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Alderney ( ; Auregnais: Aoeur'gny) is the most northerly of the Channel Islands and a British Crown dependency. It is part of the Bailiwick of Guernseymarker. It is long and wide. The area is , making it the third largest island of the Channel Islands, and the second largest in the Bailiwick. It is around to the west of La Haguemarker in the Cotentin Peninsulamarker, Normandy, in Francemarker, to the north-east of Guernseymarker and from the south coast of Englandmarker. It is the closest of the Channel Islands to France as well as being the closest to England. It is separated from Cap de la Hague by the dangerous Race of Alderney (Le Raz).

The island has a population of only 2,400 people and they are traditionally nicknamed vaques after the cows, or else lapins after the many rabbits seen in the island. The only parish of Alderney is the parish of St. Anne which covers the whole island.

The main town, St. Anne, or ('La Ville' or simply 'Town' in English) is referred to as 'St Anne's' (more accurately: 'St Anne'). It features an imposing, pretty church and unevenly cobbled high street. There is a primary school, a secondary school, and a post office as well as hotels, restaurants, banks and shops.


Alderney shares a history with the other Channel Islands, becoming an island in the Neolithic period as the waters of the Channel rose.

The etymology of the Island's name is obscure. It is known in Latin as Riduna but as with the names of all the Channel Islands in the Roman period there is a degree of confusion. Riduna may be the original name of Tatihoumarker, while Alderney is conjectured to be identified with Sarmia. Alderney/Aurigny is variously supposed to be a Germanic or Celtic name. It may be a corruption of Adreni or Alrene, which is probably derived from an Old Norse word meaning "island near the coast". Alternatively it may derive from three Norse elements: alda (swelling wave, roller), renna (strong current, race) and oy or ey (island).

After choosing independence from France and loyalty to the English monarch in his role as the Duke of Normandy, in 1204, Alderney developed slowly and was not much involved with the rest of the world. That is, however, until the British government decided to undertake massive fortifications in the 19th century and to create a strategic harbour to deter attacks from France. These fortifications were presciently described by William Ewart Gladstone as "a monument of human folly, useless to us ... but perhaps not absolutely useless to a possible enemy, with whom we may at some period have to deal and who may possibly be able to extract some profit in the way of shelter and accommodation from the ruins." An influx of English and Irishmarker labourers, plus the sizeable British garrison stationed in the island, led to rapid Anglicization. The harbourmarker was never completed - the remaining breakwater (designed by James Walker) is one of the island's landmarks, and is longer than any breakwater in the UK.

At the same time as the breakwater was being built in the 1850s, the island was fortified by a string of 13 forts, designed to protect the harbour of refuge. The forts now contribute greatly to Alderney's unique charm. The accommodation quarters of several of the forts have been converted into apartments; two are now private homes; and one, Fort Clonque, situated at the end of a causeway which is flooded at high tide, now belongs to the Landmark Trust, and can be rented for self-catering holidays. It was at Fort Clonque that the film "Seagulls over Sorrento" was shot in 1953.Some of the forts are now in varying stages of dereliction: the most ruined being Les Hommeaux Florains, perched on outlying rocks, its access causeway and bridge having been swept away long ago. Perhaps the most romantic of the forts is Houmet Herbé, looking more like a Crusader castle with its squat round towers. Like many of the forts it included such apparently anachronistic features as a drawbridge and machicolation, which were actually still common in military architecture of the period.

The last of the hereditary Governors, John Le Mesurier, resigned his patent to the Crown in 1825, since when authority has been exercised by the States of Alderney (as amended by the constitutional settlement of 1948).

World War II

During the Second World War, the Channel Islands were the only part of the British Commonwealth occupied by Germany. The German occupation 1940–45 was harsh, with some island residents being taken for slave labour on the continent; native Jews sent to concentration camps; partisan resistance and retribution; accusations of collaboration; and slave labour (primarily Russiansmarker and eastern Europeans) being brought to the islands to build fortifications. In Alderney, before German troops landed in June 1940, the entire population, save for six persons, left.

