The Parish Church of S. Michel du Valle

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About Us     History     Excavations     Parish     Bells

 

 

 

 

St Michel du Valle, known locally simply as 'Vale Church' is an inclusive church of moderate Catholic tradition of the Church of England.  All are very welcome to worship with us. 

 

Vale Church has been witnessing to the Christian faith and serving the people of the Vale for 1000 years.  We recognise that everyone, irrespective of age, colour, gender, marital status, sexuality, nationality, disability or background, is loved and valued by God. 

 

You will receive a warm welcome whether you come as a visitor to our lovely church, to pray, or if you come as one looking for a church to make your spiritual home.  We are glad to have you with us.

 

VISION STATEMENT

 

It is our vision that, out of the resources of our Anglican faith and heritage as part of the Church of England:-

 

We will strive to present Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord through worship, praise, education, fellowship, pastoral care, evangelism and outreach.

 

MISSION STATEMENT

 

It is our mission that, as a community of God’s people, called to serve in the Parish of the Vale, we the people of S.Michel du Valle seek to glorify God in worship, to reach out that we may bring others into the transforming presence of Jesus Christ and to empower all who come within our fellowship to live as Christians in today’s world.

 

We will strive to be faithful and reverent in worship and the sacraments, dedicated to reading the Bible and prayer, always seeking to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

We will seek to make our worship lively, meaningful and joyful.

 

We will strive to be a caring congregation, seeking to meet, through acts of kindness and compassion, the needs of all our members.

 

We will work to ensure that young people have a special place in the life of the congregation and so bring children and teenagers to know and love Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

 

We will seek at all times, through open and honest communication, to resolve conflict and work for the peace and unity of our congregation.

 

We will endeavour at all times to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and be willing to take bold initiatives to promote church growth.

 

We will strive to be a loving, inclusive family of God’s people where newcomers will feel genuinely welcome, be quickly accepted into our fellowship, and be encouraged to share their God given gifts.

 

We will be committed to using a fitting proportion of our time, talents and money for the Church’s work in the world.

 

We will strive to live out our Gospel faith in our daily lives.

 

We will endeavour, in a world of much fear and uncertainty, to offer all people a place of rest, renewal and re-creation where they may hear the voice of him who said, “Come unto me all  who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

 

We will reach out into the community around us, seeking to serve people at the point of their deepest need, while treating all who come to our church looking for help with respect and compassion, regardless of economic status, racial background or religious affiliation.

 

 

 

 

The Ancient Priory & Parish Church of S. Michel du Valle

 

 

Like many Christian places of worship, this church has been built on a hill site associated with paganism, as indicated by the rocks of a partly demolished Neolithic tomb shrine, and the remains of a dolmen outside the west doors.  The exact date of the foundation of a church on this site is unknown, though it is not unreasonable to suppose that one was built here following the missionary endeavours of the Celtic Saint Sampson and his followers, who attempted to evangelize Guernsey in the middle of the sixth century.  An early chapel dedicated to his cousin, S. Magloire, was built in the parish, but all traces have disappeared.  Within the present church there is evidence of much older materials being used in the building.  For example, in the sedilia in the sanctuary, some Roman brickwork has been used, but this could have come from anywhere around, not necessarily a previous building on the same site.

 

Certainly, around 968AD monks from Mont S. Michel founded a Priory and were granted land to maintain an income.  The site, like that of Mont S. Michel, formed an island at high tide, until Napoleonic times the only inland water remaining being that of Vale Pond, which can be seen outside the west doors to the south.  The influence of the Priory is clearly discernible in the Chancel,  built between 1140 and 1160 where the south wall contains the arches of the monks' stalls.  Little remains of the Priory itself, though there is a piece of buttressed wall by the main road on the south side of the church, and indications of a stairway leading to a doorway into the Chancel on the south side.

