Only a heartbeat ago I wash pushing my little one around this field, looking at many rabbits in cages in a tent, and cooing at the big diggers! This year we ran riot around the show and loved every minute of it. I love that we can have afternoons out like this in Guernsey. Can’t remember what this show was called but it happens near a large dolmen in St Peter’s. There are so many dolmen dotted around the island it’s easy to forget that there are so many small pockets of interest to be found.
For 63 years (1611 – 1674) Sark’s remarkable minister Elie Brevint kept his flock Presbyterian – through the Civil War and Commonwealth, long past the restoration of the King. In 1675 Sark was given a new constitution and came further into the Anglican fold. To mark the new era, Seigneur de Carteret, newly restored to his Fief by Parliament and the King, donated a chalice and plate for Holy Communion. However, Sark continued to prefer its old style of worship. Under the Le Pelley Seigneurs (1730 – 1852) the ministers continued to be French or Swiss Calvinists. They were appointed by the Seigneur as his chaplains and largely at his expense. (In fact, it was not until 1934 that Sark became a vicariate.) By the time of the French Revolution, church attendance had lapsed and the tavern seems to have stayed open most of the Sabbath. Working people in Sark were looking to the Methodists for moral leadership and in 1796 a Methodist Chapel was built at La Ville Roussel. The plan of a Sark Parish Church was conceived as a means of re-establishing the authority of Anglicanism in Sark.
History of the Church building
By midsummer 1821 a plain rectangular building was complete – this is the present nave, measuring 68ft by 35ft, and 20ft high at the eaves. The east wall, which was demolished in 1877 to build the chancel, had two arched windows and a ‘round’ above, matching the west end. Originally the square bell tower was quite small. Foundations for the new church were dug by Sark workmen and the walls were built 2ft 6ins thick. Cartloads of schistic and slate stone were hauled up from Port du Moulin and granite was quarried from L’Eperquerie. Outside, the dark granite quoins that mark each 12-inch course of stonework, were brought from a quarry at L’Ancresse in Guernsey.
The floor is of Purbeck flagstones shipped from Swanage. Carpentry work – framing the fir roof beams and rafters, fixing laths to bear glazed roof tiles and to support the ceiling of hair and lime plaster – was planned by Jean Tardif of Jersey and carried out by Guernsey carpenters. On 7th August 1821 the Bishop of Winchester licensed ‘the new erected chapel’ according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, but it wasn’t until 1829 that he finally crossed the sea to consecrate ‘Saint Peter’s’. Both Le Pelley Seigneurs who were its patrons and worked so hard to bring it into existence were named Peter.
The interior of the original Church as it used to be
Inside the original church, the east end was dominated by the three-tiered pulpit. This was octagonal and centrally placed between the two arched windows. It stood on a platform six feet above the pavement and was reached by a staircase rising from the minister’s pew in the southeast corner (where the organ now is). Below the pulpit, three feet above the pavement were square stalls with desks for the clerk (‘Greffe’) and the reader (‘Lecteur’) who made public proclamations. To the left, on a six-inch wooden stage, a plain communion table was enclosed by a wooden rail 6ft 6ins by 5ft.
Victorian Alterations: Chancel and Tower
Much of the Victorian look of the church is due to Seigneur William T Collings, whose mother bought the Fief of Sark in 1852. He was a clergyman with a keen interest in contemporary Gothic architecture. In 1877, Collings designed and paid £200 for extending the east end, to form a chancel with choir, sanctuary and altar steps, and to provide a vestry. The style and building materials are eclectic; quoins, arch stones and sills are in the ‘grey and red’ Guernsey granite, so that they match the extensions which Collings had earlier made at Le Seigneurie. Inside the chancel, notice the decorative pebble panels, the use of Guernsey brick for ‘romanesque’ window arches, the stained glass and the glazed medieval-style floor tiles. The oval ‘brooch stone’ between two arches in the wall south of the altar is said to have been placed there by Seigneur W.T. Collings in memory of his daughter Wilhelmine, who died aged 8. The original high-backed public benches were replaced and new stalls were added for a choir. A harmonium was brought in beside the minister’s pew.
