Bygone Guernsey and its Coins

By Bill Exley

. View 1/29. A busy Market Day in St. Peter Port around the late 1890's or early 1900's, one of my favourite scenes, looking up the Market Steps to Market Square or 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 'Guernsey Patois', as so the Welsh in using their own unique dialect.

. In the men’s' 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 and made up of the 8 Doubles, equiv. to our old Penny. 4, 2 and a tiny 1 double coin - Half a farthing! This small 1 Double coin was issued 12 times over 100 years, 1830 to 1938, so it must have been required. Some hourly rates, for various labour was in Doubles per hour. (1830 my E1, - 1,648,640 were struck!!)


. Samples above - E56, E80a, E85 and E52 - refs. my 'Guernsey Coinage' book (1968). The 1917 - 2 Doubles (E80a) is the rarest coin with a 'low' mintage figure of only 14,524, compared to 84,000, 156,400 and 117,600 for the other 3 values (1,4 and the 8).

. 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, 1/26th, and a Farthing for the year 1841 only, at 1/52nd. It is now a very rare coin to find (valued at £100) so minted for 1841 only, then dropped.

. In 1877 Jersey 'demonetised' their currency to twelve pence to the Shilling, so 1/12th, 1/24th, and 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, 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, Jersey C.I.

Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man are all part of the U.K, but independent, with their own Tax and Judicial Laws. Like applying the Birch, in the presence of a doctor, within St Peter Port Prison, but later banned around the 1960's. They even gave it to Drinking Louts, troublemakers, being Deported from Jersey to Guernsey, enroute back home to the U.K. Sometimes the Guernsey police were waiting as a deterrent, as the boat only stopped to carry out transfers, then continued to the U.K.

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 had to comply with a 'Chicken' or 'Poulage Tax' of Seven and Sixpence (approx. 35p) and 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. 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.

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To the left of the Market Square, view 1/29 above, 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.

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 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 Mailboats arriving from the U.K. after a night or day crossing.

  • Under Sail - during the 1700s and 1800s would have been a rough crossing , until the tall funnelled 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. .- .

Here follows a listing of some Ships that came over to Guernsey

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, - 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.

During the 1940's / 60's the traveller 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) .Guernsey is a tiny Island, lying about 90 miles S.W. of Lands End, and about 30 sq. miles, it's coastal road is 24 miles long, in perspective, it would fit into the Isle of Wight 4 times. (148 Sq miles)

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.

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Here is a Montage of a 'Bygone Guernsey' from views saved for 65 years. A link to my book, Guernsey Coinage in 1968 - or 1st Guernsey Sea Scouts 1946 - '53, memories by Bill Hill / Guernsey / 2018... - Or some food for thought / Trivia, then step into my Misc and Mash. - or 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 / ref Betty ]

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, 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. 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, leading through the archway to The Quay (previous view) and Old Harbour, a charming sketch by a Mrs Montgomery in 1831. 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.
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View 11/29.. Market Place, St Pierre, Guernsey. drawn in 1831 (artist unknown) 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 vegitable market on the right. In the 1950's and before, to the far right, masses of flowers were on sale, on high tiered shelves, this then led to wide stone steps leading down to a lower level and exit.
View 12/29.. above - A similar view to my Title header but titled Market Place / from an early Moss Print
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Links to my book, Guernsey Coinage - 1968 - (Adope reader, Acrobat File, large) , or 1st Guernsey Sea Scouts [1946 - '53 ] - Memories by Bill Hill , Guernsey / Dec - 2018

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Back to Index page - or for Guernsey in the 1950s & 1962/70 see ' The tales of Mr Blex '

Last revision - 22nd Sept , 2021. - by Bill Exley