The Little Chapel, Guernsey, Channel Islands, UK

A trip to Guernsey has been very inspiring. I had no idea I would see so many lovely Georgian buildings in St Peter Port.  As a ceramics fan one of the most extraordinary and fascinating buildings was the Little Chapel within Les Vauxbelets valley a short bus ride from St Peter Port. There stands one of the smallest chapels in the world. It only measures 16 feet by 9 feet and is decorated with broken pieces of pottery from all ages, pebbles and the local ormer shells. The pottery shards, pebbles and shells are stuck into the mixture of building materials which includes clinker. (Clinker is a stony residue from burnt coal.)

Most of the chapel was built by Brother Deodat Antoine of the French Brothers of the Order of de la Salle. Brother Deodat left France in 1913 and joined the Order at Les Vauxbelets in Guernsey. Anti-religious laws passed in 1904 resulted in many religious groups leaving France.

Brother Deodat had a vision which inspired him to create his own version of the grotto of Our lady of Lourdes at Mallabielle. He began work in March 1914 and created a chapel 9 feet by 4.5 feet. It was much criticised for its small size and he pulled it down. By July he had created a larger chapel which could accommodate 4 people!! A second grotto was then added to increase the internal space.

1n 1923 the Bishop of Portsmouth visited the chapel. He, however, complained it was too small for him to enter. It was rumoured that the Bishop of Portsmouth was too fat to fit through the door! Once again, Brother Deodat demolished his work and began his third chapel which is the one still standing today.

Every day Brother Deodat would collect pebbles and pieces of broken china to decorate the interior and exterior of the larger chapel. An article in the Daily Mirror spread the word and shards of china began arriving from all over the word. The Lieutenant Governor donated a mother of pearl. Wedgwood donated pieces of their china which can be seen decorating the steps up to the chapel.

In 1939 Brother Deodat was ill and returned to France. Bother Cephas continued with the decoration until his retirement in 1965. After long negotiations the site and immediate plantation were gifted to the Foundation of the Brothers of the de la Salle Order. A committee was established in 1977 to look after this little gem after some years of neglect.

Below are three pieces of royal commemorative pottery found on a wall within the chapel.

The Little Chapel is open to the public free of charge and much fund raising continues. The foundations have been stabilised, the building underpinned and the roof rebuilt. Water and electricity are now connected. A new floor has been laid this year. Can you see the ormer shells?

This really is an extraordinary place and in a beautiful setting.

Pink lustre china spotted on one of the walls

Donations can be made online at www.the little chapel.gg

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