In ancient documents the Church is referred to as 'Ecclesia Sancti Clemtentis de Petravilla in Gersuis', which is the latin for “the Church of St. Clement on the estate of Peter in Jersey”. In case anyone should make the objection that we have made a somewhat free translation of the word 'Petravilla', we would explain it as follows.
There are several place names in Jersey ending in the word ville, for example Grouville and Longueville. These date back to pre-Norman days when Gallic gentlemen (even after the fall of the Roman Empire) continued to reside in so-called Roman Villas. The villa did not necessarily mean simply the residence, or house occupied, but the entire estate (or farm) cultivated by these landed gentry. Such an estate was known as Pierreville, the estate of Peter. In time, the owner became a Christian and built a wooden chapel for himself and his employees. One of the men from his estate would have been ordained as a Priest to minister in this chapel.
This wooden chapel would no doubt have been burnt during the Norman raids. However, on the cessation of these raids in the year 911, work would have begun on the erection of a stone chapel dedicated in the name of St. Clement. He was a “popular Saint of the moment”, as his bones had been allegedly brought back from the Black Sea around this time.
No later than 1067, there was evidence that William the Conqueror granted to the Abbey of Montvilliers half the tithes of the Church of St. Clement in Jersey. Since only Parish Churches received tithes, the Church of St. Clement's was then no longer a private chapel, but a Parish Church.
Another charter in 1090 shows that the Church had passed into the ownership of the Abbey of St. Sauveur le Vicomte (in Normandy) and it remained the property of this Abbey until the Reformation.
The early building (The oldest part of the Church), which formed the original chapel, is what we now know as the Nave. At first, it was a tiny Norman building with a low thatched roof and narrow windows. Two of these remain in the north wall today. A further chapel was added a few yards away on the site which the organ chamber now occupies. This, for perhaps five hundred years, had no connection with St. Clement’s but stood as a neighbouring Chapel (as the Fisherman’s Chapel stands close to St Brelade’s).
In the 15th century, the Church was considerably enlarged by the addition of a chancel and transepts, giving it the usual cruciform shape of most Christian churches. It has been possible to ascertain the approximate date for these enlargements and alterations on account of the Payn Arms (the three trefoils) in the chancel. The Payns were the Seigneurs of Samares during the 15th century. Also from this period are the gargoyles on the East outside wall, and the murals or frescoes inside the church.
When the church was enlarged, the roof was raised and constructed in stone. The line of this may still be observed on the tower arch and buttresses were also constructed to support the weight.