Channel Islands

Channel Islands
The Channel Islands, located between the south coast of the United Kingdom and northern France.

The Channel Islands (Norman: Îles d'la Manche, French: Îles Anglo-Normandes or Îles de la Manche) are an archipelago of British Crown Dependencies in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two separate bailiwicks: the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey. They are considered the remnants of the Duchy of Normandy, and are not part of the United Kingdom.[1] They have a total population of about 158,000 and their respective capitals, St. Peter Port and St. Helier, have populations of 16,488 and 28,310. The total area of the islands is 194 km².

The Bailiwicks have been administered separately from each other since the late 13th century, although those unacquainted with the islands often assume they form one political unit:[who?] common institutions are the exception rather than the rule. The two Bailiwicks have no common laws, no common elections, and no common representative body (although their politicians consult regularly). There is no common newspaper or radio station, but there is a common television station, ITV Channel Television, and a common BBC television news opt-out BBC Channel Islands News.



The Channel Islands and adjacent coast of France.
Viewed from Jersey's north coast, Jethou, Herm and Sark are hazy outlines on the horizon.

The inhabited islands of the Channel Islands are Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm (the main islands); Jethou, Brecqhou (Brechou) and Lihou, all except Jersey in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. There are also uninhabited islets: the Minquiers, Écréhous, Les Dirouilles and Les Pierres de Lecq (the Paternosters), part of the Bailiwick of Jersey; and Burhou and the Casquets lie off Alderney. In general the larger islands have the -ey suffix, and the smaller ones have the -hou suffix; these are believed to be from the Old Norse ey and holmr, respectively.

The Chausey Islands south of Jersey are not generally included in the geographical definition of the Channel Islands but are occasionally described as 'French Channel Islands' in English in view of their French jurisdiction. They were historically linked to the Duchy of Normandy, but they are part of the French territory along with continental Normandy, and not part of the British Isles or of the Channel Islands in a political sense. They are an incorporated part of the commune of Granville (Manche). While popular with visitors from France they are rarely visited by Channel Islanders, as there are no direct transport links from the other islands.

In official Jersey French, the islands are called 'Îles de la Manche', while in France, the term 'Îles anglo-normandes' (Anglo-Norman isles) is used to refer to the British 'Channel Islands' in contrast to other islands in the Channel. Chausey is referred to as an 'Île normande' (as opposed to anglo-normande). 'Îles Normandes' and 'Archipel Normand' have also, historically, been used in Channel Island French to refer to the islands as a whole.

The very large tidal variation provides an environmentally rich inter-tidal zone around the islands, and some sites have received Ramsar Convention designation (see Category:Ramsar sites in the Channel Islands).

The waters around the islands include the following:

  • The Swinge (between Alderney and Burhou)
  • The Little Swinge (between Burhou and Les Nannels)
  • La Déroute (between Jersey and Sark, and Jersey and the Cotentin)
  • Le Raz Blanchard, or Race of Alderney (between Alderney and the Cotentin)
  • The Great Russel (between Sark, Jéthou and Herm)
  • The Little Russel (between Guernsey, Herm and Jéthou)
  • Souachehouais (between Le Rigdon and L'Étacq, Jersey)
  • Le Gouliot (between Sark and Brecqhou)
  • La Percée (between Herm and Jéthou)

The highest point in the islands is Les Platons in Jersey at 143 metres (469 ft) above sea level. The lowest point is the Atlantic Ocean (sea level).


La Gran'mère du Chimquière, Statue menhir, Saint Martin, Guernsey
Condemned witches burning in St. Peter Port, Guernsey[2]


The earliest evidence of human occupation of the Channel Islands has been dated to 25,000 years ago when they were attached to the landmass of continental Europe.[3] The islands became detached by rising sea levels in the Neolithic period. The numerous dolmens and other archaeological sites extant and recorded in history demonstrate the existence of a population large enough and organised enough to undertake constructions of considerable size and sophistication, such as the burial mound at La Hougue Bie[4] in Jersey or the statue menhirs of Guernsey.

