Guernsey
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: God Save The Queen (official)
Sarnia Cheriea
Guernsey, an island located in the English channel
Guernsey, an island located in the English channel
Status Jurisdiction
Capital
and largest city
St. Peter Port (St. Pierre Port)
Official languages
Recognised regional languages
Part of Bailiwick of Guernsey
Leaders
 -  Monarch Queen Elizabeth II
 -  Lieutenant Governor Vice Admiral Sir Ian Corder KBE, CB
 -  Bailiff Sir Richard Collas
 -  President of Policy & Resources Committee Gavin St Pier
Establishment
 -  Administrative separation from mainland Normandy 1204 
 -  Liberation from Nazi Germany 9 May 1945 
Area
 -  Total 65 km2
25 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 0
Population
 -  2015 estimate 62,948
 -  Density 965/km2
2,499.3/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2015 estimate
 -  Total $3.473 billion
 -  Per capita $55,186
Currency Guernsey Pound, Pound sterlingd (GGP, GBP)
Time zone GMT
 -  Summer (DST)  (UTC+1)
Drives on the left
Calling code +44e
Internet TLD .gg
a. For occasions when regional distinguishing anthem required.
b. English is the only official language. French sometimes used for legislative purposes.
c. Now extinct.
d. The States of Guernsey issue their own sterling coins and banknotes (see Guernsey pound).
e.
  • +44 1481 (landline)
  • +44 7781 (Sure Guernsey Ltd)
  • +44 7839 (Guernsey Airtel)
  • +44 7911 (Jersey Telecom / 24 Seven Communications Ltd)

Guernsey is a jurisdiction within the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a Crown dependency. Situated in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy, the jurisdiction embraces not only all ten parishes on the island of Guernsey, but also the much smaller inhabited islands of Herm, Jethou and Lihou together with many small islets and rocks. The jurisdiction is not part of the Commonwealth of Nations. However, defence and most foreign relations are handled by the British Government.

The entire jurisdiction lies within the Common Travel Area of the British Isles and is not a member of the European Union, but has a special relationship with it, being treated as part of the European Community with access to the single market for the purposes of free trade in goods. Taken together with the separate jurisdictions of Alderney and Sark it forms the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The two Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey together form the geographical grouping known as the Channel Islands.

History

Etymology

The name "Guernsey", as well as that of neighbouring "Jersey", is of Old Norse origin. The second element of each word, "-ey", is the Old Norse for "island", while the original root, "guern(s)", is of uncertain origin and meaning. (It could be from the latinification of the word "Kvern", or "mill", in old and new Icelandic and Norwegian, meaning "mill-island")

Early history

See also: Duchy of Normandy

Around 6000 BC, rising seas created the English Channel and separated the Norman promontories that became the bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey from continental Europe. Neolithic farmers then settled on its coast and built the dolmens and menhirs found in the islands today.

During their migration to Brittany, Britons occupied the Lenur islands (the former name of the Channel Islands) including Sarnia or Lisia (Guernsey) and Angia (Jersey). Travelling from the Kingdom of Gwent, Saint Sampson, later the abbot of Dol in Brittany, is credited with the introduction of Christianity to Guernsey.

In 933 AD, the Cotentin Peninsula including Avranchin which included the islands, were placed by the French King Ranulf under the control of William I. The island of Guernsey and the other Channel Islands represent the last remnants of the medieval Duchy of Normandy.

Guernsey island
The island of Guernsey seen from 33,000 feet (10,000 m), looking north

During the Middle Ages, the island was a haven for pirates that would use the "lamping technique" to ground ships close to her waters. This intensified during the Hundred Years War, when, starting in 1339, the island was occupied by the Capetians on several occasions. The Guernsey Militia was operational in 1337 and would help defend the island for a further 600 years.

In 1372, the island was invaded by Aragonese mercenaries under the command of Owain Lawgoch (remembered as Yvon de Galles), who was in the pay of the French king. Owain and his dark-haired mercenaries were later absorbed into Guernsey legend as invading fairies from across the sea.

Early modern history

See also: Maritime history of the Channel Islands
Castle Cornet Floodlit
Castle Cornet seen at night over the harbour of St Peter Port.

In the mid-16th century, the island was influenced by Calvinist reformers from Normandy. During the Marian persecutions, three women, the Guernsey Martyrs, were burned at the stake for their Protestant beliefs.

