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Sark

"Sark, the fourth in size of the Channel Islands, stands high, and is surrounded by abrupt cliffs from 100 to 320 feet in height, the land, unlike the other Islands, having no declivity to the sea; it is about 3 miles in length and about 1 miles broad and 9 in circumference, and contains 1,400 English acres, and is the most central and elevated of the whole; it is 6 miles east from Guernsey and 14 miles north-west from Jersey, 18 miles south-west from Alderney, and 24 miles from the French coast. There is a small peninsula, called Little Sark, connected by a natural and very narrow bridge. The rocky scenery throughout the Island is picturesque.

The history of Sark (or, as in the old records, Sercq and Cercq) is necessarily much broken, as at different periods the island was for centuries uninhabited. It was given by Queen Elizabeth, as a reward for faithful services, to Helier de Carteret, of Jersey, his heirs and successors for ever, to be held under the Crown, for which he was to pay yearly a knight's fee of 50 sols into the Court of Guernsey; from that period the Island has been held by its seigneurs or lords. It is one of the smallest states of Europe with a separate legislature, and the only one of the small feudal territories or half sovereignties which has remained unimpaired, those of Germany, Austria, and Prussia being abolished or restricted. The most conspicuous feature at this time is the existence of the law of primogeniture in all its pristine purity, and the original division of the Island into 40 estates remains the same even unto this day. The present lord is Peter Carey Le Pelley, Esq.

The inhabitants are chiefly engaged in agricultural pursuits and fishing. The land generally is very productive, from the nature both of the soil and climate. There are abundance of rabbits in Sark, and in the winter woodcocks and snipes are to be found on the Island. The fish most common are lobsters, crabs, mackerel, whiting, rock-fish, silver bream, cod, soles, and congers; in summer the latter are taken in great abundance.

Although Sark abounds in mineral veins no attempt was made to explore them till the year 1834; a company was then formed for the purpose of working the whole of the mineral veins in the Island, and a lease for 31, but afterwards extended to 39 years, was obtained from the late lord, Peter Le Pelley, Esq, who was drowned, in 1839, crossing from Sark to Guernsey in a small boat. The operations were confined to the metalliferous vein or lode at the south part of the Island, called the Pot, until 1836, when the silver lode, situate in the south-west part of the Island, called Sark's Hope, was discovered. There are four shafts in the mine, varying from 360 to 600 feet in depth; there are eight galleries, three of which are extended on the course of the vein horizontally 3,600 feet, and one is driven 300 feet under the sea. The ores, raised up to the year 1847, when the operations finally ceased and the mines closed, contained upwards of 30,000 ounces of fine silver, in addition to the large quantity of lead.

The Island is in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and forms part of that deanery; there is a neat parochial church, with an appointed clergy-man, who is a perpetual curate, and an Endowed school for the education of children in French and English. The Wesleyans have also a chapel upon the Island. Three-fourths of the Island is under cultivation; potatoes, until recent years, were the chief product of the Island, wheat is now grown to a considerable extent; cows, a few bullocks, sheep, and hogs are reared and sent to the Guernsey market.

Cutters pass to and from Guernsey, daily, during the summer months, and generally twice a week in the winter, weather permitting. Although in the immediate vicinity of Jersey and Guernsey, Sark is considered to possess a climate somewhat different. In the sheltered spots of the Island the winter passes almost without congnizance, and frost may be looked upon as an unexpected visitor, whose stay is brief. The population, according to the census of 1851, was 581.

Tourists and others about to visit the Island of Sark, may obtain every information of Mr. John Russell, Sark Packet Office, Quay, Guernsey.

BRECHNOU is a small Island dependent on the lordship of Sark, 1 mile in circumference, and with two families settled on it."

from Kelly's Post Office Directory, 1857

Note that Sark is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and so much of the Guernsey page is relevant.

Sark Parishes

Sark has a single parish with its church dedicated to St Peter.

Bibliography

'The Fief of Sark' by A.H. Ewan and A.R. de Carteret (Pub. 1969 Guernsey Press). Copies available at the Library of the Société Jersiaise and The Priaulx Library.

Census

Guernsey, Alderney and Sark are included in the decennial (1841 onwards) Census for England and Wales and can be found online, see the GENUKI ENG+WAL Census page.

Sark is included on the Guernsey films of 1841 - 1891 (except 1861, see below). 1841,1851,1881 and 1891 have been indexed and there are copies at The Priaulx Library and in the custody of The Family History Section of La Société Guernesiaise. Both undertake research.

In 1861 Sark was enumerated with Jersey and the Société Jersiaise have copies of this film, as of yet unindexed.

Church Records

St Peter

A History of St Peter's Church

Baptisms, Burials and Marriages from 1570

  • First Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths begun May 19 1570 - 1602 . Missing 1577-1588.
  • Long Book begun April 30 1605 - 1673 and continues 1703-1757. Missing Baptisms 1633-1638 and 1664-1674, Marriages 1644-1661.
  • Third Register contains entries for 1675-1702. After 1702 entries were recorded in the Long Book.
  • 2nd Long Book contains incomplete records of Baptisms and Marriages 1757-1795; no burials are recorded for this period.
  • Fifth Register opened in 1795 - contains records up to 1820, and some entries for 1787-1792 omitted from 2nd Long Book.
  • Sixth Register 1821-1835.
  • Seventh Register 1836 - September 1960.
  • Eighth Register 1960 onwards.

Apart from the omissions recorded above, short gaps occur at changes of Minister. Cosmé Brevint Minister 1570-1605, d. 30.04.1605 and Elie Brevint b. Sark 1586, son of Cosmé, Minister 1612-1674, d. 30.03.1674.

