Heritage, Culture & The Arts

Heritage, Culture & The Arts


Jersey’s heritage

Jersey’s distinct identity as an island nation in a strategically important location and with a favourable natural environment means that it has a rich heritage.  The Island is proud of its heritage and devotes the necessary resources to preserve and enhance it.

Jersey Heritage is the Government-established organisation with responsibility for heritage, running the Island’s castles, museums and archives.  

The National Trust for Jersey holds ownership of and maintains a number of historic buildings and open spaces.

The Société Jersiaise is a learned society with 14 specialist sections and an extensive list of publications.

Jersey War Tunnels provides an authentic representation of the occupation of Jersey by German forces between 1940 and 1945. Other sites are maintained by the volunteers of the Channel Islands Occupation Society.

Jersey’s resolve to maintain its heritage is reflected in its application to be designated as a Global Geopark by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  There are currently 144 Geoparks in 44 countries.  UNESCO defines geoparks as follows –

UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.

A UNESCO Global Geopark comprises a number of geological heritage sites of special scientific importance, rarity or beauty. These features are representative of a region’s geological history and the events and processes that formed it. It must also include important natural, historic, cultural tangible and intangible heritage sites.

A UNESCO Global Geopark must have geological heritage of international significance which is, during the evaluation process, assessed by geo-scientific experts, from the International Union of Geosciences (IUGS). It is based on the international peer-reviewed, published research conducted on the geological sites within the area. The experts make a globally comparative assessment to determine whether the geological sites constitute international value following a fix set of criteria and questions.

In 2017 the Jersey Government commissioned a Strategic Review of Culture, Arts and Heritage. Jersey Heritage is building on this to produce a new heritage strategy.


Physical heritage

Jersey’s history explains much of its physical heritage.  Soil sediments dating back over 240,000 years have been identified at the Cotte de St Brelade site, which also has evidence of occupation by neanderthal man.

Among prominent physical features is Le Pinacle, a massive granite stack where archaeological remains date back to about 4800BC.

Jersey has no fewer than 11 dolmens and passage graves.  The most prominent is Hougue Bie, one of the largest and best-preserved dolmens in Europe.  It was in use between 4000 and 3250 BC.  A stone vaulted chapel was erected on the summit of the mound in the 12th Century. It was later remodelled in the 16th Century and became a local centre of pilgrimage. In 1792 the chapel was enveloped in a miniature Neo-Gothic ‘castle’ (since demolished) which became a famous landmark known as the Prince’s Tower. 

One of the earliest known castles in Jersey was built at Gronez, in the north west of the Island, in the 14th Century. Unlike the subsequent fortifications noted below, all of which has been preserved, it is now a ruin.

An impressive physical building in Jersey is Mont Orgeuil Castle, also known as Gorey Castle, build on a rocky on the mid-point of the island’s east coast. It is recognised as one of the finest medieval forts in the British Isles.  Construction began in the 13th Century.

St Aubin’s fort was constructed on a small islet in the south west of the Island between 1542 and 1643.  It later served to protect the port at St Aubin, which was completed in 1700 and which was the port of departure for Jersey’s cod fishing fleet in the 18th and 19th centuries.

As St Helier developed as the political and residential centre of Jersey, there was a need to build a castle to defend the growing capital of the island. In recognition of this Elizabeth Castle was built on an islet just off St Helier.  Construction started in the 1590s and includes a long breakwater as part of an incomplete nineteenth century harbour expansion plan.

At the end of the 18th Century Jersey faced a renewed military threat from France.  General Conway, the Governor of Jersey, ordered the construction of a number of towers, known as Conway Towers, to defend the Island.  They include two offshore towers, La Rocco in St Ouen’s Bay, and Seymour, three kilometres offshore in St Clement’s Bay.  With the exception of SeymourTower they have a distinctive round shape.

Eight Martello towers were built in the 19th Century, again to protect against the threat of French attack.  They include two offshore towers, Icho in St Clement’s Bay and Portelet in Portelet Bay.

After the Battle of Jersey in 1771, the need to protect the town led to the construction of Fort Regent, on a hill overlooking it.  Construction commenced in 1806 but by the time it was completed the threat from France had ended.

