Channel Islands



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Channel IslandsA group of small rocky islands off the North West coast of France, and 90 miles South of England. The group consists of Jersey and Guernsey, two or three smaller islands - Alderney, Sark and Herm - and various tiny islets of rock or seacrags. The total area is about 75 square miles. The soil is fertile and exceptionally well cultivated. The islands send large quantities of early potatoes, tomatoes, grapes, and other fruits and vegetables to the English markets. Each of the largest islands possesses its own peculiar race of cattle.
The people, who are of Norman descent, are industrious and fairly prosperous. Their numbers increased from 49,430 (excluding Alderney) in 1821 to 95,840 in 1901, giving at the latter date the great average density of 1,278 inhabitants to the square mile. The language of every-day intercourse is the Norman-French patois; of the popular assemblies, law courts, and churches, modern French. English, however, is taught in schools. The islands enjoy practically home rule. The chief executive officer in Jersey, and also in Guernsey and its dependencies, is the Lieutenant-Governor. The people are Protestants and the islands are attached to the diocese of Winchester.


Alderney is about 8 miles in circumference. It lies the nearest to Normandy, and is remarkable for its Strait, called the Race, so fatal to shipping. It is famous for its cows.


Guernsey is 6o miles s. w. of Weymouth, about 26 W. of Normandy, 21 from Jersey, 5 from Alderney, and six from Sarke. It is about 12 miles long, nine broad, and 30 in circumference, containing 50 square rniles or 32,000 square acres. It has 10 parishes. The air is healthy, and its soil, like Crete and Ireland, is said to admit no noxious animal. It abounds with fish, particularly a fine sort of carp; and its rock produces a kind of emeral, very hard. The island is plentifully supplied with corn and cattle. Nature has defended it with a ledge of rocks, and art with an old castle, and a pier constructed of vast stones, thrown together with great art in the days of Edw. II. Here is a great scarcity of wood for fueling, which is supplied by the sea vraic.


Jersey lies about fifteen miles west of the coast of France, or the Cape of La Hague, and eighty four miles south of Portland, in Dorsetshire.

It is about twelve miles in length, and not above six broad, containing about thirty-six square miles. The number of its inhabitants are twenty thousand, having a division of twelve parishes, with only eight churches. The chief towns are St. Helier, and St. Aubin; the former of which contains about four hundred houses, and near two thousand inhabitants. The latter has a fort and harbour well defended. The Chateau de I'Islet, or Queen Elizabeth's Castle here, is reckoned the best fortifications belonging to Great Britain. French is the language of the pulpit and bar, and it is generally spoken both here and in the neighbouring islands.

It is finely watered, abounds with fish, fruit, and cattle; makes excellent cyder, has great variety of sea-fowl, the best of honey, fine wool, remarkably fine butter, but labours under a scarcity of corn and fuel, for the latter of which they substitute vraic. Here are manufactured a pecular kind of worsted stockings much esteemed; nor are they without mineral springs of a purgative quality. Its intercourse with France, supplies it with wines, brandy, etc. very easily, so that it has but little malt liquor. The partridges here are remarkable for having red feet, and among its fish is a remarkable sort called Ormer. They are governed by the Norman laws, the courts of judicature in England having no jurisdiction over any of these Islands.


Sark, the fourth in size of the Channel Islands, stands high, and is surrounded by abrupt cliffs from 100 to 320 feet in height, the land, unlike the other Islands, having no declivity to the sea; it is about 3 miles in length and about 1 miles broad and 9 in circumference, and contains 1,400 English acres, and is the most central and elevated of the whole; it is 6 miles east from Guernsey and 14 miles north-west from Jersey, 18 miles south-west from Alderney, and 24 miles from the French coast. There is a small peninsula, called Little Sark, connected by a natural and very narrow bridge. The rocky scenery throughout the Island is picturesque.

The history of Sark (or, as in the old records, Sercq and Cercq) is necessarily much broken, as at different periods the island was for centuries uninhabited. It was given by Queen Elizabeth, as a reward for faithful services, to Helier de Carteret, of Jersey, his heirs and successors for ever, to be held under the Crown, for which he was to pay yearly a knight's fee of 50 sols into the Court of Guernsey; from that period the Island has been held by its seigneurs or lords. It is one of the smallest states of Europe with a separate legislature, and the only one of the small feudal territories or half sovereignties which has remained unimpaired, those of Germany, Austria, and Prussia being abolished or restricted. The most conspicuous feature at this time is the existence of the law of primogeniture in all its pristine purity, and the original division of the Island into 40 estates remains the same even unto this day. The present lord is Peter Carey Le Pelley, Esq.

The inhabitants are chiefly engaged in agricultural pursuits and fishing. The land generally is very productive, from the nature both of the soil and climate. There are abundance of rabbits in Sark, and in the winter woodcocks and snipes are to be found on the Island. The fish most common are lobsters, crabs, mackerel, whiting, rock-fish, silver bream, cod, soles, and congers; in summer the latter are taken in great abundance.

Although Sark abounds in mineral veins no attempt was made to explore them till the year 1834; a company was then formed for the purpose of working the whole of the mineral veins in the Island, and a lease for 31, but afterwards extended to 39 years, was obtained from the late lord, Peter Le Pelley, Esq, who was drowned, in 1839, crossing from Sark to Guernsey in a small boat. The operations were confined to the metalliferous vein or lode at the south part of the Island, called the Pot, until 1836, when the silver lode, situate in the south-west part of the Island, called Sark's Hope, was discovered. There are four shafts in the mine, varying from 360 to 600 feet in depth; there are eight galleries, three of which are extended on the course of the vein horizontally 3,600 feet, and one is driven 300 feet under the sea. The ores, raised up to the year 1847, when the operations finally ceased and the mines closed, contained upwards of 30,000 ounces of fine silver, in addition to the large quantity of lead.

The Island is in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and forms part of that deanery; there is a neat parochial church, with an appointed clergy-man, who is a perpetual curate, and an Endowed school for the education of children in French and English. The Wesleyans have also a chapel upon the Island. Three-fourths of the Island is under cultivation; potatoes, until recent years, were the chief product of the Island, wheat is now grown to a considerable extent; cows, a few bullocks, sheep, and hogs are reared and sent to the Guernsey market.

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