This island is supposed to be mentioned in Antoninus' Itinerary under the name Sarnia, but of its early history few authentic particulars have been recorded; its surface was in a state of nature covered with woods and overrun with briars, when, according to tradition, it was visited by the Romans, about seventeen years before the birth of Christ, and Octavius Augustus, then emperor, appointed a governor over it. About the year 520, Sampson, Bishop of Dol, in Brittany, is said to have landed at a place now called St. Sampson's harbour, where he built a chapel; and the work of converting the inhabitants to Christianity was also prosecuted by his successor in the bishopric, Maglorius, who built a chapel in the present parish of the Vale, on a spot still called St. Magloire, and by the peasantry, by corruption, St. Maliere. At this period the inhabitants subsisted entirely by fishing; and Guernsey, though the most distant from France, was reckoned the most considerable of the islands, on account of the safety and convenience of its harbours, and the quantity of fish on its coast: in progress of time, when the fishery was well established, most of the religious houses, and many of the great families, in Normandy and Brittany, were constantly supplied with fish from the isle. As Christianity advanced, and the population increased, chapels were built in different parts near the sea-shore, and the priests were allowed for their subsistence the tithe of all the fish caught.
Guernsey anciently formed part of the province of Neustria, under the government of the king of France, and was ceded with that province to the duchy of Normandy, on the establishment of the latter about the year 892. On the diminution of the ecclesiastical revenues in Normandy by Duke Richard, several monks, driven from the Abbey of Mount St. Michael, on the Norman coast, retired hither, and in 962 founded an abbey in that part of the island now called the Close of the Vale, which they dedicated to the same patron saint; and soon prevailed on the inhabitants (whose dwellings, for the convenience of their occupation, were situated close to the sea-shore) to clear the land and raise corn, by which means the greater part of the Vale was brought into cultivation. These ecclesiastics gaining a distinguished reputation for piety, Guernsey became the resort of devout persons from various parts, and acquired the name of Holy Island. The Danes having made a descent upon it, and committed great ravages, a strong castle was erected on an eminence in the Vale, originally called St. Michael's Castle, or the Castle of the Archangel, and now the Vale Castle, which is still well calculated to defend the mouth of St. Sampson's Harbour, where vessels of large burthen find secure shelter. About the year 1030, the fleet of Robert, Duke of Normandy, destined to support the claim of his cousins Alfred and Edward to the English crown, against Canute, being dispersed by a tempest, part of it was driven down the Channel as far as Guernsey, and would have been dashed upon the rocks, but for the alacrity of the fishermen, who piloted the vessels into a bay on the north side of the Vale, since called L' Ancresse, or the Anchoring-place, where they were moored in safety. The duke was conducted to the Abbey of St. Michael, where he remained for some time, owing to the continuance of stormy weather. At his departure, to reward the abbot for his hospitality, he gave to him and his successors, in fee, all the lands within the Close of the Vale, for ever, by the name of the fief of St. Michael, with leave to extend the same towards the north-western part of the island, whenever settlers should be found to clear and cultivate the land; and to recompense the islanders for the succour which they had afforded him, he left engineers and workmen to finish the castle of St. Michael, and to erect such other fortresses as might be thought necessary for protection from piratical invaders. By the exertions of these artificers, two other castles were erected or rebuilt, part of one of which, called from its marshy situation Le Château des Marais, still remains in the Town parish, and, from its walls being mantled with ivy, has acquired the name of Ivy Castle: the other, called the Castle of Jerbourg, was situated on a point of land on the south coast, now called St. Martin's Point; but there are no remains of the building. Mounds, likewise, were thrown up on the most elevated parts, to enable the inhabitants to descry the approach of vessels: one of these ancient alarm posts, called La Hougue Hatenais, remains in St. Martin's parish; and another, called La Hogue Fouque, in St. Saviour's. Divers grants of land in Guernsey were also made by Robert, to the priory of Lihou or Lihoumel, and the abbeys of Marmontier, Blanchelande, La Rue Frèrie, La Croix St. Leufroit, and Caën; the ecclesiastics holding immediately of the duke. About the middle of the eleventh century, Guernsey was infested by a new race of pirates, who built a castle in the centre of it called Le Château des Sarrasins, near the spot where the Catel church now stands; but they were either slain or dispersed by Sampson D'Anneville, whom Duke William had despatched with a force to the aid of the inhabitants, and who was rewarded by the grant of a considerable tract of land in the island, by the title of the fief and seigneurie D'Anneville. Other tracts being bestowed by the same sovereign upon other Norman gentlemen, the greater part of Guernsey was soon brought under cultivation; and about this period it was divided into ten parishes. Each free fief had a manorial court for trying disputes among the tenants; and the abbot of St. Michael, and the Seigneur D'Anneville, had droit de haute justice, or the privilege of judging, condemning, and executing criminals; so that the civil polity of the island was completely settled before the Norman Conquest of England.