 

 

 

Evidence of the gradual extension of the church may be found in the location of the three piscina (stone washbasins for the priest to cleanse the communion vessels and for the ceremonial washing of hands, situated at the south side of any altar). The location of a piscina behind the present organ console would indicate the former presence of an altar to the west of where the Chancel arch is; most probably the original High Altar, before the present Chancel was built. The present High Altar has an unusually large piscina, and in the Chapel of the Archangels, to the north of the Chancel, there is a piscina intricately carved in granite(c.1475-1500). The north aisle and Chapel were added in two stages in the 13th. century, as can be seen by the ceiling. Above the pulpit there is a carved dog's head, the mark of a stonemason. Considerable change was made to the appearance of the church in 1876 during the incumbency of the Rev’d. T. Bell, who was Rector for 50 years. The re‑ordering of the Chancel, re-seating of the nave, and the mosaic reredos of 1904 is evidence of his influence.

 The window in the Chapel of the Archangels contains its original fifteenth century tracery, and the glass is from the nineteenth century studio of William Morris: The main east window above the High Altar is a memorial to John Ingrouille who was imprisoned in Germany during World War II, and died in a Brussels hospital before he could reach home. The window at the south west end of the nave is the work of a local artist, Miss Mary Eilie de Putron, showing the risen Christ appearing to S. Peter. who is clad in the blue Guernsey and sailcloth trousers of a local fisherman. The window at the west of the Baptistry, depicting the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the world, was designed by our Licensed Reader, Mr. Peter Derham

There is a ring of six bells (tenor Bb 6cwt. 2 qtrs. 23 lbs.) which were cast in 1891 using in part the metal from three mediaeval bells. Visiting bell ringers are always welcome at our practice on Monday evenings.

 Recent improvements to the church fabric have included new choir stalls and thatching candlesticks, made by Guernsey Woodcarvers. A new first floor choir vestry has been built, occupying a space where, in the eighteenth century, there was a musicians' gallery. Underneath the stairs leading to the choir vestry is a simple kitchen facility. In memory of 50th. anniversary of the liberation a pair of outer doors in oak were provided for the porch (c.1485).

 

 

A board at the south west end of the church displaying an incomplete list of incumbents gives some hint of Guernsey church history. At the Reformation in 1585 a French Huguenot minister was appointed (even though the island was a possession of the English Crown  the problem was finding Anglican clergy who could speak French, for which purpose Elizabeth College was founded. For 80 years Calvinism officially held sway until 1662 when Anglicanism was established at the Restoration. Most of the services continued to be in French until after World War 1. Documents of the feudal court date from c 409, and the Church registers froth 1.580, recordings being mostly in French until 1939.

 None of the surviving memorials is of great antiquity, although a recess in one of the flagstones near the entrance to the Chapel of the Archangels shows where a fifteenth century brass has been removed., whilst nearby is an incised inscription dated 1685 in memory of the wife of a former Rector. In the churchyard at the foot of the hill in the north west corner a massive stone tells of a shipwreck at Portinfer and bears a carving of the wreck and a portion of the ship itself embedded in the stonework. On the north slope of the hill a much worn stone tells of the violent death of Olympe Mahy, who was stabbed through an open window by a passing soldier. A representation of this dramatic event may just be discerned at the head of the stone.

 

 

 

 

Excavations at Vale Priory - Philip de Jersey

 

 

The development of the Sunday School building for the Vale Church has provided a welcome opportunity to investigate the site of the Vale Priory, and this article summarizes the results of our archaeological excavations on the site.

Relatively little is known about the nature and extent of the Priory, although we do know that it was in existence by 1156. The ‘Treasure Seekers’ building is believed to represent one of the last upstanding elements of it, perhaps dating from the fourteenth century (John McCormack, Channel Island Churches (1986), p. 277). The upper part of the south gable wall of this building was demolished in 1928 and the arch on its western side – still visible today, and to be retained in the new building – was filled in, prior to its use as a packing shed for three greenhouses constructed in this field. The greenhouses were demolished by the late 1960s, along with a row of cottages which extended northwards from the packing shed up towards the east end of the church.