The Germans built four concentration camps in Alderney, subcamps of the Neuengamme concentration campmarker. Each camp was operated by the Nazi Organisation Todt and used forced labour to build bunkers, gun emplacements, air-raid shelters, and concrete fortifications. In 1942, the Lager Norderneymarker camp, containing Russian and Polish POWs, and the Lager Syltmarker camp, a death camp.holding Jewish slave labourers, were placed under the control of the SSmarker-Hauptsturmführer Maximilian List. Over 700 of the inmates (out of a total inmate population of 6,000) lost their lives before the camps were closed and the remaining inmates transferred to Germany in 1944.

The Royal Navy blockaded the islands from time to time, particularly following the liberation of mainland Normandymarker in 1944. Intense negotiations resulted in some Red Crossmarker humanitarian aid, but there was considerable hunger and privation during the five years of Germanmarker occupation, particularly in the final months when the population was close to starvation. The Germans surrendered the islands on May 16, 1945, eight days after the Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. The German garrison on Alderney surrendered a week after the other Channel Islands and was one of the last German garrisons to surrender in Europe. The population of Alderney was unable to start returning until December 1945.

War crime trials

After World War II, a court-martial case was prepared against ex-SS Hauptsturmführer Max List (the former commendant of Lagers Norderneymarker and Syltmarker), citing atrocities on Alderney. However, he did not stand trial, and is believed to have lived near Hamburgmarker until his death in the 1980s.

Since 1945

For two years after the end of World War II, Alderney was operated as a communal farm. Craftsmen were paid by their employers, whilst others were paid by the local government out of the profit from the sales of farm produce. Remaining profits were put aside to repay the British Government for repairing and rebuilding the island. Resentment from the local population towards being unable to control their own land acted as a catalyst for the United Kingdom Home Office to set up an enquiry that led to the "Government of Alderney Law 1948", which came into force on 1 January 1949. The law organised the construction and election of the States of Alderney, the justice system and, for the first time in Alderney, the imposition of taxes. Due to the small population of Alderney, it was believed that the island could not be self-sufficient in running the airport and the harbour, as well as in providing services that would match those of the United Kingdom. The taxes were therefore collected into the general Bailiwick of Guernsey revenue funds (at the same rate as Guernsey) and administered by the States of Guernsey. Guernsey became responsible for providing many governmental functions and services.

The 20th century saw a lot of change in Alderney, from the building of the airport in the late 1930s to the death of the last speakers of the island's language (Auregnais, a dialect of Norman language). The economy has gone from depending largely on agriculture to earning money from the tourism and finance industries. E-commerce has become increasingly important, and the Island hosts the domain name registry for both Bailiwicks and over a dozen gambling website operators. Due to these upheavals and large immigration, the island has been more or less completely Anglicised.


The States of Alderney is the legislature of the island; it sends two representatives to the States of Guernsey as well. The origin of the States is unknown, but it has operated from the mediaeval period.

The States of Alderney consists of the President, directly elected every 4 years, and 10 States Members, half elected every 2 years for a 4 year mandate. The President of the States of Alderney is Sir Norman Browse (since 2002). The whole island is a single constituency.

Until the reform of 1948, the States of Alderney consisted of:
  • Lieutenant-Governor of Guernsey
  • the Judge (appointed by the Crown, equivalent of the Bailiff in Guernsey and Jersey)
  • 6 Jurats (appointed by the Crown)
  • the officers of the Court of Alderney
  • 4 Douzainiers (elected annually by the ratepayers)
  • a Douzainier-Delegate (appointed by the Douzaine)
  • 3 People's Deputies (elected by the voters for a 3 year mandate; added in 1923)


The Court of Alderney exercises unlimited original jurisdiction in civil matters and limited jurisdiction in criminal matters. The Court sits as a Chairman and no fewer than three Jurats (out of the six Jurats). Appeals are made to the Royal Court of Guernsey (which also exercises some original jurisdiction in criminal matters in Alderney) and thence to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.


Alderney is similar to the other Channel Islands in having sheer cliffs broken by stretches of sandy beach and dunes. Its climate is temperate, moderated by the sea, and summers are usually warmer than elsewhere in the British Isles. Trees are rather scarce, as many were cut down in the 17th century to fuel the lighthouses on Alderney and the Casquets. Those trees that remain include some cabbage trees (due to the mild climate - often miscalled "palms" but of the lily family.), and there are now some small woods dotted about the island.