In the reign of Edward III., Guernsey was for a short time in the possession of the French, but was retaken by an English fleet under Reynold de Cobham and Jeffrey de Harcourt. In the same reign it was invaded by one Ivans, a descendant of the ancient Welsh princes, who, with a powerful land and sea force placed under his command by the king of France, obtained possession of the island after a spirited resistance; it is said to have been regained by the arrival of eighty ships from England, after a sanguinary conflict. According to an ancient legend, however, these invaders were Saragozans, which is not altogether devoid of probability, as Ivans or Ivan of Wales, an inveterate enemy of Edward III., had been in the Spanish service, and the king of Castile was at that time hostile to England. The share which the men of Guernsey had in capturing from the French Mont-Orguiel Castle in Jersey, by Sir Richard Harliston, vice-admiral of England in the reign of Edward IV., was honourably recorded in the preamble of the charter granted to these islands by Henry VII. In the seventeenth century, Guernsey was reduced by the parliament after the decapitation of the king. The bulk of the inhabitants are thought to have displayed less zeal for the royal cause than those of Jersey, since they deemed it prudent, at the Restoration, to petition for the royal clemency, and obtained a general pardon. In the reign of James II. a Roman Catholic governor was appointed, and other symptoms were manifested of a design to assert the supremacy of that religion; but no sooner was the arrival of the Prince and Princess of Orange in England made known here, than a plan was concerted to secure Castle Cornet, disarm the papists, and confine the lieutenant-governor, which was carried into effect with great dexterity. During the late war with France, the dread of an invasion rendered it expedient to enlarge and strengthen the ancient fortifications, and to erect a new fortress, called Fort George; which improvements, added to the natural precipitousness of the coast, render Guernsey, in the event of future hostilities, almost impregnable.
The Island, which is nearly triangular in form, is about nine miles in extreme length from north-east to south-west, nearly six in breadth from north-west to south-east, and about thirty in circumference. Its situation in the Channel stream produces a variety of currents on its coasts, the intricacy and rapidity of which render the navigation difficult, except along the southern coast, where is good and safe anchorage in a sandy bottom, at the distance of a mile and a half from the shore. The dangerous rocks called the rock Dover are situated exactly in a south-west direction, at six leagues distance, in lat. from 49° 10' to 49° 16'. The outline of the island is indented with numerous small bays and harbours. The southern coast, from the Hanois to St. Martin's Point, and part of the eastern, from St. Martin's Point to the town, are skirted by a continued rock, rising almost perpendicularly from the sea to the height of about 270 feet; and irrespective of a few very narrow valleys, the parishes of St. Martin, the Forest, Torteval, St. Peter of the Wood, and a great part of St. Saviour's, St. Andrew's, the Catel parish, and St. Peter's Port, are level ground, at nearly that average height from highwater mark. The whole of the Vale and St. Sampson's parishes, except a few gentle elevations, are low lands, almost on a level with high water; but there is not much marshy ground, nor are they subject to inundation. The low part of the island is particularly fertile: the elevated portions, excepting nearly half of the parishes of Torteval and the Forest, are exceedingly good arable land; and even the steep rocky elevations on the east and south sides produce fine pasturage for sheep. The whole island is abundantly watered by rivulets. The general geological formation admits of a natural division into two parts; the more elevated to the south, consisting almost entirely of gneiss, and the low ground, or northern portion, of sienite or hornblende rock: the character of the gneiss is much varied by the intrusion of the strata which usually accompany that rock, but its general aspect is porphyritic, and, when newly washed by the gurge, it exhibits most beautiful specimens of that species of marble. There is neither a wood nor a coppice in any part of the island: the timber grown is chiefly elm, which in quality is probably equal to any in Europe; the female elm is much used in boat-building, being, when cut into thin planks, very tough, and yet so extremely pliable that it may be formed almost into any shape.
Most kinds of European Fruit grow in profusion; and so genial is the climate that myrtles and geraniums flourish in the open air, and the more hardy species of orangetree, the Seville, will bear fruit in winter with little shelter. The orchards, chiefly composed of apple-trees, are very productive, and a great quantity of cider is made and drunk in the island. Several thousands of that beautiful flower, the Guernsey lily, are exported every year to England and France, but it will not blow a second time out of the island, not even in Jersey, although in a more southern latitude, and better shaded. There is no species of common game; woodcocks and snipes are tolerably plentiful. Fish are caught in great abundance and variety: among the most common are mackerel, the sea-pike or garpike, whitings, pollacks, bream, and rock-fish; there are also turbot, mullet, soles, plaice, and conger-eels, the two last sometimes weighing 30 or 40lb. Shell-fish are no less plentiful: among them is the ormer or sea-ear (haliotis tuberculata), commonly eaten by the poorer inhabitants. Crabs and lobsters of an enormous size are caught; the spider crab, which is much smaller, and in shape resembles the insect after which it is named, is almost peculiar to this coast, and is much esteemed by epicures. Lichens, in great variety, are found attached to the rocks, among which the lichen roccella abounds. The mole, snake, and toad are not found here, which is the more remarkable, as they abound in the adjacent island of Jersey.
