GUERNSEY (Fr. Guernesey), one of the Channel Islands, belonging to Britain, the second in size and westernmost of the important members of the group. Its chief town, St Peter Port, on the east coast, is in 2° 33′ W., 49° 27′ N., 74 m. S. of Portland Bill on the English coast, and 30 m. from the nearest French coast to the east. The island, roughly triangular in form, is 91 m. long from N.E. to S.W. and has an extreme breadth of 51 m. and an area of 15,691 acres or 24.5 sq. m. Pop. (1901), 40,446, the density being thus 162 per sq. m.
The surface of the island rises gradually from north to south, and reaches its greatest elevation at Haut Nez (349 ft.) above Point Icart on the south coast. The coast scenery, which forms one of the principal attractions to the numerous summer visitors to the island, is finest on the south. This coast, between Jerbourg and Pleinmont Points, respectively at the south-eastern and south-western corners of the island, is bold, rocky and indented with many exquisite little bays. Of these the most notable are Moulin Huet, Saint’s, and Petit Bot, all in the eastern half of the south coast. The cliffs, however, culminate in the neighbourhood of Pleinmont. Picturesque caves occur at several points, such as the Creux Mahie. On the west coast there is a succession of larger bays—Rocquaine Perelle, Vazon, and Cobo. Off the first lies Lihou Island, the Hanois and other islets, and all three bays are sown with rocks. The coast, however, diminishes in height, until at the north-eastern extremity of the island the land is so low across the Vale or Braye du Val, from shore to shore, that the projection of L’Ancresse is within a few feet of being isolated. The east coast, on which, besides the town and harbour of St Peter Port, is that of St Sampson, presents no physical feature of note. The interior of the island is generally undulating, and gains in beauty from its rich vegetation. Picturesque glens descend upon some of the southern bays (the two converging upon Petit Bot are notable), and the high-banked paths, arched with foliage, which follow the small rills down to Moulin Huet Bay, are much admired under the name of water-lanes.
The soil is generally light sandy loam, overlying an angular gravel which rests upon the weathered granite. This soil requires much manure, and a large proportion of the total area (about three-fifths) is under careful cultivation, producing a considerable amount of grain, but more famous for market-gardening. Vegetables and potatoes are exported, with much fruit, including grapes and flowers. Granite is quarried and exported from St Sampson, and the fisheries form an important industry.
For administrative purposes Guernsey is united with Alderney, Sark, Herm and the adjacent islets to form the bailiwick of Guernsey, separate from Jersey. The peculiar constitution, machinery of administration and justice, finance, &c., are considered under the heading Channel Islands. Guernsey is divided into the ten parishes of St Peter Port, St Sampson, Vale, Câtel, St Saviour, St Andrew, St Martin, Forest, St Peter du Bois and Torteval. The population of St Peter Port in 1901 was 18,264; of the other parishes that of St Sampson was 5614 and that of Vale 5082. The population of the bailiwick of Guernsey nearly doubled between 1821 and 1901, and that of the island increased from 35,243 in 1891 to 40,446 in 1901. The island roads are excellent, Guernsey owing much in this respect to Sir John Doyle (d. 1834), the governor whose monument stands on the promontory of Jerbourg. Like Jersey and the neighbouring part of France, Guernsey retains considerable traces of early habitation in cromlechs and menhirs, of which the most notable is the cromlech in the north at L’Ancresse. As regards ecclesiastical architecture, all the parish churches retain some archaeological interest. There is good Norman work in the church of St Michael, Vale, and the church of St Peter Port is a notable building of various periods from the early 14th century. Small remains of monastic buildings are seen at Vale and on Lihou Island.