Communities

Communities


Jersey’s Parishes

Jersey is divided into 12 parishes: Grouville, St Brelade, St Clement, St Helier, St John, St Lawrence, St Martin, St Mary, St Ouen, St Peter, St Saviour and Trinity. They are an integral part of Jersey’s heritage and its society today.


Origin and growth of the parishes

The parishes date back to the 11th Century, if not before, and probably originally evolved around a parish church and with boundaries reflecting natural features such as streams and water sheds. The boundaries have subsequently changed little.  It will be noted that each of the parishes has direct access to the sea, probably reflecting a clear intention, although in the case of St Saviour this is no more than a token.

The first substantive “census” in Jersey was the 1331 Extente, sometimes referred to as the Jersey Domesday Book.  The Extente clearly shows that the parishes were firmly established.  Jersey was organised by parish, ownership of particular bits of land were identified and each parish had named officers.  The Extente also suggests the population of the parishes was in a fairly narrow range from about 500 to 1000.  This may well reflect the initial intention of having administrative areas that were equally manageable in terms of population.

Over the years the distribution of the population between the parishes has changed markedly. St Helier is now by far the most populous parish while Trinity in particular has shown comparatively little population growth in the last 700 years.

Population density is highest in the southern parishes often concentrated along the routes of the two old railway lines, 3,541 people per square kilometre in St Helier, 2,142 in St Clement, 1,471 in St Saviour, 803 in St Brelade and 594 in Grouville. By contrast, the figures in the country parishes are significantly lower at 253 in Trinity, 267 in St Mary and 270 in St Ouen. Similarly, there are marked differences in land use between the parishes. Over half of land in St Helier comprises built environment with St Clement and St Saviour also having relatively high proportions. By contrast, the country parishes have over 60% of land under cultivation and also the highest proportions of land in the form of natural environment (38% St Brelade, 23% in St Ouen and 21% in Trinity).


Organisation of the parishes

The role of the parishes with links to websites of the individual parishes is set out in a page on the Government website. 

The parishes all have the same structure. Each parish is divided into a number of Vingtaines (Cueillettes in St Ouen).

The principal officer of the parish is the Connétable (also called the Constable), who by virtue of that office is also a member of the States Assembly. The Connétables are elected, the electorate being the same as for the other members of the States Assembly.  Each parish has two Procureurs de Bien Public, elected at the parish assemblies, and who act as public trustees. They maintain an oversight of parish finances and represent the parish in the care of parish property.  Each parish also has a Roads Committee and Roads Inspectors.

For many centuries Jersey has had a parish-based honorary police system headed by the Connétable. Officers are elected as Centeniers, Vingteniers and Constable's Officers, with various duties and responsibilities. Centeniers have the power to investigate a reported incident to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to justify a charge and if so whether the public interest requires a prosecution or whether the matter can be dealt with in some other way.

Each parish has a rector appointed by the Crown who is the head of the established church within the parish.  The rector is supported by two surveillants (churchwardens) and two almoners.

The parish assembly is an integral part of the way the parishes operate.  People registered as electors in public elections and ratepayers are entitled to attend assemblies. The parish assemblies elect the officers (other than the Connétable), are responsible for the care of the roads and the promotion of local improvements, for setting rates and considering licencing applications.  The Connétable presides over the parish assembly for these purposes while the rector presides when ecclesiastical matters are dealt with.

Each parish has a parish hall in which the officers of the parish are based.  In the country parishes each is at the centre of a village as is the parish church, the rector being an officer of the parish.


The Visite de Branchage and Visite Royale

The Visites du Branchage are a longstanding part of the parish system. Branchage literally means branches. The branchage law, which dates back to 1914, requires that any vegetation that overhangs roads or footpaths must be cut back, so that there is a clearance of 12 feet over roads and eight feet over footpaths, and that all trimmings are cleared. Twice a year, in the three weeks commencing 24 June and 1 September, the parish officers, led by the Connétable, check that land occupiers have completed the branchage in accordance with the law. These inspections are called the Visites du Branchage.

Twice a year the Royal Court pays a visit to a parish to examine the parish’s accounts and to be taken on a tour of parish roads, during which it may be asked to rule on disputes such as the encroachment of a tree on the public highway. The most recently sworn in Advocate of the Royal Court normally acts as arboreal defence counsel. The Visite Royal is known to date back to when Jersey was part of the Duchy of Normandy.


The individual parishes

Map detailing the vingtaines of Jersey

Vingtaines are a historic form of administration used in Jersey for political purposes such as elections.