Plans were made to build a large naval harbour in St Catherine’s Bay in the north east of the Island.  Work commenced in 1847 but the project was abandoned after a single breakwater had been built as the harbour created was too shallow and steam technology had made it possible to rush ships to Jersey in times of crisis almost without regard for the weather.

Jersey has a number of prominent lighthouses, the most iconic being that at Corbière in the south west corner of the Island, which was completed in 1873.  It can be reached by a causeway at low tide but is surrounded by the sea at high tide, which can often be rough

Granite features significantly in the geology of Jersey, particularly in the cliffs on the coast. Granite has been quarried for many years and features in the military installations and also farms, cottages and walls.  Jersey has many prominent houses including manors, particularly at Trinity, St Ouen and Samares, that date back many hundreds of years. The cod fishing industry made many people in Jersey very wealthy and led to the construction of large homes which are today called cod homes, although it is understood that many of these were built by lawyers for the fisherman rather than the fishermen themselves.

The occupation of Jersey by German forces between 1940 a 1945 left its mark on the Island in many ways, including physically. Fearing a British attack, which was never likely to materialise, the Island was heavily fortified, most of those fortifications remaining intact today. Sea walls were built in the south and west coasts of the Island which have proved very effective as sea defences. Bunkers are scattered throughout the Island.   Three more extensive, five storey, military towers were built.  The most prominent is at Corbière, which is largely above ground.  Another at Noirmont is built into the cliff face and surrounded by a number of bunkers.  A major fortification is not visible but is also the most significant. In St Lawrence over 5,000 slave labourers built over 1,000 metres of tunnels, 50 metres underground.   The tunnels were designed to allow the German occupying infantry to withstand Allied air raids and bombardment in the event of an invasion. In 1943, the tunnels were converted into an emergency hospital.  The tunnels have been converted into a comprehensive Occupation Museum. A similar equally large tunnel complex at the head of Grands Vaux is used by the JNWW Co.


National environment

For a very small island Jersey has a varied natural environment in which the sea plays an important part. St Ouen’s Bay runs along most of the west of the island, St Aubin’s Bay features prominently in the centre part of the south of the Island and Grouville Bay comprises much of the east coast. The tidal range is most pronounced in the south east of the Island leading to a spectacular seascape which changes constantly as the tide ebbs and flows twice every day. In addition to the three large bays there are numerous smaller bays, some at the bottom the steep hills and a few accessible only by footpaths. The largest inland feature is the sand dunes in the west of the Island and there are also many other commons and unspoilt headlands in coastal areas. Deep valleys and waterways are a prominent feature of the centre of the Island are important historically as the means of powering water mills dating back to the 14th Century.


Jèrriais - Jersey’s own language

Jèrriais is the traditional language of Jersey.  It is a romance language of Norman origin and reflects Jersey’s history as part of the Duchy of Normandy. It closely resembles the language of William the Conqueror. Until the 19th Century it was the main language and as recently as the 1940s nearly half the population could still communicate in it. According to the 2001 census 3% of the population (nearly 3,000 people) spoke Jèrriais and 15% had some understanding of the language. 

The tradition of literature in Jèrriais can be traced back to Wace, a 12th Century Jersey-born poet, although there is little surviving literature in Jèrriais dating to before the introduction of the first printing press in Jersey in the 1780s. 

Use of Jèrriais has been declining steadily but in recent years the language has been revived.  The Government has a stated policy of increasing the the awareness and visibility of Jèrriais as a language – as an integral part of Jersey’s heritage and cultures. The island’s French visitors are particularly intrigued by it and at Cambridge undergraduates studying the evolution of French use Zoom to join Jèrriais discussion groups meeting in the island. L’Office du Jèrriais has been established to promote the language and it is now taught at Highland College and in some schools.


Museums, archives and libraries

Jersey’s rich heritage is represented and recorded in museums, libraries and archives.

The Jersey Museum and Art Gallery in St Helier is the Island’s main museum and offers a regular programme of new exhibitions reflecting aspects of Jersey’s history.