During the English Civil War, Guernsey sided with the Parliamentarians. The allegiance was not total, however; there were a few Royalist uprisings in the southwest of the island, while Castle Cornet was occupied by the Governor, Sir Peter Osborne, and Royalist troops. In December 1651, with full honours of war, Castle Cornet surrendered; it was the last Royalist outpost anywhere in the British Isles to surrender.

Wars against France and Spain during the 17th and 18th centuries gave Guernsey shipowners and sea captains the opportunity to exploit the island's proximity to mainland Europe by applying for letters of marque and turning their merchantmen into privateers.

By the beginning of the 18th century, Guernsey's residents were starting to settle in North America. The threat of invasion by Napoleon prompted many defensive structures to be built at the end of that century. The 19th century saw a dramatic increase in the prosperity of the island, due to its success in the global maritime trade, and the rise of the stone industry.

20th century

See also: German occupation of the Channel Islands

During the First World War, about 3,000 island men served in the British Expeditionary Force. Of these, about 1,000 served in the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry regiment formed from the Royal Guernsey Militia in 1916.

For most of the Second World War, the Channel Islands were occupied by German troops. Before the occupation, 80% of Guernsey children had been evacuated to England to live with relatives or strangers during the war. Some children were never reunited with their families. The occupying German forces deported over 1,000 Guernsey residents to camps in southern Germany, notably to the Lager Lindele (Lindele Camp) near Biberach an der Riß and to Laufen. Guernsey was very heavily fortified during World War II, out of all proportion to the island's strategic value. Life for the civilians on the island was very difficult, especially after June 1944 when the island was under siege. German defences remain a lasting reminder of those times.

During the late 1940s the island repaired the damage caused to its buildings during the occupation. The tomato industry started up again and thrived until the 1970s when it hit a sharp, terminal decline. Tourism has remained important. Finance businesses grew in the 1970s and expanded in the next two decades and are important employers.

Geography

Guernsey in its region
Guernsey in its region

Situated around , Guernsey, Herm and some other smaller islands together have a total area of 71 square kilometres (27 sq mi) and coastlines of about 46 kilometres (29 mi). Elevation varies from sea level to 110 m (360 ft) at Hautnez on Guernsey.

There are many smaller islands, islets, rocks and reefs in Guernsey waters. Combined with a tidal range of 10 metres (33 feet) and fast currents of up to 12 knots, this makes sailing in local waters dangerous.

Guernsey landscape 2 (1993)
Guernsey coastal rocks.

The island of Guernsey has a population of around 63,000 in 24 square miles (62 km2) and forms the legal and administrative centre of the jurisdiction of Guernsey and the shopping and service centre for all three jurisdictions. The parliament of the whole jurisdiction of Guernsey, including the nearby inhabited islands of Herm, Jethou and Lihou, plus the neighbouring jurisdiction of Alderney is the States of Guernsey.

Climate

Guernsey's climate is temperate with mild winters and warm, sunny summers. The warmest months are July and August, when temperatures are generally around 20 °C (68 °F) with some days occasionally going above 24 °C (75 °F). On average, the coldest month is February with an average weekly mean air temperature of 6 °C (42.8 °F). Average weekly mean air temperature reaches 16 °C (60.8 °F) in August. Snow rarely falls and is unlikely to settle, but is most likely to fall in February. The temperature rarely drops below freezing, although strong wind-chill from Arctic winds can sometimes make it feel like it. The rainiest months are December (average 112 mm (4.4 in)), November (average 104 mm (4.09 in)) and January (average 92 mm (3.62 in)). July is, on average, the sunniest month with 250 hours recorded sunshine; December the least with 58 hours recorded sunshine. 50% of the days are overcast.

A number of records were set in 2014. It was the highest annual mean temperature of 12.4 °C (54.3 °F). This is 0.3 °C (32.5 °F) higher than for any other year, due to an almost complete absence of cold snaps during the winter months. Three very wet months meant that the winter was the wettest on record. Halloween turned out to be warmer than any other on record, with the temperature peaking at 18.3 °C (64.9 °F).