The Agriculture of Guernsey has been greatly improved of late years, chiefly by means of an agricultural and a horticultural society, the former established in 1816, and the latter in 1832. The lands are clean, being cultivated with much diligence, and from the superior fertility of the soil, yield abundant crops: the subdivisions, however, are so minute that few of the cultivators are able to raise more than what is sufficient for their own consumption and the payment of their rents. The cows are highly celebrated, and the milk which they yield is so rich that it is not necessary to let it stand to produce cream, the whole being at once fit for the process of churning. Few sheep are either bred or fattened, fat sheep and oxen being generally brought from England or France. The island breed of horses is poor, the animals being ill-shaped and usually ill-fed. The hogs attain a great size, and are remarkable for the small proportions of their limbs and feet. The standard landmeasure is in feet, yards, perches, vergees, bouves, and carvees:twenty-one square feet make a perch, and, generally, forty perches a vergee; so that two vergees and a half are rather more than an English statute acre: four vergees make a Guernsey acre, which is equal in size to an Irish acre.
From time immemorial until the Revolution of 1688, the privilege of free trade, both in time of war and peace, with England and France, was enjoyed by the islanders, having been granted and confirmed by successive kings of England and dukes of Normandy, and even sanctioned by a bull of Pope Sixtus IV., dated in 1483, and published throughout the kingdom of France by order of Charles VIII. King William abolished this neutrality, and thereupon the inhabitants engaged actively in privateering, and were very successful in the wars of that and the following reign. During the whole of the last century, the trade of Guernsey progressively increased; a considerable portion of the commerce carried on being with persons engaged in the smuggling trade, until the years 1805 and 1807, when acts for the better prevention of smuggling were passed. Before the commencement of the bonding system, the island may be said to have served as a depôt for storing foreign goods, particularly wines and spirits, in the same manner as they are now kept in the warehouses of the London docks and the bonding ports; and for this object it combines various advantages, having, in addition to its central situation, a temperate climate suitable for keeping wines in store, a good harbour at all times free from obstruction by ice, the best vaults in Europe, and a great number of spacious and substantial warehouses: the wharfage and dues on goods in transition are moderate. The trading-vessels belonging to the merchants amount to about 125 sail, the largest having a burthen of 288 tons; the chief exports are granite and cattle. All the British wool allowed by parliament for the manufactures in Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, and Sark, must be shipped at Southampton, with which port a constant trade in this and other articles is carried on in large and well-built cutters, which generally perform the voyage in about twenty hours; and when the general exportation of corn is prohibited in England, a certain quantity, sufficient, with the produce of the islands, for the general consumption, is allowed to be sent hither. The regular government steam-packets, conveying the mails, sail from Southampton to Jersey every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, taking Guernsey in their way: a constant communication is also maintained with the opposite coast of France, so that, in time of peace, this port and Jersey may be considered regular thoroughfares between England and Normandy and Brittany. During the late continental war, a few smuggling vessels and privateers were built here, but the first brig launched was in 1815, since which period many vessels of different classes have been built.