The Jersey Maritime Museum is nearby in the port area.  In addition to recording Jersey’s maritime history, it also includes the Occupation Tapestry woven by Islanders to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the liberation. The 13 richly colourful panels of the tapestry depict life and hardship under military rule and were created from the memories and stories of Islanders who experienced it first-hand.

Hamptonne Country Life Museum occupies a house and farm in St Lawrence that date back to the 15th Century and represent the rural history of Jersey, particularly the cider industry which was a major industry from the 17th to the 19th centuries. 

Jersey War Tunnels in St Lawrence, built during the German Occupation, now house an Occupation Museum.

La Hougue Bie in Grouville, contains historical sites dating from the Neolithic period to the German Occupation of 1940-1945. With a Neolithic passage grave, a German bunker from the Second World War and one of the ten oldest buildings in the world, the site is a focal point of the island’s history throughout the millennia. 

Jersey Archive is the official repository for the island’s documentary heritage and offers islanders access to records on family history, criminal and military records, the German occupation and islanders French ancestry.


Jersey’s culture, arts and sport

Culture, arts and sport have played a major part in the life of Jersey throughout history.  The fact that Jersey is a small Island has helped ensure its distinctiveness in these areas.


History – art

A number of prominent artists had strong Jersey connections, particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  They are documented on the Art page of the Jersey Heritage website, Jerripedia’s The Arts page and  Wikipedia’s List of People from Jersey.  They included –

  • Clément Lempriere (1683-1746), a cartographer who also sketched while travelling
  • Isaac Gossett (1713-99), who worked mainly with waxed miniatures
  • Thomas Le Hardy (1771-????), a miniaturist
  • Philip Jean (1775-1802), a miniaturist who pained many members of the Royal Family
  • John Le Capelain (1812-48), who captured Jersey’s romantic landscape
  • John Ouless (1817-85), whose paintings reflect Jersey’s maritime history
  • Charles Poingdestre (1829-1925), most of whose work was done in Rome
  • Sir John Millais (1829-86), famous for his portrayal of Lily Langtry
  • Walter Ouless (1848-1939), the son of John, a portrait painter
  • Henry Bosdet (1857 -1934), who specialised in stained glass windows
  • Frank Le Maistre (1859-1940), an oil painter who painted several Jersey scenes
  • John Lander (1866-1944), whose portraits included members of the Royal Family
  • Sir Edward Poynter (1883-1919), who also made his name paining Lily Langtry
  • Edmund Blampied (1886-1966), who captured the Jersey way of life
  • Claude Cahun (1894-54), famous for early 20th Century photography
  • Reginald Whistler (1905-78), a painter, illustrator and muralist.

Jerripedia lists another 35 Other local and visiting artists of note.


History – literature

Jèrriais was a working language of Jersey until well into the 20th Century.  It follows that much of the early literature is in Jèrriais.  The literature, and also that from the other Channel Islands, has been translated and published as an anthology The Toad and the Donkey, edited by Geraint Jennings and Yan Marquis (Francis Boutle Publishers, 2011).

Jerripedia’s page on The Arts lists 18 writers and journalists with strong Jersey links.  Two stand out.

Wace (c. 1115 - c. 1183) was an Anglo-Norman poet and historian, who was born in Jersey and brought up in mainland Normandy.  He wrote in a dialect of the Norman language, and is writing is regarded as the precursor of Jèrriais.  Wace’s most prominent works are the Roman de Brut, a verse history of Britain, the Roman de Rou and other works in verse, including the Lives of Margaret the Virgin and St Nicholas.  

Victor Hugo (1802-1855), French poet, playwright and novelist, sometimes identified as the greatest French poet. His best-known works are the novels Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris, known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.  Hugo was forced into exile during the reign of Napoleon III, and after a short period in Brussels, in 1852 he moved to Jersey, where he stayed until 1855. He was expelled after three years, the result of a controversial open letter he addressed to Queen Victoria.  He moved to Guernsey, where he lived from 1855 to 1870 and again in 1872-1873. Notwithstanding his short time in the Island, Jersey made a distinct impression on Hugo, documented in Philip Stevens’s book Victor Hugo in Jersey (Philimore, 1985).

