Bailiwick of Guernsey

Jerbourg Point, Guernsey

Jerbourg Point, Guernsey

Guernsey, officially the Bailiwick of Guernsey (French: Bailliage de Guernesey), is a possession of the British Crown in right of Guernsey in the English Channel, off the coast of Normandy.
As a bailiwick, Guernsey embraces not only all ten parishes on the island of Guernsey, but also the islands of Alderney and Sark – each with its own parliament – and the smaller islands of Herm, Jethou and Lihou.
Although its defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom, the Bailiwick is not part of the United Kingdom but rather a possession of the British Crown.
It 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 for the purposes of free trade in goods.
Together, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey form the geographical grouping known as the Channel Islands.
Around 6000 B.C., 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.

St Peter Port is the capital of Guernsey, as well as the main port of the island. Population was 16,488 in 2001.
In Guernesiais and in French, historically the official language of Guernsey, the name of the town and its surrounding parish is St Pierre Port. The “port” distinguishes this parish from Saint Pierre Du Bois.
As well as being a parish, St Peter Port is a small town consisting mostly of steep narrow streets and steps on the overlooking slopes.
St Peter Port is located on the East coast of Guernsey. It borders St Sampson’s in the North, The Vale in the North-West, St Andrew’s in the West and St Martin’s in the South.


 

Guernsey Flag

Guernsey FlagThe present flag of Guernsey was adopted in 1985 and consists of the red cross of St. George with an additional gold cross within it.
The change was prompted by confusion at international sporting events over competitors from Guernsey and England using the same flag.
The gold cross represents Duke William of Normandy, who had such a cross on his flag in the Battle of Hastings, given to him by Pope Alexander II.
A red ensign with the cross in the fly is used as civil ensign.
The previous flag of Guernsey was the St George’s Cross.
Guernsey was permitted to use it in 1936 for its state flag. However, there is evidence to suggest the existence of a previous Guernsey flag, used in the mid-19th century.
This was a St George’s cross on a blue-and-white chequered field, with the Union Jack in canton.
The Coat of arms of Guernsey is the official symbol of the Channel Island of Guernsey. It is a red shield with three gold lions passant guardant surmounted by a small branch of leaves. It is very similar to the arms of Normandy, Jersey and England.


 

History

Castle Cornet, Guernsey

Castle Cornet, Guernsey

Rising sea levels transformed Guernsey into the tip of a peninsula jutting out into the emergent English Channel until about 6000 BC, when Guernsey and other promontories were cut off from continental Europe, becoming islands. At this time, Neolithic farmers settled the coasts and created the dolmens and menhirs that dot the islands. The island of Guernsey contains three sculpted menhirs of great archaeological interest; the dolmen known as L’Autel du Dehus also contains a dolmen deity. During their migration to Brittany, the Britons occupied the Lenur Islands (former name of the Channel Islands) including Sarnia or Lisia (Guernsey) and Angia (Jersey).
It was formerly thought that the Island’s original name was Sarnia, but recent research indicates that may have been the Latin name for Sark; though Sarnia remains the island’s traditional designation.

Coming from the kingdom of Gwent, Saint Sampson (abbot of Dol, in Brittany) is credited with the introduction of Christianity to Guernsey.
In 933 the islands, formerly under the control of the kingdom, then Duchy of Brittany were annexed by the Duchy of Normandy. The island of Guernsey and the other Channel Islands represent the last remnants of the medieval Duchy of Normandy. In the islands, Elizabeth II’s traditional title as head of state is Duke of Normandy. In fact, locals jokingly refer to England as the colony.

English Civil War
During the English Civil War, Guernsey sided with Parliament, while Jersey remained Royalist. Guernsey’s decision was mainly related to the higher proportion of Calvinists and other Reformed churches, as well as Charles I’s refusal to take up the case of some Guernsey seamen who had been captured by the Barbary corsairs.
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 then Governor, Sir Peter Osbourne, and Royalist troops. Castle Cornet was the last Royalist stronghold to capitulate, in 1651.
During the wars with France and Spain during the 17th and 18th centuries, Guernsey shipowners and sea captains exploited their proximity to mainland Europe, applying for Letters of Marque and turning their trading vessels into privateers.
The 19th century saw a dramatic increase in prosperity of the island, due to its success in the global maritime trade, and the rise of the stone industry. One notable Guernseyman, William Le Lacheur, established the Costa Rican coffee trade with Europe.