From the Iron Age

Hoards of Armorican coins have been excavated, providing evidence of trade and contact in the Iron Age period. Evidence for Roman settlement is sparse, although evidently the islands were visited by Roman officials and traders. The traditional Latin names of the islands (Caesarea for Jersey, Sarnia for Guernsey, Riduna for Alderney) derive (possibly mistakenly) from the Antonine Itinerary. Gallo-Roman culture was adopted to an unknown extent in the islands.[5]

In the 6th century Christian missionaries visited the islands. Samson of Dol, Helier, Marculf and Magloire are among saints associated with the islands. Although originally included within the diocese of Dol, in the 6th century the islands were transferred to the diocese of Coutances, perhaps under the influence of Prætextatus.

From the beginning of the 9th century Norse raiders appeared on the coasts. Norse settlement succeeded initial attacks, and it is from this period that many place names of Norse origin appear, including the modern names of the islands.

From the Duchy of Normandy

The islands were annexed to the Duchy of Normandy in 933. In 1066, William II of Normandy, a vassal to the king of France, invaded and conquered England, becoming William I of England, also known as William the Conqueror. In the period 1204–1214, King John lost the Angevin lands in northern France, including mainland Normandy, to King Philip II of France; in 1259 his successor, Henry III officially surrendered his claim and title to the Duchy of Normandy, while retaining the Channel Islands. Since then, the Channel Islands have been governed as possessions of the Crown separate from the Kingdom of England and its successor kingdoms of Great Britain and the United Kingdom.

The islands were invaded by the French in 1338, who held some territory until 1345. Owen of Wales attacked Jersey and Guernsey in 1372, and in 1373 Bertrand du Guesclin besieged Mont Orgueil.[6] Jersey was occupied by the French in the Wars of the Roses from 1461 to 1468. In 1483 a Papal Bull decreed that the islands would be neutral during time of war. This privilege of neutrality enabled islanders to trade with both France and England and was respected until 1689 when it was abolished by Order in Council following the Glorious Revolution in Great Britain.[citation needed]

Various attempts to transfer the islands from the diocese of Coutances (to Nantes (1400), Salisbury (1496) and Winchester (1499)) had little effect until an Order in Council of 1569 brought the islands formally into the diocese of Winchester. Control by the bishop of Winchester was ineffectual as the islands had turned overwhelmingly Calvinist and the episcopacy was not restored until 1620 in Jersey and 1663 in Guernsey.[citation needed]

Sark in the 16th century was uninhabited until colonised from Jersey in the 1560s. The grant of seigneurship from Elizabeth I of England forms the basis of Sark's constitution today.

Over a dozen windmills are known to have existed in the Channel Isles. They were mostly tower mills used for grinding corn.[citation needed]

From the 17th century

During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Jersey held out strongly for the Royalist cause, providing refuge for Charles, Prince of Wales in 1646 and 1649–1650, while the more strongly Presbyterian Guernsey more generally favoured the parliamentary cause (although Castle Cornet was, on 15 December 1651, the last Royalist stronghold in the British Isles to surrender).[7]

The islands acquired commercial and political interests in the North American colonies. Islanders became involved with the Newfoundland fisheries in the 17th century. In recognition for all the help given to him during his exile in Jersey in the 1640s, Charles II gave George Carteret, Bailiff and governor, a large grant of land in the American colonies, which he promptly named New Jersey, now part of the United States of America. Edmund Andros of Guernsey was an early colonial governor in North America, and head of the short-lived Dominion of New England.[citation needed]

In the 1800s, wealthy French Émigrés sought residency in the islands fleeing the revolution. Many of the town domiciles existing today were built in that time. In Saint Peter Port, a large part of the harbour had been built by 1865.

20th century

The Channel Islands remain covered in German fortifications built in the Second World War.

