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24 September 2014

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You are in: Guernsey > Faith > St Peter's Church

St Peter's Church

St Peter's Church.

St Peter's Church

A brief history of the 14th Century Church which sits on the side of a valley.

The south aisle is the earliest part of the existing church, pre-dating the chancel by a few years, and was probably built around 1375. The rest of the church dates from the 14th and 15th centuries.

In the porch, beneath the tower, is a large slab which was probably the original altar stone. Traces of the consecration crosses can be seen and also of the depression cut for the monumental brass when it was put to use as a tombstone at the reformation.

Interesting facts

  • The church boasts an impressive tower containing 13 bells, ten of which form the largest peal in the Channel Islands.
  • The square-built tower is about 114 feet in height and there is a break in the masonry at about twenty feet where stones of a different size are then used.
  • Rich parishioners were permitted burial inside the church on payment of the standard fee of £1. However only one wealthy parishioner, Pierre Brehaut, was buried there in 1574.
  • There are two 16th Century copper boxes formerly used for alms collecting still inside the church.
  • The church registers date from 1628 but they are not regular until 1653, when the burial registers commenced.
  • The churchyard is very small for a parish the size of St Peter's.
  • There are only three memorials in the church, all on the North wall.
  • Its floor slopes 1 1/2 metres (nearly five feet) from east to west.
  • When refurbished in the Victorian era, around 1710, men and women sat separately and even entered through different doors.
  • There are several springs under the church which is why rising damp has always been a problem.
  • In 1929 electric lighting replaced the oil lamps. All but two of the fifty-seven lamps were sold to parishioners for five shillings each to help towards the cost.
Door set under the tower archway

Door set under the tower archway.

An unpopular entrance

The main entrance of any parish church faces the parish. However at St Peter's Church it could be on no other side but the north, usually the unpopular side because it is known as the Devil's side.

Today both present entrances, the main tower-door and the funeral door are on the north side.

Witches

The Reverend Mr Jean Perchard was one of the most influential figures of the Calvinist era in Guernsey.

His wife died in 1616 and an old woman of the parish, Collette Dumont, confessed under torture to have caused her death by casting a spell on her by means of black powers given to her by the Devil.

She also confessed to being responsible for the Reverend Dolbell's death in 1605.

On 4 July 1617 Collette Dumont was burnt at the stake along with her daughters, Marie and Isabel Bequet, also as witches.

Mr Perchard died in 1653 and lies buried under one of the old tomb-slabs bordering the path by the north wall of the church.

Mr de St Dalmas and the fire - 1791

Canon Dalmazzo (St Dalmas) undertook a perilous journey across the Alps to make the public declaration of his conversion to Protestantism in the 18th century.

The slope of St Peter's

The slope of St Peter's.

He was smuggled to England via Germany and Holland as it was believed he was in danger of his live if he stayed in Switzerland.

He lived in London for a few years where he married and had six children. Then, on the death of Reverend Reserson he became Rector of St Peter's Church.

However it was said that he still lived in fear. "He was so afraid for his life that even at night he often preferred to go to various friends and ask for their hospitality, rather than stay the night at the St Pierre du Bois rectory". (The Story of St Pierre du Bois Church Guernsey, by Marie de Garis, P.20)

And as it happened he was staying with friends when the rectory burnt down in mysterious circumstances in 1791.

Fortunately the church registers were kept in the church and so remained safe.

Mason's Marks

Marks that have not been erased by scraping or other reasons can be seen in various parts of the church.

The prominent one are on the east window ledge of the north aisle.

You can also see small mason's marks on the ledge of the second window along the south aisle. Less clear marks are on some of the pillars.

St Peter's Chacel

St Peter's Chancel.

In the grounds

To the east of the church lies part of the old archery ground of the parish, know as Les Buttes.

Close by, the War Memorial contains the names of the men of St Peter's who died in the two World Wars.

Some weathered graffitti is still faintly visible on the keystone of the first window in the nave south wall. They are thought to denote symbols that would scare evil spirits away from the building.

Outside the north church gates is a beautiful granite mounting block.

last updated: 02/05/2008 at 11:31
created: 27/05/2005

You are in: Guernsey > Faith > St Peter's Church

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