Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for JERSEY

JERSEY, the largest and most southerly of the Channel Islands. It lies on the bay of St. Michael, 14 miles W of the nearest part of the French coast, 17½ SE of Guernsey, and 99 SSW of Portsmouth. Its form is irregularly quadrangular; its length, from E to W, is about 11½ miles; its greatest breadth is nearly 7 miles; its circuit, including sinuosities, is nearly 50 miles: and its area is 28, 717 acres. Steamers ply regularly to it from Littlehampton, Southampton, Weymouth, and St. Malo; a submarine telegraph, laid in 1858, connects it and Guernsey with England; and coaches and omnibuses run in it, from St. Helier, to Millbrook, Beaumont, St. Aubin, St. Martin, St. Clement, Granville, Gorey, St. Peter, and St. Owen. The steam boat route from it, at St. Helier, is about 30 miles to Guernsey, 42 to St. Malo, 95 to Weymouth, and 150 to Southampton. Jersey is thought, by some writers, to have been originally called Augia. It is the Cæsarea of the Romans, the Augie of the Normans, and the Gearsey of the French. It has had political connexion with all public events, and been the theatre of most, affecting the Channel Islands. These islands seem to have been a military station of the Romans. They were early occupied by the Gauls. They received many refugees from the Roman domination in England. They accepted Christianity early in the 6th century, from Wales. They were ravaged, from 850 to 900, by the Northmen. They were ceded by Charles IV. of France, in 912, to Rollo, first duke of Normandy. They continued to be held by William, the seventh duke, at his conquest of England. They were given by Richard I. to John, who eventually retained them alone of all Normandy. They were invaded by the French in the times of Edward I., Edward III., and Henry IV. They were again invaded by the French, and actually taken through treachery, in the time of Henry VI.; but were recovered in that of Edward IV. They were once more partly retaken, and again recovered, in the time of Edward VI. They were an asylum of many refugee Protestants, fleeing from England in the time of Mary. They were governed, and greatly benefited, by Sir Walter Raleigh, in the time of Elizabeth. They took part with Charles I., and were a scene of operations, in the civil wars; but surrendered to the parliament, and were placed under the government of commissioners. They were attacked, in 1779, by a French fleet with 5, 000 men; but were triumphantly defended by Wallace. They were again attacked, in 1781, by a French force of 1, 200, with night surprise of the lieutenant-governor, and capture of St. Helier; but were defended and recovered by the militia. They look really, from their position, to belong to France as truly as the Isle of Wight belongs to England; nor do they possess any such natural fastnesses as could resist a vigorous attempt to seize them; and they owe their continued connexion with the British crown partly to their comparative insignificance, and partly to obstructions by rocks and currents around them. They were visited by Queen Victoria in 1846 and 1854..

Considerable remains of antiquity are in Jersey. Upwards of fifty cromlechs, here called poquelayes, are recorded by Poingdestre, who wrote in the early part of the 18th century, to have been seen by him on the island; but only three, near Mont-Orgueil, near Rozel, and near St. Owen, are known now to exist; and the first of these consists of nine stones supporting a flat one 3 feet thick, 10 feet broad, and 15 feet long. Excavations were made, not long ago, at this cromlech, and resulted in the discovery of druidical implements, earthen vases, two stone coffins, and three human skeletons. A druidical circle of 18 stones, now much mutilated, and supposed to have had in its centre a great altar, is on a cliff at Rozel bay. A very large rocking stone, delicately poised, was near St. Saviour church; but has been destroyed. Numerous Roman coins have been found in many parts of the island. Traces of a Roman camp are at Dulaiment; and an enormous earthen rampart is near Rozel. Old castles are at Mont-Orgueil and Grosnez. A large artificial mound, supposed to mark the grave of a valiant Norman knight in the time of Robert Duke of Normandy, is at La Hougue Bie or Prince's Tower, about the centre of the eastern half of the island; was crowned by an ancient chapel, now enlarged and surmounted by a modern tower; is a subject of romantic legend; and, owing to amenities which surround it, and to a splendid view which it commands, is a great attraction to strangers. Several of the churches, particularly those of St. Brelade and St. Saviour, are old and interesting; and ruined chapels are at Grouville and Havre de Pas. The antiquaries Falle and Morant, the lexicographer Lempriere, Dean Durel, Dr. Valpy, the Carterets, and Admirals Kempenfelt and SirHardy, were natives. Jersey gives the title of Earl to the Villierses of Osterley.

