La Neuve Route, St Brelade, Jersey, Channel Islands
Although not adventurous or ground-breaking in its design or layout, this is a solid, pleasingly rugged and well-crafted granite church in thirteenth century Gothic style. Built in 1947, it might be regarded as a symbol of the Island’s post-war liberation (incorporating in its design a subtle snub to the occupiers). The church has high townscape value.
The church was built to meet the needs of the people of St Aubin and Beaumont. In 1900 a large house called Jubilee Hall was rented, and a school created on the ground floor with a chapel above. The altar from the first St Thomas’ church in New Street, which had been moved to the new church in Val Plaisant, was at this time brought to the new chapel in St Aubin. This arrangement sufficed while funds were raised for a new and more worthy church. A site was eventually obtained, and Bishop Cotter blessed the foundation stone on 1 November 1937. Work was delayed by the intervention of war, and the church was completed in 1947, when it was opened on 8 June. The architects were Julien Barbier of Paris and C.W.B. Bolton of Jersey. Covering the opening, the Jersey Morning News wrote on 9 June: ‘It is a credit to all concerned and a showpiece of architecture of which the Roman Catholic community and the Island as a whole can feel proud’. Not noticed at the time was the granite shape of an anchor, subtly incorporated into the masonry above the door by a mason said to be wanting to celebrate the allied scuttling of the German warship, the Admiral Graf Spee, at the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939.
The church is in thirteenth-century Gothic style, and is built of regularly coursed granite blocks under a clay tile roof. Its plan is a Greek cross inscribed by a square.
The screen west front with its bellcote is out of all proportion to the remainder of the church, and clearly designed to make the building a landmark in the sweeping views across the bay. In this it succeeds. Central entrance with paired doors and incised carving in the tympanum. Small lancet windows. The bell-cote holds three bells and is topped by a gable flanked by two broad finials. Wide stepped buttresses flank the tower, incorporating on the south side a staircase to basement and gallery levels. Behind this screen front, the church is basically square in plan, the steep tiled roof interrupted by the gabled northern and southern arms of the Greek cross which is set within this square. Triple lancet windows to these gables, simply chamfered. The eastern arm, the sanctuary, is canted and built into the slope behind. Sacristy and presbytery extend to the north side from the sanctuary area.
The walls of the interior of the church are granite-faced. The main seating space of the nave occupies the central square and the northern and southern arms of the Greek cross; the eastern arm is occupied by the sanctuary and the western one by a narthex and gallery. The corners are separated from the main space by plain, deep chamfered arches; in the corners are the main entrance (SW) with a granite stoup recessed in the wall, the confessionals (NW), Lady altar (SE) and Holy Family altar (NE). A flower room gives off the north side of the sanctuary. Oak transverse arches and a quadripartite oak rib vault at the crossing, springing from moulded capitals built into the corner piers. Canted ceiling with a grid of white-painted square panels. The windows have clear diamond panes; there is no stained glass.
The church is simply and well furnished, with highly coloured and elaborate finishes confined to the altars. The gallery at the west end holds an organ (not inspected) and is of oak construction; it has tripartite Gothic arcaded supports with trefoil arcading to the gallery front. Square oak benches to the nave. Confessionals in the northwest corner. The sanctuary has a woodblock floor. White marble high altar incorporating Pieta mosaic, timber reredos incorporating symbols of the Passion, with cornice and segmental pediment and crucifix framing tabernacle; statue of the Sacred Heart in niche over. In front of this, an oak forward altar. Altar of white marble with blue inset panels to south, Holy Family altar of multicoloured marbles to north.
The church is listed Grade 3 by the States of Jersey. Further details at: https://www.gov.je/citizen/Planning/Pages/HistoricEnvironmentDetail.aspx?s=3&r=BR0342
Architect: Julien Barbier and C.W.B. Bolton
Original Date: 1947
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Other