St Brelade

St Brelade is in the south west corner of the Island.  It is one of the largest and most densely occupied parishes. It is also one of the most varied of the parishes including a port, tourist beaches – St Brelade’s Bay being the Island’s main tourist beach, cliffs, the prominent archaeological site at La Cotte, the famous Corbière lighthouse, commons, part of the sand dunes and large residential areas.  St Aubin is built around the port which was the centre of the cod fishing trade which flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. The parish hall is in St Aubin while the parish church is in St Brelade’s Bay.  In the post-War period the area known as Red Houses has become a major residential area with substantial amounts of both private and social housing.  The Railway Walk, as its name suggests on land that was previously a railway track, runs from St Aubin to Corbière.

St Peter

St Peter is in the west of the Island.  It has only two small coastlines, on both the west and south coasts, and includes part of the sand dunes.  It is the home of Jersey Airport which occupies a significant part of the land area of the parish.  The Airport dates back to 1937 and has been continually upgraded, the runway now extending to 1,7000 metres.  Also in the parish, and next to the Airport, is the ground of Jersey Reds, the Island’s rugby team.  St Peter has a distinct centre including parish hall, parish church and shops. Along its eastern boundary runs Jersey’s largest unspoilt inland valley, St Peter’s valley.

St Ouen

St Ouen occupies the north west corner of the Island and includes most of St Ouen’s Bay, the longest bay in the Island, famous for its surf.  The long sandy beach also hosted motor racing for many years.  Running alongside the bay is a road colloquially known as the “Five Mile Road”, the longest straight road in Jersey and which has also been used for motor racing.  St Ouen’s is the home of a number of significant historic buildings including La Rocco Tower in St Ouen’s Bay, the ruin of Gronez Castle, and St Ouen’s Manor, home for many years of the seigneurs of St Ouen, the de Carteret family.   With its windblown vegetation, agricultural buildings and glass houses, St Ouen has a remote and proudly distinctive atmosphere.

St Mary

St Mary, on the north coast, is the second smallest parish in terms of area and by far the smallest in terms of population, the home to just 1.8% of the Jersey population.  It shares with St Ouen Greve de Lecq, a small but beautiful beach.  A significant geographical feature is Devil’s Hole, a natural crater in a solid cliff measuring about 30 metres across and plunging 60 metres down. It has been caused by the sea gradually eroding the roof of what was once a cave, until it collapsed and formed a crater.  The result is a blow hole as the incoming tide pushes air upwards.  The parish is the home of La Mare Wine Estate, a 50 vergée working estate well known for its wines and local produce including black butter. St Mary’s village, like the parish itself, is tiny.

St John

St John is a rural parish in the middle of the north of the Island with just two settlements, St John’s Village and Sion.  Ronez Quarry on the coast has been the source of high-quality granite for many centuries.   The cliffs at Frémont Point, Sorel Point and Ronez Point afford some of the best views in the Island. Bonne Nuit is a particularly attractive bay with bay small harbour, which is the finishing point for the annual Sark to Jersey rowing race. Especially prominent is the huge IBC transmitter at Fremont Point.

Trinity

Trinity on the north coast is one of the largest parishes in terms of area but has the second smallest population and the lowest population density, the population being spread throughout the parish.  This is in marked contrast to 1788 when its population was second only to that of St Helier; of all the parishes it has changed least in the last few hundred years.  The parish has the highest point in the Island, Les Platons, and Bouley Bay, reached by two steep hills which for many years were the venue for a hill climb.  Trinity is home to the Jersey Zoo and the world-renown Durrell Conservation Trust and also the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society Showground.

St Martin

St Martin occupies the north east corner of the Island opposite Normandy and for many centuries was in effect the capital of Jersey.  In recognition of this, construction of Mont Orgeuil Castle was commenced in the 14th Century.  The castle is the most distinctive built structure in Jersey,and is recognised as one of the finest medieval forts in the British Isles.  The Castle overlooks Gorey Harbour, once the centre of the oyster fishing industry.  North of Mont Orgeuil is St Catherine’s breakwater, another impressive structure, but in reality just one leg of a planned harbour that was never completed. Gorey Village has a number of hotels and restaurants; it and Maufant are the main residential areas.  The parish hall and parish church are inland and in a rural part of the parish.  The parish includes the Écréhous and the Dironelles, a group of islands and rocks, 10 kilometres north east of Jersey to which sovereignty was awarded after a case heard before the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 195-.

Grouville

Grouville occupies the south east corner of the Island and includes the impressive Royal Bay of Grouville, which today is the centre of Jersey’s shellfish industry.  Gorey Village, which is partly in the parish, runs down to the Bay.  Alongside the Bay is the Royal Jersey Golf Club, a traditional links course with Fort Henry as an unusual feature.  Inland is one the Jersey's most noted archaeological site at La Hougue Bie.  The population of the parish is concentrated in ribbon development along the coast, while the parish church and parish hall are inland.  The parish includes the Minquiers, a group of islands and rocks, about 15 kilometres south of Jersey.  The largest of these is Maîtresse, which is about 50 metres by 20 metres and has about ten stone cottages in various states of repair. This is the most southerly outpost of the British Isles.

