A glossary of Channel Island terms

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The Channel Islands have many job titles, geographical terms, weights and measures and other words which are unique to one or more of the islands, or have a meaning different to that found elsewhere. This list and the descriptions to which it links, are partly based on a 1945 article by historian the Rev George Balleine and also on Christopher Aubin's 2011 book A Glossary for the Historian of Jersey. The glossary includes a selection of words relating to the structure and positions in the era when Guernsey and Jersey were administered on a feudal basis, with power lying in the hands of the seigneurs of the fiefs. This glossary is not, therefore, an index to Donkipedia and Jerripedia, but an introduction to some of the more obscure subjects to be found within their pages.

A

  • Abjuration, the process by which Huguenot Roman Catholic immigrants from France to Jersey and Guernsey were required to renounce their religion
  • Acre - Ancient land measures equivalent to two Vergées. The vergée is different in Jersey and Guernsey and their acres were not identical, nor were they the exact equivalent of the French or English acre.
  • Advocate, a lawyer with a right of hearing before the courts of Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney
  • Apprécieur, a valuer of land in Jersey. Each of the 12 parishes has appointed six since 1891. In Guernsey the land surveying and valuing was done by the people who compiled the Livres de Perchage - who were tenants of the fief, not specially-qualified office holders. Today the Cadastre department of the States holds the records of land ownership.
  • Arpenteur public, land surveyor or measurer, qualified to provide land measurements for Jersey's Royal Court and also for private clients in connection with leases and property transactions.
  • Assemblée, an assembly, usually of parish principals and officers. This term may once have been used in Guernsey but the English 'meeting' is used today.
  • Assize d'Heritage, an ancient land court unique to Jersey
  • Assize, a court trial before a jury in Jersey. Guernsey has no equivalent and jury trials involve the permanent jury of elected Jurats
  • Assize Roll, a record of the triennial Crown Commissioners' visits in the 13th and 14th centuries
  • Attorney-General, the senior law officer in Jersey. Guernsey's equivalent is HM Procureur.

B

  • Bailiff, the head of the island's judiciary and speaker of the States
  • Bailiwick, the Channel Islands are divided into the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey
  • Banon, land open to parishioners to graze their cattle in both Guernsey and Jersey
  • Billet d'Etats, the agenda and papers relating to a meeting of the States
  • Boisseaux (or bushels), an old Guernsey wheat measure. There were six denerels to the bushel, and four bushels to the quarter (quartier). One wheat bushel is equal to 13½ 'pots' of liquid measure.
  • Bornement, permit required from the parish douzaine in Guernsey to make alterations to property within 9m of the public highway
  • Bouvée, a land measure from the 14th century and earlier, equivalent to 24 vergées. Those occupying a bouvée in Jersey had a significant standing in their parish. A caruée was equal to ten bouvées. Guernsey used this term for land measurement but the same status was not involved. There were 20 bouvée to the Guernsey caruée.
  • Branchage, cutting of roadside verges and hedges. The same process is undertaken in Guernsey but the term 'branchage' is not used.
The colombier at Samares Manor

C

  • Cabot, a measure of volume, unique to Jersey: an eighth of a quartier. Important in determining the value of rentes.
  • Cadastre, Guernsey land registry, a department of the States of Guernsey
  • Centenier, the senior members of the Honorary Police in Jersey
  • Champart, a levy of every twelfth sheaf harvested owed to the Seigneur of a Fief
  • Charabanc, the forerunner of today's coach
  • Chef rente, the rent owed by tenants to the Seigneur of a Fief
  • Chemin, a road
  • Chevauchée, inspection of the roads by the Feudal Court
  • Chief Minister, senior Minister of the islands governments
  • Churchwarden, parish church officers
  • Clameur de Haro, an ancient legal injunction, unique to the Channel Islands, which can be invoked by any islander who believes he is being treated unjustly
  • Clos, a cul-de-sac
  • Colloquy, old church court
  • Colombier, a dovecot. Only the seigneurs of major fiefs were permitted to have colombiers, on the basis that the doves/pigeons fed on the grain in surrounding fields. An illegally erected colombier would have to be demolished, or a fine paid to allow it to remain.
  • HM Comptrolleur, the title of His/Her Majesty's Comptrolleur or Solicitor-General in Guernsey
  • Congé, levy paid by the purchaser of property to the Seigneur of a Fief
  • Conseiller, formerly a senior member of the States of Guernsey (between 1948 and 2004).
  • Consistory, old weekly church meeting
  • Constable (Connétable), In Jersey, the elected head of each parish. In Guernsey the constable is an elected parish officer who is responsible for implementing and enforcing the decisions of the parish Douzaine.
  • Constable's Officer, junior members of the Honorary Police in Jersey
  • Coutume, the customary Norman law which applied in the Channel Islands from 933 to 1204 when they were part of the Duchy of Normandy, much of it remaining in force to this day.
  • Crown Officers, the generic term applying to the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General
  • Cueillette, district of Parish of Saint Ouen in Jersey

D

E, F

G

H, I

J, K

L

M

  • Mession, the period between sowing and reaping of crops when land was not open for grazing (see Banon).
  • Militia, the Islands' resident military forces, separate units for Guernsey and Jersey
  • Minister, political head of States department

N

O

  • Ouie de paroisse, a verbal notification, made in a Jersey parish after Sunday service, of the terms of a private transaction

P, Q

  • Parish, administrative division of the islands, 10 in Guernsey and 12 in Jersey
  • Parish Assembly, official meeting of parishioners (for Guernsey - see Douzaine)
  • Partage, A legal agreement to divide inherited real estate between heirs
  • Poulage, levy on each dwelling house, originally paid in chickens, owed to the Seigneur of a Fief
  • Prevot, officer of Seigneural court
  • Principal, ratepayers entitled to attend Parish Assembly
  • Procureur du Bien Public, parish official
  • HM Procureur, the title of Guernsey's senior law officer, His/Her Majesty's Procureur or Attorney General. In Jersey the old title of Procureur du Roi (Reine) has been replaced by Attorney-General
  • Quintelage - table of amounts due by each tenant of a Fief

R

  • Receiver General, administrator of Crown revenues
  • Rector, incumbent of parish church
  • Regent, schoolmaster
  • Rentes, an old form of mortgage
  • Retrait lignager, an old right by which any blood relation of a seller could buy back a property for same price as the buyer had paid, to keep it in the family.
  • Roads Committtee, elected parish committee
  • Royal Commissioner, appointed by the Privy Council to investigate complaints
  • Royal Court, the islands' senior courts of justice

S

T, U

  • Tenant, land owner
  • Terre à l'Amende (literally "penalty land"), private property on which the landowner has the authority to apply fines for unauthorised use
  • Trésor (literally treasury), meeting of the Douzaine to discuss funding of church maintenance (and other ecclesiastical finances)

V

W, X, Y, Z

Further reading

  • A Glossary for the Historian of Jersey, by C N Aubin. This Jersey Heritage publication, still in print, is heavily weighted towards legal terms, but can be very useful for anyone conducting detailed research into their family history involving the study of contracts and other court documents.
  • Law Dictionary, Barreau de Guernesey web site
  • Le Huray, CP, The Guernsey Fiefs today, Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, Spring 1949
  • Priaulx, TF , Weights and Measures, Review of the Guernsey Society, Summer 1974
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