Occupied Guernsey, WW2

Occupied Guernsey, WW2

The World Wars
During World War I approximately 3,000 island men served in the British Expeditionary Force. Of these, about 1,000 served in the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry regiment which was formed from the Royal Guernsey Militia in 1916.
The Bailiwick of Guernsey was occupied by German troops in World War II. Before the occupation, many Guernsey children were evacuated to England to live with relatives or strangers during the war.
Some children were never re-united with their families. During the occupation, some people from Guernsey were deported by the Germans to camps in the southwest of Germany, notably to Biberach an der Riss and interned in the Lindele Camp (“Lager Lindele”).
There was also a concentration camp built in Alderney where forced labourers, predominantly from Eastern Europe, were kept. It was the only concentration camp built on British soil and is commemorated on memorials under the Alderney’s name in French: ‘Aurigny’.
According to some reports, Guernsey was the most heavily fortified island in occupied Europe during WWII with German defences dotted all round the coast and German additions to Castle Cornet. Certainly, the Channel Islands as a whole were the most fortified area in occupied Europe.


 

Politics

States of Guernsey

States of Guernsey

The States of Guernsey, officially called the States of Deliberation, consists of 45 People’s Deputies, elected from multi- or single-member districts every four years. There are also two representatives from Alderney, a self-governing dependency of the Bailiwick, but Sark sends no representative. There are also two non-voting members – the Attorney General and the Solicitor General both appointed by the monarch. Laws made the States are known as Projet(s) de Loi before they are passed and Loi or Law(s) afterwards (e.g. The Human Rights (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law 2000.

A Project de Loi is the equivalent of an English Bill , and a Law is the equivalent of an English Act of Parliament. Laws have no effect until promulgated as Orders-in-Council of the Crown. They are given the Royal Sanction at regular meetings of the Privy Council in London after, which they are returned to the Islands for formal registration at the Royal Court. The States also make delegated legislation known as ‘Ordinances (Ordonnances)’ and ‘Orders (Ordres)’ which do not require Royal Assent. Commencement orders are usually in the form or Ordinances.

The Lieutenant Governor is the representative of the Crown. The official residence of the Lieutenant Governor is Government House. Since 18 October 2005, the incumbent is Vice-Admiral Sir Fabian Malbon, born in Southsea, Portsmouth in 1946 and a serving naval officer 1965-2002.
His last naval posting before retirement from the Royal Navy was deputy commander-in-chief of fleet. Each parish is administered by a Douzaine. Douzeniers are elected for a six year mandate, two Douzeniers being elected by parishioners at a Parish Meeting in November each year.

The senior Douzenier is known as the Doyen. Two elected Constables carry out the decisions of the Douzaine, serving for between one and three years. The longest serving Constable is known as the Senior Constable and his or her colleague as the Junior Constable.
The legal system is Guernsey customary derived from Norman French customary law, heavily influenced and overlaid by English common law, justice being administered through a combination of Magistrates Court and the Royal Court. The legal profession is fused – there is no difference between solicitors and barristers as in England: Guernsey Advocates fulfil both roles. The Royal Court is presided over by the Bailiff and 12 Jurats (a permanent elected jury), the ultimate court of appeal being the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.


 

Geography

Map of Guernsey

Click to enlarge

At 49°28′N 2°35′W, Alderney, Guernsey, Herm, Sark, and some other smaller islands have a total area of 30 square miles (78 km²) and a coastline of about 30 miles (50 km). By itself, the island of Guernsey has a total area of 25 square miles (63 km²).
Guernsey is situated 30 miles (48 km) west of France’s Normandy coast and 75 miles (121 km) south of Weymouth in England and lies in the Gulf of St Malo. Lihou, a tidal island, is attached to Guernsey by a causeway at low tide. The terrain is mostly level with low hills in southwest.
Elevation varies from sea level to 375 feet (114 m) at Le Moulin on Sark.
The highest point in mainland Guernsey is Hautnez (363 ft; 110 m), in Alderney at Le Rond But (306 ft; 93 m), in Jethou (248 ft; 75.6 m) and Herm (322 ft; 98 m). Natural resources include cropland.
Guernsey itself contains two main geographical regions, the Haut Pas, a high southern plateau, and the Bas Pas, a low-lying and sandy northern region. In general terms, the Haut Pas is the more rural of the two, and the Bas Pas is more residential and industrialised.

