Historical Descriptions of the Channel Islands

From Grose's The Antiquities of England and Wales, published 1777

(With engravings by W. Hooper)

Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sarke are all of them remnants of the ancient Duchy of Normandy, which country, under the Romans, was called Augia, and was their second Provincia Lugdunensis, and under the kings of the Franks constituted a part of the kingdom of Neusiria. In nine hundred and twelve, Charles the Simple, ceded it to the piratical Normans, as a fief of France, and Rollo - their leader was married to a daughter of the same king, William, the sixth Duke of Normandy, became king of England, and (with the rest of his dominions) annexed these islands to the sovereignty of England, the only parts now in our possesion. They belong to Hampshire, and are in the diocese of Winchester.



The first of these, Jersey, lies about fifteen miles west of the coast of France, or the Cape of La Hogue, and eighty four miles south of Portland, in Dorsetshire. It was anciently called Caesaria, and here many Roman coins have been dug up, together with other antiquities; and there are yet the vestiges of a Roman camp, near the Manor of Dilamant.

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. Exclusive of the Roman antiquities here are many remains of Druidical temples still visible.

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.

Antiquities of Note

Elizabeth Castle

Gowray or Mont Orgueil Castle

Notre Dame Chapel



Guernsey, the Sarina of Antoninus, is 6o miles s. w. of Weymouth, about 26 W. of Normandy, 21 from Jersey, 5 from Alderney, an 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.

Antiquities of Note

Cornet Castle

Marsh Castle

Sampson (St.) Castle

Michael's (St.) or the Vale Church



Vale Castle

This castle stands in that part of the Island called the Vale, on an Eminence near the Sea; it is of an irregular figure. The walls which are garnished with a Parapet, are defended by four round Towers and a double Ditch, these Walls are rudely built with rough stone; on a Tower facing the West are the remains of Machicolations, this Tower is shewn in the View nearly over the little Cottage.

The Area enclosed within the walls is, by estimation, a little above an Acre. In the center of this Area a large portion of bare natural Rock remains uncleared, this it is said served as a foundation for some elevated building; at present however there are no traces of any workmanship about it.

The inside is full of the Ruins of dwelling houses close to the walls, particularly on the west, north and east sides. The Well is nearly opposite the chief entrance, which was the Easternmost Angle, through a great Gate with a circular Arch, strengthened with a Portcullis, the groove of which is still visible; somewhat like another entrance appears on the western side of the castle.

The Origin of this castle is involved in the same Obscurity as that which envelopes the other Fortresses of these Islands. It is however mentioned as early as the Year 1111,in a M. S. called la Dedicace, preserved in the Island, recording the Consecration of their Churches. Remont Sauvage, Governor and Captain of the castle and parish of the Vale, being therein mentioned as attending the Consecration of the Vale Church.

Mention is also made of this castle in a popular Poem, reciting a Piratical Invasion made in the Year 1372, by one Evan of Wales, wherein it appears Edmund Rosse, was the Governor of the castle, which is styled the Powerful castle of the Archangel; at present it is the property of the Crown.

This View, which shews a south-west Aspect was drawn anno 1776.



Alderney, supposed by Camden to be the Arica of Antoninus, 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.


Sarke, in Latin Sargia, is about five miles in length, and not above three broad, fortified on all sides by cliffs, which render it almost inaccessible, containing only two entrances, one of which is cut through a soft rock, and fortified with gates and cannon. Here are the remains of a convent of St. Maglarius.