St Helier's Church, known as the Town Church, is one of the 12 parish churches of Jersey. Helier was a Belgian saint who lived as a hermit on an islet in St Aubin's Bay, about three quarters of a mile off the south coast of Jersey. In AD 555 he was killed by pirates, beheaded by their leader who feared his men would be converted by Helier's preaching. In consequence Helier soon came to be venerated by the Islanders, and eventually was adopted as the Patron Saint of both Jersey and its capital.
Land reclamation means that the church, which was once on the shoreline, is now some way inland. There are iron rings in the boundary wall, which some historians suggest were used to moor boats, but the tide would only have reached here on the highest of spring tides and it is much more likely that the rings were used to tie cattle brought to market in town. The original marketplace was about 60 metres away next to a large rock which was surrounded by the sea at high spring tides.
It is believed that a chapel was erected on the site of the present building very shortly after Helier's death, but the present church was begun in the 11th century. The earliest record is in a document regarding the payment of tithes signed by William the Conqueror, which is assumed to pre-date the Norman Conquest of 1066. All that is visible of the 11th century structure are the remains of window arches on either side of the choir. The building was reconsecrated in 1341 for unknown reasons.
The church building was extended to roughly its present size by the end of the 12th century, but most of that building is also lost. The sections of wall flanking the east window, part of a pier on the north east side of the crossing, the west face of the north door and the adjoining section to the west, and a small section of wall opposite are all that remain of the building period of roughly 1175 to 1200. The porch attached to the north door and the greater part of the nave and crossing were built in the second quarter of the 15th century.The date of the chancel is impossible to determine, since the original walls have been obliterated by the north chapel on the one side and the south chapel on the other. Most of the north transept dates to the second quarter of the 13th century. The present south transept, vestry, and the westwards extension to the nave are largely Victorian. A major renovation and re-ordering of the church began in 2007, and will take several years.
A chapel, La Chapelle de la Madeleine, existed in the north west corner of the churchyard until the Reformation. Formerly the Rectory and church offices were on the north side of the churchyard. These were replaced in 1969 by a new Church House building, a large concrete edifice incorporating offices, a church hall, kitchens and a choir vestry, together with a flat. The Rectory was moved to a large, purpose built Georgian house in the early 19th century.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.