monet, had close connections with the Open Brethren meeting at Lyric Hall in Cattle Street, St Helier and later in Belmont Hall, Belmont Road, St Helier. Mr Monet partnered with Mr Langlois in the commencement and maintenance of an evangelical work at the chapel.

Not surprisingly, therefore, those attending the chapel came under the ministry of the lay speakers connected with the pen Brethren. Mr Langlois was happy later to link Tesson Chapel, as it became known, to a Fellowship of Undenominational and Unattached Churches and Missions, which included Jersey churches in Halkett Place, St Helier, Maufant, St Saviour, Les Tours, St Clement, Sion, St John and Mitspa, Trinity. He preached himself, in both French and English, and was the superintendent of Tesson Chapel and of the meetings held there until the time of his death.

An afternoon Sunday school was started in the mid‑1920s and Hilda Langlois, Mr Langlois' elder daughter, and her husband George Querée, took on the work, with at one stage around 50 children attending.

In the 1930s services were sometimes held in the open‑air just outside the chapel.

Further sale

On 1O October 1925 a change of ownership of the chapel occurred when Mr Langlois purchased the freehold, together with the adjacent côtil, for £200. The freehold was part of his estate when he died. The partage which took place in 1933 between his two daughters, Hilda Ann Queree and Emily Rose Coutanche, resulted in the former inheriting the chapel.

Mrs Queree and her brother‑in‑law Philip Coutanche watched over the fellowship that continued to gather. Mr and Mrs Queree had no children, but the son and four daughters of Mr and Mrs Coutanche were all brought up at the chapel. They and their respective marriage partners comprised a substantial part of the congregation during the remainder of the 1930s.

Just before the Second World War Mrs Queree arranged and paid for a small extension to the chapel behind the west gable and to the north. The extension comprised a small room for Sunday school activities plus a toilet reached from outside the building.

Occupation

All through the German Occupation the work at the chapel continued. The shortage of heating fuel in the early 1940s gave rise to the placing of a wood-burning stove in the centre of the chapel, with long pipes reaching to the chimney in the north wall.

The main source of speakers during that time and the 1950s and 1960s remained the Belmont Hall Brethren Assembly. The 12 Coutanche grandchildren swelled the numbers attending (after the occupation years) participating with others in the Sunday school and as part of the fellowship.

Mr and Mrs Querée and Mr and Mrs Coutanche jointly maintained the fellowship at Tesson Chapel during that time. Jack Le Breton, who had married Phyllis, one of Mr and Mrs Coutanche's daughters, was an able preacher and teacher at the Chapel. It was not surprising, therefore, that on her death in 1970, Mrs Queree bequeathed to him the chapel and the car park which had been formed on her land in the meadow across the road.


Trustees

With a view to the long-term maintenance of a Christian testimony at Tesson Chapel, Mr Le Breton quickly set about placing both the properties in the hands of trustees to be held for the purposes of non-denominational meetings of evangelical Christians there.

In 1971 the realty of Tesson Chapel was conveyed into the hands of nine trustees – mostly family members. Philip Le Moignan, who had been connected with the chapel since 1908 and who had been an organist there for many decades, was also appointed, as was David Carnegie, who at the time was a senior lecturer at London Bible College.

The trustees - at present six in number - are the successor overseers of the work of the chapel, which functions as a non-denominational independent evangelical fellowship with a statement of its Christian doctrinal position set out in the trust deed under which the property was transferred to them.

During the years leading up to the end of the 20th century, the chapel welcomed many visiting preachers and pastors.

In 1986 the fellowship appointed as Pastor the Rev Clifford Measday, who, for over 21 years, had been the minister of the Jersey Baptist Church in Vauxhall Street, St Helier. In 1994 Clifford Measday’s professional skills as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects came to the fore once again in his ministry and the fellowship embarked on a major building project under his guidance. The extension built in the 1930s was demolished and significant excavation of the rock face at the rear of the chapel cleared the space needed for a new large meeting room, kitchen, toilet, hall and other facilities. The building contracts were followed by refurbishment of the chapel itself and other external works to re-establish walls and boundaries. The congregation met virtually all of the total cost, in excess of £65,000.

Many Christians during these years preached and had fellowship with the congregation at the chapel – and still do. They come from many different denominations – Baptist, Anglican, Methodist and others - reflecting the non-denominational Christian position of the chapel.

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