Torteval Parish Church

Rue du Belle, Torteval, GY8 0LN

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In the centre of Torteval is perhaps the island's most distinctive church. Torteval Church, as it currently stands was designed by John Wilson - who also designed St James the Less - and built in 1818.

The original church, which had fallen in to disrepair due to the parishoners being unable to maintain its upkeep, was dedicated to  St Philippe. It is believed that it stood in the same churchyard but a little further to the east and, likely, stood on or close to a sacred spring.

According to Duncan’s History of Guernsey“appears to have consisted of a chancel, nave, south aisle and porch, and a low square tower, pinnacled and surrounded by an octagonal spire at the west end of the nave."

It continues by describing the "new church" thus;

"The new church was characterised by a most unusual tower and spire entirely unlike anything else in the island; it is quite remarkably round and smooth, tall in proportion, not at all attractive and uneasy in its setting, though none the less memorable."

The church is notable for having the oldest bells in the Channel Islands, dating from 1432 and cast in France. Its tower, unusually, is round and features the tallest steeple on the island. As a result, it was once used as a navigation aid for mariners.

The Hampshire Chronicle in 1820 published a description of Guernsey from the sea and said that the steeple would “appear very lofty and remarkable – so that mariners will never be deceived… by taking Guernsey for the Land’s End or the Scilly Isles”.

It was subsequently suggested that a light should be installed at the top of the steeple to make it an official navigation point. However, Trinity House, the British lighthouse authority, discounted this idea after conducting its own survey.