Till after the beginning of the present century, the people of the Channel Islands knew very little about England, and the people of England knew very little about the Channel Islands. The islanders were mainly farmers, a few fishermen, and still fewer traders; and, living under laws of their own, speaking a dialect of their own, and having no affairs to think of but their own, they knew and cared very little about any other worlds than the worlds of Jersey and Guernsey. But the French revolution, and the war, or rather series of wars, ending with the battle of Waterloo, effected a considerable change. The first event sent a large number of French refugees into Jersey, who brought money with them. Then, during the busy and important period that followed the French revolution, more troops were in the islands, old fortifications were strengthened, new were built, Martello towers were set up, not only on the shores, but on rocks lying off the shores, and British money began to flow freely. Then did the little shopkeepers and traders of Jersey flourish. The close of the war was regarded with apprehension, as likely to cut off the means by which the trade was sustained. But among the many military and naval officers who, when peace came, found their half-pay too limited for their support in expensive England, and who therefore looked abroad, -not a few selected Jersey as a residence, the cheapness of living being their attraction. This sustained the rising consequence of Jersey; and facility of communication, that wonder working influence of our age, has come in to carry forward the increase and improvement of the island. Upwards of one third of the present population of Jersey are British residents and strangers.

The surface of Jersey slopes from N to S; has, for the most part, an undulating contour; is intersected by picturesque ravines, widening into beautiful vales; and exhibits rich ornature of wood, orchard, and meadow. The N coast rises abruptly from the sea to elevations of fully 300 feet; the coast all round is a maze of rocks, cliffs, headlands, bays, coves, and inlets; and the S coast, in a general view, is so low as to glide into foreshore. The chief outlying rocks are the two groups Paternosters and Dirouilles, both situated off the N. The chief headlands are Cape Grosnez, on the NW; Pleinmont, Rondnez, and Belle-Houge Points in the N; Rozel Point, on the NE; St. Clement's Point, on the SE; and Point Corbiere, on the SW. The chief bays are Boulay bay and Royal harbour, on the NE; St. Catherine's bay and Grouville bay, on the E; St. Aubin's bay, on the S; and St. Owen's bay, on the W. The tides, all round, rise to a height of from 40 to 45 feet. The rocks are all nonfossiliferous; they include some masses of amygdaloid and porphyry, which are quarried for paving and for building; they include also, in the NE, a considerable mass of hornblende and conglomerate; they include likewise, toward the SW, some schistose and argillaceous masses; but, elsewhere or prevailingly, they are granitic or syenitic, of a warm, reddish hue, and, at Mount Mado, are extensively quarried for harbour piers and for building. The climate is very mild and genial; has, from the southern exposure of the island, a decided advantage over Guernsey, with its northern exposure; yet, perhaps, is rendered more humid, and too shaded and sheltered, by extreme abundance of wood. Snow seldom falls, and frosts are transient. Shrubs, such as myrtles, which require protection in Devon during the winter months, require none here, and are luxuriant without it; while melons are raised without aid from artificial heat.

The soils are such as usnally result from the disintegration of granites and schists; and, in genera1, possess such fertility that a tract equivalent to somewhat less than 4½ acres is sufficient for the maintenance of a large family. But though Jersey formerly produced more corn than sufficed for its inhabitants, it does not now yield more than about two-thirds of what they consume. Agriculture is in a backward condition, and is hindered from improvement partly by minute subdivision of property arising from the custom of gavel-kind, and partly by enhancement of the price of agricultural labour through improvement of trade and commerce. Farm average only about 15 acres; they are wooded, and abound in orchards; and they often show as great a variety of crops on a field as is elsewhere to be seen on a large farm. Wheat, barley, parsnips, and potatoes are the principal crops; and the latter two are universally cultivated for exportation. About one-fourth of all the arable land is occupied by apple-trees; and cider is the universal beverage of the country people, and also is largely exported. Cows are the Norman ones known in England as Alderneys, but are larger than those usually seen in England; and they are so numerous, in their dotting of the pastures, as to lend much beauty to the landscape. Few sheep are bred or fattened; and fat sheep, both alive and dead, are brought from England, and still more from France. Oxen, for beef, are imported from France and from Spain. Horses are small and not remarkable for beauty; but are strong, capable of bearing fatigue, and well adapted for the uses of the farmer. Hogs are numerous, and attain a great size; and the pork is good. Game is not plentiful; and the weasel and the mole are almost the only noxious animals. Wood bounds most of the roads, and is elsewhere so diffused as to give the island a park-like appearance; while ivy is everywhere so profuse as to climb tree-trunks, wayside banks, and cottage walls, and even to creep over the rocks by the shore. New roads intersect the island in all directions, and are wide and well formed; old roads ramify everywhere, and are extremely narrow and excessively irregular; yet no roads whatever exist in numerous dells and valleys.