There is a large, deepwater harbour at St Peter Port. The Casquets, a group of islets, are notable for the lighthouse facility constructed there.
The island of Guernsey is divided into ten parishes (the parish of St Anne, Alderney is not generally included in the enumeration of parishes in the Bailiwick).

Climate
The climate is temperate with mild winters and cool summers. The hottest months are August and September where temperatures are generally around 79 °F (26 °C). In retrospect, the coldest month is February, when it has snowed for the last two years running. However, the temperature rarely drops below freezing, although strong wind-chill from Arctic winds can sometimes make it feel like it. 50% of the days are overcast. This said, if Guernsey were part of the United Kingdom, it would be statistically the sunniest place in the region. The island enjoys glorious sunrises and sunsets throughout most of the year.


 

Economy

Sterling GuernseyUnlike many countries Guernsey has not delegated money-creation to the central bank and has instead issued interest-free money since 1816. As a result the government has not had to use increasing amounts of tax revenue to repay debt to the central bank, which has led to low income tax rates, no goods and services tax and no capital gains tax.
Financial services – banking, fund management, insurance, etc. – account for about 55% of total income in this tiny Channel Island economy. Tourism, manufacturing, and horticulture, mainly tomatoes and cut flowers especially freesias have been declining. Light tax and death duties make Guernsey a popular offshore finance centre. However, the evolving economic integration of the European Union nations is changing the rules under which Guernsey operates.

Guernsey is currently changing the way its tax system works in order to remain internationally competitive, and is confronting what it terms a financial “black hole” of just over forty million pounds.
Guernsey now has the official ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code GG and the official ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 code GGY; market data vendors, such as Bloomberg, will report products related to Guernsey using the alpha-3 code.

Guernsey issues its own coinage and banknotes. The Guernsey Pound is at par with the British pound. Jersey currency, UK coinage and English and Scottish banknotes also circulate freely and are accepted interchangeably.
Public services, such as electricity, gas, and postal services are all operated by independent (from the UK) companies in Guernsey.
Both the Guernsey Post post boxes and the telephone boxes are painted blue, but otherwise are identical to their British counterparts, the red pillar box and red telephone box.
Ports and harbours exist at St Peter Port and St Sampson’s. There are two paved airports in the bailiwick (Guernsey Airport and Alderney Airport), and 3 miles (5 km) of railways in Alderney.
The Guernsey Railway, which was virtually an electric tramway, and which began working on 20 February 1892, was abandoned on 9 June 1934. It replaced an earlier transport system which was worked by steam, and was named the Guernsey Steam Tramway. The latter began service on 6 June 1879 with six locomotives. This leaves Alderney as the only Channel Island with a working railway.


 

Demographics

DemographicsThe population is 62,948 (Jul 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 9th in the world with an average life expectancy of 82.39 years. 1.54 children are born per woman. Ethnic groups consist of British and Norman descent.

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 and EEA nationals free movement rights to enter, and remain in, the territory of the British Islands (also in Guernsey), although there are de facto restrictions on occupation of housing by everyone.

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 local parents), by obtaining a housing licence, or by virtue of sharing a property with someone who does qualify.

Housing licences are for fixed periods, and are usually 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.

St. Peters Port, Guernsey

St. Peters Port, Guernsey

These restrictions apply equally regardless of whether the property is owned or rented, and only applies 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 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. 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.


 

Culture

Guernsey FC

Guernsey FC

English is the only language spoken by a majority of the population, while Dgèrnésiais, the Norman language of the island, is currently spoken fluently by 2% of the population (according to 2001 census). However, 14% of the population claim some understanding of the language and it is taught in a few Island schools. Until the early 20th century French was the only official language. Family and place names reflect this linguistic heritage. Portuguese is taught in a few schools and is spoken by around 2% of the population.
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 in the island, Travailleurs de la Mer (Toilers of the Sea), which he dedicated to the island of Guernsey.

The most well-known novel by a Guernseyman is The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, by GB Edwards which, in addition to being a critically-acclaimed work of literature, it also contains a wealth of insights into life in Guernsey during the 20th century.
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 Dgèrnésiais) 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. There is also a breed of goat known as the Guernsey goat, which is distinguished by its golden-coloured coat.

Guernsey people are traditionally nicknamed donkeys or ânes, especially by 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 Guernsey Lily Nerine sarniensis (Sarnia is the traditional name of the island of Guernsey in Latin) is also used as a symbol of the island.

Share