Bygone Guernsey & its Coins

By Bill Exley

  • View 1/29.. Market Square, St Pierre, Isle de Guernsey. C.I. - about c1890's or early 1900's - We see a busy Market Day in St. Peter Port, one of my favourite scenes, looking up the Market Steps to Market Square / Place.. Note the elegant Victorian attire of the crowd, with the chatting couples conversing in the local 'Guernsey Patois', English or pure French.
  • They are always proud to maintain using their 'Patois', as so the Welsh in using their own unique Celtic language/dialect, or - Cymraeg - e.g. yr iaith Cymraeg - (the Welsh language) . . The island of Guernsey lies about 90 miles due south of Torquay on the south coast of England, U.K. We were told early in life, it is on the edge of the Gulf Stream, hence the milder climate .

In the mens' pockets you would have found a mix of English, French, Guernsey or Jersey coins, as they were all gladly accepted as legal tender. Guernsey coins were first struck in 1830 with a 1 and 4 Doubles only, equiv. to our old 'half-penny' and a tiny 1 double coin or half a farthing ! - (so 8 Doubles to our old one Penny coin etc)

For 1834 and 1858 the 8 Doubles was a huge Thick & Heavy pure Copper coin for those 2 years only. In 1864 & 1874 and onwards, it changed to a lighter Bronze composition, so the coin was then a smaller slimmer size, like our penny of the 1950's .

  • For interest, in 1797 for one year only, England minted a large Copper two-penny coin (like the 1834 / 1858 - 8 Doubles) using the first ever steam driven Stamper/ Press and it was nick-named the Cartwheel Penny / or Tu'pence. - They weighed excactly - 2 ozs (Av) - so Copper was a penny per ounce in value and so accurate they were utilised for Scale-Weights in some shops .They were minted at the Soho mint in Birmingham by a Matthew Boulton, later to beome the well known Minters, Boulton & Watts business partners.

The small Guernsey 1 Double coin was issued 13 times over 100 years from 1830 to 1938, so it must have been required as food and labour costs were relatively low, so 1-Doubles were used daily. My coin book was reviewed in The Times, small books section in Dec. 1968 .

Some hourly rates for various labour was in Doubles / hour and small timber for domestic builds, was advertised by La Charroterie Mills priced at so many Doubles per foot. - In 1830, ref E1 in my book Guernsey Coinage (1968) - we see that the tiny 1 Double, 1,648,640 were struck for the first year by the Boulton minters, so in daily use. It wa equiv to half our old Farthing, now you would get 19 Guernsey 1 Doubles for 1-Pence today, (decimal) - it was 240p now 100p / £1 - We are in Pounds / hr. for labour rates, now @ £9 to £12 etc - not parts of a penny 193 years ago ! - C'est la Vie . .

  • Samples above - my E56 : a 1 Double of 1902 = to half our old Farthing, (1/8th of a pre-decimal Penny) / E80 the 2 Doubles 1917 = a Farthing / / E85 - 4 Doubles 1920 ( Halfpenny) / - and my E52 = 8 Doubles 1893 (an old Penny) and the same size. - Refs. my 'Guernsey Coinage ' book Publshed in 1968. - The 1917 - 2 Double coin my E80, is the rarest coin of a set, with a Low Mintage figure of only 14,524, compared to 84,000, 156,400 and 117,600 for the other 3 values - the 1, 4 and the 8 doubles .
  • Origin - a 'Double' , from the Double-Tournois & Liard coins, both small French copper coins and equiv to 1/8th of a larger denomination - was, e.g. the Sol from c1612 to 1770 records - via the Tours Mint of yesterday's France. Records now show - 3 denier = 1 Liard and 4 Liards = 1 Sol (recent) , 20 Sols = 1 Livre - / - equiv. to our £ , s, d - currency prior to Decimalisation , 15/2/71 and our conversion. - Latin - libra, solidus and denarius / ancient Roman coins.
  • The source : of some of my best condition Guernsey Doubles in my collection, came from the 'London-Calibre' local jewellers in the Shopping Arcades off the High Street in town. The owners liked to present a visitor with a Pristeen example of our local coins, as a Souvenir of a Guernsey holiday, when they made a purchase. - On a Saturday morning, I saw them come out of pure Mahogany multi - drawer cabinets in their open vaults.
  • They were in waxed rolls direct from the Royal Mint, via the Banks, so in Pseudo - Proof like condition, untouched or marked. They charged me 6 old pennies (6d) per coin I bought of different dates, they got them from their Banks in the High St at face value. As tradesmen they could ask for this service. (e.g 's English or my 1, 4 and 8 Doubles above, in F.D.C. condition, or Fleur de Coin )
  • In Grades of quality / or wear : we have Poor, Fine, Very fine (v.f. ) and Extra Fne (e.f.) .
  • - then Bright uncirculated (B.unc) or Fleur de Coin so (f.d.c.). The best of all is a Proof coin / set with a special very low Minting, with a mirror like finish in a luxury box, so not to be handled, usually commanding a premium price.
  • Jersey - also had their own coinage from 1841, the currency, believe it or not, was 13 Pennies to the Shilling. It had 1/13th of a Shilling' inscribed, so a Halfpenny as 1/26th, and a Farthing for the year 1841 only, a 1/52nd. - It is now a very rare coin to find (valued at £100 - c2018) so minted for 1841 only, then dropped.
  • In 1877 The States of Jersey : 'reset' their currency to be alongside England / the Norm, so now twelve pence to the Shilling, as 12th and 1/24th, but for 1877 only, a Farthing inscribed 1/48th. I had a complete Jersey Collection which has now returned home, in Mar 1988, and now rests in the library of Philip Malet de Carteret, of St Ouen's Manor, Jersey. This 900-year-old Manor has 'never' been bought or sold. The family Manor and grounds command a prime spot in the centre of the island.

