Historical description of Alderney, Channel Islands

Alderney, one of the Channel Islands. It lies 10 miles W of Cape La Hogue in France, 15 NNE of Guernsey, and 57 S by E of Portland Bill, the nearest part of the English coast. Its length is 3 1/4 miles; its breadth, a little more than 1 mile; its circumference about 8 miles. It was the Riduna of the Romans, and is called Aurigny by the French. It is surrounded by rocks, islets, and conflicting currents, so that the approach to it is often dangerous. Small bays indent its coast; and that of Braye, on the NW, affords good anchorage. Communication is maintained twice a week, by a small steamer, with Guernsey. The surface is variously high and low, all destitute of trees; but contains some fertile land, in good cultivation. The Alderney cow, a small, straight-backed animal, has a world-wide fame for its milking properties; but it is supplied to the English market from Jersey and Guernsey, very rarely from Alderney, and is of much smaller size in Alderney than in Jersey, and smaller in Jersey than in Guernsey. Many Roman coins and other Roman relics have been found in Alderney. Celtic monuments were formerly numerous; but only one, a damaged cromlech, now remains. A castle of the Earl of Essex and a nunnery stood on the coast, but are now represented by a modern fort and barracks. Vast works, comprising forts, a capacious harbour, and a breakwater, recommended by the Duke of Wellington, were once commenced by the British Government, to check the great French works at Cherbourg, and maintain command of the English Channel. They were originally estimated to cost £600,000; but they had actually cost £1,000,000 at a point in 1860, and were then computed to require about £300,000 more. The harbour turned out a failure, principally from the reason that the engineer failed to make himself acquainted with the soundings, and he placed the breakwater in 120 feet of water, although close by there was a much less depth, with the advantage of a large mass of rock to abut upon. These vast operations were afterwards stopped, and a more thorough waste of British money was never known. The town of St Anne stands within 1/2 a mile of the harbour, nearly in the centre of the island, and contains the dwellings of nearly all the inhabitants. It has two main streets, a government house, a court house, a parish church, and chapels for Presbyterians, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and Roman Catholics. The parish church is an elegant cruciform edifice, in the semi-Norman style, with central, tower, built in 1850, at a cost of £8000. The island is governed by a judge nominated by the Crown, six jurats, a procureur, a greffier, and a sheriff, the jurats being elected by the ratepayers and holding office for life. These, together with twelve douzeniers, the representatives of and chosen by the people, form the states, though the latter have only a deliberative voice. The Court of Justice has jurisdiction in all civil cases when the sum in dispute does not exceed £10, and also in police cases within certain limits, but none in criminal cases, which are transmitted to the Royal Court of Guernsey. Population, 1843. Alderney has a post office under Guernsey, and it forms a parish in the diocese of Winchester. The living is a vicarage, of the value of £300, in the patronage of the Governor of Guernsey. Both English and French are spoken by the inhabitants, but English more than French. The strait between the island and France is swept by a tidal current of 6 miles an hour, and bears the name of the Race of Alderney. The French fleet escaped through it in 1692, after the battle of La Hogue; and Admiral Balchen was lost in it in 1774. Alderney gave the title of Baron to a son of George II.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5