World War II

The islands were the only part of the British Commonwealth to be occupied by the German Army during World War II. The German occupation of 1940–45 was harsh: over 2,000 Islanders were deported by the Germans,[8] Jews sent to concentration camps; partisan resistance and retribution; accusations of collaboration; and slave labour (primarily Russians and eastern Europeans) brought to the islands to build fortifications,[9] with 65,718 landmines laid in Jersey alone.[10] According to the Ministry of Defence, a very high proportion of women "from all classes and families" had sexual relations with the enemy, and 800-900 children were born to German fathers.[11]

The British government demilitarised the islands in June 1940 and the Lieutenant-Governors were withdrawn on 21 June, leaving the insular administrations to continue government as best they could under impending military occupation.[8]

Before German troops landed, between 30 June and 4 July 1940, evacuation took place (many young men had already left to join the Allied armed forces): 6,600 out of 50,000 left Jersey whilst 17,000 out of 42,000 left Guernsey.[12] Thousands of children were evacuated with their schools to England and Scotland, and a number of Guernsey Headteachers re established their schools in Britain for the duration of the war. One such school was assisted financially by the 'Foster Parent Plan for Children Affected by War' where each child was sponsored by a wealthy American; one girl, Paulette was sponsored by Eleanor Roosevelt herself. [13]

The population of Sark largely remained where they were;[8] but in Alderney, the entire population, save for six persons, left. In Alderney, the occupying Germans built four concentration camps in which over 700 people out of a total prisoner population of about 6,000 died. Due to the destruction of documents, it is impossible to state how many forced workers died in the other islands.[8] These were the only Nazi concentration camps on British soil.[14][15]

During the German occupation of Jersey, a stonemason repairing the paving of the Royal Square incorporated a V for victory under the noses of the occupiers. This was later amended to refer to the Red Cross ship Vega. The addition of the date 1945 and a more recent frame has transformed it into a monument

The Royal Navy blockaded the islands from time to time, particularly following the Invasion of Normandy in June 1944. There was considerable hunger and privation during the five years of German occupation, particularly in the final months when the population was close to starvation. Intense negotiations resulted in some humanitarian aid being sent via the Red Cross, leading to the arrival of the Red Cross supply ship Vega in December 1944.

The end of the occupation came after VE-Day on 8 May 1945, Jersey and Guernsey being liberated on 9 May. The German garrison in Alderney did not surrender until 16 May and it was one of the last of the Nazi German remnants to surrender.[16] The first evacuees returned on the first sailing from Great Britain on 23 June,[8] but the people of Alderney were unable to start returning until December 1945. Many of the evacuees who returned home had difficulty reconnecting with their families after five years of separation.[17]


Following the liberation of 1945, reconstruction led to a transformation of the economies of the islands, attracting immigration and developing tourism. The legislatures were reformed and non-party governments embarked on social programmes, aided by the incomes from offshore finance, which grew rapidly from the 1960s.[18]

The islands decided not to join the European Economic Community when the UK joined, and remain outside.[19]

Since the 1990s declining profitability of agriculture and tourism have challenged the governments of the islands.[20]


The Channel Islands fall into two separate self-governing bailiwicks, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey. Both are British Crown Dependencies, and neither is part of the United Kingdom. They have been part of the Duchy of Normandy since the 10th century and Queen Elizabeth II is often referred to by her traditional and conventional title of Duke of Normandy. However, pursuant to the Treaty of Paris (1259) she governs in her right as the Queen (the "Crown in right of Jersey",[21] and the "Crown in right of the république of the Bailiwick of Guernsey").[22] and not as the Duke. This notwithstanding, it is a matter of local pride for monarchists to treat the situation otherwise: the Loyal Toast at formal dinners is to 'The Queen, our Duke', rather than to 'Her Majesty, the Queen' as in the UK.[23]

A bailiwick is a territory administered by a bailiff. The Bailiff in each bailiwick is the civil head, presiding officer of the States, and also head of the judiciary.