The state of productive industry is best represented by the principal items respecting the occupations of males, in the Census returns of 1861. These show that there were, in that year, in Jersey, 490 landed proprietors, 1, 324 farmers or graziers, 322 near relatives of farmers, 420 farm labourers, 253 gardeners, 10 nurserymen, 33 shipowners, 1, 414 merchant-seamen, 19 pilots, 7 seaboatmen, 374 fishermen, 437 ship and boat builders, 59 sail makers, 36 house builders, 361 masons or paviors, 9 bricklayers, 908 carpenters or joiners, 188 plasterers, 21 paper hangers, 202 plumbers, painters, or glaziers, 165 cabinet makers or upholsterers, 16 chair makers, 18 carvers or gilders, 21 wheel wrights, 6 mill wrights, 24 dyers or calenderers, 11 hatters or hat makers, 259 tailors, 787 shoemakers or boot makers, 67 rope or cord makers, 10 corn merchants, 67 millers, 9 maltsters, 25 brewers, 42 wine merchants, 2 distillers or rectifiers, 4 soap boilers, 10 tallow chandlers, 3 tanners, 17 curriers, 12 brush or broom makers, 51 coopers, 9 basket makers, 3 papermanufacturers, 34 stone quarriers, 80 stone cutters or stone polishers, 78 brick makers or brick dealers, 2 earthenware manufacturers, 3 tobacco pipe makers, 20 coppersmiths, 19 tinmen or tinkers, 18 tin plate workers, 3 zinc workers, 5 brass founders, 23 iron manufacturers, 11 white smiths, 324 blacksmiths, 15 musical instrument makers, 39 watchmakers or clockmakers, 9 engine and machine makers, 10 cutlers, 59 coach makers, 40 saddlers or harness makers, and 889 labourers. An oyster fishery is carried on, to the estimated value of about £45, 000 a year; it supplies England with a considerable portion of the oysters consumed there; it is protected by war vessels of Britain and France, watching over a defined line of international rights about 3 miles from the French coast; and it employs about 260 vessels and boats, and nearly 1, 400 men, besides about 600 or 700 women and children; but about one-half of the vessels employed in it are from Essex, Kent, and Hants. A large number of the Jersey seamen also are employed in the Newfoundland fishery.

The commercial statistics of Jersey are not separately returned; but those of all the Channel Islands may be here given. The vessels belonging to these islands, at the beginning of 1864, were 215 small sailing vessels, of aggregately 5, 793 tons; 337 large sailing vessels, of aggregately 58, 462 tons; and 5 steam vessels, of aggregately 244 tons-The vessels which entered, in 1863, were 30 British sailing vessels, of aggregately 5, 818 tons, from British colonies; 909 British sailing vessels, of aggregately 43, 273 tons, from foreign countries; 29 4 foreign sailing vessels, of aggregately 21, 020 tons, from foreign countries; 260 British steam vessels, of aggregately 24, 886 tons, from foreign countries; and 78 foreign steam vessels, of aggregately 3, 588 tons, from foreign countries. The vessels which cleared, in that year, were 59 British sailing vessels, of aggregately 7, 832 tons, to British colonies; 1 foreign sailing vessel, of 216 tons, to British colonies; 807 British sailing vessels, of aggregately 26, 194 tons, to foreign countries; 251 foreign sailing vessels of aggregately 14, 283 tons, to foreign countries; 1 British steam vessel, of 105 tons, to British colonies; 253 British steam vessels, of aggregately 22, 938 tons, to foreign countries; and 79 foreign steamVessels, of aggregately 3, 634 tons, to foreign countries. The computed value of exports to the United Kingdom, in 1863, was £648, 508; and of this £300, 918 were in butter, £85, 659 in granite, £41, 794 in potatoes, £40, 395 in cows and calves, £30, 333 in confectionary, £28, 136 in eggs, and £14, 518 in apples. The declared value of imports from the United Kingdom, in that year, was £1, 012, 872; and of this, £311, 680 were in apparel and haberdashery, £70, 833 in woollens, £39, 789 in plate, plated ware, jewellery, and watches, £38, 658 in tea, £34, 505 in hardware and cutlery, £32, 188 in coals, cinders, and culm, £23, 605 in wine, £21, 988 in furniture, cabinet and upholstery wares, and £20, 298 in beer and ale. The principal port in Jersey, for general trade, is St. Helier; and for oysters is Gorey. A great harbour, designated a harbour of refuge, but seemingly intended more for a naval station in the event of war, was begun to be formed some years prior to 1859, at St. Catherine's bay, northward of the middle of the E side of the island; and was designed to include two strong entrance breakwaters, and to enclose a harbour are of about a mile in length and 3 miles in circumference. The works were suspended in 1859; they had then cost £305, 000; and they were computed to require £395, 000 more for completion.

