Our researched list of interesting, weird and wonderful Jersey facts that you never knew.
Current Jersey Facts
- Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands and 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.
- Jersey is nine miles (14km) east to west and five miles (8km) north to south (45 square miles) making it smaller than Greater London! However, a whopping 20 miles (32km) of its coastline is made up of fine sandy Jersey beaches.
- At a distance of only 14 miles (22km) to the East, the coast of Normandy, France is closer to Jersey than mainland Britain, which is 100 miles (160km) away to the North of the island. The close proximity to its neighbour has meant ties with France going back a thousand-odd years. Until the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Channel Islands formed part of the Duchy of Normandy. Once King Harold met his gruesome end at the hands of the Norman army, and William the Conqueror became monarch of England, the islands became part of the Anglo-Norman realm. It stayed that way until 1204, when King John lost Normandy to France. As the Channel Islanders chose to remain loyal to the English crown, he granted them self-governing privileges, amounting to a certain financial and political independence.
- Jersey has a population of around 107,800 with 46% of population born on the island. The other largest ethnic groups on the island are the British at 33%, Portuguese at 8%, Polish at 3% and Irish at under 3%.
- Jersey is not tax-free – income tax, duties paid on certain goods (3% goods and services tax (GST) and by other taxes and revenues are in place, however VAT is not charged in Jersey.
- Jersey is the only place where you’ll see a pound note. Although the currency is sterling, the island also has its own Jersey pound.
- Jersey has one of the largest tides in the world. At low tide, twice a day, the island almost doubles in size, with miles of extra sandy beach and rockpools galore – a perfect playground for kids and great for small marine creatures who thrive in the warm shallow water. At Portelet Bay you can walk to Île au Guerdain, (otherwise known as Janvrin’s Tomb, after a plague-ridden sea captain was buried there), and along the causeway at St Helier to Elizabeth Castle. Just watch out for the sudden rush of water at your feet as the tide advances.
- Black butter (du nièr beurre), is an island speciality, which bears no resemblance to the familiar dairy product, as it’s actually an apple preserve made with cider. Making black butter was a way to use up the enormous bounty of apples harvested from the orchards each autumn, and cooking it was part of the rural tradition.
- The Jersey Royal potato has been elevated to higher status with its Protected Designation of Origin, meaning no one can nick the name for another product (in the same way as Champagne, in France). Jersey’s climate and soil conditions, along with the vraic (seaweed) farmers use as fertiliser, has helped to produce this particular type of papery skinned, flavourful potato since the late 1800s.
- Jersey cows are kept for their sumptuous buttery milk rather than beef. They are bred all over the world and now the second most widely bred cattle species.
- Red squirrels are thriving on the island and it could well become the only place in the British Isles you’re likely to see one if they cease to exist in on the mainland in the next 30-35 years.
- Jersey Bank holidays are the same as in the UK with the addition of – 9th May Liberation Day (commemorating the arrival of the British Forces at the end of WWII).
Historical Jersey Facts
- Jersey has been an island for 8,000 years.
- Many of the older houses in Jersey have a witch’s seat in them, which comprise stones that jut out of the houses’ gables. The islanders believed that by providing a seat for passing witches to rest on would prevent them from falling foul of evil spells!
- Jersey’s original airport was located on the beach at St Aubin’s Bay!
- Jersey was a favourite holiday destination of the Father of Communism Karl Marx.
- There is a prehistoric forest buried beneath St Ouen’s Bay beach.
- The people from Jersey and Guernsey think they are descendants of fairies, known on the islands as ‘pouques’ (pronounced “pooks”)! The last reported sighting of a fairy was in the early 1900’s!
- The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles occupied by the Germans in World War II.
- Jersey once had its own language called Jérrais! Spoken not so long ago (along with French and English), which descended from ancient Jersey-Norman. During the German occupation in World War II the language proved a canny means of secret communication and outwitting the enemy. Only a few of the older islanders still speak Jérrais today, although there has been a move to reintroduce language lessons in schools. Given the historical tug of war between England and France over Jersey, it’s not surprising that islanders spoke French, as well as English. Surprisingly, French remained the official language until the 1960’s.
- Archaeologists on Jersey have discovered 13 teeth from cave dwellers dating from around 48,000 years ago, and their characteristics suggest interbreeding with modern humans. Teeth from two humans were unearthed between 1910 and 1911 at the archaeological site of La Cotte de St Brelade, at Ouaisné Bay, but scientists’ recent reassessment concluded they showed physical traits of both Neanderthals and modern man.
- Jersey was the home in exile of French playwright and author Victor Hugo, writers Anthony Trollope, and George Eliot, as well as Gerald Durrell, also known as a naturalist and ardent conservationist, who set up the Jersey Zoo (becoming the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust). Sportsmen with a connection to Jersey include golfer Harry Vardon, who was born there, and former British racing driver and Formula One champion Nigel Mansell, who has a swish pad on the island.
- Jersey was the first place in the British Isles to have a post box. The simple pillar box, and the first of its kind in Britain was installed in St Helier in 1854. Originally painted green, they were changed to the familiar bright red 20 years later.
- Jersey folklore tells of a huge black beast, with enormous eyes, which roamed the cliffs, dragging a chain behind it and terrifying the locals. There were numerous apparent encounters with the Black Dog of Bouley Bay, and any account of these sightings had locals hightailing it home to bolt their doors. One (more than likely) theory is that the stories were fabricated by smugglers. If parishioners were frightened into staying at home, the smugglers could get on with the business of bringing their illicit booty on shore.