Climate data for Guernsey (1981-2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.0
(59)
14.6
(58.3)
18.6
(65.5)
24.3
(75.7)
26.0
(78.8)
31.0
(87.8)
32.6
(90.7)
34.3
(93.7)
27.0
(80.6)
23.6
(74.5)
18.0
(64.4)
17.3
(63.1)
34.3
(93.7)
Average high °C (°F) 8.7
(47.7)
8.4
(47.1)
10.0
(50)
11.8
(53.2)
14.9
(58.8)
17.5
(63.5)
19.5
(67.1)
19.8
(67.6)
18.0
(64.4)
15.1
(59.2)
11.8
(53.2)
9.5
(49.1)
13.8
(56.8)
Daily mean °C (°F) 6.9
(44.4)
6.5
(43.7)
7.8
(46)
9.2
(48.6)
12.1
(53.8)
14.5
(58.1)
16.6
(61.9)
17.0
(62.6)
15.5
(59.9)
13.0
(55.4)
10.0
(50)
7.8
(46)
11.4
(52.5)
Average low °C (°F) 5.0
(41)
4.6
(40.3)
5.6
(42.1)
6.6
(43.9)
9.2
(48.6)
11.5
(52.7)
13.6
(56.5)
14.1
(57.4)
12.9
(55.2)
10.8
(51.4)
8.1
(46.6)
6.0
(42.8)
9.0
(48.2)
Record low °C (°F) -7.4
(18.7)
-7.3
(18.9)
-5.5
(22.1)
-1.0
(30.2)
0.0
(32)
5.8
(42.4)
8.8
(47.8)
8.9
(48)
7.0
(44.6)
2.3
(36.1)
-0.8
(30.6)
-3.3
(26.1)
-7.4
(18.7)
Precipitation mm (inches) 92.5
(3.642)
70.2
(2.764)
67.0
(2.638)
53.1
(2.091)
50.9
(2.004)
45.5
(1.791)
42.1
(1.657)
47.7
(1.878)
57.5
(2.264)
95.0
(3.74)
104.3
(4.106)
112.9
(4.445)
838.7
(33.02)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 19.3 15.7 15.9 13.2 11.9 10.4 11.0 10.6 12.4 17.3 18.8 18.6 175.0
Avg. snowy days 2.8 4.0 1.3 0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 1.7 11.0
Sunshine hours 61.0 85.6 127.6 194.7 234.5 246.6 250.7 230.1 180.1 117.1 77.8 58.2 1,864.0
Source: Guernsey Met Office 2014 Weather Report

Geology

Geology of Guernsey
Geology of Guernsey

Guernsey has a geological history stretching further back into the past than most of Europe. There is a broad geological division between the north and south of the Island. The Southern Metamorphic Complex is elevated above the geologically younger, lower lying Northern Igneous Complex. Guernsey has experienced a complex geological evolution (especially the rocks of the southern complex) with multiple phases of intrusion and deformation recognisable.

Population

Demographics

The population is 62,948 (July 2015 est.). The median age for males is 40 years and for females is 42 years. The population growth rate is 0.775% with 9.62 births/1,000 population, 8 deaths/1,000 population, and annual net migration of 6.07/1,000 population. The life expectancy is 80.1 years for males and 84.5 years for females. The Bailiwick ranked 10th in the world in 2015 with an average life expectancy of 82.47 years. 1.54 children are born per woman. Ethnic groups consist of British and Norman French descent.

Border control

The whole jurisdiction of Guernsey is part of the Common Travel Area.

For immigration and nationality purposes it is UK law, and not Guernsey law, which applies (technically the Immigration Act 1971, extended to Guernsey by Order-in-Council). Guernsey may not apply different immigration controls to the UK. EEA nationals have free movement rights to enter, and remain in, the territory of the whole of the British Islands (which includes the jurisdiction of Guernsey), although there are de facto restrictions on occupation of housing by those who do not 'belong' to Guernsey (and that restriction includes people from Sark, until they have lived there for a number of years).

Housing restrictions

Guernsey undertakes a population management mechanism using restrictions over who may work in the island through control of which properties people may live in.

The housing market is split between local market properties and a set number of open market properties. Anyone may live in an open market property, but local market properties can only be lived in by those who qualify – either through being born in Guernsey (to at least one local parent), by obtaining a housing licence, or by virtue of sharing a property with someone who does qualify (living en famille). Consequently, open market properties are much more expensive both to buy and to rent.

Housing licences are for fixed periods, often only valid for 4 years and only as long as the individual remains employed by a specified Guernsey employer. The licence will specify the type of accommodation and be specific to the address the person lives in, and is often subject to a police record check.

These restrictions apply equally regardless of whether the property is owned or rented, and only apply to occupation of the property. Thus a person whose housing licence expires may continue to own a Guernsey property, but will no longer be able to live in it. There are no restrictions on who may own a property.