St Ouen's Manor, Isle de Jersey, C.I.

Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark and the Isle of Man are all part of the U.K, as Crown Dependencies so fully independent, with their own Tax and Judicial Laws. such as Corporal Punishment, e.g. applying the Birch, in the presence of a doctor within St Peter Port prison.This was later banned in the late 1960's, sometimes given to Drinking Louts / or Troublemakers, this also happened in Jersey and the I.O.M. - * - Also in all schools from 1945 to 1976 / U.K. then it became illegal. .

- The Schools could, and did administer Corporal Punishment, , in rare cases, using the ruler, a thin bamboo cane or a small Leather Strap. Our Headmaster at one school ( yes Headmaster or Headmistress as defining) - being the only person to punish / disipline a pupil by cane. At one school I was present when the 'whole classroom' was strapped / girls as well as boys, all because one person in the room refused to own up to a squeal noise. ! ! (the teacher ruled, as standard)

- Guernsey has a Lieutenant Govenor duly appointed as the Queen / Kings' representative, so not represented in our U.K. Parliament. Those being Deported from Jersey via Guernsey, enroute back home to the U.K. were sometimes met at the quay by the Guernsey police, waiting as a deterrent, as the boat only stopped to carry out transfers, then continue on to England. (for interest, Guernsey is one of 7 Channel Isles with Jersey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou : off Herm : and Brechou or Brecqhou off Sark and owned by the twin brothers, Sirs David and Frederick Barclay and families)

  • The majority of Guernsey people are very strong in their loyalty to Guernsey, and would not dream of ever leaving the small Island for the Mainland, the local term for England. There has always been a strong rivalry between Guernsey and Jersey, for football - the annual ' Murrati ' - fm. 1905 , swimming and athletics, but in sporting respect. - I met some locals who had never seen a train in their lives and pictured England via feedback from the media, re Strikes, Unions, Violence, fast Motorways and just pace of life in general. Though some do leave for University or a nice job.

Guernsey and Jersey are very strict in maintaing their Tourist clientele , usually those of a discerning nature, from Victorian times up to the present day . . It is well known for it's many bays, cliff path walks and the tranquil way of life, together with good hotels providing quality food and service. - An atmosphere of old - world Normandy still prevails in these Sunshine Islands. - So I recommend a day trip from Guernsey, via Jersey, to nearby St. Malo & Dinard in France with it's rampart walled-in town.

There used to be a quaint Cycle Tax of approx. 10p per year (2/6d) and you had a changing-coloured disc in its own mounted bracket on the bike. A Car Road Tax is, or was, adjusted, to its C.C rating for charges due, making it fairer all-round.