The systems of government date from Norman times, which accounts for the names of the legislatures, the States, derived from the Norman 'États' or 'estates' (i.e. the Crown, the Church, and the people). The States have evolved over the centuries into democratic parliaments.

Entrance to the public gallery of the States Chamber in Jersey.

Each island has its own primary legislature, known as the States of Guernsey and the States of Jersey, with Chief Pleas in Sark and the States of Alderney - the Channel Islands are not represented in the UK Parliament. Laws passed by the States are given Royal Assent by the Queen in Council, to whom the islands' governments are responsible.[24]

The islands are not part of the European Union, but are part of the Customs Territory of the European Community by virtue of Protocol Three to the Treaty on European Union. In September 2010 a Channel Islands Brussels Office was set up jointly by the two Bailiwicks to develop the Channel Islands' influence with the EU, to advise the Channel Islands' governments on European matters, and to promote economic links with the EU.[25]

Both Bailiwicks are members of the British-Irish Council, and Jèrriais and Guernésiais are recognised regional languages of the Isles.

The legal courts are separate; separate courts of appeal have been in place since 1961. Among the legal heritage from Norman law is the Clameur de Haro.

Islanders are full British citizens, and therefore European citizens. Any British citizen who applies for a passport in Jersey or Guernsey receives a passport bearing the words "British Islands, Bailiwick of Jersey" or "British Islands, Bailiwick of Guernsey". Under the provisions of Protocol Three, Channel Islanders who do not have a close connection with the UK (no parent or grandparent from the UK, and have never been resident in the UK for a five-year period) do not automatically benefit from the EU provisions on free movement within the EU and their passports receive an endorsement to that effect. This affects only a minority of islanders.

Under the UK Interpretation Act 1978, the Channel Islands are deemed to be part of the British Islands,[26] not to be confused with the British Isles. For the purposes of the British Nationality Act 1981, the “British Islands” include the United Kingdom (Great Britain and Northern Ireland), the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, taken together, unless the context otherwise requires.[27]


Tourism is the major industry in the smaller islands (with some agriculture). Jersey and Guernsey have, since the 1960s, relied on financial services. Guernsey's horticultural and greenhouse activities have been more significant than in Jersey, and Guernsey has maintained light industry as a higher proportion of its economy than Jersey. Jersey's economy since the 1980s has been substantially more reliant on finance.[citation needed]

Both Bailiwicks issue their own banknotes and coins, which circulate freely in all the islands alongside UK coinage and Bank of England and Scottish banknotes.[citation needed]

There are many exports, largely consisting of crafted goods and farmed produce.[citation needed]

Transport and communications


Since 1969, Jersey and Guernsey have operated postal administrations independently of the UK's Royal Mail, with their own postage stamps, which can be used for postage only in their respective Bailiwicks. UK stamps are no longer valid, but mail to the islands, and to the Isle of Man, is charged at UK inland rates. It was not until the early 1990s that the islands joined the UK's postcode system, Jersey postcodes using the initials JE and Guernsey GY.



Each of the three largest islands has a distinct vehicle registration scheme:

  • Guernsey (GBG): a number of up to five digits;
  • Jersey (GBJ): J followed by up to six digits (JSY vanity plates are also issued);
  • Alderney (GBA): AY followed by up to five digits (four digits are the most that have been used, as redundant numbers are re-issued).

In Sark, where most motor traffic is prohibited, the few vehicles  – nearly all tractors  – do not display plates. Bicycles display cardboard tax discs.


In the 1960s, names used for the cross-Channel ferries plying the mail route between the islands and Weymouth, Dorset were taken from the popular Latin names for the islands: "Caesarea" (Jersey), "Sarnia" (Guernsey) and "Riduna" (Alderney).

Today, the ferry route between the Channel Islands and the UK is operated by Condor Ferries from both St Helier, Jersey and St Peter Port, Guernsey, using high-speed catamaran fast craft to Weymouth and Poole in the UK. A regular passenger ferry service on the Commodore Clipper goes from both Channel Island ports to Portsmouth daily, and carries both passengers and freight.

