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The Bailiwick of Guernsey

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is made up of a number of main islands as well as a few smaller islets. It is situated in the English Channel and, although Guernsey is geographically much closer to France than the UK, it is loyal to the British crown.

Alderney is the most northerly of the Channel Islands and is the closest of the islands to England.

Sark lies nearly eight miles east off Guernsey and it is most famous for its enchanting and relaxed pace of life. Herm is a popular retreat for Guernsey locals and visitors alike. Most visit Belvoir Bay or Shell Beach, famous for the tiny shells washed up by the Gulf Stream.

Jethou is a small island covering approximately 44 acres immediately south of Herm. It is thought that it was once connected to Herm by a strip of land that was washed away during a storm in AD709. Jethou is part of the Bailiwick but is not open to the public; it is leased by the States of Guernsey from the Crown.

Brecqhou is a privately owned island just off Sark and Lihou is a small island located on the west coast of Guernsey. This conservation area is owned by the States of Guernsey and can be accessed via a causeway that is exposed during low tides.

Today the Bailiwick of Guernsey is self-governing, has its own currency and stamps and enjoys the same level of independence it has had since first becoming associated with England in 1066, when William II of Normandy defeated King Harold and the Duchy of Normandy and England became one. Prior to this the Channel Islands had been part of the Duchy since the mid-tenth century.

A favourable tax climate means that finance is now one of Guernsey’s main industries with many offshore banks, fund managers and insurance companies having a presence on the Island. The more traditional industries of flower growing, fishing and dairy farming still play an important part in Island life, contributing both to the varied economy and to the island's character.

Guernsey Post Office History

Although letters from Guernsey have been recorded since the fifteenth century, the Guernsey Post Office was not established in the Bailiwick until 1794, when an Act of Parliament on 28 March fixed postage rates and authorised the Postmaster General to set up post offices in the islands. Henry Dundas, MP, named A C MacDougall as the Postmaster, although it was Mrs. Ann Watson who was appointed Guernsey's first Postmistress at her address in the High Street. A regular postal link between Great Britain and the islands was inaugurated on 13 February with the ‘Earl of Chesterfield’ sailing from Weymouth.

In 1840, the uniform Penny Post was introduced using the famous Penny Black stamp which was available from Guernsey's only post office in the Arcade in St Peter Port (now Fletcher Sports shop). In 1883, Guernsey had a post office constructed at Nelson Place, a handsome building in Smith Street, St. Peter Port, designed to meet Post Office requirements.

During the German Occupation, there was a huge shortage of British stamps, meaning that stamps had to be printed locally between 1941-45. It wasn't until 1969, when the States of Guernsey took over the running of postal services from HM Government, that Guernsey began to design and produce its own stamps.

Perhaps one of the most iconic objects associated with the postal service is the postbox, or pillar-box.  These first appeared after the famous English novelist Anthony Trollope, who once worked as a Surveyor's Clerk at the Post Office, suggested fixtures similar to those he had seen on French and Belgian streets. Trollope, who wrote three times as many novels as Dickens, travelled across the world on Post Office business. His work was highly praised and in 1859 he was appointed Surveyor of the Eastern District of England.

In 1852, the state owned service agreed to trial four cast-iron pillar-boxes on Guernsey and three on Jersey; its success led to boxes appearing on mainland Britain the following year. 

In March 1984, Guernsey Post Office opened its purpose-built headquarters at Guelles Road, St Peter Port. Then, in 2001, the States of Guernsey commercialised the Post Office; it became Guernsey Post Ltd and was awarded the licence to operate the reserved sector postal operation and meet the Universal Service Obligation (USO). This constitutional change enabled the new company to operate with increased flexibility, ensuring it would be better equipped to respond to the challenges of working in the modern market place.

Having outgrown its original building, In 2002 Guernsey Post moved a few hundred yards to its current headquarters at Envoy House where it currently employs just over 240 people and delivers around 70 million items of mail each year. Envoy House is also home to Guernsey Post’s philatelic bureau. 

The Bailiwick depicted in the stamps of Guernsey and Alderney

The beautiful Bailiwick of Guernsey is a constant source of inspiration for creating memorable and collectable stamp issues and we are fortunate to be able to showcase its beauty on our stamps.

The remarkable island of Guernsey is just 24 square miles, yet its mild, temperate climate means that the island’s flora, fauna and wildlife are rarely found elsewhere within the British Isles.

Many visitors to Guernsey are drawn to the island’s stunning and varied coastline, with no fewer than 30 bays to choose from.  These range from long, more popular stretches of sand to hidden coves which rarely attract many tourists. The beautiful south coast is lined with stunning cliffs which are ideally explored on foot. 

Guernsey’s unique geographical position sets the scene for a fascinating heritage, with the island playing a central role in battles between the UK and France.  Various occupying forces have built the island’s many fortifications over the centuries and it boasts a rich variety from early Neolithic works, to castles, forts and watchtowers - most recently having been built by the Germans during the Occupation from 1940 to 1945.

The States of Guernsey has restored many of the fortifications and some are open to the public, including the wonderfully preserved Castle Cornet, which dates back to the 13th century.  Situated on an islet off St Peter Port, its purpose was to defend against the French.

St Peter Port, the island’s capital, has been home to a busy harbour as far back as the Roman era, when the Guernsey was a key trading point between France and England. With its cobbled streets and picturesque seafront marina, many consider St Peter Port to be one of Europe's prettiest harbour towns.

Steeped in history, the beautiful, peaceful island of Alderney has been inhabited for over 5,000 years. From its 18 coastal forts reflecting the island’s military importance, to relics from the Stone Age that can be seen in the island’s museum, it is impossible to separate Alderney’s heritage and natural landscape. 

Alderney’s history has been shaped by its key role as a staging post between England and France – something recognised by the Romans who built the ‘Nunnery’, which today is Britain’s best-preserved small Roman fort.  In more recent history, during the 1850s, the island was heavily fortified by the British as a result of the French extending the harbour at Cherbourg.

Alderney boasts a rich marine environment with an impressive range of habitats including woodland, wetland and heathland, as well as sandy beaches, rocky shores and seabeds.  The abundance of different habitats is linked to the island’s mild, temperate climate and powerful tidal conditions, meaning that Alderney is home to numerous animals and plants not normally associated with an island found in the British Isles.

For wildlife lovers a visit to Alderney is a must.  It is very popular with birdwatchers who visit due to the island’s Ramsar status (a wetland of international importance) and boasts 2% of the world’s northern gannet population. 

Alderney is home to a whole multitude of small mammals including bats and hedgehogs - including the rare 'blonde' hedgehog. The waters around Alderney also host a few species of marine mammals, including the Channel Islands’ only colony of European storm petrels and the largest breeding site of a colony of Atlantic puffins.

The issue of conservation is increasingly important within the Bailiwick and the natural world provides a fabulous subject for exciting stamp issues. The unique flora and fauna of the islands appears on many stamp issues, whilst birds are always a popular topic for collecting.

Guernsey and Alderney stamp themes and issues

Over the decades we have built a global reputation for the quality of our stamps and the diversity of the subjects we cover.  For 2017, our Philatelic Bureau has produced an outstanding programme with themes ranging from the 70th Wedding Anniversary of The Queen and Prince Philip to a special stamp for the WWF Endangered Species series featuring the Meadow Pipit bird.

For more information on our 2017 programme please click here.