We also had to comply with a 'Chicken' or 'Poulage Tax' , of seven Shillings & Sixpence (or 35p) being equiv. to the price of 2 - Chickens and only payable, in person, to the Royal Court office on behalf of the Queen. This tax comes under a centuries old Feudal Dues tax system still existent today. ( I assume ) - These taxes do not apply to every property, it is a hit and miss, as to the Site or Plot history, and previous owners or farmers.

o * . * o

  • Market Square - view 1/29 above, to the left are the Market Halls, or States Arcade, built in 1822 with huge lofty separate areas. They sold flowers, on massive, tiered shelves, I can still recall the fragrances now, Fruit and Vegetables, Meats then the Fish Market, (ref view 11/29) This area exits out into Fountain Street, Le Bordage and Mill Street. The markets were the place to hear the Patois spoken on a Saturday morning. On the right of Market Square are the French Halles with the Assembly Rooms above, later to become the Guille-Alles Library, an excellent source for reference and records going way back.
  • Update - I think now in 2018, it has all been changed into mini - commercial units, catering for locals and the many Island Visitors. In my title scene (View 1/29..) - of Guernsey life, notice on the right the Horse drawn Char-a-Bancs (or Char-a-Bang) used to take people home. I can still remember that way back in the 1940's, 50's there would be changing lines of six to ten, waiting at the White Rock berth to transfer passengers. They were locals and visitors off the Mail boats arriving back from the U.K. after a night or day crossing.
  • Later, we knew a 'Chara-Bang' as an excursion, day out or trip to the coast. Ships brought in Mail, (hence Mailboats), Newspapers and Cargo from England including White Goods, new Cars, and other heavy cargo. Mail and passengers are now served by regular daily flights from the U.K.
  • Under Sail - during the 1700's and 1800's, it would have been a very rough crossing , until the tall funneled Steam ships, then the 'Diesel-Engine' later came into service. The new bigger and more stable ships of the 1920s, 30s and 1940s made for a much faster and more comfortable crossing for the passenger..
  • A Record of some Bygone Ships - that came into Guernsey and Jersey - these were : The Earl of Chesterfield 1794 - / Dasher 1827 - / The Lydia 1840s & 50s, also a Worldwide Immigrant ship, - Ibex 1891 - / Alberta c1900s - / Sarnia (1) in 1910 - later sadly torpedoed in 1918 - / St. Julien 1925 - / The R100 Airship - in 1929 - / Isle of Guernsey & Isle of Jersey 1930 - / - Isle of Sark 1932 - / Brittany 1933 - / St.Patrick, St. David, & Falaise all in 1947 - / Caesarea 1960 - / Sarnia (2) 1961 - / Earl of Granville 1973 and Havelet 1977 . // . A 'sample' from records researched, as at 17th Oct 2018.
  • Another type of 'Ship' : for interest, the R100 Airship which came Into / Over St. Peter Port, Guernsey - on 26th July 1930 - Courtesy of our Sir Barnes Wallis Designer, of the Airship, Bouncing -Bomb and Wellington Bomber aircraft. (ref. - Photo to hand, an old Guernsey Postcard )
  • What a sight to comprehend for the locals in 1930, they would never have seen a car or a Train, so it would be like seeing two Flying Saucers, changing colour over the Harbour today . - For more on the R100 and R101 Airships, visit The Crown - Blunham Pub . // . Mr Blex - 21/ 10 / 2022

. During the 1940's / 60's the traveler to Guernsey, had a choice of using the midnight departure time from Southampton, or a more enjoyable daytime crossing via Weymouth, a night crossing gave you more Holiday time on the island . - . A point to remember, there is Zero V.A.T or tax on presents purchased. ,

. Guernsey is a small Island lying about 90 miles due South of Torquay on the south coast of England (or the Mainland, the local term) . - . It is about 30 sq. miles with a coastal road of apprx. 24 miles long, so in perspective, it would fit into the Isle of Wight 4 times. (148 Sq miles) - Guernsey is one of the Seven Ch. Isles with Jersey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou (off Herm) and Brecqhou / or Brechou, a Private Island about 1 mile - West of Sark and owned by the Twin Brothers - Sirs David & Frederick Barclay and families. They are also involved with the Ritz Hotel of Piccadilly, London - bought for £80 million in 1995 and a part of The Telegraph newspaper .

  • Guernseys, with a Zip Code within the U.S.A. - : - Just for interest, there are Seven 'other' Guernseys to be found - such as in California, Arkansas, Pennsilvania, Iowa, Ohio, Wyoming and Seskatchewa / Canada . . Then we have Guernsey Lake, a recreation area developed around a dam on the North Platte River,
  • All their populations in total are less than the Bailiwick of Guernsey (C.I.) itself. Some Villages or Towns having only 800 Pop. / mid 1960's . They were all from the early 1800's (The '49:ers of 1849 - Gold Rush ? ) - and the pioneering days and the Settler's Trek from East to the West coast.
  • o * . * o