Ferry services to Normandy are operated by Manche Îles Express, and services between Jersey and Saint Malo are operated by Compagnie Corsaire and Condor.

The Isle of Sark Shipping Company operates small ferries to Sark.


There are three airports: Alderney Airport, Guernsey Airport and Jersey Airport.

They are connected by service operated by Blue Islands and Aurigny. The latter use the Britten-Norman Trislander, the former Britten-Norman Islanders and BAe Jetstream 32s.


The Alderney Railway is the only operating railway in the Channel Islands.[citation needed]


The islands are connected to the radio and television system of the UK. They are part of BBC Channel Islands, and have since 2000 had regular opt-outs from the main Spotlight programme: 15 minutes at 18.30 and a full late bulletin at 22.25. There are also two local BBC radio stations, BBC Radio Guernsey and BBC Radio Jersey.

The islands have had their own ITV franchise, Channel Television, since September 1962. The islands terminated their analogue terrestrial TV services in November 2010.[28]


Jersey always operated its own telephone services independently of the UK's national system, but Guernsey did not establish its own telephone services until 1969. Both islands still form part of the UK telephone numbering plan, but Ofcom in the UK does not have responsibility for telecommunications regulatory and licensing issues on the islands. It is responsible for wireless telegraphy licensing throughout the islands, and by agreement, for broadcasting regulation in the two large islands only.


Alderney hosts the domain name registry for both Bailiwicks. The Channel Islands have their own country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) on the Internet, managed by CHANNELISLES.NET: .gg for Guernsey (including Alderney and Sark) and .je for Jersey. The country codes first appeared on the Internet in 1996 after Jon Postel agreed with Nigel Roberts of Island Networks to add four codes (GG and JE, and IM and AC) to the IANA list of TLDs. The codes for the Channel Islands and for the Isle of Man were entered on to the official United Nations ISO-3166 list in 2006.


A sea festival advertised using Dgèrnésiais.

The Norman language predominated in the islands until the 19th century, when increasing influence from English-speaking settlers and easier transport links led to Anglicisation.[29] There are four main dialects/languages of Norman in the islands, Auregnais (Alderney, extinct in late 20th century), Dgèrnésiais (Guernsey), Jèrriais (Jersey) and Sercquiais (Sark, an offshoot of Jèrriais).[30]

Victor Hugo spent many years in exile, first in Jersey and then in Guernsey, where he finished Les Misérables. Guernsey is the setting of Hugo's later novel, Les Travailleurs De La Mer (The Toilers of the Sea).[31] A "Guernsey-man" also makes an appearance in chapter 91 of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.[32]

The annual "Muratti", the inter-island football match, is considered the sporting event of the year, although, due to broadcast coverage, it no longer attracts the crowds of spectators, travelling between the islands, that it did during the 20th century.[33]

Cricket is popular in the Channel Islands. The Jersey cricket team and the Guernsey cricket team are both Associate members of the International Cricket Council. The teams have played each other in the Inter-insular match since 1957. In 2001 and 2002, the Channel Islands entered a team into the MCCA Knockout Trophy, the one-day tournament of the Minor counties of English and Welsh cricket.[34]

Channel Island sportsmen and women compete in the Commonwealth Games for their respective islands and the islands have also been enthusiastic supporters of the Island Games. Shooting is a popular sport, in which islanders have won Commonwealth medals.[35]

Guernsey's traditional colour for sporting and other purposes is green and Jersey's is red.[36]

This statue of a crapaud (toad) in St Helier represents the traditional nickname for Jersey people.