There are a number of routes to qualifying as a "local" for housing purposes. Generally, it is sufficient to be born to at least one Guernsey parent and to live in the island for ten years in a twenty-year period. In a similar way a partner (married or otherwise) of a local can acquire local status. Multiple problems arise following early separation of couples, especially if they have young children or if a local partner dies, in these situations personal circumstances and compassion can add weight to requests for local status. Once "local" status has been achieved it remains in place for life. Even a lengthy period of residence outside Guernsey does not invalidate "local" housing status.

Although Guernsey's inhabitants are full British citizens, an endorsement restricting the right of establishment in other European Union states is placed in the passport of British citizens connected solely with the Channel Islands and Isle of Man. If classified with "Islander Status", the British passport will be endorsed as follows: 'The holder is not entitled to benefit from EU provisions relating to employment or establishment'. Those who have a parent or grandparent born in the United Kingdom itself (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), or who have lived in the United Kingdom for 5 years, are not subject to this restriction.

People from or associated with Guernsey

Culture

Renoir16
Children on the Beach of Guernsey (1883) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

English is the language in general use by the majority of the population, while Guernésiais, the Norman language of the island, is spoken fluently by only about 2% of the population (according to 2001 census). However, 14% of the population claim some understanding of the language. Until the early 20th-century French was the only official language of the Bailiwick, and all deeds for the sale and purchase of real estate in Guernsey were written in French until 1971. Family and place names reflect this linguistic heritage. George Métivier, considered by some to be the island's national poet, wrote in Guernesiais. The loss of the island's language and the Anglicisation of its culture, which began in the 19th century and proceeded inexorably for a century, accelerated sharply when the majority of the island's school children were evacuated to the UK for five years during the German occupation of 1940–45.

George Métivier
George Métivier, considered by some to be the island's national poet.

Victor Hugo wrote some of his best-known works while in exile in Guernsey, including Les Misérables. His home in St. Peter Port, Hauteville House, is now a museum administered by the city of Paris. In 1866, he published a novel set on Guernsey, Travailleurs de la Mer (Toilers of the Sea), which he dedicated to the island.

The greatest novel by a Guernseyman is The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G. B. Edwards. In addition to being a critically acclaimed work of literature, it contains a wealth of insights into Guernsey life during the 20th century. In September 2008, a blue plaque was affixed to the house on the Braye Road where Edwards was raised. A more recent novel by Guernseyman Peter Lihou, Rachel's Shoe, describes the period when Guernsey was under German occupation during the Second World War.

Henry Watson Fowler moved to Guernsey in 1903. He and his brother Francis George Fowler composed The King's English, the Concise Oxford Dictionary and much of Modern English Usage on the island.

The TV comedy series This is Jinsy is based on Guernsey and its two writers, Chris Bran and Justin Chubb, came from the island.

Guernsey cattle
Guernsey cattle.
Guernsey cow
A Guernsey cow.

The national animals of the island of Guernsey are the donkey and the Guernsey cow. The traditional explanation for the donkey (âne in French and Guernésiais) is the steepness of St Peter Port streets that necessitated beasts of burden for transport (in contrast to the flat terrain of the rival capital of St. Helier in Jersey), although it is also used in reference to Guernsey inhabitants' stubbornness.

The Guernsey cow is a more internationally famous icon of the island. As well as being prized for its rich creamy milk, which is claimed by some to hold health benefits over milk from other breeds, Guernsey cattle are increasingly being raised for their distinctively flavoured and rich yellowy-fatted beef. Butter made from the milk of Guernsey cows also has a distinctive yellow colour. Although since the 1960s the number of individual islanders raising these cattle for private supply has diminished significantly, Guernsey steers can still be occasionally seen grazing on L'Ancresse common.

Guernsey also hosts a breed of goat known as the Golden Guernsey, distinguished by its golden-coloured coat. At the end of the Second World War, the Golden Guernsey had almost been rendered extinct due to interbreeding on the island. The resurrection of this breed is largely credited to the work of a single woman, Miriam Milbourne. Although no longer considered to be critically endangered, the breed remains on the watchlist of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

Guernsey people are traditionally nicknamed donkeys or ânes, especially by rival Jersey people – who, in turn, are nicknamed crapauds ("toads"). Inhabitants of each of the parishes of Guernsey also have traditional nicknames, although these have generally dropped out of use among the English-speaking population. The traditional nicknames are:

Parish Guernésiais Translation
St Peter Port Cllichards "spitters"
St Sampson's Rôines "frogs"
Vale Hann'taons "cockchafers"
Castel Ânes-pur-sàng "pure-blooded donkeys"
St Saviour's Fouormillaons ants
St Pierre du Bois Etcherbaots beetles
Forest Bourdons bumblebees
St Martin's Dravans ray fish
St Andrew's Les croinchaons "the siftings"
Torteval Ânes à pids d'ch'fa "donkeys with horses' hooves"

The so-called Guernsey Lily, Nerine sarniensis, is also used as a symbol of the island, although this species was introduced to the island from South Africa.

