Our Church History

St. Andrews Anglo-American Church, Biarritz

For centuries there had been Pre-Reformation English services by Priests for Wellington’s English troops at Bayonne. Bayonne, as with all the Basque Country, became part of the Kingdom of England during the reign of Henry II through his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine whose dowry consisted of all the South West of France. Bayonne itself remained in English hands from 1152 until 1451 during which time the Cathedral was built. The Arms of England can still be seen in a window near the High Altar and also high up in the Nave.

In modern times, the first Church of England service was held in Bayonne in 1853 by the Rev. J. MacDermott who graduated from Trinity College, Dublin. In 1854 the Church moved to Biarritz and has remained here ever since. The first church building, which began after Rev. MacDermott died in 1857, was built and opened in July 1861. The English community was expanding quickly and within 8 years new premises were necessary. Land was duly purchased for £1,600 for a Church with Rectory. This church, which could hold 630 people, was opened and dedicated by the Bishop of London, Dr. Jackson, on 11th October 1878. Rev. A. B. Crosse was the Chaplain and the Wardens were R. B. Martins and Manwell Fox. The budget for the new church was £3,100 but ran over costing in total £4,580. During 1878/79 the average congregation was 260 people at the morning service and 95 in the evening. In 1882 these figures reached an average  of 288 in the morning and 118 in the evening. Exact figures were not kept every week but during the 1930s the church was noted as “filled to overflowing”.

Many famous visitors have passed through the doors of St. Andrew’s – Royalty, Bishops and Statesmen. Notably: 

1880 Archbishop of Canterbury – Dr. Tait; 

1881 Archbishop of York – Dr. Thompson; 

Easter Sunday 1882  The Duke and Duchess of Connaught; 

 Easter 1889  Queen Victoria; 

1903 Bishop of London – Dr. Winnington Ingram; 

1904 Bishop Jacobs of St. Albans; 

January 1906 Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice; 

March 1906 King Edward VII (he was present every Easter for 5 years until his death in 1910); 

HRH Princess Frederica was a regular worshipper from 1878 until her death in 1926.

There were other Church of England churches around this area during the turn of the last century.     St. Jean de Luz opened in 1866 for worship with Rev. W Webster – they met in the House of the Sisters of St. Paul.  They moved premises in 1882 to their own building when Rev. G. E. Broade became Chaplain. 

There were two churches at Pau. The first service was held in St. Andrew’s Church in 1868 (still in current use) and the second, which is now disused, at Christchurch.