Starting at St Mary’s Country Inn, cross the road to the parish church
St Mary is one of the oldest of the parish churches with the earliest known recorded reference being in 1042 when the Duke of Normandy, later William the Conqueror gave the Abbey of Cerisy in Normandy two ‘free’ churches in Jersey – St Martin and St Mary. The full name of the church was St Mary of the Burnt Monastery, suggesting that it was built on or near the site of a primitive monastery, which was destroyed by fire.
To the right of the main entrance (close to the ground next to the bench) there is an unusual carved stone that is a good example of a recycled early grave slab being used in the construction of the church. Originally, it was probably a priest’s tombstone. The stone is lying on its side and the design features a chalice motif.
On Christmas Eve, the bells of St Mary can often be heard ringing rather erratically as locals enjoy the tradition of ringing the church bells to herald in the festive period. The tradition dates back to the 15th century and relates to the three western parishes of St Ouen, St Peter and St Mary. The continuous bell ringing has caused tension over the centuries because it drowned out the rector’s voice during the Christmas services, so now there is an agreement that the ringing is paused during services (and also overnight so as not to disturb the neighbours!).
Opposite the church, stands the Rectory.
The present Rectory was built by the Rev Philippe Guille in the mid-19th century. The site of the original rectory is uncertain but may be the property now known as Rectory Cottage.
Walk through the Rectory gates and up the right-hand side of the drive. Turn right at the metal handrail and follow the footpath through the car park towards the village school.
St Mary’s School
In 1899 it was ruled that every parish should have an elementary school and the Constable laid the foundation stone of St Mary’s school in 1901. Whilst the new law made elementary education compulsory, there were some exemptions to school attendance including allowing children aged between 8 and 12 to take part in agricultural work for periods of up to six weeks. The farming families of St Mary would have needed their children’s help at harvest time.
Take the road to the left of the school and carry on past the Parish Hall.
Continue along this road and pause outside the house on the right-hand side called Northwood.
Northwood is a fine example of a mid-19th century Jersey farmhouse with associated outbuildings including barns and pigsties. Traditional farmsteads like this make an important contribution to the rural character of the Island.
Near the end of the road a stream meets the road on the right-hand side.
The stream has been adapted here to provide a drinking place for cattle and horses called an abreuvoir. The Island is dotted with these interesting examples of roadside heritage that remind us of a time when these animals played an important role in daily life.
Opposite the abreuvoir is a thatched property called Le Ronvillais.
This property dates back to 1690 and it is one of the few remaining thatched houses in Jersey. In the past, however, thatch was a common roofing material. The granite stones that project from the chimneys of many older houses are often referred to as witches’ stones – they were said to have been created for witches to rest on while flying through the night rather than bother the inhabitants of the house. In actual fact, they are drip stones to protect thatch from rainwater running off the chimney stack.
Turn right at the junction and continue along La Rue du Pont. Note the stream running along the roadside wall.
At the junction turn right into La Rue des Marais and continue until you reach the Le Marais bell tower and roadside plaque on your left.
In 1787 John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, visited the Channel Islands and preached across Jersey including here in St Mary at the home of Mrs Le Couteur. The St Mary’s Methodist Society was one of the oldest in the Island and meetings were held in private homes such as Le Marais. On 23 August 1787, Wesley preached in a barn at the rear of the house and the bell tower was erected to call followers to the preaching.
In his diary, John Wesley described how no one at the house spoke English so interpreters were required in order to translate his sermon. He also wrote that the houses were exactly like those in the interior parts of Wales and equal to the best farmers’ houses in Lincolnshire, but that the people in general were far better behaved than the country farmers in England!
Retrace your steps and take the first left into La Rue de la Grange
On your left you will see a short flight of steps to nowhere! This a granite mounting block to help people mount horses and vehicles with ease. As you continue up the lane you will come to a gate on your left leading to La Pompe.
There are two houses at La Pompe, this one having been built more recently with the house behind it being considerably older. One date stone on this older property, from 1720, is inscribed with the initials of Jean Arthur and Rachel Le Couteur, whilst another found on an outhouse, is for Jean Renouf and Elizabeth Picquet and is dated 1680.
Continue walking and on the second bend you will see a tree-lined avenue on your right with a pillar topped with a stone cross.
This is a rare example of a Medieval cross. It was moved to this location in the mid-19th century and stands on a column which originally stood in St Mary’s Church between the chancel and north chapel.
Continue walking to the end of the road, then cross over and head to St Mary’s Country Inn for some well-earned refreshment!
St Mary’s Country Inn
This building dates back to the 17th century but the existence of a village inn may go back much further. As people began to make long journeys to markets either on foot or horseback, taverns providing refreshment sprung up in the countryside.
In 1897, newspaper reports show that Jean Marie Gouyette lost control of his horse and van as he left the inn, narrowly missing a number of other vehicles and causing them to swerve out of the way. He was arrested near the Church for being drunk in charge of a horse and summonsed to appear in the magistrate’s court. Records show that he was fined £2 for being intoxicated while in charge of a horse and van, and 15 shillings for driving with negligence. So it appears that the offence of ‘drink driving’ was not solely related to the motor car!
The old village blacksmith’s forge standing next to the pub is worth a short detour, especially to look at its black front door which has been repeatedly branded with farmers’ initials.