A local delicacy is the ormer (Haliotis tuberculata), a variety of abalone harvested under strict laws from beaches at low spring tides.

Of the many traditional Guernsey recipes, the most renowned is a stew called Guernsey Bean Jar. It is a centuries-old stew that is still popular with islanders, particularly at the annual 'Viaer Marchi' festival, where it served as one of the main events. Chief ingredients include haricot and butter beans, pork and shin beef.

Guernsey Gâche is a special bread made with raisins, sultanas and mixed peel.

In July 2006, smoking in enclosed public places was banned, a law put in place to protect workers' right to a healthy working environment.

Sport

The island's traditional colour – including for sporting events – is green.

Guernsey participates in the biennial Island Games, which it hosted in 1987 and 2003 at Footes Lane. Guernsey participates as part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey team in the Commonwealth Games.

In those sporting events where Guernsey does not have international representation, but the British Home Nations are competing separately, highly skilled islanders may choose to compete for any of the Home Nations. There are, however, restrictions on subsequent transfers to represent other Home Nations. The football player Matt Le Tissier, for example, could have played for the Scottish or Welsh football teams, but opted to play for England instead.

Football in Guernsey is run by the Guernsey Football Association. The top tier of Guernsey football is the FNB Priaulx League where there are seven teams (Belgrave Wanderers, Northerners, Sylvans, St Martin's, Rovers, Rangers and Vale Recreation). The second tier is the Jackson League.

In the 2011–12 season, Guernsey F.C. was formed and entered the Combined Counties League Division 1, becoming the first Channel Island club ever to compete in the English leagues. Guernsey became division champions comfortably on 24 March 2012, they won the Combined Counties Premier Challenge Cup on 4 May 2012. Their second season saw them promoted again on the final day in front of 1,754 'Green Lions' fans, this time to Division One South of the Isthmian League, despite their fixtures being heavily affected not only by poor winter weather, but by their notable progression to the semi-finals of the FA Vase cup competition. They play in level 8 of the English football pyramid.

The Corbet Football Field, donated by Jurat Wilfred Corbet OBE in 1932, has fostered the sport greatly over the years. Recently, the island upgraded to a larger, better-quality stadium, in Footes Lane.

Guernsey has the second oldest tennis club in the world, at Kings, with courts built in 1875 and the island has produced a world class player, Heather Watson. Guernsey also has one of the oldest softball associations in the world. The Guernsey Softball Association was formally established in 1936, it is now one of the oldest and longest running softball associations to be found. Affiliated to the International Softball Federation (ISF) the GSA has both fast and slow pitch leagues with over 300 members.

Guernsey was declared an affiliate member by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2005 and an associate member in 2008. The Guernsey cricket team plays in the World Cricket League and European Cricket Championship as well as the Sussex Cricket League.

Approximately 200 people play table tennis on a regular basis across four senior and two junior leagues. The Guernsey Gaels was founded in 1996 and competes in the European Gaelic football leagues. The island hosts its own tournament each year with teams from all over Europe visiting the island.

Guernsey also has a strong affiliation with motor sports. In season, races take place on the sands on Vazon beach as well as a quarter-mile "sprint" along the vazon coast road. More sand racing at Chouet beach. There is a motorcross track located in torteval and a kart track located in the capital of St. Peter Port, and finally at Le Val des Terres, a steeply winding road rising south from St Peter Port to Fort George, is often the focus of both local and international hill-climb races. In addition, the 2005, 2006 and 2007 World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx is a Guernseyman.

The racecourse on L'Ancresse Common was re-established in 2004, and races are held on most May day bank holidays, with competitors from Guernsey as well as Jersey, France and the UK participating. Sea angling around Guernsey and the other islands in the Bailiwick from shore or boat is a popular pastime for both locals and visitors with the Bailiwick boasting 12 UK records.

Guernsey Motor Cycle & Car Club run the British Sand Ace Championship annually at Vazon Bay.

Image gallery

Images


Guernsey Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.