The History of Gouray Church
In the early nineteenth century there were three challenges in ministering to the spiritual needs of the people of Gorey.
The English-speaking servicemen - the soldiers of the garrison at Mont Orgueil Castle and the naval men who were involved in the land-based training ship overlooking Gorey.
Many in the area felt that the parish churches were too far away.
Jersey became one of Europe’s main oyster suppliers.
As a consequence there was an enormous influx of hundreds of oyster fishermen and shore workers who were employed as basket fillers, carriers, lifters and oyster washers . These people were mainly English speakers. They were understandably reluctant to walk two miles up a hill to take part in a service in a language they could not understand - French.
In other words, there was a mission need in Gorey. The local people responded and built a ‘Chapel of Ease’. Chapels of Ease were precisely what the term implies - chapels for the ease and comfort of those living some distance from the main parish church. It was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester in 1835.
Beautifully situated overlooking Grouville Bay, the Church was simply designed in a way which allowed the feel of the sun and the sea to stream in through the mullioned windows and, at times, the wind and the rain to howl through the rafters in some of the fierce storms that struck from time to time. It was a church somehow in harmony with its magnificent natural location. Its tower for example provided a commanding landmark from the sea and the surrounding area.
In 1900 it was granted ‘designated district’ status. It was given spiritual and pastoral responsibility for the village of Gorey and its immediate hinterland. Its precise boundaries were carved out of the parishes of St Martin and Grouville with their goodwill. Its oversight included the Jersey Home for Boys at Haut de la Garenne and a Barnardo’s Home at Teighmore. The boys were a basic part of the congregation for many years – for example singing in the choir and pumping the organ.
During the German occupation of the Island the church building was used every other Sunday by the German troops. The parishioners had to wait patiently for the service to end before they could start theirs. The steps leading down to the Village were mined as part of the tight security which surrounded the whole area.
In the post-war period the institutions which had been an important part of the ministry of the church were gradually shut down – Haut de la Garenne being the last one to be closed in 1987.
This led to a decline in church attendance. In consequence the viability of the church has from time to time been put in question in various rationalisations of resources within the wider church. Throughout its 175 years it has however become a much-loved and respected part of the community.
Gouray Church is on the hill above Gorey Village. Although it uses the old spelling for the village, it was only built in 1832-33. It was partially rebuilt and extended in 1915. It is a simple building with a square tower with battlemented parapet, surmounted by a low ocatgonal spire. The tower has a clock and contains one bell cast by John Warner and Sons in London in 1895.