The common law of Guernsey is in substance derived from the ancient customs of Normandy, upon which the descent of property is in some measure founded. Real estates until lately could not be disposed of by will, but descended to the heirs-at-law, and, in default of such, escheated to the king, or the lord of the manor. In 1840, however, an order of the queen in council was issued, by which, among other changes made in the laws of the island, it was enacted that a person who leaves neither wife nor descendants may bequeath his purchased real property, and even his inherited real property, provided he has no relations within the second degree in a collateral line. The eldest son is here, as in Jersey, entitled to the principal dwelling, if not situated within the ancient bounds of the town of St. Peter's Port: he has also a certain portion of land, from fourteen to twenty-one perches, according to the value of the succession, attached to the dwelling, as ascertained by the douzainiers of the parish, at whose valuation he is likewise entitled to purchase all the enclosures of lands attached to it, the entrance to which is open to him from the house without crossing a public road. As no law exists to prevent the partition of estates below a prescribed number of vergees, land in Guernsey is indefinitely divisible; but the eldest frequently purchases the shares of the younger partitioners, either for rent or immediate value. Male descendants, in particular cases, have a peculiar right to what is termed the vingtième, which may be either claimed or waived at their discretion: if claimed, the estate is measured, and one-twentieth set apart, of which the eldest son first takes his privileged portion, and the remainder is equally divided among the males; the residue of the succession is then shared by the coheirs, two-thirds being divided among the males, and onethird among the females. If the vingtième, is not claimed, the whole succession, after deducting the preciput, as it is termed, for the eldest, is equally shared by children of both sexes. Among the most remarkable peculiarities of established usage are the two following:the children of parents who have lived for years in open concubinage, but afterwards marry, are considered legitimate, and are entitled to inheritance; and an insolvent person is exonerated from the payment of his debts, on surrendering upon oath the whole of his property, except his clothes, bed, and arms, and promising to pay the deficiency should he ever afterwards possess the means. Formerly, the insolvent claiming the benefit of this law was compelled to wear a green cap, and to lay aside his girdle; but these humiliating regulations have been for some time discontinued. The power of the British parliament to enact laws for the islands having, on various occasions, been disputed by the magistrates, on the ground that the legislative authority was vested in the king alone, as Duke of Normandy, an order of council was issued in 1806, declaring that the registration of an act is not essential to its operation, and that His Majesty's subjects in these islands are bound by law to take notice of an act wherein they are especially named, although it should not be registered in the royal court.
The assembly or convention of the States, which takes place only on occasions of great importance, when the general interest of the island is concerned, consists of the bailiff, twelve jurats, and procureur of the royal court, the beneficed clergy, and the representatives of the town and parishes; the total number being 222. The governor, or lieutenant-governor, whose consent is necessary to the assembling of the states, has a deliberative voice, but no vote; and the bailiff presides as speaker. The principal business of what are termed the States of election is, the nomination of jurats, and the appointment of the provost, for which every member has a distinct vote; money to defray the public expenses is voted by the States of deliberation, consisting of the members above specified, but in which the total number of votes is reduced to 37. The revenue consists of general taxes, harbour dues, duties levied yearly upon licensed victuallers, or retailers of liquors in general, and the produce of lotteries. No writ from any of the British courts extends to Guernsey, except from the admiralty court. Agreeably to the numerous charters granted, the inhabitants are treated throughout the queen's dominions as British-born subjects, but an Englishman is here considered an alien, being liable to arrest for any sum, even less than sixpence, and his bail may be rejected, though of known sufficiency: admission to the privileges of the island can only be granted at the pleasure of the royal court, which after long residence is sometimes conceded.
The civil and military powers appear to have been disunited in the reign of Edward I., but the governor continued to appoint the bailiff of Guernsey till the latter part of the reign of Charles II. This island and its dependencies were under the same governor as Jersey until the reign of Henry VII., when they were constituted distinct governments. Although the Governor has now no civil jurisdiction, his presence is sometimes required in the royal court, for enacting certain ordinances which concern the queen's service, the security of the island, and the maintenance of the public peace: the court is under his immediate protection, and his authority is to be exerted, if necessary, in the execution of its decrees. The office of governor has now for many years been invariably performed by deputy: the emoluments arise from the appropriation of the queen's rental, or dues, without accounting to the exchequer for the receipt thereof, but subject to the payment of certain small allowances to some of the civil officers, &c. The governor's primary duty is the care of the Fortifications, which have of late years been much enlarged and improved, and of which the principal is Fort George, begun in 1775, as a defence to the town and harbour of Guernsey, and containing barracks for upwards of 5000 men. Of late years the Militia has been re-organized on an improved plan: every male resident, without distinction, between the ages of 16 and 45, able to bear arms, is enrolled, trained, clothed, and accoutred, and called out occasionally for exercise and review; and in time of war all of them, in rotation, are obliged to mount guard nightly at the different batteries round the island. The natives are excellent marksmen, firing with more precision and effect than the troops of the line; and the superiority of the Guernsey artillery has long been acknowledged, although the tangent is not used by them, the eye being the sole guide in pointing the piece. On the batteries and barracks, in various parts of the island, are mounted 255 pieces of ordnance, 47 carronades, and 4 mortars.