Alderney and its surrounding islets support a rich flora and fauna. Puffins on Burhoumarker and gannets on Les Étacs just off Alderney are a favourite of many visitors to the island. The Blonde hedgehog is a species native to Alderney. The island had its own breed of cattle, called the Alderney. The pure breed became extinct in 1944, but hybrids remain elsewhere, though no longer on Alderney itself. In August 2005, the west coast of Alderney and associated islands, including Burhoumarker and Ortacmarker, were designated as Ramsar wetlands of international importance.

The island is surrounded by rocks, which have caused hundreds of wrecks. There are two treacherous tidal streams on either side of the island: the Swingemarker between Alderney and Burhou, just outside the harbour, and Le Raz between the island and the Norman mainland. The Corbet Rockmarker lies in the Swinge.

The geology of Alderney is mostly granites from the Precambrian period.


Auregnais, the local dialect of Norman French is almost extinct, with only one or two islanders being "rememberers" Also, French is no longer spoken in the island (except by tourists); it ceased to be an official language in 1966. French declined from neglect, especially in the education sector, but also because most of the population was evacuated in WWII. To this day however, many, if not most of the local placenames are in French or Auregnais. One or two words linger on in the local English, e.g. vraic (seaweed fertiliser), and the pronunciation of certain local names, e.g. Dupont as 'Dippoh' rather than the French way.

Golf, Fishing and other water sports are popular, though there are many clubs and associations for sports and other leisure activities ( List of Clubs & Associations). Alderney competes in the biannual Island Games.

Due in part to the large numbers of tourists, there are many restaurants and public houses. There is a vibrant and lively nightlife which is enjoyed by many especially in the summer—such as the Quarry parties.

It is almost the only remaining place in the British Islands where it remains legal to smoke in pubs, shops, restaurants and other indoor public places (Guernsey, Jersey, the UK, and the Isle of Man all having outlawed this). The proposed imposition of such a ban remains controversial, and has provoked public demonstrations by smokers. The effect on Alderney's failure to implement a ban on smoking in enclosed public places is difficult to measure, and the idea of advertising 'smoking holidays' on the Island has even been suggested.

Alderney has an ageing population and is popular with people wanting somewhere quiet to retire. Because it is quiet and secluded, Alderney has attracted some famous residents, including authors T. H. White (The Once and Future King) and Elisabeth Beresford (The Wombles), cricket commentator John Arlott, cricketer Ian Botham, Beatles producer George Martin, actress Julie Andrews, and Olympic swimmer Duncan Goodhew.

Alderney Week

Alderney Week is celebrated from the Saturday before the first Monday of August, during which a number of events take place. Each year the organisers pick a new theme, and there is a local competition for a logo/mascot.
  • The first Saturday begins with a parade of decorated brollies, bonnets and dogs to the Marais Square, where, traditionally, the firemen squirt their hoses into the air to "test" the brollies. There is a disco on the green, and a Quarry Party starting at 11pm with a 1970s and 1980s theme. People dress in costume or just in wacky clothes.

  • The Sunday is always the day of a traditional street market. A mixture of traditional toffee apples and personal junk sales is laid out up and down the main street. Clothes, ice-creams, local sweets and jewellery are all sold from tables in the street, and with dancing by the KFA, the Miss Holiday Princess Competition and music by the Alderney Band.

  • Cavalcade Day takes place on the Monday, on which residents and organisations construct parade floats based upon a particular theme, before walking them though the high street and onto the green. Judging and prize giving takes place up there, as well as games, stalls and burger vans. Why not sign up for Alderney's Got Talent, or the Alderney X-Factor while you are there? Or have a go on the coconut shy? The Alderney Blowers give a full concert, and there is a car and bike show.

    *Tuesday is always a mis-match of events. Auditions, Shakespeare in the gardens, and "the blessing of the fishing fleet" are regularly timetabled for Tuesday.

  • Wednesday often includes the daft raft race, though it changes days often to get the right tide. Locals and visitors alike build the wackiest crafts they can think up to sail around two buoys in 3 great races... whilst being pelted with flour bombs, water bombs and hoses from the lifeboat. Although the races are friendly, many attempts at sabotage have been made, which range from standing in the way of launch, to drilling holes in the previous-year's winners the night before. In the evening is the Extravaganza- a show of hilarious sketches and acts about Alderney, the theme, and inter-island competition.

