THE PARISH OF ST PIERRIE du BOIS
St Pierre Du Bois Parish, located in the South West of Guernsey, Channel Islands, is the ancestral home of my Tostevins.
St Pierre du Bois is colloquially known as St Peter's by inhabitants, who are known as the St Pierrais. The Guernesiais nickname for people from Saint Pierre was
etcherbaots which means beetles.
The Parish has a population of just over 2000. St Peter's is the centre for the Guernsey Western Parishes, which includes Forest, St Saviour's and Torteval. The parish lies
about five miles west of St Peter Port. St Pierre du Bois descends from a high plateau and consists of hills and valleys running down to Rocquaine Bay, which forms the
entire western edge of the parish. At the north end of the bay the land is sheltered from the onslaught of stormy seas and high tides by the sand dunes. At the tip of the
Braye peninsula is the islet of Lihou is joined only at low tide by a rough half-mile causeway, meaning that it is only safe to cross to Lihou at certain times of the day. The
island houses the ruins of a 12th century priory and was used by the Germans for long range artillery practice during the World War II occupation.
Fort Grey is known as the ‘Cup and Saucer’ by the locals. It is a Martello Tower built in 1804 to defend Guernsey’s west coast. Many vessels have come to grief on this
beautiful but treacherous coast. The small martello tower is connected to the west coast at Rocquaine by a causeway. Where Fort Grey stands there used to be a castle
known as the Chateau de Rocquaine. In 1804 the old castle was pulled down and the tower that we see today was built. During the nineteenth-century, Fort Grey protected
Guernsey from French invasion. In World War II it was again used for defense by the Germans before falling into disrepair. It was restored in the 1970’s and is now a
maritime museum about Guernsey shipwrecks.
L'Eree is a sandy beach popular with families. It has a thick concrete wall protecting the sand dunes and the tide goes out a long way leaving lots of rock pools. Just inland
from the beach is L’Eree aerodrome, this was Guernsey’s first aerodrome, it had three grass runways, the longest being 450 metres. The aerodrome is now the site for the
West show, an annual event with horticultural produce, a pageant of traditional clothes, livestock and live entertainment.
The headland at northern tip of L'Eree near the entrance to Lihou island shows signs of life that date back for many years. Fort Saumarez was originally a Martello tower to
protect the beaches from French invasion. During world war two it was re-built as a naval observation tower. The passage grave in the middle of the hill is called Creux ès
Fees and it was excavated in 1840. Bones, pottery and arrow heads dating back to 2000BC were found there. The Prosperity Memorial sits on the Lihou headland. It
remembers the 18 sailors who lost their lives in 1943 when their ship sank in rough seas.
La Longue Rocque is Guernsey’s largest ancient monument, standing 3 and a half metres above ground with a further metre below ground. It stands in a field off the Route
des Paysans. Guernsey folklore said that the fairies used to use it as a cricket bat and some say that it increases fertility if touched. There used to be a dolmen close by
called Creux de Faîes but it was destroyed. St Peter’s has a long association with witchcraft. Witches and wizards were said to meet at Les Eturs, four times weekly and at
the Longfrie crossroads. Look out for a witch on her broomstick on the Longfrie Inn.
Marie De Garis has written an extensive history of the Parish
St Pierre du Bois Parish Church
St Peter’s church was built in the 14th century and it sits on the side of a valley. The main entrance faces north, usually the unpopular side because it is known as the
Devil's side. It has a square tower which contains 13 bells, the largest peal in the Channel Islands. Rich parishioners were only buried inside the church if they paid £1.
There are several streams under the church so rising damp has always been a problem. Its floor also slopes 1 1/2 metres from east to west.
"The Story of St. Pierre Du Bois Church, Guernsey" by Marie De Garis [excerpt]
"The first mention of the church of St. Pierre du Bois is in a charter dated A.D. 1030 by which Duke Robert of Normandy placed under the patronage of the Benedictine
monks of Mont St. Michel four parishes and churches in Guernsey. One of these was St. Pierre "du Bosq". This deed was confirmed by Robert's son William (the
Conqueror) in a document of A.D. 1048 and also by Pope Adrian IV in A.D.1155.
From the conquest up to the time of King John, the period when England and Normandy were under the same rule, the Guernsey churches could develop at peace. After
John lost Normandy in A.D. 1204 England and France were continually at war. The French tried desperately hard to wrest the Channel Islands from the English. The
English were equally determined to hold on to these last remnants of the Duchy still in their possession. The islanders themselves favoured the English, not from any
special feelings of affection, but for the simple reason that to gain their loyalty the English government was prepared to grant the Channel Islands favourable charters and
preferential treatment. (Whatever may be John's reputation in England as a bad king, in the islands he has always been looked upon as a benefactor). The outcome was
that during the whole of the 13th and 14th centuries Guernsey was periodically laid low by French invasions. That of 1294 was particularly devastating. The whole island
was ravished by fire and sword. One third of the inhabitants are said to have lost their lives. Every church was ransacked and wrecked. The damage to the parish
churches was so great that all of them must be presumed as having been largely built after that date.
At St. Pierre du Bois, what was probably prior to 1294 only a two-celled church consisting of Altar-house and small nave, with a tower built nearby, evolved during the
following 150 years into the present-day structure. Monks from the great parent abbey of Mont St. Michel supervised the construction. The Benedictines of the Abbey
were very wealthy and could well afford to build good churches in the parishes dependent on them for patronage.
In this post-1294 construction, stone was brought over from Normandy for the pillars, window tracery and arcaded work. Tradition has it that the monks also brought with
them a family of skilled craftsmen named Tostevin as overseers of the work. This family settled down permanently in the parish, plying their trade for centuries as
stoneworkers. It is a fact that to the Tostevins more than any other family, the church of St. Pierre du Bois owes its present appearance. Church and parish records
register their names down the generations, Leonard, Matthieu, Jacques or Thomas as having been given the tenders for the constant renovations and restorations needed
to keep the building in good repair."
TOSTEVIN - ST PIERRIE du BOIS
|St Pierre du Bois Parish Church