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The Channel Islands lie within the English Channel and the Gulf of 
St Malo within sight of the French coast. There are six main isles - Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and Jethou - and numerous islets and rocks such as Les Minquiers, Les Ecrehou.

Map of the Channel Islands (




  Channel Islands Prehistory
100,000 BC Relics of Neanderthal man have been found in the cave, La Cotte at St Brelade's. (1)
8000 - 6500 BC Islands were severed from the Continent by rising seas. (1)
3000 - 2000 BC Neolithic people crossed to the islands, probably from the Iberian peninsula. Passage graves, menhirs and dolmens appear from this time. One of the finest Neolithic tombs in Europe is La Hougue Bie on Jersey, a  Viking-type mound above a huge passage grave. (1) (2) (4)
See Geraint Jennings' site Dolmens in Jersey which also leads to a site about dolmens in Guernsey.
1500 BC Cemetery of Iberian immigrants containing 18 prehistoric graves is established on Green Island. (4)
700 BC Invasions by other tribes such as the Beaker folk. (2)
300 BC Gauls, particularly the Unelli tribe, crossed to Jersey and made the Iberians their slaves. This was a Celtic society with Druid priests. (2)
56 BC - 450 AD Roman & Viking times in the Channel Islands
56 BC Gaul was conquered by Julius Caesar but there was no Roman occupation of the Channel Islands. From the Antoine Itinerary of 284 it is believed that Jersey was called Caesarea, Guernsey Sarnia and Alderney Riduna. Roman law, language and religion became highly valued. (2)
486 AD Gaul was invaded by the Franks and became known as Francia. (2)
c 525 Jersey was occupied by Christian Bretons. The people of Armorica or Brittany had suffered greatly under invasion and many moved to the Channel Islands and Britain. Jersey was called Angia or Agna at this time and Guernsey Lesia. (2)
555 St Helier or Helibertus, a Christian hermit on Jersey, was murdered by Saxon or Norman pirates. (2)
568 St Magliore's monastery was founded on Sark and this lasted until 1413. (2) (5)
600 - 800 The parishes were founded. (2)
800 - 911 Many Viking raids occurred with burning and pillaging. Many Channel Island names developed from the Norse language at this time including the names of the islands, Jersey probably meaning "grassy isle". (2)
911 A Norman dynasty was founded by the Viking, Rollo. The Channel Islands were later won by his son, William Longsword, after he defeated the Bretons in 931. There was large Norman immigration and influence at this time. The fiefs and feudal system developed. (1) (2) (5)
931 - 1204 The Channel Islands ruled from Rouen as part of Normandy
1066 The Battle of Hastings. William the Conqueror as Duke of Normandy took England. Jersey remained part of Normandy and was ruled from Rouen. (2)
1204 King John who had acceded to the throne of England and the Duchy of Normandy in 1199 lost Normandy but kept the Channel Islands. The Islands were given special privileges and allowed to be largely self-governing under a Bailiwick system. Norman law was retained and Jersey even remained part of the Diocese of Coutances for another 300 years (until 1569). (2) (5)
1200s Construction of the Keep at Mont Orgueil in Jersey and Castle Cornet in Guernsey were commenced.
1204 -  Part of Great Britain
1226 Henry III, son of King John, confirmed the special privileges that had been allowed previously. (5)
1327 - 1330 Grosnez Castle on Jersey was built when Jean de Roches was the Warden. It was in ruins by 1607. (4)
1346 The Black Death struck the Channel Islands like the rest of Europe leading to a devastating loss of population. Britain's main  language changed to English. (2) 
1360 Treaty of Calais was signed after the Battle of Poitiers (1356) when the French after their defeat by the English abandoned any claim to the Channel Islands. (5)
1200 -1500 Repeated invasions by the French, attacks by pirates and the severe rule of Otho de Grandison as Lord of the Isles (c1270 - 1320) made life very difficult for the islanders. (2) (5)
1461 -1468 Jersey was occupied by the French for seven years. (4)
1547 The dissolution of the monasteries led on to the establishment of  the Protestant Church in Britain. The islands favoured Presbyterianism but Jersey was made to conform to the Church of England in 1620 and Guernsey in 1663. (4) (5)
1550 - 1800 Knitting was a huge industry in Jersey and Guernsey. This is mentioned in William Candor's Britannia (1586) and William Harrison's Chronicles of England (1587). In 1587 Mary Queen of Scots wore jersey stockings at her execution.(1) (2) (3)
1562 -1736 Witch trials were held in the Channel Islands. Jersey "witches" were hanged and strangled while those in Guernsey were burnt at the stake. (7)
1563 Helier de Carteret, the Seigneur of St Ouen, was given the right to colonise Sark, mainly with people from Jersey, in order to root out the pirates' nest existing there. (5)
1573 Elizabeth College on Guernsey was founded by Elizabeth I and rebuilt in 1825. (6)
1582 Many Jerseymen were sailing across the Atlantic seeking cargoes of Newfoundland Cod. They left Jersey in spring and returned for the autumn ploughing. (8)
1590 The building of Elizabeth Castle on the Islet, Jersey, was completed. (4)
1642 - 1651 English Civil War. Both Charles II and James II lived in exile in Jersey. Only Jersey & Virginia remained loyal (1) The Parliamentarians invaded in 1651.
1685 The revocation of the Edict of Nantes led to an influx of Huguenot refugees from France. (5)
1700s Riots occurred in Jersey due to seigneurial dues, poverty and the high cost of corn. (5). Also serious continental wars, the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13) and the war against France in the Napoleonic era (1793-1802, 1803-1815) meant that the Channel Islands were under threat. (5)
1781 The Battle of Jersey occurred when a French expedition led by Baron de Rullecourt tried to capture Jersey. Major Francis Peirson led the attack against the French and defeated them (5)
1784 Methodism came to the Channel Islands. John Wesley visited himself in 1787. (5)
1789 After the French Revolution the Islands received an influx of refugees, particularly French Royalists and Catholic clergy. (5)
1779 General Conway developed a fortification programme for thirty coastal towers in the Channel Islands.
1821 Population of Jersey - 28,000
1846 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Guernsey and Jersey.  They visited again in 1859 and Alderney in 1854. (5)
1846 -1856 Construction of St Catherine's Breakwater in Jersey was carried out. 
1851 Population of Jersey - 57,000.
After Louis Napoleon's coup in France in 1851 many political refugees came to the Islands including Victor Hugo who remained for 15 years. (5)
1903 A very low tide exposed the existence of the remains of an ancient forest off the coast of L'Etacq. (4)
1914 - 1918 Many islanders served in British forces. At Blanches Banques in Jersey a German prisoner-of-war camp was set up. (5)
1921 A Royal visit was made by George V, Queen Mary and Princess Mary. The prince of Wales also visited in 1935. (5)
1940 German occupation of the Islands. Alderney was completely evacuated, Guernsey partially so and Jersey slightly. German forces arrived first in Guernsey on 30 June, in Jersey on 1 July and in Sark on 3 July. (5) This was the only part of Britain occupied during WW II. The population came close to starvation as well as the German garrison after supply lines were cut after D-Day (6 June 1944).
1944 On 27 December the Red Cross ship Vega arrived with supplies. (5)
1945 Liberation Day occurred on 9 May when the German surrender was signed. (5)
1951 Population of Jersey - 57,000
1961 Population of Jersey - 63,000; population of Guernsey - 45,000; population of Alderney - 1,500; population of Sark and Brechou - 560. (5)
2002 As Crown dependencies with sovereignty over their own affairs, the Channel Islands have chosen not to join EU. However, pressure is being exerted to establish agreements with the EU about financial transactions.