Our excavations focused on the area immediately west of the Treasure Seekers building, covering an area of about 20 square meters. At a later stage in the project we also recorded the results of the contractors’ excavations within the building itself. The results were somewhat unexpected, revealing a much longer history of occupation than we had anticipated. We identified five main phases of occupation, as follows:

Phase I (prehistoric)

Between 1.7m and 2.2m below the present ground surface, just to the west of the Treasure Seekers building, there is a layer of dark brown soil, sloping quite steeply downwards from north to south, which contains a small amount of prehistoric pottery, perhaps c.1000 BC. Set into this ground surface is a loose, linear assemblage of stones, in three courses, extending roughly north-west/south-east along a narrow ridge of the dark brown soil (Fig. 1). The purpose of this structure is unclear. Although the lower stones are quite large, the upper courses in particular are flimsy and it cannot have formed any sort of barrier, or provided any defence. It might perhaps have simply marked a boundary, or perhaps been part of an attempt at terracing or revetting the slope to aid agriculture.

Phase II (first millennium AD?)

At some point the prehistoric soil horizon and the associated stone structure were entirely covered by a deposit – a metre or more – of windblown sand. The sand is very fine and appears to be entirely devoid of finds, which may suggest that this episode took place over a relatively short period. This event is difficult to date precisely, but evidence from other sites and documentary records suggest that it may have occurred between c.1000 & 1200 AD.

Phase III (12th/13th centuries AD?)

Above the fine, clean wind-blown sand is another sandy horizon with a ‘dirtier’ appearance, indicating the presence of human occupation. As well as charcoal flecks, numerous fragments of animal bone, and small pieces of slate, there is a fairly substantial quantity of medieval pottery. The great majority of these sherds are of ‘Normandy Gritty Ware’, the standard medieval pottery type found on Guernsey in the 12th and 13th centuries AD. There are a few finer sherds, probably imported from Normandy or elsewhere in north-west France, usually in a whiter fabric & with a green glaze. Phase IV (14th century AD?)

The sandy horizon of Phase III is sealed in several areas by a layer of paving, formed predominantly of a single course of stones. The paving has been very carefully constructed: smaller stones are packed tightly into the gaps between the larger pieces, which seem to be a mixture of quarried stone with sea-worn beach stones.

The paving butts up against the lowest courses of the wall with the arch (Fig. 2), which suggests that it is broadly contemporary with this phase of the building. It also continues under the wall which now forms the boundary with the road. Somewhat to our surprise, however, it does not continue under the arch itself, although it does reappear within the walls of the Treasure Seekers building (Fig. 3). It is not clear why there is a gap below the arch. It is possible that there were some particularly large, flat threshold stones here, which were re-used elsewhere after the Priory fell into disuse.

Phase V (post-medieval – present day)

There is a documentary reference that the Priory was at least partly ruinous by 1406, and several areas of the paving must have been removed in the fifteenth century or later; the stone would have provided a convenient source of building material for the cottages, or perhaps for other nearby structures. Some time after the removal of the sections of paving – but before the development of the greenhouses in the early twentieth century – a considerable quantity of rubble, mortar and demolition material was tipped across the eastern part of the site, including the area within the Treasure Seekers building. The source of this rubble is uncertain but it may reflect the demolition of a part of the cottages in this area, perhaps in the nineteenth century.

Some small degree of raising and levelling of the site probably took place after 1928, associated with the construction of the greenhouses. Their demolition in the late 1960s has left relatively little archaeological trace in the area of the excavation, other than some glass. Otherwise the uppermost levels of the soil contain a typical mix of nineteenth and twentieth century pottery; the presence of the Church fête on the site no doubt continues to add to this mix on an annual basis!

