St Peter’s Church
The Church was built in 1820 on what was once the site of a wooden tower housing the ‘Island Bell’ which now hangs at the Assembly room. Funding came partly from the 40 landowners (tenants) who subscribed to the family pews which are still in existence today, each one showing a distinctive embroidered pew seat and kneeler.
The church dates from 1820. For 250 years following the re-colonisation of Sark in 1565 the islanders worshipped in a long, narrow, barn-like building, thatched and with an earthen floor. Under the Le Pelley Seigneurs (1730-1852) Sark’s ministers continued to be French or Swiss Calvinists. They were appointed by the Seigneur as his chaplains and mostly at his expense. By the time of the Napoleonic Wars, popular hostility to ‘feudal’ institutions had undermined the authority of Seigneur and Minister. Church attendance had lapsed and the tavern stayed open most of the sabbath. Working people in Sark looked to the Methodists for moral leadership and in 1796 a Methodist Chapel costing £300 was built at La Ville Roussel.
The project of a Sark Parish Church was conceived as a means of re-establishing the authority of Anglicanism in Sark. The cost of building came to about £1000 and was shared between the Seigneur, the tenants (landowners), and the Society for Promoting the Enlargement and Building of Churches and Chapels. Seigneur Peter Le Pelley’s ingenious scheme of offering each of his forty tenants a closed family pew, to be attached for ever to their tenement, secured nearly £300 before building began and ensured a perpetual income of rent (now miniscule) for upkeep of the church. A condition of the Society’s assistance was that at least half the total of 333 seats were to be ‘open’ to the public. By midsummer 1821 a plain rectangular building (the present nave) was complete. The original square tower was quite small and housed the ‘island bell’. This ancient bell, given to the settlers in 1580 by Philippe De Carteret, future Seigneur, used to hang from a wooden belfry on a mound to the east of the site. It now hangs at the Assembly Room. Inside the original church the east end was dominated by the pulpit: an octagonal stall centrally placed between the two arched windows, it stood on a platform six feet above the pavement. A staircase led up to it from the minister’s pew in the southeast corner (where the organ now is). The Seigneur, Reverend W. T. Collings, whose mother bought the Fief of Sark in 1852, had a keen interest in contemporary Gothic architecture. In 1877, he designed and paid £200 for the complete rebuilding of the east end, to make a relatively ornate chancel with choir, sanctuary and altar steps, and vestry. The present pulpit was installed in 1883 in memory of the Reverend J.L.V. Cachemaille, and the brass eagle lectern in 1896 in memory of his successor Charles Vermeil. The stained glass windows in the nave were made in London by Moore and Son and were installed in 1926 at the cost of various benefactors.