A glossary of Channel Island terms

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Glossary of Jersey terms


The colombier at Samares Manor

Jersey has many job titles, geographical terms, weights and measures and other words which are unique to the island, or have a meaning different to that found elsewhere.

This list and the descriptions to which it links, are partly based on a 1945 article by historian the Rev George Balleine and also on Christopher Aubin's 2011 book A Glossary for the Historian of Jersey.

The glossary includes a selection of words relating to the structure and positions in the era when Jersey was administered on a feudal basis, with power lying in the hands of the seigneurs of the fiefs.

This glossary is an introduction to some of the more obscure subjects to be found within our pages.


  • Abjuration, the process by which Huguenot Roman Catholic immigrants from France were required to renounce their religion
  • Acre - Ancient land measures equivalent to two Vergees.
  • Advocate, a lawyer with a right of hearing before the courts of Jersey
  • Appairiement, a formal list of the tenants of a fief with their holdings in that fief and rentes foncieres due. [1]
  • Arpenteur public, land surveyor or measurer, qualified to provide land measurements for the Royal Court and also for private clients in connection with leases and property transactions.
  • Assize d'Heritage, an ancient land court unique to Jersey
  • Assize, a judicial inquiry conducted by Judges acting under special commission, nowdays a court trial before a jury[2]
  • Assize Roll, a record of the triennial Crown Commissioners' visits in the 13th and 14th centuries
  • Attorney-General, the senior law officer in Jersey


Bannelais collection
  • Bailiff, the head of the island's judiciary and speaker of the States
  • Bailiwick, the Channel Islands are divided into the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey. It is sometimes claimed that the official name of Jersey is 'Bailiwick of Jersey' but this is incorrect. Jersey is the only inhabited part of the Bailiwick of Jersey, which also includes a number of offshore reefs, including Les Minquiers and Les Ecréhous. The Bailiwick of Guernsey includes Alderney, Sark and Herm and other smaller islands, some inhabited and some not
  • Bannelais - the old process of collecting road sweepings which were sold at auction for use in soil improvement on farms
  • Banon, animal grazing rights [3]
  • Billet d'Etats, the agenda and papers relating to a meeting of the States
  • Bouvée, a land measure from the 14th century and earlier, equivalent to 24 vergées. Those occupying a bouvée in Jersey had a significant standing in their parish. A caruée was equal to ten bouvées.
  • Branchage, cutting of roadside verges and hedges


  • Cabot, a measure of volume, unique to Jersey: an eighth of a quartier. Important in determining the value of rentes.
  • Centenier, the senior members of the Honorary Police
  • Champart, a levy of every twelfth sheaf harvested owed to the Seigneur of a Fief
  • Charabanc, the forerunner of today's coach
  • Chef rente, the rent owed by tenants to the Seigneur of a Fief
  • Chemin, a road
  • Chevauchée, inspection of the roads by the Feudal Court
  • Chief Minister, senior Minister of the island's government
  • Churchwarden, parish church officers [4]
  • Clameur de Haro, an ancient legal injunction, unique to the Channel Islands, which can be invoked by any islander who believes he is being treated unjustly
  • Clos, a cul-de-sac
  • Colloquy, old church court [5]
  • Colombier, a dovecot. Only the seigneurs of major fiefs were permitted to have colombiers, on the basis that the doves/pigeons fed on the grain in surrounding fields. An illegally erected colombier would have to be demolished, or a fine paid to allow it to remain.
  • Congé, levy paid by the purchaser of property to the Seigneur of a Fief
  • Consistory, old weekly church meeting [6]
  • Constable, the elected head of each parish.
  • Constable's Officer, junior members of the Honorary Police [7]
  • Coutume, the customary Norman law which applied in the Channel Islands from 933 to 1204 when they were part of the Duchy of Normandy, much of it remaining in force to this day.
  • Crown Officers, the generic term applying to the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General
  • Cueillette, district of Parish of Saint Ouen - all other parishes have Vingtaines


  • Deacon, ancient church officer [8]
  • Dean, heads of the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church in Jersey
  • Denunciator, old court officer
  • Deputy, elected States Member
  • Deputy Bailiff, the Bailiff's deputy
  • Deputy from the States, States Member appointed to appear before the Privy Council [9]
  • Desastre, a bankruptcy procedure dating from the 18th century
  • Droits seigneuriaux, the ancient feudal rights of Seigneurs, finally abolished in 1966
  • Duke of Normandy, the title by which islander still refer to the Queen


