To explore the Island’s heritage of Jèrriais also known as Jersey French, our Island’s mother tongue, we have highlighted some special parts of Island life. This #landscapelanguage series can be found on Jersey Heritage’s Instagram (@jerseyheritage) featuring images by local photographer Lucy Le Lievre.
Les Hurets is the often overlooked, rather bare headland on the north coast above Bouley Bay. This place’s name in Jèrriais, Les Huthets, translates to ‘high, rocky, stony and barren ground’…our ancestors certainly got that one right! ~ in life there are downs and ups ~ dans la vie y’a des flias et des huthes. ~
Where can you find this islet? Here is a clue…home to miner bees and at least two trees, this remarkable green-headed rock’s name in Jèrriais is îlet.
Many bays around the Island feature a pier, or caûchie in Jèrriais. These extensions of the coast were mostly built in the 1800s to create protected pockets of water for seafarers. Today, our piers still prove popular for fishing, boating and more recently cold-water swimming. The caûchie at Grève de Lecq, pictured, was almost completely destroyed during storms in the 1890s.
You can’t go far in the Island without seeing a large rock, or rotchi in Jèrriais. The correct word for rock in Jersey’s traditional language actually varies depending on which side of the Island you find yourself in! Can you guess if rotchi is for rocks in the east or west?
Our language is deeply intertwined with nature. For example, tree is bouais in Jèrriais. In a small Island where timber is limited, the importance of trees to our ancestors can be seen every day in place names like Five Oaks or Les Ormes (or elms in Jèrriais). Today, trees remain just as vital as we realise their benefits to the planet and our wellbeing. The entire woodland ecosystem plays a huge role in locking up and storing carbon which is important in combating climate change. Research shows that within minutes of being surrounded by trees and green space, our blood pressure drops, heart rate slows and stress levels come down – spending time amongst trees is good for all of us.
As an Island, Jersey has always had to protect itself and the coastline hosts examples of fortifications from many different time periods. The importance of these defences can be seen in the similarities between language used then and now. For example Fort, is also Fort in Jèrriais. Fort Leicester, pictured, was built in 1836 to guard a certain bay in partnership with L’Étacquerel Fort to the east. The defensive position was named after the Earl of Leicester centuries before a fort was constructed. Today, both forts are available to enjoy as unique Heritage Lets.
In a small Island where timber is limited, the importance of trees to our ancestors can be seen every day in place names like Seven Oaks or La Rue de Sapins (sapin in Jèrriais means fir, spruce). Au temps pâssé (Jèrriais for in times past), wood from trees would have been used as fuel for fires to heat homes during the colder winter months. This practice continues today with more considerations and actions being made about replanting trees. These logs are from a wooded area, or in Jèrriais ~ bouaîs’sie.
Features like an arch, or uss’sie in Jèrriais, can be seen around the Island in old buildings. This example is an arch at Manor Farm, La Route de Vinchelez in St Ouen – a farm which is still used today to grow delicious genuine Jersey produce.
A building block of Island life – quite literally – types of granite, or grannit in Jèrriais, can be seen in almost every corner of Jersey. Formed hundreds of million years ago by molten rock cooling and solidifying between the Earth’s surface, this intrusive rock has stood the test of time. Jersey granites have been used as a building material for thousands of years. To build walls, slipways, places of worship, schools, houses and traditional farm buildings like the one pictured at Manor Farm, St Ouen. Look out for granite features when you are out and about.
You can find gravel, gravyi in Jèrriais, in lots of places: gardens, driveways, indoor plant pots or stuck in your shoes! At sea, our ancestors even named the gravel banks, like ‘Les Graviers du Petit Port’.
As an Island surrounded by the sea, Jersey has a deep connection to maritime heritage. A boat, or baté in Jèrriais, was an essential possession for lots of our ancestors in order to make a living – catching fish to feed their families and navigating Jersey’s offshore reefs.
This slipway, or montée in Jèrriais, at L’Étacq in the west of the Island was built in the 1860s. Most of the protective seawalls in Jersey were not built until the early 19th century – initially in St Ouen to prevent the ongoing loss of farmland. Slipways were constructed in each parish, designed mainly to allow access to the shore to gather vraic (seaweed) or to launch a small boat. The cobbles, or setts, used to build slipways were traditionally laid at a raked angle to prevent cartwheels and horses hooves from slipping. Today, the Island’s slipways give Jersey’s seaside a unique character and offer the perfect platform for a quick dip.
corps dé garde
As an Island, Jersey has a complex military history. Guardhouses, or corps dé garde in Jèrriais, were used by the local militia to keep a watchful eye over Jersey’s coastal waters and look out for smugglers, pirates or possible invaders. Defence posts like the corps dé garde located above Bouley Bay were built during the 18th century and can be found all over the Island.
Head to the northern end of St Ouen’s Bay and you’ll find the Island’s oldest bedrock beneath your feet at L’Étacq, or L’Êtacq’sé in Jèrriais. This place name, like others in Jersey, is Old Norse for stack or large rock. It’s likely that Viking raiders did what we all tend to do – chose a fitting name for a new place according to a distinctive feature. For L’Étacq this is the stack which also has it’s own name Le Grand Étacquerel.