The forms of the feudal system have been preserved to a greater degree in these islands than in any other part of the British dominions, although few of the ancient feudal services are exacted, and little remains of the once extensive power of the feudal courts. When King John lost the duchy of Normandy, he rewarded the loyalty of the islanders, who had bravely resisted two attacks made by the French king, by granting them a charter, which formed the basis of the present constitution of the island, and established the Royal Court. This court consists of a bailiff appointed by the queen, and twelve jurats chosen by the states, all serving for life, unless discharged by the queen: the officers of the court are, the queen's procureur, or attorney-general; the comptroller, whose office is similar to that of solicitorgeneral (these are termed the queen's officers); a provost, or queen's sheriff; the greffier, or registrar; and the queen's serjeant. Since the establishment of the royal court, instead of the assizes being held annually, as was previously the custom, the bailiff and jurats have administered justice three times a week in term, and once a week during vacations, and even more frequently when necessary. There are three terms in the year, commencing on the first Monday after January 15th, the first Monday after Easter, and the first Monday after September 29th, and each continuing six weeks. On the first day or opening of each term, called the chief plaids, or capital pleas, by-laws or ordinances are made, which have immediately the effect of law; but such as do not receive the royal approbation have only the same force as by-laws made by municipal corporations in England. For the ordinary course of business, four jurats in rotation attend in each term, during which there are eight or ten court days for hearing causes in the first instance, when two jurats, with the bailiff or his deputy, who must always be present to compose a court, are sufficient: this court is called Cour Ordinaire, and from it an appeal lies to what is termed the Court of Judgments, from which appeals, under certain restrictions, are made to Her Majesty in council. The Mobilaire courts, in which pleas for moveables or chattels are determined, are held on Mondays: the parishes are divided into two districts, called the High and the Low parishes, and the business of each is transacted on alternate Mondays, that for the Low parishes commencing first. On the Tuesday following the Monday's court for the Low parishes, judgments or final decrees are given; and on the Tuesday next after the court for the High parishes, courts of heritage, termed Plaids d' Héritage, for determining all suits relating to inheritance, are held. The Saturdays' courts are for the passing of contracts, admiralty causes, and criminal informations; the intermediate days, either in or out of term, being devoted to the hearing of causes in general. But the Saturdays' courts for criminal causes continue from the chief pleas of Easter to the middle of July; from Michaelmas to Christmas; and from January 15th to the Saturday before Holy-week. All trials are conducted in the French language. The royal court-house was erected in 1799, and was altered and embellished in 1821, by John Wilson, Esq., at an expense of £4100: the building consists of an upper and lower court-room, and there is a spacious greffier's office, in which are deposited copies of the deeds and contracts relative to every transaction in heritage property belonging to the island; there are also excellent apartments for the private deliberations of the jurats, committees, &c., communicating with the upper court-room. Nearly adjoining the court-house is the prison for felons and debtors.
The Ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Guernsey, with that of Jersey and the neighbouring islands, was placed under the bishops of Coutances by Rollo, the first duke of Normandy, and so continued till King John was dispossessed of the duchy in 1204. The islands were then united to the see of Exeter, but were soon restored to that of Coutances, to which they remained attached until, in the reign of Henry VII., they were, by a supposed bull of Pope Alexander, annexed to the diocese of Salisbury: they were afterwards re-attached to Coutances, and formed part of that bishopric till Elizabeth, in 1568, transferred them to the see of Winchester. The discipline was strictly presbyterian from 1576 until the act of Uniformity was passed in England (in the reign of Charles II.), the provisions of which extended to these islands, and led to the appointment of a dean, who in 1664 obtained a commission of official from the bishop, investing him with full power to exercise jurisdiction in Guernsey and its dependencies. The dean holds the ecclesiastical court as occasion requires. The livings in the island are nearly all of small value, from the loss of the great tithes, which were first by the papal authority appropriated to the Norman monasteries, and at the Reformation seized by the crown. The small tithes, or share of the greater, allowed by those religious societies to the incumbents, are still retained, and have been increased by what are called "Novals" or "Deserts," namely, the tithe of land since brought into tillage. Surplice-fees were formerly paid, but having been given up by the presbyterian ministers from aversion to the name, they have not been revived. The tithe of grain and flax is mostly due to the queen, and that of apples, pears, cider, honey, calves, colts, pigs, lambs, and geese, to the rector; but no tithe is due to either for hay, clover, lucerne, potatoes, parsnips, or other vegetables. The champart, or portion of the field reserved by the chief lord, on certain manors, in lieu of rent, is the twelfth sheaf of the whole crop. The livings of the country parishes now produce from £100 to £170 a year each, the crown having made an annual grant of £50 in augmentation of each of them. The church service is for the most part performed in the French language, excepting for the garrison, and at the church of St. James, St. John's church, Trinity church, and Bethel chapel.
The island appears to have been divided into Parishes soon after the Norman Conquest of England. The douzainiers of each parish are twelve of the most respectable and intelligent inhabitants (the Town and Vale parishes excepted, the former having twenty, and the latter sixteen), chosen for life by the parishioners, and having the regulation of all parochial matters. Each parish has likewise two constables, chosen annually, who preside and make part of the corps of the douzaine; and two curateurs, who exercise all the functions of churchwardens: the office of procureur des pauvres, or manager of the poor, is similar to that of overseer, but the poorrates are collected by distinct officers. Guernsey comprises the parishes of St. Peter's Port, or the Town, containing 15,220 inhabitants; St. Sampson, 1552; the Vale, 1698; Torteval, 385; St. Saviour, 1034; the Forest, 696; St. Pierre du Bois, or "St. Peter of the Wood," 1180; St. Martin, 1825; St. Mary de Castro, or the Câtel, 2038; and St. Andrew, 1021.