  • Ecclesiastical Assembly, Parish meeting to transact Church business, chaired by the Rector
  • Ecclesiastical Court, Court to deal with church disputes [10]
  • Ecrivain, lawyer performing the role of solicitor [11]
  • Eperquerie, a seigneural right
  • Esquire, an ancient title [12]
  • Extente, a statement of Crown Revenues


  • Farm, a figure set in medieval times for tax due to the King
  • Fief, an ancient division of the island, owned by a Seigneur, who is in many ways similar to English Lords of the Manor. Today the Seigneurs have lost all their powers, although some are still associated with ancient customs relating to their ultimate "lord", the English monarch. Fiefs of Jersey
  • Feudal Court, the annual assembly of all the tenants of a Fief [13]





  • Jèrriais, the island's Norman-French dialect
  • Jersey, the island, and Bailiwick of Jersey
  • Judge Delegate, Jurat acting as Bailiff until the swearing in of a successor. [17]
  • Jurat, elected lay judge of the Royal Court



  • Mession, the period between sowing and reaping of crops when land was not open for grazing (see Banon).
  • Militia, the Island's resident military force
  • Minister, political head of States department [20]


  • Normandy, the closest French region, with links to picture galleries of towns twinned with Jersey parishes
  • Notary, legal official appointed by the Church [21]


  • Ouie de paroisse, a verbal notification, made in a parish after Sunday service, of the terms of a private transaction


  • Parish, 12 administrative divisions of the island
  • Parish Assembly, official meeting of parishioners
  • Partage, A legal agreement to divide inherited real estate between heirs
  • Poulage, levy on each dwelling house, originally paid in chickens, owed to the Seigneur of a Fief
  • Prevot, officer of Seigneural court [22]
  • Principal, ratepayer entitled to attend Parish Assembly [23]
  • Procureur du Bien Public, parish official [24]


  • Quintelage - table of amounts due by each tenant of a Fief


  • Receiver General, administrator of Crown revenues
  • Rector, incumbent of parish church
  • Regent, mediaeval title in France for a schoolmaster, given in Jersey to the headmasters of the grammar schools of St Anastase and St Mannelier, neither of which exists today
  • Rentes, an old form of mortgage
  • Retrait lignager, an old right by which any blood relation of a seller could buy back a property for same price as the buyer had paid, to keep it in the family.
  • Roads Committtee, elected parish committee [25]
  • Royal Commissioner, appointed by the Privy Council to investigate complaints
  • Royal Court, the island's senior court of justice



  • Tenant, land owner [28]
  • Terre à l'Amende (literally "penalty land"), private property on which the landowner has the authority to apply fines for unauthorised use


  • Vavasseur, reports any changes in tenancy to the Feudal Court
  • Vergee, land measure [29]
  • Vingtaine, district of a parish. Only St Ouen has Cueillettes
  • Vingtenier, Honorary Police officer [30]
  • Viscount, Court officer
  • Vraic, seaweed


Further reading

  • A Glossary for the Historian of Jersey, by C N Aubin. This Jersey Heritage publication, still in print, is heavily weighted towards legal terms, but can be very useful for anyone conducting detailed research into their family history involving the study of contracts and other court documents.

