Jersey in the 1830s
A guide to Jersey and the other Channel Islands written in 1833 by Henry David Inglis presents such a detailed account of the islands and their inhabitants shortly before the Victorian era that we have decided to reproduce in full large sections of the volume dedicated to Jersey.
Inglis was a journalist and travel writer born in Scotland in 1795. In 1832 his travels brought him to Jersey, where he was appointed editor of the ‘’British Critic’’, a position he held for two years.
During his time in Jersey he wrote a substantial guide to the Channel Islands, which was published in 1834 after leaving for a tour of Ireland, resulting in another authoritative guide. He then worked for a short time in London before dying of a disease of the brain in 1835.
Nothing is known about the ‘’British Critic’’, which according to the Dictionary of National Biography, was edited by Inglis for two years. It does not appear in any lists of Jersey’s newspapers which we have seen. Indeed, it is not mentioned by Inglis in the section of his Jersey volume devoted to the press in 1830s Jersey. He lists 11 other newspapers which were being published at the time.
Portrait of island life
Although a number of guides to Jersey and the other Channel Islands were published in the early years of the 19th century, as it became more and more popular with early tourists and those seeking to settle there permanently, ‘’The Channel Islands (the result of a two year residence)’’ by Inglis is the only one to paint a detailed picture of the life of the island communities.
It is arguable that neither before nor since has any author succeeded in presenting such a comprehensive portrayal of the inhabitants, rich and poor, natives and newcomers; and the politics, commercial and social life of the islands.
This was a time of considerable upheaval in Jersey as retired English army and navy officers living on half pay, and others, flooded into Jersey with their families, attracted by lower costs of living and a more pleasant climate, causing the population to double between 1821 and 1851.
Inglis is very disparaging about many aspects of island life during the time he lived in Jersey. He constantly bemoans the effect on the community of the divisive party politics of the era, he belittles the ‘lower classes’ living in the island’s country parishes, accuses the ‘higher classes’ of a lack of interest in literature, the arts and anything happening beyond Jersey’s shores, and reserves the best of his venom for the 11 newspapers with whom he would appear to have been in competition.
It is unsurprising that the author chose to leave the Channel Islands in advance of the publication of his book, or (the exact timings being unknown) immediately after it went on sale.
We offer the following sections, some exactly as written, some abridged to concentrate on the elements which we believe will be of most interest to a 21st century audience, but all adhering as closely as possible to the author’s original text, which may be read in full at Henry David Inglis The Channel Islands : Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney &c. (the result of a two year residence) 1834
The second volume, devoted to Guernsey and the other islands, can be found at Henry David Inglis The Channel Islands : Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney &c. (the result of a two year residence) 1834
- Country people
- Upper classes
- English residents
- Living costs
- Advantages and disadvantages
- Comparison with European towns
Please note that although we would have liked to give greater meaning to some of the prices quoted in the book by relating them to 21st century values, this has proved impossible, because no single conversion rate is available to compare the 1834 pound with its value today.
Some online guides to relative costs suggest that mid-18th century prices should be multiplied by a factor of 100 to arrive at comparable prices today, but the use of this figure can be very misleading if applied across the board to all prices and income levels quoted in the book.
It is apparent, for example, that the minimum wage for an agricultural worker in 1834 was in the region of 1s per day. Multiplying this by 100, one arrives at a daily rate of £5 and a weekly wage over six days of £30, which clearly bears no relation to today’s minimum wage in Jersey of £6.63 an hour.