  • The novelist, Jack Higgins, who has lived in Jersey since the 1970s
  • Walter Gallichan (1861-1946), whose works covered sex education, travel and angling
  • Sir William Haley (1901-87), editor of The Times and Director-General of the BBC
  • Gerald Durrell (1925-95), best known as a conservationist, but also a prolific author.
  • Elinor Glyn (1864-1943), a novelist and scriptwriter who specialised in romantic fiction
  • Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and other influential writers such as George Eliot also frequented Jersey throughout their lives.



History – the stage

Jersey, as a small island, has never had the infrastructure to allow actors and actresses to flourish within the Island, but a number of people born in Jersey have had successful careers on the stage in England.  The most accomplished is probably Sir Seymour Hicks (1971-1949), an actor, music hall, performer, playwright, actor-manager and producer.  However, the best-known is Lily Langtry (1853-1929), an actress, known as “the Jersey Lily”, who was also a socialite who had relationships with several noblemen including the Prince of Wales.


History – sport

Until the post-War period sport in Jersey was largely confined to events within the Island, combined with annual matches against Guernsey.

Until the 1960s the biggest sporting occasion in Jersey was the annual Jersey/Guernsey football match, for the Muratti Vase.  This match was preceded by a semi-final in which one of the two islands would emphatically beat a team from Alderney.  The competition dates back to 1905 and has been played every year except when interrupted by War and more recently Covid-19.  Jersey can claim 55 victories to Guernsey’s 46.

The second long-standing inter-insular competition has been in rugby for the Siam Cup, the second oldest rugby fixture in the world.  Jersey can claim 61 victories to Guernsey’s 16.

One sport where Jersey people had an early impact on the world stage is golf, through Harry Vardon and Ted Ray.  Harry Vardon (1870-1937) was born in Grouville and although there is a statue of him at the entrance to the Royal Jersey Golf Club in the parish, he learned his golf in England.  He won six Open Championships and one American Open between 1896 and 1914,and was regarded as one of the three greatest golfers in the world.  Vardon developed the overlapping grip, which bears his name, and is the most common grip in use today. Vardon was ranked as the 13th best golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine

Ted Ray (1877-1943), like Vardon, was born in Grouville, but unlike Vardon, learned his golf on the Royal Jersey links course.  Ray won the Open Championship in 1912 and was runner-up twice.  Ray is best known for being in a playoff for the U.S. Open in 1913 with fellow-Jerseyman Harry Vardon and the eventual winner, American Francis Ouimet.  The Open was the culmination of a two-month tour of North America by Vardon and Ray, in which they partnered each other in exhibition matches against the top players in each area they visited. 

Two other golfers born in Grouville in the 1870s, Thomas Renouf and Phil Gaudin, also each had three top ten finishes in the Open Championship.


The arts in Jersey today

  • The Jersey Arts Centre is Jersey’s largest multi-arts venue, offering both original content and productions and visiting special events and performances. It also runs a number of community arts initiatives including. 
  • The Jersey Arts Trust (ArtHouse Jersey) promotes artists and artist development, helps to incubate artistic projects in the island, giving Jersey artists opportunities and exposure outside the island, and brings in visiting international artists.
  • The Jersey Opera House, which originally opened in 1900, is a 625-seat theatre that hosts hundreds of performances each year, ranging across music, comedy, dance, drama, children's shows and musicals. The Opera House also is an official National Theatre Live venue. It has a studio space which is used for courses and classes in addition to smaller-scale performances.
  •  There is also a number of community-based groups including 
  • Alliance Française, which is dedicated to the promotion of French language and culture in the Island. 
  • Big Gig in the Park is a series of charitable music concerts taking place during the summer in Howard Davis Park. 
  • Domaine des Vaux Opera Festival has been running for 30 years and brings high quality productions to Jersey. 
  • The Jersey Amateur Dramatic Club and the Green Room club puts on dramatic presentations—musicals, plays, and pantomime—and provides material support for schools and other local productions. 
  • The Jersey Eisteddfod was founded in 1908, and encompasses disciplines spanning music, arts and crafts, dance and photography. The Eisteddfod hosts two annual festivals: the Spring Festival of Creative Arts and an Autumn Festival of Performing Arts. 
  • The Jersey Festival Choir is a non-auditioned, all-age, mixed-voice community choir of around 80 members in Jersey.
  • Jersey Music Service provides music tuition in schools across Jersey and operates music centres that involve activities and ensembles in a large range of genres for children of all ages.
  • Music in Action aims to educate, inspire and create through music across the island through hosting music workshops at schools, therapeutic musical performances in hospitals, hospice and care homes; and through events including at the Liberation Festival, Jersey Sings and the Jersey Chamber Orchestra concerts.
  • Rocksteady organises year-round music events in Jersey from music festivals to DJ and club nights at venues across the Island.
  • TimpanAli develops musical theatre productions, most recently Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.