St. Peter's Port, or the Town parish, is situated about the middle of the eastern coast. The town, which has of late years been much enlarged, stretches along the shore to the extent of a mile and a half, and, including the New Town and the Hauteville, is about three miles in circumference. Edward I., in 1275, issued an order authorising the governor and inhabitants to build a stone pier between the town and Castle Cornet, and to levy, for three years only, a small duty on ships coming to the island, towards defraying the expense. This duty being raised by succeeding governors much beyond the time specified, without their commencing the undertaking, the commissioners who were sent to the island, in the reign of Elizabeth, placed the power of collecting the petty custom in the hands of the bailiff and jurats, and ordered them to lay it out under the inspection of the governor, by which means the south pier was begun about 1570. The north pier was begun in the reign of Anne, the islanders having entered into a subscription towards defraying the expense; and the whole has been improved at various periods. The piers extend to the eastward about 460 feet, curving inwards at the extremities, which leave an opening about eighty feet wide. Vessels of considerable burthen can enter at high water. The harbour is defended by Castle Cornet, situated on a rock a little to the south-east of the pier, and supposed to have been originally constructed by the Romans; this fortress is so well secured by batteries on all sides, that, though accessible from the town at the ebbing of the tide (when the intervening sands are left quite dry), it has often been successfully defended. Formerly the governors made this castle their place of residence, but it has ceased to be so for many years, and is entrusted to the care of a guard of soldiers and certain officers. It commands the different entrances to the town.
Several of the streets of the town have been widened, particularly Fountain-street, which is a great thoroughfare between the harbour and the town and country, and the houses either rebuilt or greatly embellished; those in the Upper or New Town are straight, and the houses large and well built, especially in Saumarez-street. They are mostly well paved, and within the last few years, pipes have been laid down for the introduction of gas. The New Town stands so high, that, from the level of the market-place, the side of the ravine is ascended by a flight of 145 steps, to the summit of Mount Gibel. The assembly-rooms, situated in the market-place, and supported on arches of stone, were built by subscription, in 1780: a public library was established in 1819, a mechanics' institute in 1831; and the theatre, in Newstreet, is occupied by a company from Exeter from October till Christmas. At the top of Smith-street stands Government House, a neat building, the residence of the lieutenant-governor. The church of St. James, the College, and Castle Carey, in the highest parts of the town, form striking objects from the harbour. Castle Carey was erected in 1829, in the castellated style of English architecture, at an expense of £4000, and is one of the greatest ornaments to the island. Close to it is a small public park, called the New Ground, comprising about eight English acres, purchased by the parishioners more than half a century ago; one-half is laid out in groves, and the other, which is a smooth lawn, set apart as a military parade. The immediate vicinity is ornamented by numerous handsome villas, substantially built of native granite since 1815; and on the heights between the bays of Fermain and Moulin-Huet stands Doyle's column, erected in honour of Sir John Doyle, about 100 feet high from the base to the top, and 250 feet above the level of the sea; it is ascended by a winding staircase, and the gallery is surrounded by an iron balustrade.
The chief manufactures are those of cordage, soap, candles, tobacco and snuff, bricks, and Roman cement; there is a considerable trade in flour, and vast quantities of granite are sent from the port. The principal marketday is Saturday, but fish, fruit, and vegetables are exposed for sale every day. A space is assigned in the marketplace for pork and veal from each of the ten parishes, and those articles are sold to the public by the farmers, on Friday and Saturday; the vegetable market is held under the assembly-rooms, and in the open square adjoining. The butchers' market-place was constructed in 1822. Adjoining it a fish-market has been erected, which is not excelled by any in the kingdom: it is 198 feet in length, 22 feet wide, and 28 in elevation, entirely covered over and lighted in a tasteful manner by seven octagonal skylights, beneath which are Venetian blinds for the purpose of ventilating the building; the fishtables, forty in number, are all of polished marble, and each is supplied with fine spring water. An extensive slaughter-house has been erected near the beach. Fairs for horses and cows are held annually, and numerously attended by dealers from England.
