In 1860, the year before the American Civil War started, 10 year old Jesse Boot of Nottingham England began helping his mother run the family medicine shop when his father John died. By age 13 he left school to concentrate on his work in the shop. In the ensuing decades, Jesse would turn the single medicine shop into the major national chain Boots the Chemists. 60 years later in 1920, he sold control of the “Chemists to the Nation” to an American company. Jesse died on the Channel Island of Jersey 11 years later in 1931.
Along the way Boot would be knighted Sir Jesse Boot (1909), create a baronet (1917), and in 1929, become Baron Trent of Nottingham, (not as cool as Sheriff, but still a great title:), aka Lord Trent. He did not live to see his son John, the 2nd Baron Trent and his own father’s namesake, re-acquire control of the chain in 1933 in the midst of the depression.
Boot was also a philanthropist, especially in Nottingham and in Jersey. For one of many examples, he donated the land for what is now the University of Nottingham, which opened in 1928, where the Jesse Boot Chair in Chemistry was named in his honor.
Boot’s wife, Lady Florence Trent (her maiden name was Florence Rowe) survived him. She kept her principal residence in Jersey, the place they had first met. But Lady Trent also kept a residence on the French Riviera in Cannes, where fortuitously, a famous Frenchman also kept a home; a man who like her deceased husband, had achieved phenomenal success satisfying the new consumer demand created by the industrial revolution. Yes readers, Rene Lalique kept a place in Cannes and was a neighbor of Lady Trent.
In 1932, the year after her husband’s death, Lady Trent asked her neighbor to design new interior fittings in glass for the 1840’s era St. Matthew’s Church of Millbrook located just across the road from her Jersey home which she called Villa Millbrook. It was to be a major architectural undertaking in honor of Baron Trent and Lalique agreed to take the commission. Two years later, in 1934, Lalique’s fabulous undertaking was completed and installed in St. Matthew’s, complemented by additional interior modifications by the Jersey architect A.B. Grayson, an accomplished art deco designer, most notably of private homes.
Lalique glass includes the communion rail, communion table, screens, the altar cross and pillars, a Lalique glass font, window and door panels, and a reredos (altar screen). The art deco Lalique design highlights include angelic figures and Jersey lilies.
Today St. Matthew’s remains a functioning community place of worship. But owing to the amazing work of the great Lalique, it is better known worldwide as “The Glass Church”. So it’s also an Art Deco treasure of Jersey and a tourist attraction in addition to being a religious establishment.
Last year, the 170 year old Church commenced its first major renovation in over 70 years. The total cost is estimated at £1,000,000. We were alerted to the renovation a year ago through a BBC article which detailed the renovation project and linked out to three reference sources: the “States of Jersey” website, the “Glass Church” website, and to the “Rene Lalique Worldwide Gathering Place”! How great is that? The overhaul is planned to include:
Conservation to the Lalique Glass and the supporting structures of the glass.
Restoration of the bell housing and bells.
Replace the electrical wiring and update the lighting.
New heating system.
Interior redecoration and new landscaping.
An organization named The Friends of the Glass Church has been set-up under the auspices of the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey, Lieutenant General Andrew Ridgway, to raise funds for the renovations. They have already raised approximately £140,000 toward the project. Updating of the roof was finished in 2010. Also the States of Jersey has approved a matching funds grant of £125,000. Phase two, which is the refurbishment of the bell tower, bells, and some asbestos removal, should be completed in early October, at which time the church will re-open.
Details of how you can contribute to the project can be found at the Friends of the Glass Church website or the Church’s website, both of which are linked previously. We urge you to consider generously supporting this uniquely Rene Lalique effort.
We spoke with church officials in preparation for this article and were given the following visitor information:
Visitors are welcome at the Church Monday thru Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM. The Church is closed on Saturdays. Regular services are held on Sunday at 11:00 AM and visitors are welcome to attend.
St. Matthew’s home, the island of Jersey has a rich history owing to its location between France and England. It has a population of around 100,000, and both French and English are spoken there. Jersey is a separate possession of the crown; it’s a dependency and not part of the United Kingdom. It even has its own currency, though several other currencies also circulate on the island. It’s a crossroads of cultures and activities.
If you plan to visit, almost everything you ever wanted to know about Jersey can be found at their Jersey.com website, including travel, lodging, attraction and activity choices.
And finally, if you’d like to see many examples of architectural elements created by Rene Lalique, check out the Lalique Architectural Glass page in the R. Lalique Catalog here on the website.
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