Summary

The Vale Priory excavation has revealed an intriguing sequence of occupation covering – admittedly with significant gaps – some three thousand years. The prehistoric structure, even if we cannot be sure of its purpose, was an unexpected discovery. The identification of the wind-blown sand horizon is potentially important for many other sites on the island, particularly as the layer immediately above it will be accurately dated with the help of the pottery it contains. Last but by not least, the discovery of the stone paving has added an unexpected element to our knowledge of the Priory site.

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the Rev’d Kevin Northover, the architects, Lovell Ozanne, and the contractors, Dave Goddard and Son, for facilitating the archaeological investigation of the Vale Priory site.

 

Philip de Jersey

Description: http://www.cwgsy.net/community%2Fvalechurch/history_page_4_files/image006.gif

 

Fig. 1. The prehistoric structure (in the base of the trench), viewed from the west. In the foreground is the thick layer of windblown sand, also seen in the section on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fig. 2. Paving outside the west wall of the Treasure Seekers building.

 

 

 

 

 

Description: http://www.cwgsy.net/community%2Fvalechurch/history_page_4_files/image008.gif

 

Fig. 3. Paving inside the

Treasure Seekers building

 

 

 

 

The Parish Church of S. Michel du Valle

 

 

The northern part of the parish formed an island at high tide, until the channel was reclaimed in Napoleonic times - the only part remaining being the Vale Pond, which can be seen to the south of the Church. The bay of Grande Havre still splits the parish into two parts. Like many Christian places of worship, this church has been built on a hill site associated with paganism, and like many churches on hills, it is dedicated to St Michael. The exact date of the foundation of this church is unknown, though it is not unreasonable to suppose that one was built here following the missionary endeavours of the Celtic Saint Sampson and his followers who attempted to evangelise Guernsey in the middle of the sixth century. An early chapel dedicated to his cousin, St Magloire, was built elsewhere in the parish, but all traces of it have disappeared. Within the present church there is evidence of much older materials being used in the building, for example in the South wall of the Chancel where some Roman bricks have been reused, but these could have come from anywhere around, not necessarily a previous building on this site. 

 

Certainly, around 968AD, monks from Mont S.Michel founded a Priory and were granted land to maintain an income. The priory buildings were in what is now the Rectory garden to the South of the Church. Little remains of the Priory itself, apart from a piece of buttressed wall by the main road, and indications that a stairway may have led to a doorway into the chancel on the south side.

 

The influence of the Priory can be clearly seen in the chancel, where the Chancel arch, the balloon vault and the arches of the monks' stalls were inserted into an earlier building. Evidence of the gradual extension of the church may be found in the location of three piscinae, (stone washbasins for the priest to cleanse the communion vessels and for the ceremonial washing of hands, situated at the south side of an altar). The location of a piscina west of the chancel arch would indicate the presence of a side altar here before the present wider arch was inserted. By the High Altar is an unusually large piscina, and in the chapel of the Archangels to the north of the chancel, there is a piscina intricately carved in granite (c. 1475-1500). In the 13th century the north aisle and chapel were added in two stages, and the arches of the arcade were pierced through the earlier north wall of the nave and chancel. In the arch above the pulpit there is carved a dog's head, the mark of a stonemason.  

 

Considerable change was made to the appearance of the church after 1876, during the incumbency of the Rev'd Thomas Bell, who was Rector for over 50 years. The re-ordering of the chancel and the baptistry, re-seating of the nave, some of the stained glass windows, the bells, the lectern, the organ, and the mosaic reredos of 1904 are evidence of his influence. 

The windows have mostly been given in memory of parishioners. In the North aisle are Mary and the infant Jesus; Christ, the Light of the World; and Abraham and Isaac. The Archangels Raphael, Michael, and Gabriel are in the East window of the Chapel of the Archangels, here the tracery is of the fifteenth century, but the glass is from the nineteenth century studio of William Morris. The main East Window above the High Altar is a memorial to John Ingrouille who was imprisoned in Germany during the Second World War, but died in a Brussels hospital before he could reach home. In the South side of the nave are the Women at the Sepulchre; The Good Shepherd; and the Risen Christ appearing to S. Peter, who is wearing the outfit of a local fisherman, and the hills of Galilee bear a striking resemblance to Herm and Jethou. This window is the work of a local artist, Miss Mary Eilie de Putron.