The Living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £12, and in the patronage of the Governor, who also presents to the livings of the country parishes; net income, including a grant of £100 from the crown, £480. The church, dedicated to St. Peter in 1312, consists of a nave, aisles, and chancel, with a central tower surmounted by a low spire; it is of more elaborate architecture than any other in the island, and has lately undergone considerable repair. The garrison and evening services are performed in the English language. There are two district churches in the parish; one, Trinity church, situated in county Mansell, built in 1768; the other, St. John's, built lately by subscription: each living is in the gift of five trustees. Bethel chapel, in Manor-street, was built in 1791, and purchased in 1796, by an order of council, as a chapel to St. Peter's Port: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £100; patrons, the Proprietors. St. James' church was built by subscription, expressly for the performance of the church service in English: the government is vested in elders, and the minister is paid by the congregation, yet the chapel is subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester; patrons, the Proprietors of the pews. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, English and French Independents, French Methodists, Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. The free grammar school, founded by Queen Elizabeth, and thence called The Royal College of Elizabeth, is endowed with property producing upwards of £300 per annum. It is an imposing structure in the later English style, comprising a spacious public hall, seven schoolrooms of large dimensions, a library, and commodious accommodation for the principal and his boarders. The present edifice is of recent date, the first stone having been laid in 1826, and the building completed in 1830, from a design by Mr. John Wilson, architect to the states. The central tower, which contains the library, is 100 feet high, with four lateral towers, each 60 feet in height. In 1636, Charles I. assigned houses in London, and lands in Buckinghamshire (which had escheated to the crown), to endow a fellowship in each of the colleges of Jesus, Exeter, and Pembroke, in the University of Oxford, for natives of Jersey or Guernsey; who have also the benefit of five scholarships founded by Dr. Morley, Bishop of Winchester, in 1654, in Pembroke College, three for Jersey, and two for Guernsey. The town hospital, built in 1742, and considerably improved and enlarged in 1810, combines the objects of an hospital and a workhouse or house of industry.
St. Sampson's parish is situated about 2 miles (N.) from St. Peter's Port. Parts of it were included in the grant made by William the Conqueror to Sampson d'Anneville, which was erected into a fief, or royalty, still called the Fief D'Anneville, and appears to have been the first grant to a layman. This fief is the noblest tenure in the island, the lord ranking next after the clergy, and being so cited in the royal courts, which he is obliged to attend three times in the year, viz., at the chief pleas, or opening of the terms; he is also bound, when the sovereign comes to the island, to attend him as his esquire during his stay. The lord holds a court at Michaelmas, composed of a seneschal, three vavasors or judges, a clerk or greffier, and a provost; the tenants thus assembled annually choose a provost from among themselves, to collect the lord's chief rents. The harbour of St. Sampson has been rendered secure and convenient by a new breakwater and quay, to facilitate the exportation of granite from the northern part of the island. The living is a rectory, with the vicarage of the Vale parish annexed, valued in the king's books at £5. The church, a low edifice without either tower or spire, was consecrated in 1111, and is the most ancient in the island. There is a place of worship for a congregation of French Methodists.
The Vale parish, which is situated at the north extremity of the island, and comprises 4300 vergees, was formerly divided into two parts at the Braye du Val, by an irruption of the sea, which is supposed to have taken place about the year 1204. The two divisions were for a long time connected by a causeway of large stones, called the Devil's Bridge, or Pont du Val, which afforded a passage at low water, and the sea continued to flow over a large tract of land at every tide, until, by the exertions of the lieutenant-governor, Sir John Doyle, the land was recovered by shutting out the sea by a bridge near the Vale church, by which 814 vergees were brought into tillage. The portion assigned to the crown was sold for £5000, which sum was appropriated towards defraying the expense of new military roads across the island. In the Close of the Vale, not far from the spot where the church now stands, the fugitive monks from the Benedictine abbey of Mount St. Michael, in Normandy, in 962 erected a monastery, which was endowed in 1032, by Robert, Duke of Normandy, father of the Conqueror, with a grant of lands, including at that time one-fourth of the cultivated part of the island, under the name of the fief of St. Michael, which since the Dissolution has belonged to the crown. The court for this fief is held three times in the year, viz., on the day following each of the chief pleas of the royal court, and has a seneschal, eleven vavasors, three provosts, a greffier, and a serjeant: a singular ceremony anciently observed in connexion with it, of perambulating the queen's highways, has of late years been revived. Of the castle of St. Michael, little more remains than the outer walls, in which are some flanking towers and the old portal; within these have been erected barracks for a few soldiers, and upon its mouldering ramparts, the most ancient pieces of masonry in the island, are a few pieces of ordnance. The living is a vicarage, annexed to the rectory of St. Sampson's, and valued in the king's books at £6. 13. 4. The church, dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, was consecrated in 1117. There is a place of worship for a congregation of French Methodists.