  • For many, the man-powered flight is the main focus of Thursday's events. A duck race (that is numbered bath ducks) takes place at the same time as the mad flying attempts. Machines vary from the beautifully decorated to ones that might actually fly... although the furthest flying usually fly no more than a metre or two. In the evening is the Battle Of The Bands, with both local and visiting bands taking part. It is held in the quarry, where people of all ages go to dance, cheer, and sit around the bonfire.

  • Friday is given over to the sandcastle competition. The competitors are split into age groups- 0-5, 5-7, 7-10, 10-13, and Adult, and time-limits set for each group. The standard is continuously high (see the Alderney Week webpage gallery for photographs) and it is a fun event for all. The evening is given over to entertainment by the talented. The under-16 talent show (Alderney's Got Talent) is held early on, followed by the Alderney X-Factor at 9pm. The talent show welcomes kids of every age and any talent, from dancing and singing to poetry and karate. The X-Factor prefers singers over 14, and provides fun, family-friendly entertainment.

  • The torchlight procession, on the Saturday evening of the week, sees a parade of people walking through the town centre, carrying torches towards a large bonfire upon the local green. The evening ends with a fireworks display and an open-air music event held in a disused quarry. This starts at midnight and finishes at 8:00am the next morning, although it has been known to continue on until 10 am with some nocturnal people, who use the radio for music. Other people make their way to the airport for their flight in the sleeping bags they slept in on the nearest soft floor they could find.

Regular entertainment during Alderney Week includes
  • The famous Alderney Blowers play every year. The Alderney Blowers are a group of musicians who fly down from Englandmarker every year to play throughout Alderney Week.
  • The Alderney Island Band, a group of local wind musicians of every age and ability, conducted by Sue Cooper.
  • The KFA, Alderney's Pomerettes. The girls (and boys) start as Sunbeams aged about 4-7, and slowly work up until the Teen Team, learning dances with ribbons, balls, and pomerettes, and performing them at many events in Alderney Week


Alderney is served by Alderney Airportmarker. There are several flights each day from Southamptonmarker, Jerseymarker (via Guernsey) and Guernseymarker (with links to many parts of the United Kingdommarker and Europe). Blue Islands and Aurigny Air Services both serve the island by air with Britten-Norman Trislanders.

Boats sail regularly between the island and Francemarker, as well as the other Channel Islands. There are also frequent boat trips available. Mainbrayce, a local chandlers, provides the water-taxi services as well as water and fuel to visiting yachtsmen. This can get quite hectic during the peak months of June, July and August as nearly 30,000 yachtsmen visit this harbour every year.

Due to the island's size, vehicular transport is often unnecessary, although taxis, cars and bicycles are often used. The Alderney Railwaymarker is the only railway now remaining in the Channel Islands, doing scheduled services to the lighthouse during the summer and special occasions such as Easter and Christmas. During the summer season, there is an occasional bus service around the island.

Alderney allows people to drive motorbikes and mopeds without helmets, and drive cars without seatbelts, (however it is compulsory for under 18s to now wear helmets under legislation brought in by the States of Alderney). The international vehicle registration code is GBA.

Numismatic history


See also



  1. Dictionnaire Jersiais-Français, 1966; Customs, Ceremonies & Traditions of the Channel Islands, Lemprière, 1976, ISBN 0709158424
  2. Dictionnaire Jersiais-Français, 1966
  3. Davenport, T.G., Partridge, C.W., "The Victorian Fortification of Alderney", Fort (Fortress Study Group), 1980, (8), pp21-47
  4. The Jews in the Channel Islands During the German Occupation 1940-1945, by Frederick Cohen, President of the Jersey Jewish Congregation,
  5. Noted in The Occupation, by Guy Walters, ISBN 0-7553-2066-2
  6. Alderney | Court Of Alderney


  • The Alderney Story: 1939-1949 by Michael St. John Packe and Maurice Dreyfus (1966?) "The Alderney Society and Museum decided shortly after its inception in 1966 to collect all reliable reminiscences whether written or verbal lest with the passage of time they would be lost."
  • Alderney Place Names, Royston Raymond, 1999 Alderney ISBN 0-9537127-0-2
  • Noms de lieux de Normandie, René Lepelley, 1999 Paris ISBN 2-86253-247-9

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