St Anne”™s Church was completed in 1850 at a cost of £8,000, and paid for by the canon, Rev John Le Mesurier, who was the son of the last hereditary Governor of Alderney. St Anne”™s replaced the former parish church, dating from the 13th century, of which only the clock tower remains, just off the High Street above Connaught Square. A very fine building with many Norman references, St Anne”™s was one of the early works of the famous Victorian architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott. He was responsible for the magnificent St Pancras Station and the Foreign Office in Whitehall.
Often referred to as the “Cathedral of the Channel Islands” because of its size, St Anne”™s was built to serve both the parish and the extensive military garrison, stationed in Alderney against the perceived threat from France. You enter the churchyard from Victoria Street, through the Albert Gate, named after Prince Albert, who with Queen Victoria took a great interest in the fortification of the island. Note the curved Norman style apse in front of you; the floor plan of the church is in the form of a cross, and is built of the dark pink local granite, with dressings in lighter Caen limestone. The church is usually open, and you get a very good view of the interior by standing under the west window and looking out into the nave with its sturdy pillars towards the soaring arches supporting the tower.
For Alderney, and indeed all the Channel islands, the Second World War was a traumatic period. With no local parishioners to maintain it, the church was cleared and used as a general store by the occupying German forces. A machine gun was mounted in the belfry, and some of the walls still display German graffiti carved into the stonework. It was not until 1953 that the church could be fully restored and re-consecrated after the war.
The bells of St Anne are very special. Originally there were six, but these were removed during the German Occupation. Four were sent to Cherbourg to be melted down for munitions. They survived, were located after the war and returned, to be recast and re-hung with the other two surviving bells. A newly refurbished peal of 12 bells was installed in 2013, paid for privately. This makes the church one of only about 150 British churches with such a peal, and bell-ringing groups now visit Alderney specially to ring our bells.