Jersey: History

The Largest Channel Island

Jersey History

Jersey makes its own laws but has pledged allegiance to the English Crown ever since 1066 when William Duke of Normandy became King William I of England. It is presided over by a Bailiff and its structure is that of a bailiwick with no political parties.

The history of Jersey stretches back 1,000 years. Christianity came to Jersey during Roman times however it was St Helier, Jersey’s own martyr and saint that truly brought Christianity to the island in 6th century. She preached at a site near Elizabeth castle in St Helier called The Oratory and now known as the Hermitage.

It was built 600 hundred years later in her honour. The size and location has always made Jersey vulnerable consequently it was plundered several times first by the Saxons then by the Vikings throughout 9th century. It was the French King Charles who resolved these invasions amicably by giving the Viking Chief, Rollo, land around Rouen now known as Normandy. It was in this agreement that began Jersey's association with France. Rollo's son, William became Duke of Normandy and then incorporated the Channel Islands into the duchy.

Many of Jersey's laws, landscape and customs date back to 933 and 1204 when the Normans ruled. It is therefore an important part of Jersey’s history. William conquered England in 1066 known famously as the Battle of Hastings. The Island's links were now forged with the English Crown. The Channel Islands decided to pledge their allegiance to England and not France when King John a descendant of William waged war against France and lost. However the close proximity to France created opportunities for many invasions over the centuries that followed.

The Island’s fortifications against the French are a notable site across Jersey. Mont Orgueil Castle was built to protect the Island's east coast. Elizabeth Castle in St Helier was constructed in the 16th century and named after the Tudor English Queen to protect its growing population. The 1770’s saw the coastline literally littered with a series of 'Martello' towers, constructed to protect the Island from the threat of French invasions. The greatest mark on Jersey's history, landscape and psyche was left by the German occupation in 1940 to 1945. Hitler ordered an elaborate system of fortifications and their remains can still be seen today. The moving story of the German occupation is most effectively told at the Jersey War Tunnels.