Guernsey, Channel Islands


Guernsey, one of the Channel islands. It lies in the-gulf of Avranches and in the Bay of Mont St Michael, off the coast of Normandy, 21 miles SSW of Alderney, 30 NW of Jersey, 61 NNW of St Malo, 62 NW by N of Granville, 75 S of Weymouth, 92 SE of Plymouth, and 113 SW by S of Southampton. Its form is nearly triangular, similar to that of Sicily. Its length, north-eastward, is 9 miles; its-breadth, 5 miles; its circuit, including curvatures, about 30 miles; and its area, 15,560 acres. Its surface declines from south to north; is varied with hills and little eminences; and possesses numerous springs, and many fine, clear, gravelly streams. The south coast is steep, bold, and inaccessible; consists of cliffs, rising to the height of 270 feet; and presents rocky headlands, intersected by deep ravines. The north coast, excepting a few rocky hillocks, is commonly low and flat; and the country inland from it rises gradually from a level very little above high water-mark. Few detached rocks lie off the south; but skerries and sunk rocks lie off all the-other sides, for a mile or two, and, together with strong sea currents and high tides, render the approach extremely hazardous to strangers. Yet the roadstead of St Peter-Port is good and safe; and the harbour affords ample facilities for commerce. The rocks of the island are chiefly granite,. sienite, and gneiss; and they are extensively quarried for exportation as kerb and paving-stone, from the harbour of St Sampson. The soils, though lying on such rocks, are generally fertile; the low lands yield very fine pasture, even the higher parts afford plentiful harvests, and the very cliffs are covered with verdure to the water's edge. Yet some waste grounds are in the north and west, and are covered with furze, which is cut for fuel.

The rural inhabitants are generally owners of the land they occupy, and many of them combine farming and fruit or flower culture with some handicraft, or with fishing. Most of the estates or farms are of less extent than 12 acres; yet most of the houses on them are neat and comfortable cottages. Butter of very fine quality, and of bright golden colour, is produced on dairy farms. The Guernsey cow is maintained in rigid purity, by careful exclusion of every foreign breed. Fruit also is an object of care; and peaches, myrtles, and other fruits and flowers, owing to the mildness of the climate, are raised in the open air. Both fish and molluscs, in great abundance and in much variety, are taken on the shores. During the last quarter of a century, and especially within the last ten years, the business of fruit, vegetable, and flower growing under glass for the English market has enormously increased, and gives employment to a great number of persons. It is practically the chief trade of the island. Various crops in succession are grown in very large quantities and sent off daily to England by some of the fastest steamers in the Channel service. The principal articles grown in houses are radishes, salad, green peas, French beans, potatoes, tomatoes, figs, grapes, and flowers of all kinds. At one time sun-heat only was trusted to, but of late years forcing has been introduced by many growers. In addition to the vegetables grown under glass, a great quantity of brocoli is grown in the open air. The great development of the greenhouse industry has caused an increase in the imports of coal, glass, and materials for glass houses. The distilling of spirits from potatoes, for the English market, was once carried on to the average of 24,000 gallons a year; but has been discontinued. Beer is made in three or four breweries. Soap, candles, cordage, biscuit, tobacco, and snuff are manufactured. Bricks and ornamental pottery are made. Regular steam communication is maintained with Alderney, Jersey, Weymouth, and Southampton, and constant communication also with the French coast.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5
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Old map of Guernsey circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)

Parishes and places

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