Jersey contains the towns of St. Helier, St. Aubin, and Gorey, and many hamlets. It is divided into twelve parishes, and subdivided into fifty-two vintaines or "scores, " supposed to be so designated from each having originally had twenty houses. It has a legal constitution of its own; is governed by the Queen in council, with a governor, and a resident lieutenant-governor; and has a judicial body, called the Royal Court, and a legislature, called the States. The Royal Court consists of the bailli or president, twelve jurats or judges, two crown officers, the vicomte or sheriff, the député vicomte or sheriff's officer, the enregistreur public, the greffier or clerk, the billetier, the tireur d'actes, six advocates, a number of ecrivains or solicitors, denonciateurs or under-sheriffs, the huissier or usher, ten prevôts, and seven serjents; and it takes cognizance of all suits above £10 for personal property, and tries criminal cases by jury. The States consist of the lieutenant-governor, the bailiff, the twelve jurats, the rectors of the parishes, the constables of the parishes, three deputies from St. Helier parish, and eleven deputies from the other parishes. The jurats are elected for life, by the ratepayers; and the constables and the deputies are elected for three years, also by the ratepayers. The rate is a parochial one; is levied for the poor, for roads, and other purposes; is the only tax in the island; and averages, in the country parishes, from two to six shillings on a rental equivalent to from £16 to £17 10s. sterling. An act of the imperial parliament which does not specially name Jersey, Guernsey and the Channel Islands, is a dead letter here; but every act which does specially name them, when transmitted by the clerk of the Privy Council for registry here, has the force of law. The island is in the diocese of Winchester.

The language of the local legislature, and of proceed ings in court, is French; that commonly spoken by the country people, is a barbarous dialect; and English, though sufficiently understood by all classes, is rarely spoken with purity by even the best class. The native families have but little intercourse with the resident British ones; and they are divided, among themselves, into two factions, called the Laurel and the Rose, who live almost as much apart from each other as if they were at war. Houses which, in the rural parts or small towns of England, would be let for £30, cannot be got in Jersey for less than £40; and ornate-cottages, of the kind which let in England for from £18 to £25, are scarcely to be had. The pound weight here is equal to 17½ oz. avoirdupois, and the pound currency is worth 81/3 less than the pound sterling; so that, in ordinary transactions, with Jersey weight and Jersey money, £100 sterling serve the purpose of £116 13s. 4d. Yet, excepting in wines, spirits, and other excisable articles, Jersey, as compared with England, really now presents to strangers no advantages of cheap living. Hence a decrease which took place in the population, during the ten years 1851-61, is attributed, in the Census report, not so much to any decline in the advantages of Jersey, as to the diminution of the disadvantages under which the English mainland laboured by heavy fiscal duties; which the progress of the public revenue and of free trade enabled the Chancellor of the Exchequer to remove. Pop. in 1851, 57, 020; in 1861, 55, 613. Houses, 8, 338.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Administrative units: Jersey CrProt

Pages for linked administrative units may contain historical statistics and information on boundaries.