St Clement

St Clement on the south east coast is the smallest parish in terms of area but one of the most densely occupied.  It is very much a coastal parish with the population being concentrated along the path of the former Jersey Eastern Railway on the coast. The parish hall and parish church are at Le Hocq, one of a number of bays in the parish, the others being La Rocque, Green Island and Greve D’Azette.  Samares Manor is one of the finest manor houses in the Island, with spectacular grounds and a fine collection of fruit trees.

St Saviour

St Saviour is very much an inland parish.  It does have a tiny part of the coast, at the Dicq, once home to Victor Hugo. When the parishes were created many centuries ago the intention seems to have been that every parish would have direct access to the sea, but in the case of strangely shaped St Saviour this is no more than a token.  The parish is residential in nature with a high density of occupation.  The parish includes most of the Island’s secondary schools, Highlands College and Government House, the home of Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor.

St Helier

St Helier is the capital of Jersey and by far the commercial and residential centre of the Island.  It is home to 34% of the population in just 7% of the land area.  The land area has been increased in recent years through a reclamation scheme.  The reclaimed land now houses a number of apartment blocks as well as the Jersey International Financial Centre, providing office accommodation.  The parish also has two major historic building, Fort Regent, overlooking the town, and Elizabeth Castle, on an islet just off the harbour and named by the island’s Governor Sir Walter Raleigh after Queen Elizabeth I.

St Lawrence

St Lawrence is in the centre of the Island, with a relatively small strip of the coast in St Aubin’s Bay.  Jersey War Tunnels and Hamptonne Country Life are both in the parish.  Over 700 years ago the fast-running streams resulting from north/south slope of the Island provided the power for water mills, which were essential to grind the corn.  One of these mills, Quetevil, was in a part of St Lawrence, now called Waterworks Valley, as it is the home of the Jersey New Waterworks Company Ltd., which is responsible for water supply in the Island.  The valley also includes Millbrook and Dannemarche reservoirs.


Parish Emblems

These crests were only introduced 100 years ago as part of the decorations erected to celebrate a Royal visit, but they soon found favour and are a settled part of the island scene today.

 


St Brelade

The parish emblem is a fish. Legend has it that St. Brelade prayed for land whilst searching for the Islands of the Blest. An island arose from the sea on which he celebrated Easter. As he departed so did the island. It was an enormous fish sent in 


St Helier

The two axes commemorate the beheading by Saxon Pirates in AD 555 of St Helier, Patron saint of Jersey.



St Peter

The crossed keys of Heaven and Hell have always been the symbols of St Peter. The Parish church was dedicated to St Pierre dans le Désert, recognised by the gold border to the crossed keys.




Grouville

Louis XI believed that the Kings of Hungary were descended from St Martin, born in Hungary. Their arms of eight bars of red and silver were placed on the saint’s shrine in the Cathedral of Tours. Grouville’s emblem shows the full eight bars, but St Martin has only seven.


St Clement

St Clement is the Patron Saint of blacksmiths and anchorsmiths. Legend has it that he was martyred by being attached to an anchor and thrown into the Black Sea.

St Lawrence

St Lawrence, Bishop of Rome, was martyred along with six deacons and Pope Sixtus II by being roasted alive on a gridiron. The saint is always depicted by being tied to or holding a gridiron.

St John

The Maltese Cross is the emblem of the Knights of St John at Jerusalem (Knights Hospitallers). The stylised Maltese Cross is set on a green background to recognise the old name for the Parish church, St John of the Oaks, though the church was dedicated to John the Baptist.

St Mary

The lily of the Annunciation of ‘Fleur de Lys’ has always been regarded as the special flower of the Virgin Mary.

St Martin

St Martin of Tours is the Patron Saint of St Martin and Grouville, which is why their badges are similar. Both badges are based on the arms of the King of Hungary. It has seven bars to distinguish it from St Martin of Grouville.

St Ouen

St Ouen, the Patron Saint of Normandy, founded a religious community on Jersey before the Viking invasions. He is said to have seen a miraculous cross, which told him to travel from Normandy to Jersey.

St Saviour

The Parish church, St Sauveur de L’Épine, was dedicated to Jesus Christ. Hence, the crown and nails of the crucifixion though ’Épine’ means thorn and may suggest a relic of the crown of thorns.

Trinity

The most curious of the Parish badges. The triangle obviously represents the Holy Trinity. God (deus) in the centre is (est) father (Parter), Son (Fillius) and Holy Ghost.

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