 

The window in the west wall of the Baptistry, depicting the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the world, was designed by Peter Derham, a lay reader at the Church. 

 

The tower contains a ring of six bells, tenor 6½ cwt, which were cast in 1891 using the metal of three mediæval bells from the Exeter foundry. The ringers usually practice on Monday evening. There is also a small chiming bell, dated 1778, used for weekday services. The Church clock was installed in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. 

 

Recent alterations and additions to the church fabric include a first-floor vestry occupying a space where, in the eighteenth century, there was musicians gallery. A painting by Penny Warden of St Michael, our patron saint, is high up on the East wall of this vestry. New oak and glass inner doors, in memory of the Revd Peter Simpson, and outer doors to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Island from German Occupation have been installed in the porch. The Arms of the Queen (patron of the parish) over the North door mark her Golden Jubilee.

 

None of the memorials is of great antiquity, but a flagstone near the entrance to the vestry has the impression of a fifteenth century brass, and next to it is a memorial slab, dated 1685, to the wife of Elie de Hayes, the first Anglican Rector of the parish. 

 

A board at the west end of the Nave lists the known incumbents. Originally the parish was supplied with priests from Mont St Michel. After the reformation there was a problem finding Anglican clergy who could speak French, the language of the island, and for 80 years the island became Calvinist, until the Anglican church was established after the Restoration of the Monarchy. For many years the parish shared a Rector with St Sampson's. Most of the services continued to be in French until after the First World War. Documents of the Feudal Court exist from 1409, and the church registers from 1580. 

 

Outside the Church the natural rocks outside the west doors have been supposed to be a partly demolished Neolithic tomb shrine, and the remains of a dolmen. At the base of the hill below the rock a memorial tells of the wreck of the ship “Sea Witch”, it has a portion of the ship inserted in the stonework. The upright stone by the boiler house is a Christianised menhir, later used as a gravestone. On the Northern slope of the hill a stone tells of the death of Olympe Mahy, stabbed to death through an open window by a soldier. A representation of the incident could be discerned at the head of the stone, but it is now too eroded to make out the details.

 

On the south side of the hill the Rectory grounds occupy the site of the priory. Little remains of the Priory itself, apart from the piece of buttressed wall by the main road, which may have been part of the gatehouse. In 2009 this was incorporated into the Billie and Leslie Norman Rooms which are used for the Sunday School and as church meeting rooms. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bells

 

 

 

 

 

The Vale church has a ring of six bells, the largest now weighs 6cwt 2 qr and 23lb, is 34 inches in diameter, and has the note Bb. They all have the inscription “RECAST BY JOHN WARNER & SONS LONDON 1891”.

 

The bells were recast from three pre-reformation Exeter foundry bells at the expense of the then Rector, Dean Bell, in memory of his son who had died the previous year in Exeter where he was a surgeon. A ringing chamber was arranged in the space below the bells, accessed by a ladder up the outside of the church.

 

The bells are hung in a cast-iron frame in the base of the spire. In 1970 they were retuned and rehung on ball-bearings with new fittings. Seven years later the ringing chamber was abandoned and the ringers were moved to the ground floor around the font.

 

In 1999 the bells were again removed from the frame while it was painted and support provided to the foundation beams, which were being affected by beetle and rot.

 

In 200l a 1¼ cwt chiming bell, cast at Whitechapel in 1778, was installed for use when the other bells were not rung and as a sanctus bell.

 

The clock with Westminster chimes was installed in 1898 as a memorial of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It was electrified in 1970.

 

J D 9/11/09

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 and Tenor

 

The 5 and the Tenor

 

 

 

Clock

 

The Clock