Notes and references

  1. The tenants were subdivided into chefs de charette and aides. Each chef was responsible for being or providing the prevot on an annual rota, the aides assisted in the financing of the post. This system of organisation had evolved by the 16th century in replacement of the bouvée system. It also applied to the paying of prévoté, and on some fiefs the provision of the sergent and other duties owed by the tenants. New apperiements were periodically drawn up at the instigation of the court to allow for the change of ownership of land due to inheritance and alienation. The tenants were required by an Act of Court to produce aveux of their holdings and the rentes and services due on pain of saisie of the land held on the fief. A list of known surviving apperiements (the earliest example being that of the Crown fief in the parish of Grouville for 1595) is to be found in the Société Jersiaise library.
    • Apprécieur, a valuer of land. Each of the 12 parishes has appointed six since 1891.
  2. Before the loss of Normandy in 1204 Jersey was visited triennially by Norman judges. In 1218 Henry III ordered the Warden of the Isles to hold Assizes, "as they were observed in the time of our grandfather", ie Henry II. But the Warden used to appoint judges out of his local officials. This system favoured the local administration, and protests arose; so in 1323 Justices Itinerant began to be sent from England. In 1331 this was discontinued, and the administration of justice left to the Royal Court, with appeal to the Privy Council. The later plan of sending Royal Commissioners to inquire into complaints to some extent took the place of the old Assizes. The Assize Rolls for 1299, 1304, 1309, 1320, 1333, and 1331 are preserved in the Record Office. Today the term has come to be used for criminal trials before the Royal Court. The Bailiff or Deputy Bailiff sits with two or more Jurats and a jury of 12 (formerly 24) islanders to try serious allegations under Common Law. The accused has the right to request to be tried, not by a jury but solely by the Jurats. In either case, in the event of a conviction it is the Jurats who decide on sentence. Offences against statute law are always tried by Jurats and not by a jury.
  3. By Jersey law, based on the old Coutume of Normandy, much private land was only private for six months of the year. From the end of harvest till March all land, not enclosed by a hedge from ancient times, was thrown open, and any parishioner might release his cattle to graze on it. This was known as the season of banon. This right was recognised and enforced by the Code of 1771, and was again affirmed and regulated by an Act of the States as late as 1810
  4. Surveillant: Two church officers in each parish appointed by the Ecclesiastical Assembly. The Rector has the right to nominate one not only "to keep the Church in repair, and to see that all things appertaining to the ministration of the Word and Sacraments be provided", but also during the 17th and 18th centuries "to search during Divine Service places suspected of gaming, taverns, and tippling-houses", and to present before the Ecclesiastical Court "all Papists, Heretics, and Schismatics, blasphemers, such as have recourse to wizards, incestuous persons, and drunkards' ' (Canons of 1623). The parochial poor relief used to be in the Churchwardens' hands, except in St Helier, where, since 1908, it has been administered by a special Committee, on which however the Churchwardens have a seat ex officio.
  5. Colloque. Under the Calvinist regime the Church Court in Jersey was composed of all Ministers and one Elder from each parish, meeting quarterly to exercise judicial and legislative powers
  6. Consistoire. Under the Calvinist regime a weekly meeting of the Minister, Elders, and Deacons of the parish to transact church business and enforce discipline
  7. Constable's Officers are the lowest rank of the elected police officers, collectively known as the Honorary Police who represent a Vingtaine in a Parish (or a Cueillette in St Ouen). Constables Officers do not have to live within that district but must live within the parish at the time of their election. If they move in the interim they are allowed to complete their term of office. They assist both the Centeniers and Vingteniers of the Parish with general policing matters
  8. Under the Calvinist regime a Church officer "ordained to receive the offerings of the people after the sermon, and to distribute them according to the needs of the poor by the advice of the Consistory". The name survived the establishment of Anglicanism for a considerable time. The word Almoner, Collecteur des Aumones, has now taken its place.
  9. Since the 17th century, when difficulties have arisen with the British Government, the States have appointed one or more of their members to represent them before the Privy Council. This has always been regarded as a high honour
  10. This court is mentioned in 1391. It dealt with Church disputes, testamentary questions, and offences against morals. Before the reformation it also claimed the right to try all clerics accused of crime. During the Calvinist regime it ceased to exist. After its reconstitution in 1623 it was largely a Court of morals, dealing with "blasphemers, adulterers, fornicators, drunkards, and profaners of the Sabbath", its weapons being excommunication and public penance. This side of its work was quietly dropped in 1838; but it still deals with cases of clergy discipline, disputes about church buildings, and the legitimisation of children. It swears in Church officers, registers Notaries, and was the Probate Court of the island. The Dean is the judge with the Rectors as assessors, whose opinion he is bound to ask, but is not bound to adopt
