Burnt Lane, St Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands
Post-War church with a distinctive roofline, tower and spire and some good furnishings, occupying a prominent and historic site of Catholic worship in St Peter Port’s central conservation area.
The first church on Burnt Lane, dedicated to St Mary, was opened for worship on 3 September 1829. The chapel was closed in 1851 following the building of St Joseph and St Mary’s Church on nearby La Couperderie. St Joseph’s was then the only Catholic church on Guernsey.
In 1858 a school was opened in St Mary’s former presbytery, on Burnt Lane. The Diocese of Portsmouth Database (1989) suggests that this was because priests from Rennes who had come to the Island had been so encouraged in their work that they decided to remain on Guernsey and devote themselves to teaching and scholarship. In 1860 the French priests reopened the former St Mary’s Chapel on Burnt Lane as a chapel-of-ease to St Joseph’s, apparently because of the lack of a church for French-speaking Catholics. It was renamed the church of the Immaculate Conception.
In 1864 the French priests left Guernsey, having failed in their efforts to open a middle-class school. However, the island still needed a French-speaking priest at Burnt Lane, and Fr Auguste Boone, a Belgian, was appointed curate to St Joseph’s. The Burnt Lane chapel was renamed the Chapel of Our Lady Immaculate. In 1868 Fr Boone was appointed priest to the French congregation, allowing the Burnt Lane chapel to become independent of St Joseph’s. Associated schools were set up shortly afterwards; the teachers were nuns from Parame in France.
In 1900 the church was renamed Our Lady of the Rosary. In 1960 Fr Lecluze, from the diocese of Coutances, took over as parish priest. When he arrived the 130-year-old church was apparently in a poor state, with plaster sagging below the gallery floor and dry rot in the roof timbers. Although restoration was considered, the foundations were deemed insufficient to support the new roof. The old church was part-demolished in 1961: two walls, including the one shared with the presbytery, were kept. The new church, built to plans by Alain Seguin of Brive in France and built by Guernsey builder M.G. Flouquet, was opened for Christmas 1962. The new church had seating for 180, and cost £14,000. The altar was relocated in 1966 and the church was consecrated on 4 July 1968.
The bell tower, which is close to the church but not attached, dates from August 1980 and was designed by the architectural practice of Soitoux and Torode, Guernsey. It cost £56,000.
The complex includes the church, its bell tower; a large, four-storey, early-nineteenth century (or possibly earlier) presbytery; a nineteenth century secondary school; a large nineteenth century former convent now used to house a combination of classrooms and offices, and a large house now converted into flats for the elderly. There are also gardens set into the hillside behind the complex.
Brett (1975) calls this church ‘a contemporary building of the highest quality’. The north wall is shared with the nineteenth century presbytery. All but the gable end of the east wall is set into the hillside. Access to the church is via a door in the west end of the north wall. The south and west walls therefore provide the only source of natural light to the interior of the church, via a large, arched, stained glass window in the west gable wall and smaller stained glass windows in the south wall. Like the 1829 church, the roof of the current church is shaped like an upturned boat. It is covered with slate. The visible exterior of the east gable wall is faced in stone. Other exterior walls are rendered and painted white.
The interior is dark because of the lack of windows in two walls. Every interior wall is rendered and painted white, apart from the east wall which is faced in brick. The organ is in the wood-panelled west gallery, on the north side. At the east end, behind the altar, a painted triptych depicting the Annunciation, Visitation and Crucifixion fixed to what appears to be a mast. This was designed by Philippe Lejeune, who also designed the stained glass windows and the framed Stations of the Cross. The nautical theme continues with a ship’s wheel attached to the front of the wood-panelled pulpit. A set of wooden and bronze statues were designed and completed by J. Cattant. The floor is wooden parquet; the timber pews appear original. A door at the east end of the north wall leads to the sacristy, within the presbytery.
The modern bell tower is a landmark: its steel frame is part-clad in green slate and topped with a thin copper spire. The presbytery is a fine Georgian house with a long, narrow plan and a rendered and painted exterior. Its original windows have been replaced with a mixture of PVC-u and aluminium. The school is clad in dark stone with rendered quoins and window surrounds, and a porch with a small bell tower. Its windows have also been replaced with uPVC. The former convent is part-rendered, with uPVC windows.
Architect: Alain Seguin
Original Date: 1962
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed