Islands of Guernsey

Islands of Guernsey

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Saint Peter Port

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Saint Peter Port, French Saint-Pierre-Port, chief town, resort, parish, and capital of Guernsey, Channel Islands, located on the east coast of the island of Guernsey where a narrow valley reaches the sea between moderately high cliffs. Early in the 13th century, Castle Cornet was built on an offshore tidal islet, reinforced later with La Tour Beauregard on the main shore to protect the roadstead. The Anglo-Gascon wine trade was then developing, and the existence of well-protected anchorage, together with Guernsey’s position on the English Channel near the route of medieval shipping, meant that St. Peter Port was used increasingly as a refuge and port of call. Late in the 13th century a quay was built, and in 1309 the island’s chief market was moved to St. Peter Port. The quay was extended in the 16th century, a second arm was built in the 18th, and the present harbour was constructed between 1853 and 1874. A charter (c. 1048) refers to St. Peter’s, the town’s ancient church, which preserves a variety of 13th-century styles. Other notable buildings are the Royal Court House (1799), the Markets (1822), Elizabeth College (1826 founded 1563), the Constables’ Office, and the Priaulx Library. Hauteville House, former residence (1856–70) of Victor Hugo, now belongs to the city of Paris, France. Pop. (2001) 16,488.


In common with several nearby islands such as Jethou and Brecqhou, the name contains the Norman suffix "-hou" which means a small hill or a mound. [5] The name could have developed from the Breton words lydd or ligg, which means in or near water. [6] Historically, there have also been a number of alternative forms of the name including Lihoumel, which was attested as early as the twelfth century, [7] : 310 [8] : 61 and Lehowe, which was mentioned in the sixteenth century. [9]

Lihou is also a common family name on Guernsey, with records suggesting that the name has been in use in the Channel Islands since at least the eighteenth century, [10] [11] including Royal Navy Captain John Lihou, who discovered and named the Australian Port Lihou Island and Lihou Reef. [12] The name is also attested further afield, in a number of other countries such as Australia, where for example, Sergeant James Lihou, the son of a migrant from Guernsey, enlisted in the Australian forces in 1916 and was killed in action in 1918 in France. [13] There are also numerous instances of people with the surname having migrated from the Channel Islands to the United States. [14]

Lihou is the furthest west of the Channel Islands and at low tide it is linked to the nearby L'Erée headland, on Guernsey, by a 400 m (1,300 ft) stone causeway. [4] Apart from shingle beaches, the island has a 20 m (66 ft) high ridge running approximately north–south. [15] : 5 Lihou is mainly composed of weathered rock below which are found granite and gneiss bedrock. [15] The island has a mild oceanic climate like other Channel Islands, due to being buffered by the nearby English and French coastlines. [16] Lihou shares the weather features of Guernsey, with winter temperatures falling to 4.4 °C (39.9 °F) in February and summers with a high of 19.5 °C (67.1 °F) in August. [17]

Two small islets, close to the island, called Lissroy and Lihoumel, are breeding places for a number of endangered species of birds, including Eurasian oystercatchers and common ringed plovers. [15] : 7 [18] : 2 Numerous other species of birds and plants are found on Lihou such as peregrine falcons and sea storksbill. The Guernsey Environment Department does not allow visitors to go to the two islets and the shingle bank at certain times of the year in order to allow the birds to breed. [18] : 3 [19] Approximately 800 metres (0.50 mi) north of the island is a submerged ledge called Grand Etacre, which was considered to be a hazard to navigation in the nineteenth century. [20] [21]

Lihou island was identified as a "Site of Nature Conservation Importance" in 1989, and as part of an "Important Bird Area" which includes parts of the shoreline of Guernsey. [18] : 2 On 1 March 2006, Lihou and the L'Erée headland were designated a part of Guernsey's first Ramsar wetland site, covering about 427 hectares (1,060 acres) of land and sea. [18] : 2 [22] [23] This has created a marine reserve for the extensive variety of wildlife including more than 200 species of seaweed on the shores of Lihou, [4] [15] [24] and more than 150 species of birds observed in the area. [25]

The geology of Lihou Island is rather complex, but closely associated with neighbouring Guernsey.

The history of Lihou is closely linked to the history of Guernsey in particular and the Channel Islands in general. The earliest evidence of habitation are Mesolithic era objects recovered from archaeological digs of the 1990s, [26] along with Neolithic era tombs on the nearby mainland. [27] [28] The recorded history of Lihou began in 933 AD when the Channel Islands were seized from Brittany by the ruler of Normandy. [29] Lihou and the nearby Neolithic tombs were traditionally believed to have been meeting places for local witches, [27] [30] and fairies. [28] This led to conflict with church authorities, [31] especially when a priory was established on Lihou, dedicated to St. Mary (known locally as Our Lady of Lihou). [32] : 137 A number of dates have been suggested for the establishment of the priory, with estimates ranging from as early as 1114, [5] [7] : 321 [8] : 68 to as late as 1156. [32] : 38 Records suggest that the priory was an arriére-fief of the Benedictine abbey of Mont St. Michel under whose authority it operated. [5] [7] [8] : 60 Ownership of the island was granted to the abbey by Robert I, Duke of Normandy, in the early part of the eleventh century. [11] : 492 The priory is thought to have been constructed with contributions from the Guernseymen, who appear to have been fairly affluent at the time. [8] : 68

In the early fourteenth century, Lihou may have become the origin of a local legend about a wealthy Bailiff of Guernsey who attempted to have an innocent peasant executed on false charges of theft of silver cups. [33] In either 1302 [33] or 1304, [34] : 217 a priory servant called Thomas le Roer was alleged to have murdered one of the monks. The Bailiff and several assistants attempted to apprehend Le Roer but he did not surrender and was subsequently killed by Ranulph Gautier, one of the Bailiff's assistants. [33] Gautier tried to find sanctuary in a nearby church and eventually fled to England, before returning to Guernsey when the king pardoned him. [33] However, some years later Gautier was tortured to death in Castle Cornet, but it is not known why. [33]

The priory was seized in 1414 by King Henry V of England along with a number of alien priories. [30] In the first three centuries, there were several Priors appointed, sometimes with short tenures, but in 1500 Ralph Leonard was installed as Prior for life. [5] However, within decades the Priory was abandoned, with evidence of Thomas de Baugy being the final Prior around 1560. [5] There is also evidence that the priory was allocated to John After in 1566, who had also been appointed as the Dean of Guernsey. [9]

In 1759 the Governor of Guernsey, John West, [35] had the priory destroyed to prevent French forces from capturing the island during the Seven Years' War. [5] In the early nineteenth century, a farmhouse was built on Lihou, [5] and the island was listed as being owned by Eleazar le Marchant, who held the post of lieutenant bailiff of Guernsey. [7] : 322 Eleazar made an ultimately unsuccessful attempt, in 1815, to suppress the seaweed industry based around Lihou. [11] : 189 In a book published in the same year, William Berry noted the presence of an "iron hook of a gate hinge" on some rocks, approximately three miles out at sea from Lihou, along with the remains of old roads, and surmised that Lihou may have been significantly larger in the past but that the sea had eroded a considerable portion. [8] : 134–135 Through the remainder of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century, the island changed hands between a succession of owners including James Priaulx in 1863, Arthur Clayfield in 1883, and Colonel Hubert de Lancey Walters in 1906. [5]

During World War II, the Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans from 1940 to 1945, and Lihou was used for target practice by the German artillery, [4] causing the farmhouse to collapse completely. [5] During the summer of 1952, the ruins of the priory were studied in some detail by John and Jean Le Patourel. [36] : 127 In 1961, Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Wootton purchased Lihou. Wootton had plans to develop the island, beginning in the following year first by clearing the area of the old farmhouse, in preparation for the building of a new farmhouse, with construction work continuing into 1963. [5] He organized summer camps for young adults on the island and imported sheep from the Orkney Islands which could consume seaweed. [36] : 172 In 1983 Wootton decided to emigrate to Prince Edward Island, in Canada, and the island was sold to Robin and Patricia Borwick. [34] : 219 In 1995 the island was bought by the States of Guernsey. [37] The ruins of the priory are possibly the most extensive religious relic in Guernsey. [4] There have been several studies and excavations of the ruins, including archaeological investigations in 1996, [38] and in 1998, when several twelfth-fourteenth century graves were unearthed. [39]

Historically, Lihou was an important location for a commercially significant industry based around the harvesting of seaweed (or vraic in the local language, Guernésiais). Records suggest considerable activity as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century. [11] : 492 The value of the seaweed as a fertiliser was so great that in 1815 Eleazor Le Marchant, lieutenant bailiff of Guernsey and owner of Lihou, initiated a court case to prevent islanders from drying seaweed on the beaches of Lihou. [5] The case eventually led to new regulations issued in 1818 by the Bailiwick legislature, known as the Chief Pleas at the time, based on a review of ancient royal decrees. [11] : 189 However, the Royal Court of Guernsey ruled in favour of the islanders in 1821, with the effect that permission to harvest seaweed on Lihou was granted to inhabitants of the parishes of St Peters and St Saviours. [5] More than a century later, in 1927, a factory was established on the island to produce iodine from the seaweed. [5] [40]

The economic mainstay of the island is now ecological tourism, based around the farmhouse, which is operated by the Lihou Charitable Trust, although overall responsibility for the island remains with the Environment Department of the States of Guernsey. [41] Lihou and several other small Channel Islands such as Herm and Sark, issued their own stamps until 1969, when the States of Guernsey assumed responsibility for postal services in the Bailiwick, which had previously been provided by the UK Government. [32] : 158 [42]

The whole of the building known as the Priory of St Mary, Lihou and surrounding area was listed as a Protected Monument on 26 March 1938, reference PM236. [43] From 1 March 2006, Lihou and the L'Erée headland were designated a part of Guernsey's first Ramsar wetland site.

Guernsey Folk Lore

The photograph is of the Gran'mère du Chimquière, an ancient goddess figure that stands at the gate to St Martin's Church in Guernsey, and was taken by Carel Toms (Priaulx Library Collection).

Edgar MacCulloch (1808-1896) was Bailiff of his native Guernsey from 1884-1895. A keen and eminent antiquarian and member of the Folklore Society, he was knighted in 1886.

The local historian Edith Carey edited his collection of Guernsey customs, fairytales, and stories, recorded by him 'at various times' before 1874, and published them in 1903 as Guernsey Folk Lore. In 1894 (the date of 1864 given in the book was later corrected) the author had prepared a preface, eventually published with the book, in which he describes

His sources included an old family servant, Rachel du Port, and 'my ladies', ladies of leisure who collected material where they could Edith Carey filled several volumes with her own research on the subject 1 and from this added her own substantial appendix to MacCulloch’s work, including more ghost stories, charms and spells, mostly from her own parish of St Martin's, and poems and ballads in French.

Amongst the 'ladies' was the author Louisa Lane Clarke, who, as Edith Carey notes, also published the stories she collected in Folk-Lore of Guernsey and Sark. 2 Louisa Lane Clarke was the daughter of Major-General Ambrose Lane and Elizabeth Le Mesurier, and grand-daughter of Peter Le Mesurier, governor of Alderney. Louisa married the Rev. Thomas Clarke and spent her time in his parish of Wood Eaton in Oxfordshire until his death, after which, in 1865, she returned with their daughter Theodora 3 to Guernsey, living at L’Hyvreuse. Louisa was an expert botanist and wrote a number of popular scientific works, including The common seaweeds of the British coast and Channel Islands 4 in 1865 and the highly esteemed 1858 work of reference, recently republished, A Descriptive catalogue of the most instructive and beautiful objects for the microscope, 5 through which she became quite well-known. She applied the same forensic eye for detail to her writing on local subjects, books on the history of Alderney and contributions to the study of Serquais amongst others. 6

In 1842 the local publisher Barbet had printed a small book for her, Anglo-Norman Legends. In it were seven tales from the Channel Islands, including the tragic and sensational story of John Andrew Gordier. The various versions of this tale relate how a wealthy Frenchman, John Andrew Gordier, resident in Jersey, was on his way to visit his fiancée in Guernsey, when he disappeared. His body was discovered by two boys playing on a beach, wedged between rocks (or hidden in a cave), with head injuries. His fiancée suffers an acute decline her parents press the suit of a Guernseyman named Gaillard. She will have none of it, but to please her parents reluctantly accepts a gift of jewellery from him. Gordier’s bereaved mother sets out from Jersey to see her son’s ailing fiancée. When she arrives she catches sight of the gold chain (or later, locket) and accuses the fiancée of murder, for this was the very piece of jewellery her son John had brought with him on his last fateful journey as a wedding gift for his bride-to-be. The girl expires from shock, but not before whispering the name of her Guernsey suitor. When the family rush to Gaillard’s home to confront him, they find he has committed suicide and left a letter (either 'impious' or 'contrite') expounding his jealousy and guilt of Gordier’s murder.

The story is seems first to have been published in 1772 in several British magazines, including The Scots Magazine, edited by James Boswell, The Gentleman’s Magazine, and the The Oxford Magazine: Or, Universal Museum. It was taken up by Boswell’s friend, the Irish soldier, playwright, and author Robert Jephson (1736-1803), who based upon it his play Julia, or the Italian Lover. The play is set in Guernsey, but the location is entirely incidental. Rather than using the original names of the protagonists, John Andrew Gordier and his murderer Gaillard, the characters are called Claudio and Mentevole, and the doomed heroine, who is never named in the original stories, Julia. The play was panned by the critics, despite the best efforts of Sarah Siddons as the eponymous heroine, but found more favour with the public. In 1815 the Guernsey Sarnian Monthly Magazine published the story, which it seems simply to have copied from an earlier British source. More recent versions of the story set it in St Martin and name Rachel Mauger of the Varclin as the beautiful fiancée, and Petit Port as the scene of the murder it was published as such in 1883 in Clarke’s Guernsey Magazine, 7 though it is not obvious on what evidence, and the name of the villain has become the Guernsey surname Guillard. The du Gaillard family, however, was influential in Guernsey in the Middle Ages (probably dying out in the early 16th century when the Fief John du Gaillard passed to the Crown, although a female Gaillard appears in the St Peter Port Marriage Registers of the late 16th century: Elie Brevint recounts in his Notebook how the men of the Gaillard family were executed on a false accusation of theft i n 1364 Edward III had pardoned Peter Gaylard, who had fled the island after killing Peter Penny in a fight [Greffe Patent Rolls Ed. III 1361-64 , 38] .) T he surname Gordier is found amongst the Huguenots of Normandy, and as Gordier is explicitly said to be French and the story hinges on the gold chain he intended to give to his girlfriend, it is quite possible he was a wealthy Huguenot refugee in Jersey, in which case the story could date from any time after about 1550. The early sources, in fact, place the tragedy in the year 1726, and attribute it to the minister of the parish in which the heroine lived. Of course, if the author of the story was a Guernsey resident, he or she could easily have picked plausible pseudonyms for the real protagonists, or non-contentious names for fictional characters. There are at least two Victorian novels 8 in the Priaulx Library collection based on this tale, which became extremely popular outside the island as a 'true' example of the gothic 'twist of fate,' cited (always as a Guernsey tragedy) by, amongst others, Leigh Hunt in his London Journal of 1835, and again in One Hundred Romances of Real Life (1846), and Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1842 in Passages from the American Notebooks (Vol 2. pp. 39-40). The origin of the story, however, remains tantalisingly obscure. Edith Carey in her Appendix to Guernsey Folklore also quotes another story, entitled 'Le Seigneur de Damèque,' which is very similar and also takes place at the Varclin and Petit Port. This, unknown to Edith, was based on a true incident which occurred around 1774. 9

In the chapter entitled 'Proverbs, weather sayings, etc.,' MacCulloch gives us the following, the family names featured still being present in the island today:

T'es coume Jean Le Tocq.- You are like Jean Le Tocq. This is addressed to a man who is seen abroad at an earlier hour than usual, and contains an allusion to the old Guernsey ballad of the invasion of the island be Evan if Wales in 1373, where it is said:Jean Le Tocq sy se leva/Plus matin qu'à l'accoutumée

I' fait de sen Queripel.—It is untranslatable literally, but may be rendered 'he acts like a Queripel' and is said of a man whose vanity leads him to take too much upon himself. The name existed as in Guernsey as early as the fourteenth century, at which time it was written Carupel, but here is not the slightest clue where or how the saying originated. It may possibly be a corruption of some proverbial expression current in Normandy.

Edgar MacCulloch dedicates a chapter of his book to 'Holy Chapels and Holy Wells,' and successfully lobbied for the purchase and restoration of the mediaeval Chapel of St Apolline by the States of Guernsey in 1873. George Métivier, the antiquarian and poet, published a number of historical essays in the French language newspapers in the latter half of the 19th century, known collectively as Souvenirs Historiques, 10 and it is evident that Edgar MacCulloch made extensive use of these. Although a great deal of MacCulloch's and Métivier's work centres on the folklore surrounding the cromlechs and stones of the islands, the first author to write about the ancient archaeology of Guernsey was probably the naturalist Joshua Gosselin (1739-1813), cousin of the archaeologist Frederic Corbin Lukis. A more up-to-date work in the library on the same subject is Pagan Channel Islands, by S V Peddle. 11

The folktales and legends of Guernsey have also proved the inspiration for several more recent books in the Library's collection. These include books for children:

Folk-tales of the Channel Islands, by Dorothy K. Collings, illustrated by Peggy Fortnum Fairy Tales of the Channel Islands and Further Fairy Tales of the Channel Islands, by Eileen Parrish and more general works:

  • The Channel Islands anthology: archaeology, history, folklore, edited by J. and G. Stevens Cox
  • The Folklore of Guernsey, by Marie de Garis
  • A Tale of St George's Well, by Louisa Lane
  • Guernsey Legends by Freda Wolley
  • The Forest of Vazon, by Sir Henry Percy Anderson
  • Wart-Charming, J. Linwood Pitts
  • Guernsey and Sark Legends and Stories, by E. Gallienne Robin
  • The Bailiff's Cross, by Henri de Monteyremar
  • A Legend of Moulin Huet, by Lizzie Freeth
  • A Legend of the Haye du Puits, by M A Cooke.

Many earlier books about Guernsey include observations of local customs and observances. Learned articles were published occasionally in the Report and Transactions of the Société Guernesiaise until 1921, but Edith Carey's publication of a lecture 12 she gave at the Ladies' College in the island in 1909 seems to signal an end to serious investigation of the subject J Linwood Pitts had made a plea for the 'wonder-stories' of Guernsey to be saved, in 1903/4. F Picot's article on Alderney folklore, which she collected in 1928 and published in the RTSG in 1929, having corresponded with Edith Carey, may be the very last word.

1 Guernsey Folk Lore: a collection of popular superstitions, legendary tales, peculiar customs, proverbs, weather sayings, etc. of the people of that island, from mss. by the late Sir Edgar MacCulloch edited by Edith F Carey. Edith Carey's three mss. volumes of notes are held at the Priaulx Library. See Report and Transactions of the Société Guernesiaise, 1902, pp. 199-201. Edith Carey was helped in her collection of material by her cousin, Ernestine Le Pelley.

2 Folk-lore of Guernsey and Sark: an appendix to Le Lièvre's Guernsey guide, by Louisa Lane-Clarke, Guernsey: Le Lièvre, 1880

3 Theodora converted to Catholicism at the age of 21 and married an Irish career soldier, Bartholemew 'Bartle' Teeling, who later became Private Chamberlain to the Pope. She was an author of religious texts for children. Her mother eventually also became a Catholic.

4 Louisa Lane Clarke, The common seaweeds of the British coast and Channel Islands: with some insight into the microscopic beauties of their structure and fructification, London: Frederick Warne and Co., [1865]. 5 Louisa Lane Clarke, A Descriptive catalogue of the most instructive and beautiful objects for the microscope, London (Farringdon Street.) New York (18, Berkman St.): Routledge, 1858.

6 Amongst the works of Louisa Lane Clarke in the Library are: The island of Alderney: its early history, antiquities, present state, scenery, customs, and trade: being a companion and guide for the traveller, Guernsey, Brouard, 1851 The new parish church of St. Ann its origin and symbolism: Affectionately addressed to the people of Alderney, Guernsey: S. Barbet, 1850 Guernsey French: (written in 1880), Guernsey: Toucan Press, 1978 etc.

7 Clarke's Guernsey Magazine, Monthly Illustrated Journal, Vol. XI, May, 1883, p. 368 Guernsey, F. W. Clarke, States Arcade, Market Place

8 The Little Gate of Tears: A Romance of the Island of Guernsey (1906) by 'Austin Clare' (Wilhelmina Martha James) and The Locket: A Story of Old Guernsey (1883) (Mary Hoppus (Mrs Alfred Marks) (1843-1916).]

9 Guernsey Folk Lore, p.p. 581-589. A story from Nevada, the Murder of Henri Gordier (the hanging of "Lucky" Bill), bears a striking similarity to these two tales yet seems to be based on a true incident that occurred in 1857.

10 George Métivier, Souvenirs Historiques, collected in a scrapbook in the Priaulx Library.

11 S. V. Peddle, Pagan Channel Islands : Europe's hidden heritage London: Robert Hale, 2007.

Guernsey Culture

Religion in Guernsey

Church of England, Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregational and Methodist.

Social Conventions in Guernsey

Handshaking is the customary form of greeting and normal social courtesies should be observed when visiting someone's home. It is not usual to start eating until everyone is served. If invited to someone's home, a small present such as flowers or chocolates is appreciated. Casual wear is acceptable in most places. Smoking is banned in enclosed public places.

13 things you may not know about Guernsey, island of the Potato Peel Pie

Lily James stars in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Credit: Kerry Brown

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T oday (April 20) sees the release of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - the cinematic version of Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow's popular novel about life on the second biggest of the Channel Islands in the immediate wake of the Second World War.

It stars Downton Abbey alumnus Lily James as a writer who is drawn to Guernsey and the struggles of its inhabitants in the aftermath of the German occupation (1940-1945) - and is sure to pique interest in this pretty outcrop of coves, cliffs, castles and cream teas (despite the fact that none of the movie was filmed there).

It is an island which swirls with notes of interest - wilder than you might think, and swaddled in a history that rears its head in unexpected corners. If the film's pleasing tale of romance, recovery and loss has you perusing the map and planning a trip of your own, the following 13 facts (not all about the war, although the occupation provides many fascinating Guernsey anecdotes) may also provide reasons for travel.

1. Castle Cornet remembers a distant sweetheart

The fortress which dominates the waterfront in the Guernsey capital St Peter Port ( was built in 1206 to help the defend the island from France. But it found itself repurposed eight centuries later, fitted with heavy artillery and sniper nests by the invading Germans. Several of them left their mark in graffiti etched into its walls. But not just in the sinister scrawlings you might assume. In with the occasional swastika is a single word, scratched into the north-west watchtower. "Else" - a pining for a girlfriend somewhere over the horizon in Heidelberg, Hamburg or Hamburg.

2. The German Occupation Museum keeps secrets.

Pitched in the south of the island at Les Houards, the German Occupation Museum ( offers a compelling snapshot of life on Guernsey between 1940 and 1945. It is just not the obvious artefacts - various items of weaponry versions of the local newspaper, the Guernsey Evening Press, mired in propaganda commentary about the "friendly and honest" enemy soldiers - which catch the eye. Look too for the exhibit on Freda Oliver and Paul Schlimbach - she a local woman, he a German officer - who became a couple in the heat of war. The relationship cannot have been easy for either of them, but their letters, diary entries and photographs show two people in love - a Romeo and Juliet for their time. They would go on to marry in 1947.

3. . in more ways than one

The museum collection also features one of the war's most iconic pieces of hardware - an Enigma machine. It is one of two such communication devices that the German forces kept on the island - for use in sending encrypted messages to U-boats in the Channel. Its hard round keys and black panels still sing of the cut-and-thrust of the early Forties.

4. You can sense ghosts in the Underground Hospital

There can be few more unnerving structures anywhere on this planet than the German Military Underground Hospital (details at, which lies under Guernsey's skin, like a bad tattoo, near the centre of the island at La Vassalerie. This vast subterranean complex was hewn out of the bare rock using slave labour - and while it was used for medical purposes once complete, it feels shrouded in darkness. Unlike the sister labyrinth on Jersey (Jersey War Tunnels, the passageways have only been restored to a basic level. They are haunted by the noise of dripping water, and by the shadows which coalesce in the corners of dank operating theatres and dead wards. It saw its busiest period of activity in 1944, when some of the German wounded from the D-Day landings were shipped here from Cherbourg. Their pain seems to daub the damp walls.

5. You can see where Oliver Reed made a splash

The Old Government House Hotel ( in St Peter Port was also a key player in the occupation era - it was the General Staff Headquarters for the German officers. Now a five-star retreat of afternoon teas and polite ambience, it remembers a rather more welcome guest in a small plaque on the wall of the lounge - even if it would be difficult to say that Oliver Reed added much to the property's air of refinement. On one woozy night in the early Eighties, the panel explains, the actor and notorious hellraiser followed the clear and sensible path open to those staying in an upper room overlooking the central courtyard - taking a running leap through the window, and crashing down into the swimming pool three floors below. Inevitably Reed was unhurt.

6. You can watch one of Europe's fiercest football derbies

Spurs v Arsenal. Manchester City v Manchester United. Liverpool v Everton. Celtic v Rangers. The football calendar in the British Isles is alive with derby fixtures where teams take on their nearest and not-so-dearest rivals. To that list you can add Guernsey v Jersey, and the battle for the Muratti Vase. The two islands have competed for this trophy, 11 men against 11, since 1905 - and with as much competitiveness of spirit as any game played at Old Trafford or Ibrox. Technically, it is a three-way tournament which also involves a semi-final against Alderney. But the third island has only won the competition once, in 1920 - and has not made the final since 1938. Guernsey and Jersey take turns to host the big match (usually on the second weekend of May). Guernsey are the current holders, but will not stage the fixture again (at the Footes Lane stadium, in St Peter Port) until next year. Jersey has lifted the Vase 53 times, Guernsey 46.

5th January 1973Guernsey Zoo is sold as a going concern

Guernsey Zoo, which was once one of Guernsey’s most popular tourist attractions, was sold on 5 January 1973. The owners, Mr and Mrs Ronald Smart, had organised with Knight Frank and Rutley to market it to potential buyers for sale as a going concern.

The unusual advert for an “attractive fully furnished period house with six bedrooms” also listed a baby elephant, chimpanzees, baboons, bears, llamas and exotic birds housed in cages and aviaries, many of them heated for the winter, on a two-and-a-quarter acre site.

The sale also included a children’s farmyard, tea bar, gift shop, “piped music”, garages, and parking for 250 cars. Although the advert didn’t state a price, news reports surrounding its eventual sale said that it went for around £70,000.

International programmes

The Zoo had been very successful in its time. It started work on a United Nations of wildlife in the 1960s, and in 1967 received a gift of deer and squirrels from Moscow Zoo on behalf of the government of the Soviet Union. The following year, it took in a four-month-old Himalayan bear that had been adopted by soldiers in Vietnam after its mother had been killed by flying shrapnel.

Perhaps its greatest success, though, had come with the 1967 birth of a parma wallaby which, according to the London Zoological Society, was possibly the first to have been successfully bred in captivity. This particular breed of wallaby was almost extinct, except on a 5000-acre island off New Zealand. It was later found to also be living on the eastern coast of Australia.

The zoo’s eventual closure (it became the Guernsey Bird Garden, which has also since closed down) left the Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey as the only zoological establishment in the Channel Islands.

There are 49 Jews left on the British island of Jersey. The pandemic has pushed their one synagogue to the brink.

LONDON ( JTA ) — Jersey is one of Britain’s most unusual places — an autonomous island closer to France than to mainland England, a tax haven for London’s superrich and the last remnant of the English crown’s Norman domains.

But Jersey is also home to a rare non-urban British Jewish community with a unique history forged in the face of the Nazi occupation during World War II — the only German occupation of any U.K. territory.

These days, though, the community, with a formal membership of only 49 and an average age of over 70, has had to negotiate the coronavirus crisis as its membership continues to shrink.

In May, Jersey’s Jewish Congregation, which operates in a small converted Methodist schoolhouse on the southwest corner of the craggy island, for three weeks held the unlikely title of the only legally operating Shabbat service in Britain. Synagogues were shut down across Britain in mid-March, and the reopening process began only five months later. But Jersey contained the virus so well that it was allowed to open houses of worship — with limits on how many could attend at a time — earlier than the rest of the country.

The community held its first full service since March — with a minyan of twelve men — in mid May, as the congregation’s more vulnerable members emerged from self-isolation. Face masks and gloves were ordered beforehand, chairs were placed yards apart and prayer books, once touched, were quarantined for a week after use.

The Jersey synagogue socially distanced its chairs for its first Shabbat service since the start of the pandemic. (Courtesy of the Jersey Jewish Congregation)

No London-accented melodies filled the hall of the building, built in the 1970s — singing was strictly prohibited.

“If this is the new normal, then it didn’t feel very normal,” said one attendee of the Shabbat service who did not want to be named.

An ‘honest’ community comes to terms with its decline

During the pandemic, the community’s isolation has been brought into focus. A few more observant members live on the roads surrounding the synagogue in the town of St. Brelade, but most live a drive away on the small island.

The Channel Islands have been inaccessible from the mainland since March, when the islands went into strict lockdown. Unable to travel, the island’s kosher food stocks — especially of meat — and links to the wider British Jewish community were severed.

In normal times, many community members traveled back and forth regularly, either to visit family members or attend synagogue or to pick up holiday supplies. Only a few congregation members keep fully kosher at home, and most will eat non-kosher when out, but they still import kosher food and subscribe to some of the basics of Jewish observance.

Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, center, visits the Jersey Jewish Congregation in 2017. (Courtesy of Jersey Jewish Congregation)

Malcolm Weisman, a non-ordained rabbi called a reverend by British Jews, leads High Holiday services and the occasional Shabbat service. Weisman has ventured to remote Jewish communities like the one in Jersey for decades. A Jewish Telegraphic Agency article from 1976 reported that he visited as many as 50 a year.

“There is a saying in Yiddish – ‘it is hard to be a Jew’ – but it isn’t hard to be a Jew,” said Stephen Regal, the congregation’s president. “You just have to arrange your life to be one. That is how we operate here on Jersey, and that’s how we’ve got on with it the past few weeks.”

He added: “If you have no alternative, you make do with what you’ve got.”

Jersey’s problems are not unique. Since the 1970s – Jersey’s heyday – dozens of small, regional Jewish communities across the U.K. have vanished as Jews concentrated in London and Manchester.

Anita Regal, who moved to Jersey at age 16 in 1960 (and is Stephen Regal’s sister-in-law), has seen the Jersey community’s rise and gradual decline.

“Lots and lots of people came to live here in the 1960s,” she said over a crackly phone line.

Middle-class Jews came to the Channel Islands during the 1960s and 70s to service the booming trade as an offshore tax haven. They were a pragmatic, honest and street-smart bunch — several were accountants and lawyers and other types of everyday professionals. Estimates place the peak Jewish population between 80 and 120. A little less than 100,000 people live on the island overall.

A view of the beach and seafront in St. Helier, the Jersey capital, in 2017. (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

“People have died, and people have left. There isn’t much replacement – my own children have left,” said Anita Regal, who was Jersey’s first female lawyer. “It is amazing that we are still going to be honest … we stagger on as best we can.”

Stephen Regal says it’s hard for him to envision the community surviving.

“I am an optimist by nature, but I am also a pragmatist,” Stephen said. “And I see the community struggling going forward to maintain numbers and the skill sets that we need to remain viable as a community.

“There are very few of us over here that can read Hebrew fluently for example,” he added. “When I go, and when some of the others do, who will replace us?”

The Channel Islands are better known among British Jews for another painful period.

Germany’s occupation of the islands from 1940 to May 1945 is often referred to as a “footnote” in the British history of World War II. But the tiny Jewish population that remained on the islands when the Germans arrived, estimated at around 30, were subjected to a string of anti-Semitic laws imposed by occupying forces and administered by British civil servants.

A German Luftwaffe officer, left, speaks with a British policeman in St. Helier, the capital of Jersey, during the German occupation of the Channel Islands. (PA Images via Getty Images)

In Alderney, a smaller, even more remote islet a few miles from Jersey, a stone bearing inscriptions in English, French, Hebrew and Russian hints at this history. Labor camps were set up there, and thousands of slave laborers, including hundreds of French Jews, were forced to work — many to death — building Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, which was designed to make an invasion of Europe all but impossible. Steel skeletons and concrete remains of bunkers and gun emplacements dot the islands’ coasts.

On Holocaust Memorial Day, the island remembers the 22 non-Jewish resistance fighters who were deported from the island and murdered during the occupation. The group includes those arrested for covertly spreading news gathered from illegal BBC-tuned radios, and a clergyman deported after speaking out against the Germans from his pulpit.

During the war, three Jewish women arrived on the neighboring island of Guernsey as refugees from Austria and Germany, but were deported to France in April 1942. From there, they were sent to Auschwitz.

Jersey has been quicker at reckoning with its wartime past than Guernsey, which celebrated its first Holocaust Memorial Day in 2015. Its small plaque to the three Jewish women murdered in the Holocaust was erected in 2001 and has been repeatedly vandalized. A small lighthouse memorial stands on Jersey for the three Guernsey deportees.

After the war, rather than seeking to punish those who facilitated the German occupation, as postwar collaboration trials did across Europe, the British government quietly let the matter slip. Honors were bestowed on the islands’ rulers as a token of gratitude for their “protection” of the islands’ populations.

“During the occupation, the bailiff of Guernsey was a man called Victor Carey,” explained Gilly Carr, a historian at Cambridge University. “And the Carey family are recognized as an important family that have often held positions of authority on the island.”

The Carey family is still influential on the island. Victor Carey’s grandson, De Vic Carey, served as Guernsey’s bailiff — or the chief justice of the local court and ceremonial head of the island — between 1999 and 2005.

“[Guernsians] have been much slower” in coming to terms with their past, Anita Regal said.

Martha Bernstein, the secretary of Jersey’s Jewish Congregation, who also runs Jewish education programs in Jersey’s schools, says that while the historical debate has been had in Jersey, there is still a way to go.

“The extent of collaboration on the Channel Islands, I feel, is still something that is not talked about,” she said. “When people try and push at the Pandora’s box, and lift the lid a little, people become edgy.”

Rediscovering Sylt

In the new study, Sturdy Colls and her team found physical evidence supporting witness accounts of harsh conditions at Sylt. They mapped the surviving shallow depressions of the barracks at the camp, confirming witness reports of overcrowding each prisoner would have had just 16 square feet of space at best. Through the course of removing vegetation from the site, they uncovered the prisoners' toilets. The team made virtual-reality visualizations for a clearer view of features—such as an underground tunnel leading from the commandant’s house to the camp—that were difficult to see in the field due to bad lighting conditions.

Using historic aerial images, the researchers also tracked how both the size and security measures of Lager Sylt drastically increased when it evolved from a labor camp to a concentration camp in 1943.

The SS, for instance, went to great lengths to outfit Lager Sylt with imposing fences and guard towers, which surely had a profound psychological effect on the inmates.

“In a way, it didn't need any of those things because it was on a corner of a small island surrounded by minefields,” Sturdy Colls says. “There was nowhere for any of these prisoners to go.”

A Brief History of Guernsey

Geographically, Guernsey is much closer to France than to England, lying only 30 miles from the Normandy coast as against 60 miles from Weymouth. However, when islanders talk about "the mainland", they mean the United Kingdom, to which they are bound by centuries-old ties of sentiment, economics and politics.

How has this allegiance to Britain rather than to France, the island's closest powerful neighbour, come about?. To answer that question, we have to go back to 933 AD when the Channel Islands became part of the Norman realms following the treaty of St. Clair-sur-Epte. Later in 1066, William, Duke of Normandy landed his conquering army in Sussex and became William the Ist of England. His Duchy of Normandy included the Channel Islands - Les Iles Normandes - and these became part of the combined realm of England and Normandy. 138 years later, King John lost most of the Duchy of Normandy, but Guernsey and the other Channel Islands remained loyal to the English Crown.

From that time, the Islands became a focal point for the strife that was to exist between England and France. The French made many raids on the Islands and at times established temporary footholds, only to be driven off by the sturdy islanders, supported by the forces of the English monarch.

The frequency of these raids led to the building of fortresses around the coast, the remains of some of which can still be seen as reminders of Guernsey's stormy history. During this time the Island developed its own independent legal system and parliamentary institutions, and today it is to a large extent a self-governing territory, although all local legislation has to have Royal assent.

The German invasion of the Channel Islands in July 1940 and their occupation for nearly five years by Hitler's forces did more than anything else in Guernsey's history to "anglicise" the island. Thousands of local people were evacuated to the U.K, and a generation of children grew up in mainland towns and villages. Nevertheless the Island's laws and customs remain rooted in its Norman-French past.

Hitler's Legacy: Hitler saw the seizure of these British territories as a great prize and, believing Churchill would try to recapture them, ordered that they should be made into an impregnable fortress. Huge quantities of concrete and steel were shipped in, and thousands of Organisation Todt workers brought in from all over Europe. At one time there were 13,000 Wehrmacht troops in Guernsey.

Before the invasion in 1940, about 17,000 of Guernsey's 42,000 inhabitants were evacuated to the UK, but in Sark, virtually everyone remained. During the War some 2,000 Guernsey people were imprisoned in Germany. Alderney's residents were evacuated at their request, by the Royal Navy, a week before the Germans arrived. Subsequently the Germans established three slave labour camps and an SS concentration camp on the island. A few Guernsey men were compelled to work there, though not as slaves.

The Occupation was a time of irksome restrictions and censorship, isolation and growing shortages. After the Normandy landings in 1944, when the Islands were cut off from the French mainland, civilians and troops alike came close to starvation.

With the Liberation in May 1945, the Islanders set about ridding themselves of every reminder of those bitter years. Today, however, relics of the Occupation, such as the Corbiere Tower on the south coast, and the underground hospital in St Andrews are open to visitors.

Guernsey people are proud of the fact that their loyalty to the English Crown has been by choice and not by conquest. Indeed, as islanders sometimes point out with tongue in cheek, it was their Duke that conquered England in 1066.

Watch the video: Guernsey - Kurztrip zur schönsten Kanalinsel


  1. Joram

    Nice question

  2. Carson

    It's okay, it's the entertaining phrase

  3. Matherson

    There is something in this. I am grateful to you for your help in this matter. I did not know it.

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