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28 October 2020

St. Anne’s Church 170th Anniversary

Alderney: St. Anne’s Church 170th Anniversary, 28 October 2020. Images from Guernsey Stamps and Collectibles.

Technical Specifications:

Date of Issue: 28 October 2020
Designer: Mark Totty
Printer: bpost
Values: £3
Process: Offset Lithography
Stamp Size: 40mm deep x 50mm wide
Sheet Size: 100mm deep x 140mm wide
Paper: 446 Gummed FSC Securpost 110gsm
Perforation: 1.1 x 1.667
Cylinder: A

St Anne’s Church is the parish church for the Channel Island of Alderney.

The small , three miles square Island has a close and friendly community and the church is very much at the heart of all that goes on.

2020 marks the 170th anniversary of this parish church, sometimes referred to as ‘Cathedral of the Channel Islands’.

St Anne or Saint Anne is the capital and the main town of Alderney in the Channel Islands, located about 10 miles (15 km) off the coast of Auderville in the Manche department of the Normandy region of north-western France. As of 2010, it has an estimated population of 2,000, compared to an estimated 2,400 who actually live on the island; they have traditional names such as “vaches” (French for cows) and “lapins” (French for rabbits, given after the rabbits found in the island). The town has the old world charm of a French town with cobbled streets, cottages, restaurants, houses, residents and pubs. It dominates much of the island, almost extending up to the Braye Harbour to its north, which is the main port of entry to the island and the town. It is located on a high ground at the centre of the island on the northwest direction.

Victoria Street, founded in 1836 and serving as the town’s main thoroughfare, is the commercial hub with shops, pubs and restaurants, along with banking and post office services flanking both sides of the street. The town hall is an impressive building and the museum presents pictures of the island with dramatic presentation of its military history; the town and the island having earned the epithet “Gibraltar of the Channel” during wartime. France is seen from here, as it is only 8 miles (13 km) away from the island. The Alderney Journal, the locally produced newspaper, has an office on Ollivier Street.

The Luftwaffe command bunker and tower and the German naval tactical headquarters were both located in St Anne during the Second World War.

The St Anne Church, dedicated to St Anne, Mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is centrally located in the St Anne town on the side of a hill between Victoria Street (from which it is approached through the Albert Gate) and La Vallee. It is surrounded by a well tended churchyard. The new church, which involved substantial renovation of the old church building, was designed by George Gilbert Scott, a renowned architect of Victorian buildings. Renovation of the old church involved the demolition of an ancient medieval building in the old churchyard, next to the present day island museum. The clock tower of the old church and the cemetery were retained, however. The renovation was completed and consecration held in 1850. Reverend Canon John Le Mesurier, son of the last Hereditary Governor of Alderney, built it in memory of his parents and fully met the cost of renovation, then estimated at about £8,000.

The main church, cruciform in the “transitional style from Norman to Early English with a clear French influence”, is an ornate structure built of local granite with Caen stone dressings, with a high altar with solid round pillars and the nave supporting towering arches. It became an archetype model for six other churches built by the same architect. The original six Victorian bells were removed during the German invasion; four were taken to Cherbourg to be melted for making munitions, and two were found in Alderney. All six bells were recast by Taylor’s of Loughborough in 1953.

Historical view of Saint Anne, church in background. Illustration from Historical and Topographical Description of the Channel Islands (1840) by Robert Mudie – “La Husay, St, Ann’s, Alderney”

During the Second World War, when the town was under German occupation and all its citizens had vacated the town, the church was used as a store, and its premises were damaged. A machine-gun post was set up then in the belfry, and still-visible graffiti on the stone work left by soldiers bears mute witness to the occupation. Pews had been removed from the church premises. After the war, the church figured in substantial restoration work in the town, completed in 1953. The Bishop of Winchester rededicated the church on 11 June of that year. A redeeming event recorded in 1998 was the restoration of an old Bible dated 1683 and bound in with a copy of the Book of Common Prayer and a Metrical Psalter dated 1679. It was partially damaged by dampness but had been substituted with manuscript sheets exquisitely engraved in small copper plates. The Bible was restored to the church by the widow of a soldier who had taken it from there and had stored it in his library in Germany.

In view of its large size, the church is famously called the “Cathedral of the Channel Islands.” It was intended to serve not only as a parish church but also as a fortified garrison for the defense forces stationed in the island. Approach to the present church is through the Albert Memorial Entrance, which is a granite arch with wrought iron gates, opposite to Oliver Street.

Postcard showing St. Anne’s Church, Alderney, Channel Islands, in 1909.

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