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PHILIP DE GRUCHY’S WINDOWS
Look up in at the north wall in the nave and you will see two tiny windows. The openings are remnants from the old Norman chapel, but the glass was installed in the great restoration of 1880. According to church records, the money was given by one Philip Henry de Gruchy, a relative of the then Rector Matthieu Lemprière. At the time he was part-owner of the family business which was to become A. de Gruchy & Co. Ltd in 1887. The story of how it did includes a banking crisis, a body blow to the Methodist Church in Jersey, a disaster within the cod fishing industry and a change to Jersey Company Law.
In 1873 the Mercantile Union Bank failed, which in turn provoked the collapse of the Jersey Joint Stock Bank (the so-called “Methodist Bank”). Banks were not covered by the limited liability provisions of the Jersey Company Law at that time. Many Methodists were ruined and Methodism in Jersey arguably never recovered from the experience.
On 11th January 1886 the news broke that the Jersey Banking Company (commonly known as “The States’ Bank”), owned by Philip’s grandfather Abraham de Gruchy, had suspended payment. The reason? Fraud and embezzlement by one Philip Gosset, the States’ Treasurer. Gosset was condemned after a six-day trial to five years’ penal servitude for embezzlement and misapplication of public money and fraudulent misappropriation of bonds. The Loi (1861) sur les sociétés à responsabilité limitée was revised in 1886, leading to the introduction of limited liability for banks and to the surviving banks being taken over by English banks.
The Jersey firm of Charles Robin and Co had a fleet of over 450 vessels that made regular fishing trips between Jersey and Gaspé, but the insolvency of the Jersey Banking Company drove it, the de Gruchy’s stores business and six other prominent firms, into bankruptcy. The de Gruchys made arrangements with their creditors. De Gruchy’s stores, founded by Abraham and Marie de Gruchy in 1810, became a limited company as the result of the crisis and Philip and many of his staff were able to continue in business.
Philip’s fortunes had waxed and waned. Had the restoration occurred a few years later, it is unlikely that he would have been able to donate any money at all for these two stained glass windows. One can only imagine how grateful he must have been to the Lord for delivering him from complete ruin.