The Pew Scheme
The cost of building the church came to about £1,000. The plot was given by Seigneur Peter le Pelley from his manor lands. Part of the cost was borne by the Society for Promoting the Enlargement and Building of Churches and Chapels. Part came from the forty tenants who subscribed for closed family pews, to be attached for ever to their tenements. Pew rents secured nearly £300 before building started and ensured a perpetual income (now minuscule) for maintenance. The Society insisted that at least half the total of 333 seats be ‘open’ to the public. Unfortunately the Seigneur died before his plan materialised, and it was his son Peter le Pelley III who laid the foundation stone in Spring 1820.
The pew arrangement for St Peters Church, Sark.
St Peters Church Furnishings
The present pulpit was installed in 1883 in memory of the Reverend J.L.V. Cachemaille (minister 1835-77) and the brass eagle lectern in 1896 for his successor Charles Vermeil. Stained glass windows in the nave were made in London by Moore & Son in 1926, gift of various benefactors. Most celebrated is that of St. Magloire, who is said to have brought Christianity to Sark in 565 A.D. and to have founded a monastery (at La Moinerie). In recent years, members of the congregation have contributed by building choir stalls and working tapestried cushions and kneelers.
St Peters Church Tapestries
In 1977 the Wardens of St. Peters church suggested that a Ladies Committee be formed to organise the re-covering of the pew seats and kneelers in the church. With kind permission of the Seigneur and Mrs Beaumont, the cushions of the choir stalls were begun, incorporating a pattern traced from the floor tiles of the chancel. This became known as the ‘Seigneur’s Tile Pattern’ and may not be used by other churches without permission. Members of the congregation worked it in shades of russet and cream on a dark blue background.
In 1978 the Ladies Committee asked the owners of the pews whether they would finance the cost of materials to re-cover their pew seats and kneelers, and the Committee volunteered to do the work. There was an immediate response and the owners were given a choice of designs, incorporating motifs from Tenement crests and coats of arms, with the name of the Tenement worked into the seats. People from all over the Island came forward to do the work, nearly a fifth of the population being involved. A weekly meeting was set up to give out wools and help beginners with the designs. Ladies made up the majority of the workers, but some men joined in, and classes were also held to teach the schoolchildren tapestry. Visitors hearing of the project also offered to take work home, returning it the following year when they visited the island again.
Once the tapestries for the chancel seats and the main body of the church were completed, the public seating at the rear of the church was begun and designs were evolved using the remains of the wool. Funds were raised to purchase wool for the background and foam rubber and canvas for the cushions. During this time a new Priest in Charge was appointed, who suggested that kneelers be provided for all the pews, and 84 kneelers were worked in tapestry and sold to people who wished to commemorate a person or occasion.
On the completion of this work, the Committee became the Ladies Guild of St. Peters church which, in addition to repair and maintenance of the tapestries, made articles of knitting, sewing, tapestry, embroidery, soft toys and Christmas cards for orders or sale at the Church Fete in the summer.
History about the bell of St Peters Church, Sark
The first tower housed the ‘island bell’. This ancient bell was given to the settlers in 1580 by Philippe de Carteret, future Seigneur. It used to hang from a wooden belfry on a mound in the Clos de la Tour de la Cloche, just to the east of the church site, and was rung to raise the alarm in cases of fire or shipwreck. By 1883 the raising of the tower was complete, again using much dark grey Guernsey granite, and the belfry strengthened. A new deep-toned bell was cast from ‘two old six-pounders’, brass cannon which had provided Sark’s defence since Elizabethan times. The old ‘island bell’ was mounted on the schoolhouse, where it still is.