  11. Lawyers who do most of the work performed by Solicitors in England. Formerly admitted by the Bailiff without any test, since 1867 they must have worked five years in an Advocate's or Ecrivain's office, and then have passed a local law examination. Advocates may appear in all Courts and may perform all the work of a solicitor. A solicitor or ecrivain performs all the usual work of a solicitor but may appear only in the Petty Debts Court. They may qualify by only taking Jersey exams
  12. A much coveted title in Jersey about which there was frequent dispute; the island followed the French rule, by which Ecuyers were reckoned as the Third Order of the Noblesse (Lords, Knights, Esquires). An Ecuyer was one of the Noblesse. In Jersey it was at first reserved for Seigneurs of the greater fiefs. In 1712 it was extended to all Jurats. In 1786 a Guernsey Order in Council, registered in Jersey, granted it to all Militia officers above the rank of Lieutenant
  13. From the time before the Norman Conquest of 1066 brought the Channel Islands under the control of the English monarch, until well into the Middle Ages, the power in the islands lay with the Seigneurs of individual fiefs. Fiefs predate the divison of the islands into parishes, which were for a long time purely ecclesiastical divisions. Jersey was slow to develop central administrations around the Royal Court and the seigneurs of the larger and more important fiefs oversaw all administrative functions, including tax gathering and the maintenance of such roads as existed, and administered justice through their own courts. The nature of justice and the penalties imposed at the time meant that some of the fiefs had their own gallows and the seigneurs literally held the power of life or death over their tenants
  14. Gentilhomme. Originally a man, not a nobleman, who was entitled to bear heraldic arms. Long after the word had become in England a mere expression of courtesy given to anyone of good social position, Jersey stood rigidly by the older meaning, and added it to the name as a title, eg "Elie Dumaresq, Gent". In the 17th century it was extended to all Seigneurs and Officials of the Court, who did not possess the higher rank of Ecuyer. In the 18th century it became the jealously guarded prerogative of certain leading families. As late as 1829 the Court decided that Francois Le Montais "had the right to describe himself as Gent, because his family had borne this title from time immemorial". But the number of "Gents" was largely increased, when toward the end of the 18th century all Militia Lieutenants were designated in their commissions as "Gentlemen". The title was also given to the eldest sons of Jurats.
  15. This office was a position of some dignity. Two Gentlemen Porters of Mount Orgueil became Bailiffs and one a Viscount. In the English Civil War, when Sir Philippe de Carteret died in Elizabeth Castle, Hungerford, the Gentleman Porter, assumed command. The Gentleman Porter kept the keys of the Castle, was responsible for the opening and closing of the gates, and for the safe custody of all prisoners, political and criminal
  16. The Inferior Number tries criminal cases that are regarded as beyond the jurisdiction of the magistrate. The Jurats act as judges of fact and are required, on the evidence presented, to adjudge whether an offence has been committed, and whether the prosecution has proven its case beyond reasonable doubt. When the accused is proven guilty, the Inferior Number also determines the fine or sentence to be imposed, but cannot sentence a criminal to more than four years imprisonment - if a longer sentence is demanded, sentencing must be referred to the Superior Number
  17. Someone chosen by the States to act as Bailiff from the death or resignation of one Bailiff until the swearing-in of his successor. The role has now become redundant with the introduction of the position of Deputy Bailiff, who assumes the Bailiff's responsibilities until a new appointment is made
  18. In the mediaeval church the Lecteur was an ecclesiastic in minor orders, who led the singing and read the epistle. In Jersey he disappeared during the Calvinist regime, but in England he survived the Reformation as the Parish Cleric, who still led the responses, and often read the lessons. The Canons of 1623 reintroduced him into Jersey after the English pattern. Each parish was ordered to appoint a Clerc or Cousteur "able to read calmly, distinctly, and intelligibly, and reasonably qualified to sing the Psalms." Falle noted in 1734 that the Lecteur usually read the lessons, and Durell added in 1837 that this was still the practice in his day. The last Lecteur, George Frederic Poole of Grouville, died in 1941
  19. In early days the great Abbey of St Martin at Tours had the privilege of coining money, and the city of Tours retained its mint until 1723. Its livres tournois, sols tournois, and deniers tournois were worth rather less than the livres, sols, and deniers minted in Paris. Until October 1834 the tournois coinage remained the legal currency in Jersey. Fines inflicted by the Court were always reckoned in livres tournois. The Extentes show how the value of this livre varied when compared with sterling. In 1331 it was worth 3 shillings; in 1668 1s 6½d; in 1730 1s 5d; in 1749 1s 4d; in 1833 9¼d. Of the lesser coins 12 deniers made a sol; 20 sols made a livre.
