You don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to experience Jersey’s rich and multi-layered history. From Stone Age dolmens – ancient burial grounds – to traces of island defences and wartime occupations, on the island of Jersey, history’s within easy reach.
250,000 BC Palaeolithic cave-living hunter gatherers were Jersey’s earliest residents.
6000 BC Jersey becomes an island after splitting from the Normandy peninsula
4000 BC During the Neolithic period, communities settle and make their home in Jersey, the island’s many standing stones and burial chambers (including La Hougue Bie) date from these times.
555 AD The hermit St Helier who gives Jersey’s capital its name and who lived on a small rocky islet near Elizabeth Castle is murdered by raiders.
800 During the ninth century, Vikings plundered the island, giving Jersey its name.
933 Jersey becomes part of the Duchy of Normandy as William Longsword wins the Channel Islands.
1066 The Channel Islands become part of the Anglo-Norman realm when William the Conqueror defeated King Harold and won the English crown at the Battle of Hastings.
1204 Jersey was ruled by Normandy for nearly three centuries until islanders pledged allegiance to King John. That decision triggered a special relationship with the English crown, which continues to this day.
1337 The Hundred Years War between England and France begins. Close to the French mainland and serving as a first line of defence, the island was heavily fortified. Mont Orgueil Castle was built to guard the island’s east coast.
1461 – 1468 During the War of the Roses, the French seized Mont Orgueil Castle and ruled Jersey for seven years.
1500 During the 16th century, Jersey’s production of knitwear reached such a scale that laws were passed restricting who could knit, and when.
1590 Work starts on Elizabeth Castle, built to defend St Aubin’s Bay and named after the Queen by Sir Walter Raleigh.
1600s Many islanders were involved with Newfoundland fisheries during this time and would set sail for the Newfoundland cod fisheries in February/March, only returning in the autumn.
1650-51 During the English Civil War, King Charles II twice took refuge in Jersey before the island was captured by the Parliamentarian army in 1651. Later, New Jersey is named after Jersey following a gift of land from the king to the island’s governor in recognition of his protection.
1781 In the Battle of Jersey, a French invading party attempted to take over the island, capturing St Helier in a dawn raid. They were defeated by an army led by Major Peirson, who lost his life in the attack. A series of Martello towers were built around the island as defences against further attacks.
1852 The writer Victor Hugo is exiled in Jersey, spending three years here.
1902 Jersey’s first Battle of Flowers was held to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII.
1912 In the early days of flying, the world’s first International Air Race saw planes fly from from St Malo to Jersey and back.
1940-1945 The Channel Islands were the only part of Britain to be occupied by German forces. The five-year occupation came to an end on 9 May 1945 – Liberation Day, an event still celebrated in Jersey with an annual Bank Holiday. Find out more at Jersey War Tunnels.
Attractions that delve into Jersey’s past.
Jersey War Tunnels tells the true story of wartime Jersey in a way that no other visitor attraction does. It’s the best place to get a true picture of what life was really like in Jersey during WWII. The exhibition is housed within an underground tunnel complex, built by the Germans using slave labour.
Grosnez Castle is a ruined 14th-century castle in St. Ouen, situated in Grosnez in the north west corner of the island. Philippe de Carteret held it against the French when they took half of Jersey between 1461 and 1467, but it has been a ruin since the mid 16th century.
Discover the story of Jersey for free on the ground floor, watch our Story of Jersey film and take in our permanent display Jersey - 100 Objects. There's more to discover (admission prices apply) at the Museum as you explore Jersey's history from 250,000 years ago when the first people arrived in Jersey and continues through the centuries.
Jersey War Tours (JWT) is a non-profit organisation who allow access to their WW2 sites for tours and visits. All funds are invested back into the WW2 projects and maintenance program of work. Tours are guided by volunteers who all work on these projects and you won't find better experts to explain the Occupation and Liberation history.