Torteval is situated about 5½ miles (S. W.) from St. Peter's Port, at the western extremity of the island. The living is a rectory, with that of Forest parish united, valued in the king's books at £5. The church, dedicated to St. Philip, and erected by the states, at an expense of £3000, in 1817, is a simple and substantial structure of granite, roofed with brick-work and coated externally with a thick covering of Roman cement. A little to the west of the signal post at Prevoté point, at the foot of a steep rocky eminence, is a natural cavern of singular formation, called Le Creux Mahie, about 200 feet in length, and 40 or 50 feet in width.
St. Saviour's parish lies in the south-western portion of the island. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £10. The church was consecrated in 1154. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans. The ancient chapel of St. Apoline still remains entire, and is now used as a barn; the interior of the roof is circular, and formed of stone. On a small island to the southwest, communicating with the main land at low water, stood the priory of Lihou, or Lihoumel, said to have been built in 1114, and of which part of one of the walls is remaining. In the rock are two natural baths, hollowed out by the continued friction of stones washed round by the eddy of the sea: the islet is uninhabited, but contains a great number of rabbits.
The Forest parish occupies the southern part of the island. The living is a rectory, united to that of Torteval, and valued in the king's books at £7. The church, dedicated to St. Margaret, was consecrated in 1163. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists.
The parish of St. Peter of the Wood is situated 5½ miles (W.) from St. Peter's Port, and comprises by computation 900 English acres, of which two-thirds are arable, and the remainder pasture. The soil is rich, and the chief crops are wheat and barley; the pastures are mostly clover, and parsnips are grown in profusion. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £11. The church, consecrated in 1167, is a handsome edifice, occupying a picturesque situation on the declivity of a valley. There is a place of worship for French Methodists; also parochial schools for boys and girls, the former endowed by Queen Elizabeth, and the latter by private subscription.
The parish of St. Martin is situated about 2 miles (S. W.) from St. Peter's Port, and includes, besides part of the queen's fief, that of Saumarez, which has been in the possession of the family of that name from time immemorial. The court was formerly held three times in the year, at the chief pleas of the royal court, but is now, at the will of the seignior, held only once, at Michaelmas. Edward III. vested the command of the castle of Jerbourg, here, in Matthew de Saumarez, at that time lord of the fief, and his heirs male, who continued to be castellans as long as the fortifications existed. There are no remains of the castle: a small barrack has been built on the position, which, from the deep parallel ditches on the north and south sides of the promontory, is thought to have been fortified by the Romans. The parish comprises by computation 1300 acres of arable and pasture land. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £11. 13. 4.: the glebe comprises 16 acres. The church was consecrated in 1199. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyans; and parochial schools are supported from grants made by Queen Elizabeth, and from funds raised by the states of the island.
The parish of St. Mary de Castro, familiarly abridged into Câtel, is situated about a mile and a half (W.) from St. Peter's Port. The inhabitants are employed in agriculture, and in the quarries of granite with which the neighbourhood abounds; the granite is of remarkably fine quality, and raised in large masses. Four annual fairs for cattle are held near the churchyard, and are numerously attended. The principal feudal court is that of the fief Le Compte, a great part of which and its dependencies is included within the parish limits. This court, consisting of a seneschal, eight vavasors, a procureur fiscal, three provosts, a greffier, serjeant, and receiver, is held thrice a year, viz. on the second day following the chief pleas of the royal court. The escheats of persons dying without heirs; forfeitures on condemnation to death, or on banishment for seven years (called in French une mort civille); shipwreck found upon the fief; and other rights, appertain to the lord; and these, with the change of property on death or alienation, now form the chief business of this and the other fief courts in the island. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £10: the glebe comprises 10 acres. The church was consecrated in 1203. There are some small remains of the ancient chapel of St. George, near the house of that name. In this parish stands the poor-house for all the country parishes, which is conducted on a plan similar to that of the Town. The Vason bay, which bounds part of the parish to the west, is conjectured, from the remains that have been dug up under the sands, to have been anciently forest or woodland.
The parish of St. Andrew is situated about 2 miles (S. W.) from St. Peter's Port, and comprises by computation 1000 English acres of arable and pasture land, in nearly equal portions. The surface is boldly diversified with hills and valleys, and the scenery is in some parts picturesque; the soil is chiefly gravelly, and the principal crops are corn and potatoes. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £6. 13. 4. The church is an ancient structure, and contains 500 sittings, of which 50 are free. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans; and a parochial school supported partly by endowment, and partly by subscription.
The remains of five Druidical temples can be distinctly traced in Guernsey: one is situated on a rocky ridge between the points of land formerly occupied by Le Rée and Richmond barracks, at the western extremity of the island; another on the north-east, consisting of a large slab of granite, sixteen feet long, eight broad, and three thick, supported on rude masses of stone; and the three others on L'Ancresse common. Guernsey gives the inferior title of Baron to the family of Finch, earls of Aylesford.
Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.