1. Cerruti, J. (1971). Britain's "French" Channel Islands. National Geographic
139, 5, 710-740.
2. Balleine, G.R. (1950). A history of the Island of Jersey. Staples: London.
3. The Evening Post 1890-1965. 30 June 1965.
4. Ahier, P. (1957). Jersey. Premier: Bagot, Jersey.
5. Lempriere, R. (1970). Portrait of the Channel Islands. Robert Hale: London.
6. Court, A.N. (1969). Guernsey in colour. Jarrold & Sons: Norwich.
7. Balleine, G.R. (1939). Witch trials in Jersey. Bulletin of the Societe Jersiaise, XIII, 379-398.
8. Le Sauteur, W.T. (1982). A brief history of Jersey. Accessed 23.4.03. (Online). 


A few distinctive aspects of the Channel Islands:

Tomatoes and Jersey Royals (potatoes) 
Jersey & Guernsey & Alderney cows
The local patois - Jersiaise and Guernesiaise
Huge tides
Ormers, a shellfish similar to abalone
Jerseys & Guernseys - terms arising from the famous products of the islands' knitting industry
Cod fishermen
Haro! An ancient cry for help
Inter-island jokes about the Jersey crapaud (toad) and the Guernsey donkey
A haven for privateers and smugglers
Victor Hugo
Dense fortifications from the Elizabethan period, the Napoleonic Wars (Martello towers) and World War II when the Germans built many concrete bunkers and gun emplacements
Many Neolithic constructions such as passage graves and dolmens

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