 

Sport in Jersey today

Jersey competes as a nation in international men’s cricket, its team winning the international division 5 championship in 2019.  Six club sides compete in a weekend league and four in an evening league.  Jersey Cricket is responsible for administering and developing the game in the Island and has a high priority to develop women’s cricket from grass roots level to a national side.

Jersey has a prominent rugby team, Jersey Reds, which competes in the English championship, the second tier of English rugby, as well as the annual match against Guernsey for the Siam Cup.   A number of former Jersey players have gone on to play international rugby for Scotland and Wales, and a Jerseyman, Matt Banahan, has represented England.  In 2021 the British and Irish Lions used Jersey as a training base prior to their tour of South Africa.  The club is a community club with mini, junior and women’s rugby.

Jersey has 23 football clubs.  One Club, Jersey Bulls, competes in the English league system and the FA Cup.  The Jersey national team also competes in the English leagues as well as the long-standing annual match against Guernsey for the Muratti Vase.  The Jersey Football Association is the governing body for football in Jersey.  It aims to grow participation levels, encourage diversity and promote best practice and a safe learning environment.  Over 2,000 players of all ages are actively involved in football in Jersey.

Jersey has three 18-hole golf courses.  La Moye in St Brelade has hosted European tour events.  The Royal Jersey in Grouville has several distinguished former members, particularly Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, mentioned earlier as among the world’s leading golfers at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The sea provides offers not only recreational swimming but also at St Ouen’s one of the best surfing beaches in the British Isles.    A number of Jersey men and women have been prominent in long-distance swimming, notably Sally Minty-Gravett who was swum the English Channel seven times.

Other sports in the Island include athletics, cycling, tennis, coastal rowing, shooting, basketball, netball, bowls and petanque, a variation of bowls that is normally played on hard dirt or gravel. 

Since 1958, Jersey has competed as a team in the Commonwealth Games, responsibility for which rests with the Commonwealth Games Association Jersey.  It has won six medals, the last, its only gold in 1990, when Colin Mallett won the Open Full Bore Rifle competition.

Jersey was a founder member in 1997 and has since been an active participant in the International Island Games, held every two years for islands throughout the world.  Jersey hosted the games in 2015 and in 2023 the team will have only a short distance to travel as the venue will be Guernsey.  At the most recent games, held in Gibraltar in 2019, Jersey topped the league table with 33 gold medals, 31 silver and 29 bronze.

Jersey Sport, established in 2016, is an independent body tasked with championing sport and active living in the Island.  One of its important roles is to administer travel grants, funded by the Government, which enable sports teams to travel to England and further afield.  Its website incudes a directory of sports events and organisations.  It has also instituted a Hall of Fame to recognise the achievements of Jersey’s sports stars.  Nine people have so far been inducted into the Hall of Fame –


  • Colin Campbell, a double Olympian in athletics and bobsleigh
  • Elizabeth Cann, badminton
  • Graham Le Saux football
  • Tommy Horton, golf
  • Dot McCready, diving
  • Simon Militis, swimming
  • Harry Vardon, golf
  • Ted Ray, golf
  • Cliff Mallett, shooting

Terminology

Jersey has the formal status of being a British Crown Dependency, a status also held by Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Jersey has a Bailiff, a role that goes back to the 14th Century and which includes being the civic head of the Island.  For this reason, Jersey is sometimes described as a Bailiwick.

The Government of Jersey is the correct description for the Island’s Government.  The Government comprises Ministers and the related administrative functions.

Jersey’s Parliament is called the States Assembly.