Article by Mr David Godwin on the history of the bell in St Peter’s Church
Being stuck on a rock has its pitfalls, like any remote island exposed to the weather elements 24/7 365 days of the year. This photo was made by the Guernsey Photographic Society in 1910 (they are in the photo, standing like they are in a police line up having been caught shoplifting from Boots). This is Pleinmont Guardhouse on the Torteval Cliffs and also know as the haunted house (from Toilers of the Sea, by Victor Hugo). (photo credit: Brian Cawthorne, Guernsey Days Gone By, facebook group). If I could turn back time I would go here, just for the day, and go around as part of this gang (in fancy dress to elude detection obvs).
We had a lovely time at the Royal Guernsey Agricultural and Horticultural Show. Lucky that my little one is growing up on Guernsey milk! My toddler whooped at al the tractors, and being able to be so close to the herds that were enjoying some shade in the trees. By law you can only buy Guernsey Dairy Milk on the island, it’s a blunt monopoly to ensure that the Guernsey Dairy herds are saved. The colour of the butter is testament to the luscious green grass and sunshine they get for as much of the year as they can.
Aunty Rona is ripping through the hearts and minds of islanders once again, without remorse, like bloney wildfire! Travel anywhere is fast becoming like trying to return an unwanted Christmess present to Mordor. WE ARE DOUBLE JABBED WITH THE JIZZ OF SCIENCE FFSSAKES! Uugh. There is nothing in the tank left for me to be able to isolate with a toddler for 14 days, but we will travel back to the UK in August and run the small(ish) risk of contamination and infection with the ‘rona. Rona, oh she real baaad! For f*ckssakes!! When will this b*llsh*t end!
My family travelled over to Guernsey and stayed in the same apartment they had booked 2 years ago… 2 years the cost of the apartment was around £750 for the week… this time around the cost of the apartment was £1800!!!!! We overheard the proprietors say how strong the isolation business has been too. That gives me goosebumps.
The Guernsey Government have announced new hoops of fire to jump through to get the island. It all pulls hard and heavy on the heartstrings. Digging deep emotionally and financially seems to be never ending. It also makes any trip to Alderney that much harder. The Channel Islands are not the easiest of destinations to reach in ordinary times!!! Whaaaat are we doing to each other.
Sadly our stay did not cross paths with the opening times for the Alderney Railway! It is the only working railway in the Channel Islands. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alderney_Railway. In Guernsey you can track and trace the remnants and imprints of a Germain railway that ran along the west coast during the occupation. https://www.facebook.com/timsguidedwalks/ this chap is a brilliant source of information and will take you on a guided tour if you leave the shire and make it to the island without having to destroy Isengrad.
St Anne’s Church
The church of St Anne, consecrated in 1850 and built to the design of Mr George Gilbert Scott, is acknowledged to be one of the finest Victorian buildings in the Channel Islands. Scott was one of the most prolific architects of the 19th century and apart from a considerable amount of restoration work on ecclesiastical buildings, including Westminster Abbey, he was also responsible for the Albert Memorial in London (recently restored), the Foreign Office and the St Pancras Station Hotel.
The church is often referred to as ‘the cathedral church of the Channel Islands’ because of its size but the original intention was that it should serve not only as a parish church for the island but also as the garrison church for the military stationed here in the mid 19th century; a time when the island was being heavily fortified against any potential threat of invasion by France, only a few miles away.
The church is in the centre of Alderney. It seeks to work with the other Christian churches in Alderney to serve the resident population and Alderney’s many visitors in the name of Jesus.
The greatest spectacle along the coast is the tide itself. Alderney is the Channel Island nearer to the French coast, and surrounded by two strong currents: the Swinge and the Alderney Race. Located at the eastern end, Mannez Lighthouse has watched over sailors trying to challenge the treacherous and tumultuous waters of Alderney since 1912. We watched the Alderney Race from a vantage point overlooking the Channel, and it was fierce.