Here is a Montage of a 'Bygone Guernsey' from views saved for 65 years

Links to my book, Guernsey Coinage (Jan 1968) // see Index page , or 1st Guernsey Sea Scouts 1946 - '53, memories by Billy Hill of Guernsey. (2018) . // . Or food for thought and just trivia - visit Misc and Mash . then Rock Climbing days - or Coasteering on Guernsey, during the mid 1950's as a teenager . // . back to Index Page


  • View 2/29.. A unique scene capturing the actual time the 'Arcade' in St Peter Port was being created, from land down below, being hacked from Granite Cliffs. The sheer Tenacity and Will Power to do the job, with no modern machinery. Artist - Louis Haghe. 1806 '85

  • View 3/29.. High Street, Guernsey, a charming scene of 18th century High Street showng houses which were chiefly those of Gentry, but by the early 19th century adaptations to them began. The Town Church of St Peter Port forms a pleasant background of liveliness and interest. There has been a Le Riche shop to our right for many, many years selling fine wines, spirits and groceries, they even provided a 'Home - Delivery' service around the Island in the 1960's, and probably well before..
  • View 4/29.. The Quay, St Peter Port : Arist - Paul Naftel , where you would arrive coming out from my view below. The tallest building, in shadow on the left, is, or was, The Albion Hotel, with the quaint tiny pub, The Cosy Corner on the ground floor. ( enjoyed a Pint on a Sat morning, during 1962/69 ) - The rear being the start of High Street, then the Arcade, Smith Street, Le Pollet and all the shops.
  • View 5/29.. Cow Lane, or Rue des Vaches : a charming sketch by an Artist Mrs Montgomery, c1831, - leading through the archway to The Quay (previous view) and Old Harbour, . The cobbled view point is taken from the bottom of Hgh street, with the entrance to the Town Church a few yards to our right. To the left has been a well known shop, Le Lievres, selling Fine China and delicate Glass wares for many years, it may have been there in 1831, but I have no supporting records.

  • View 6/29.. A street scene of old Guernsey, taken from the windows of Marshall's Hotel, St Pierre, Guernsey, to the right ,with shoppers, is the steep slope of Smith Street . It is en fête for a royal occasion, with festoons cross Smith Street, we see a few smart troops marching.
  • View 7/29..
  • View 8/29.. above. : Artist a Mrs Montgomery
  • View 9/29..
  • View 10/29.. above
  • View 11/29.. Market Place, St Pierre, Guernsey. - c1831 a fine study of the Market taken from the middle entrance in Fountain Street, looking through the vaulted crossway with it's fan windows high up, to Clifton Steps in the background. At this time, the Fish and Meat Markets would be on the left side and the vegetable market on the right. In the 1950's and before, to the far right, masses of flowers for sale on high tiered shelves. This then leads to wide stone steps leading down to a lower level and exit onto Market Square with steps.
    (see my Header View - 1/29)
  • View 12/29.. above - Similar to my Header View, but titled Market Place : by Charles Haghe - c1880 .
  • View 13/29..
  • View 14/29.. above
  • View 15/29.. - Part of St Pierre, Guernsey. - 1832 . - Note the Shipbuilding in progress .
  • View 16/29 .. above
  • View 17/29.. - Artist : Geo. Barnard
  • View 18/29 .. above - An annual swim takes place from these Castle Rocks, of apprx 800/900 yds, back to one of the 4 Victorian Tidal Pools / or La Vallette. - It is a 'goal' for local youngsters to aim for, one year a 60 yr old chaperoned Blind Man did the swim, the Pools are to the left of this town view. ( I did the Castle Swim in the Sept. of 1952,53 & 1954 ) - The mass Swim is safely controlled by many small boats, competent Club swimmers / lifesavers the whole time for the eager younger swimmers. Your details were taken at the finish and a certificate could be collected in the town later. - Happy memories.
  • View 19/29.. above - by local artist - P. Le Lievre
  • View 20/29 ..


o * . * o

Links to , Guernsey Coinage - published 1968 - (Adope reader / Acrobat File, so large) , - 1st Guernsey Sea Scouts 1946 to 1953 - Memories by Bill Hill , Guernsey - (Dec - 2018) : or Rock Climbing in Guernsey - 1950's

Protected by 'Copyright Law' , Reproduction of Images or Text for Commercial use Strictly Prohibited.

© , in 1968 & 1985 - Reg. in & Copy / The British Museum, London

Back to Index page : or a Bygone Guernsey - 1937 to c1969 - visit 'The tales of Mr Blex'

Last revision made by, Bill Exley on - 12th May - 2023