  20. Since the switch in 2005 from a system of government by independent committees answerable to the States, Jersey's administration has been led by a team of nine ministers, making up the Council of Ministers, under a Chief Minister
  21. An official commissioned to provide evidence as to the authenticity of important papers, to attest documents being sent to another country, and to take affidavits. In 1703, when Martin de Gruchy tried to practise in Jersey, English Notaries were appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Royal Court refused to recognise the Archbishop's authority, but an Order in Council compelled them to do so. In Jersey Notaries are still appointed by the Archbishop, and register their appointment in the Ecclesiastical Court
  22. Originally every Seigneurial Court had its Prevot, appointed annually on some Fiefs by the Seigneur, on others by the Tenants, "to guard the rights of the Seigneur and the tenants, to make good all summonses and loyal records, and to pay the corn-rentes, fermes, and extracts". He had to enforce all orders of the Court and all bye-laws of the Fief. With the decay of the Seigneurial Courts these officials died out except on the King's Fiefs, where one is still appointed for each of the ten parishes that contain a Royal Manor. At every Assise d’Heritage the Prevots du Roi hand in lists of persons who have died without direct heirs, of persons presumed to 'be dead, of wreckage, treasure-trove, and other information from which the King should benefit'. In time their duties were extended to the collection of all amounts in their parish due to the King, whether the debtors lived on or off the Crown Fief, including fines imposed by the Royal Court. They also serve summonses in their parish. In two parishes, St Ouen and St Clement, which have no Crown Fief, these duties are performed by the Prevots of the neighbouring parishes of St Mary and Grouville.
  23. Assessed above a certain figure, only Principals were entitled to attend the Parish Assembly before a law change in 1975 opened it to all electors
  24. A trustee whose main duty is to pass deeds or contracts, to conduct parish law suits, and to keep a watchful eye on the Constable’s finances. Until 2003 they were elected by the Parish Assembly, but now they are elected by public election.
  25. A Roads Committee forms part of the municipality in each parish, responsible for parish roads. It oversees the repair and maintenance of by-roads in the parish, establishes boundary stones, examines planning applications that fall within its responsibilities, supervises refuse collection, adjudicates fines during the Visite du Branchage, and proposes new road names, when necessary, for approval by the Parish Assembly. The Constable presides over the Roads Committee, which also includes the Rector and three Principals of the Parish [five Principals for Saint Helier] elected for a term of three years by the Parish Assembly. The Parish Assembly elects two Roads Inspectors for each Vingtaine (or Cueillette in St Ouen) for a three-year term of office. Roads Inspectors are responsible for the repair of by-roads of the Parish. In St Helier the larger committee also undertakes additional non-statutory responsibilities with regard to parks and other matters, and acts as an advisory body to the Constable.
  26. Constitutional reforms in Jersey in 1948 in the wake of the German Occupation led to the removal of Jurats from the States and the introduction of 12 Senators in their place. The Senators were elected on an island-wide mandate to serve for nine years. This term was designed to provide continuity, but was later reduced to six years, still twice the term of office of Deputies and Constables. Although it was possible to gain entry to the States for the first time by standing in a Senatorial election, many holders of the office served an apprenticeship as Deputy. The Senators were looked upon as the senior members of the house. The position was abolished and the 2022 election returned only Deputies and Constables to the States
  27. The Superior Number acts as a sentencing body and a court of appeal. In cases heard by the Inferior Number where a sentence of more than four years imprisonment has been demanded, the Superior Number will be asked to set the sentence.The Superior Number also hears appeals against convictions in trials conducted before the Inferior Number.
  28. He owned his own land for which he paid no rent, but the Seigneur of the Fief could claim from him certain rights, which have varied on different fiefs and at different periods.
  29. A vergee is a unit of area, a quarter of the French acre. The term derives from Latin virga (rod) via the French verge (yard). In the Channel Islands, it is a standard measure of land, but the statutory definition differs between the bailiwicks. In Jersey, a vergee is 19,360 square feet (1,798.6 m²). It is 40 (square) Jersey perches. A Jersey perch is 22 imperial feet on each side
  30. A rank in the Honorary Police. Every parish (except Saint Ouen, where the sub-divisions are called Cueillettes) is divided into Vingtaines, originally containing about 20 families. In each a Vingtenier is elected to collect the rate (except in St Helier, which has a paid collector) and to help the Constable and Centeniers to preserve the peace
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