I had never fully appreciated or realised how small Alderney island truly is. Guernsey, by comparison to the UK, is hobbit sized. However, in Guernsey, you can go for years and years without bumping into the same person twice. In Alderney, you will see everybody that you know before you can squeeze the juice out of a breakfast orange. And now, as I write this, the island is now in the grip of its own private covid hell. There has been a sudden (and expected) outbreak, with the first case confirmed. I would lose my sh*t if I had to self isolate in this stinking hot heat! F*ck you covid and all of the misery that you bring. Although Alderney may be small, it is fierce, as you can tell by the hurdy swirling eddies and whorls that guard it. (The Swinge’ sounds like one of my husband’s ex-girlfriends!)
‘Aahaaa!’ is one of my toddler’s favourite words at the moment. They push you to the edge and then melt your heart in one swift, swooshy moosh of a moment. Last night, after we called bedtime after the third wobbly outburst of mixed emotions, my toddler got up in my grill and with perfect pointing said, ‘eyes, nose, mouth!’ Just like that! Aahhaaa!! And, I melted. What a cutie, I think we will keep him.
Everybody’s free to attend The Nunnery Roman Fort, in Alderney. It was previously overgrown, hidden and lost beyond recognition. In 2009/10 the site revealed itself to a team of archaeologists to be one of the best-preserved Roman military structures in the world! The nunnery itself is inhabited by wildlife lovers and travellers. Seemingly, Alderney expanded and contracted, throughout the passage of time, through fear itself. Fear permeates through the mortar lines of every structure that you can throw a shoe at on the island. Fear may be all that held the island together for many hundreds or thousands of years? The jagged edges and hilly lookouts of the island each bear the weight of the fear of marauding conquerors, invaders, attackers and enemies to keep out.
“Fear is the path to the dark side” (Yoda)
The darkest side of Alderney may also be truly hidden. Under the bat light beam of continual cultural interrogation of our past lives with increased empathy, the truth may yet set the island free? Occupation history is ongoing, and we know that Dr Gilly Carr is a prominent historian in this field, passionate about the Channel Islands and all of her deepest, darkest secrets. There is also in play a very real and living resistance to the pursuit of increased knowledge and understanding of the Channel Islands era of Nazi Occupation. A sitting deputy for the States of Guernsey was caught posting xenophobic comments under a pseudonym on twitter. Puerile and hostile insults had been aimed at Dr Carr. The undercurrents of fear run deep through the islands of the Bailiwick.
There once was a small cinema on a small island. Inside there were enough sofas if you were all small, pocket sized travellers of the silver screen. The cinema is located on ‘Victoria Street’ which is actually ‘town.’ The actual ‘high street’ is not the centre, and not to be confused with ‘town.’ If you stand still, in the centre of the small island of Alderney, for long enough, local people will tell you many wonderful stories about the place. We loved the warm and fuzzy local banter, if they could just bottle it all up, for a souvenir, I think that would be amazing. It would be on par with water from the red spring, at the Chalice Well, Glastonbury. Or a miniature bottle of Lourdes.
Alderney is a hidden gem in the Bailiwick, a tiny island that is a short hop and skip on a boat or plane away from Guernsey. Unless of course…. fog happens! We have been waiting, with a toddler, for getting on SIX HOURS in an airport that is the size of a biscuit tin. *edit* We got home safely, after a long haul wait in the Alderney airport departure lounge.
What a beautiful Sunday, to be in Guernsey, with little else to do!!!
Amazing to see so many tourists in the area too – we care a lot. Sad to see that some business owners do not want to see people who have recently landed causing a scene. Thinly veiled xenophobia? Or just fear mongering. The efficacy of the vaccines are being proven, praise be! Hopefully Guernsey won’t turn into Attwood’s imagined Gilead, too soon eh.
The stairs are really great for my toddler to practise on (we did many trips up and down each set of steps at Rousse tower) and we practised our counting out loud as we did it! Bonus.
We are off to Alderney tomorrow for a holiday… watch this space for incoming notes from an even smaller and more isolated island!! Ahoy Alderney!