Language

Jersey has three official languages - English, French and Jersey Norman French or Jèrriais – although in practice English is the universal everyday language.  Government bodies are required to use Jèrriais in letter headings, business cards, email signatures and other relevant communications.  The correct translations are –

English French Jèrriais
Jersey Jersey J’èrri
Bailiwick Bailliage


Bailiff Bailli Bailli
Government of Jersey Gouvernement du Jersey Gouvèrnément d’Jerri
States Assembly Assemblée des États



Flag

The flag of Jersey is composed of a red saltire on a white field. In the upper quadrant the badge of Jersey is surmounted by a yellow Plantagenet crown. Surprisingly, no official specification sheet exists so variations on this design are common.


Emblem

The coat of arms of Jersey is a red shield with three gold leopards. Because this shield is identical to that of England the Government of Jersey and the Judicial Greffe use this shield surmounted by a Plantagenet crown, as on the flag. For some reason the States Assembly does not do likewise- yet.


Anthem

After a competition in 2008 an anthem was chosen for Jersey entitled Island Home. However, the States Assembly have never debated Island Home and it therefore remains unofficial. At official occasions, Jersey has in the past used Island Home, as well as the unofficial anthem of the Normandy region Ma Normandie and Beautiful Jersey, a popular song with a strong melody that has lyrics in both English and Jèrriais


Island Home

Ours is an Island home
Firm on rock and strong by sea
Loyal and proud in history,
Our thankful hearts are
Raised to God for Jersey.

The beauty of our land
Long inspires both eye and mind.
Ours the privilege to guard its shore
So help we God that
Jersey might by grace endure.


Beautiful Jersey

There's a spot that I love that I ne'er can forget,    
Tho' far I may roam 'twill be dear.
For its beauty will linger in memory yet,
Where'er o'er the world I may steer.
Dear Jersey, fair Isle, of the ocean the queen,
Thy charms are so many and rare;
For love finds a home 'mid each beauteous scene,
My heart ever longs to be there.

Y'a un coin d'tèrre qué j'aime, qué j'n'oubliéthai janmais -
Dans mes pensées tréjous preunmyi -
Car jé n'vai rein à compather à ses bieautés
Dans touos mes viages à l'êtrangi.
Jèrri, man paradis, pus belle taque souos l'solé -
Qué j'aime la paix dé chu Jèrri!
L'amour lé veurt, j'ai si envie dé m'en r'aller
Èrvaie man chièr pétit pays,

Beautiful Jersey, gem of the sea,
Ever my heart turns in longing to thee;
Bright are the mem'ries you waken for me,
Beautiful Jersey, gem of the sea.

Man bieau p'tit Jèrri, la reine des îles -
Lieu dé ma naissance, tu m'pâsses bein près du tchoeu;
Ô, tchi doux souv'nîn du bouôn temps qu' j'ai ieu
Quand j'pense à Jèrri, la reine des îles!

On thy shores I have wandered in glad days of yore,
With one who is dear to my heart.
And the love-links will bind us as one evermore,
Although for a while we must part.
And oft in my dreams do I see the dear place
The dear little Isle of the sea,
And in fancy I gaze on a sweet loving face,
The face that is dearest to me.

Jé connais touos tes charmes; et combein qu' j'en ai joui
Auve eun-é chiéthe anmie, aut' fais!
Quand même qué pouor a ch't heu jé n' sais pon tout près d'lyi,
N' y'a rein qu' Jèrri dans mes pensées.
Et pis, comme tout bouôn Jèrriais, dans l'fond d'man tchoeu
J'ai grand envie dé m'en r'aller
Dans l'île tchi m'a donné tant d'amour et d'bonheu,
Èrvaie ma chiéthe et man siez-mé.

Beautiful Jersey, gem of the sea

Ever my heart turns in longing to thee;
Bright are the mem'ries you waken for me,
Beautiful Jersey, gem of the sea.

Man bieau p'tit Jèrri, la reine des îles -
Lieu dé ma naissance, tu m'pâsses bein près du tchoeu;
Ô, tchi doux souv'nîn du bouôn temps qu' j'ai ieu
Quand j'pense à Jèrri, la reine des îles!

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