The main islanders have traditional animal nicknames:[37][38]

  • Guernsey: les ânes ("donkeys" in French and Norman): the steepness of St Peter Port streets required beasts of burden, but Guernsey people also claim it is a symbol of their strength of character  – which Jersey people traditionally interpret as stubbornness.
  • Jersey: les crapauds ("toads" in French and Jèrriais): Jersey has toads and snakes, which Guernsey lacks.
  • Sark: les corbins ("crows" in Sercquiais, Dgèrnésiais and Jèrriais, les corbeaux in French): crows could be seen from the sea on the island's coast.
  • Alderney: les lapins ("rabbits" in French and Auregnais): the island is noted for its warrens.

Christianity was brought to the islands around the 6th century; according to tradition, Jersey was evangelised by St Helier, Guernsey by St Samson of Dol, and the smaller islands were occupied at various times by monastic communities representing strands of Celtic Christianity. At the Reformation, the islands turned Calvinist under the influence of an influx of French-language pamphlets published in Geneva. Anglicanism was imposed in the 17th century, but the Non-Conformist tendency re-emerged with a strong adoption of Methodism. The presence of long-term Catholic communities from France and seasonal workers from Brittany and Normandy added to the mix of denominations.[citation needed]

Other islands in the English Channel

There are islands in other stretches of the English Channel that are not traditionally included within the grouping of Channel Islands. Among these are Ouessant/Ushant, Bréhat, Île de Batz, Chausey, Grande-Île, Tatihou and Îles Saint-Marcouf (all under French jurisdiction) and the Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly – both integral parts of England and the UK.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Guernsey's sorcerers". BBC - Guernsey - History
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Balleine's History of Jersey, Marguerite Syvret and Joan Stevens (1998) ISBN 1-86077-065-7
  6. ^ Bertrand du Guesclin: The Black Dog of Brittany, copyright 2010, accessed 31 October 2010.
  7. ^ Portrait of the Channel Islands, Lemprière, London 1970
  8. ^ a b c d e The German Occupation of the Channel Islands, Cruikshank, Oxford 1975 ISBN 0192850873
  9. ^
  10. ^ German Fortifications in Jersey, Ginns & Bryans, Jersey 1975
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Christine O'Keefe. "Appendix F: Concentration Camps: Endlösung – The Final Solution". Retrieved 6 June 2009 
  15. ^ Matisson Consultants. "Aurigny ; un camp de concentration nazi sur une île anglo-normande (English: Alderney, a Nazi concentration camp on an island Anglo-Norman)". Retrieved 6 June 2009  (French)
  16. ^ Legacy Publishers. "Nazi Germany Surrenders: February 1945 – May 1945". 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Public Hearing: Review of the Roles of the Crown Officers" (pdf). States of Jersey. 2 July 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  22. ^ "Review of the Roles of the Jersey Crown Officers" (pdf). States of Jersey. 30 March 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  23. ^ "This is Jersey: History & Heritage". Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ States of Guernsey: August: Guernsey and Jersey begin recruiting for senior Brussels positions
  26. ^ “British Islands” means the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. (1889)
  27. ^ "British Nationality Act 1981". Legislation, UK, Acts (Office of Public Sector Information). Retrieved 14 September 2009. "the Islands” means the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man; [...] the United Kingdom” means Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Islands, taken together."  [Schedule 1., s. 50 (1)]
  28. ^
  29. ^ The Triumph of the Country, Kelleher, Jersey 1994, ISBN 0-9518162-4-1
  30. ^ La Grève de Lecq, Roger Jean Lebarbenchon, 1988 ISBN 2905385138
  31. ^ "Trail of the unexpected: Victor Hugo’s Guernsey", The Independent, 3 July 2010.
  32. ^ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (St Botoph Society edition, 1892) pp. 381–384. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  33. ^
  34. ^ Minor Counties Trophy Matches played by Channel Islands
  35. ^
  36. ^ "Non-FIFA National Teams Colours". 28 November 2006. Retrieved 21 August 2010. 
  37. ^ Dictionnaire Jersiais-Français, 1966
  38. ^

External links


  • Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. 5 (1951), Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago – London – Toronto

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