The Priaulx Library, Guernsey has a microfilm set of the Parish Registers. Film 1 1570-1795 . Film 2 1795-1899. Apply direct to the Church for 20th Century registers

Duplicate Sark Church Registers (1570-1795) can also be consulted at the States of Guernsey Island Archives, if you are visiting them but they would prefer that postal research enquiries are directed to the Priaulx Library.

Civil Registration

Birth, Death and Marriage records from 1925 can be found at:
The Greffe, La Chasse Marette, Sark GY9 0SF. Telephone (01481) 832012.
The Greffier's office hours are 2.30-4p.m.Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday.

Court Records

Land Registry Contracts from 1673 to the present day are complete and available to the public at The Greffe, La Chasse Marette, Sark GY9 0SF. Telephone (01481) 832012.

Dwellings

Many older Channel Islands houses have dated stones including the initials of the owners - these are in the process of being located, identified and indexed at the Sark Datestones Project.

Genealogy

The Priaulx Library holds:

Pedigree of the de Carterets of Sark by Alan de Carteret, updated by Mike de Carteret 1996.

'The Fief of Sark' by A.H. Ewan and A.R. de Carteret (Pub. 1969 Guernsey Press). Copies also available at the Library of the Société Jersiaise.

Facsimile of 'News from the Channel or The Discovery and Perfect Description of the Isle of Serke' by a 'Gentleman' printed in G.E. Lee's 'Sark in 1673' (Pub. 1902 - Guernsey) which includes excerts from Elie Brevint's Notebook.

History

The Foundation

To all intents and purposes the family historian's interest in Sark will begin in 1563. In that year, the uninhabited Island was granted to the Seigneur of St Ouen (Jersey), Helier de Carteret, who had offered to take on the defence of the island, which was in danger of becoming occupied by the French.

In 1565 Helier, his wife Margaret and a number of their St Ouen tenants, moved to Sark and began a settlement, bringing everything they needed with them. He was obliged to ensure that the Island would never again become depopulated and could be defended by at least forty men (a quarantine). He parcelled out leased land at a low rental, made large enough to support a family, on condition that a house was put up and the tenant provided one man, armed with a musket and ammunition, to defend the island if necessary.

Helier reserved one sixth of Sark for himself and built his house (Le Manoir). To repay a debt to the Gosselin family of Guernsey, he let them have the second largest site on the Island (Beauregard) on condition they provided four men and paid a rent set at 50 shillings. Gosselin brought the Vaudin and Du Val families and subleased some of his land to them.

The Tenants

Other parcels went to those who had accompanied Helier - their surnames were Le Cerf, Vibert, Chevalier, Le Brocq, Le Couteur, Rogier and Guille from St Ouen, Poingdestre and Hamon from St Saviour, Le Masurier and Le Gros from Trinity. Later arrivals came from St John (Hotton), the Alexandres came from St Peter and a few English folk with vital skills joined them - Smith, Dare, Brayer, Slowley and Roo.

There were also a number of Huguenots, Jean Quesle and his wife Remy Du Puits, respectively a surgeon and midwife and Cosmé Brevint, the first minister who began the first Register in 1570. Later his son Elie took the position. Elie Brevint kept a notebook, in which he recorded all manner of oddments (part of which documented local life) and the manuscript has survived. The dates run from 1620-1628; 1635; 1644; 1649-1650; 1660 and 1663. There are transcripts of this document in the The Priaulx Library and the Société Jersiaise. Various members of the de Carteret family made up many of the remaining numbers.

By 1572 the settlement needed had been undertaken and Helier travelled to England to present the Queen with his report. Elizabeth made the Fief Haubert of Sark separate from St Ouen and gave it to Helier and his heirs in perpetuity, the rent to be 50 sols tournois annually.

Sark Passes from the de Carterets

The fortunes of succeeding Seigneurs wavered and Sark was eventually sold in 1720 to Colonel John Johnson. It passed through the hands of several Englishmen before being bought by the Le Pelley family in 1730 and stayed in their hands until 1852, when the Collings of Guernsey took over after foreclosing on a mortgage.

The 20th Century

During the German Occupation of the Channel Islands, 350 troops were quartered on Sark. The Dame of Sark's battles with the German officers on her island are well documented.

The island is self-governing through the Chief Pleas. The forty settlements remain and the Island still operates on the feudal system, with each tenemant paying an annual rental to the present Seigneur, Mr Michael Beaumont, the grandson of the Dame of Sark.

The 21st Century

Sark is a tourist attraction today, reached by boat from Guernsey. Many of the population of around 600 earn their living in the hospitality industries. The scenery is spectacular and undisturbed by cars or tarmac roads. Exploration can be made by horse and carriage, bicycle or foot. Tractors are the only motorised transport allowed and are used for general farm work, carrying of goods from the harbour and even towing the Island's ambulance!

COMMITTEES OF THE SARK CHIEF PLEAS: Financial Review, Agriculture, Cemetery, Constitutional Review, Development Control, Douzaine, Education, Emergency Services, Firearms, General Purposes and Finance, Hall Management, Harbours, Island Games, Medical, Pilotage, Public Health, Road Traffic, Sea Fisheries, Shipping, Tourism, Millenium. APPEALS TRIBUNALS:Development Control, Road Traffic

Military Records

The Occupation 1940-1945

Identification Register of Residents: Identity Cards for those over 14 - most with photographs - were issued to all Islanders by the German occupying forces and are preserved in the Guernsey Island Archives Service. They are not filed separately from the Guernsey ones but mixed in with them alphabetically.

Taxation

Manuscript Rate Lists (Liste du Rât) available at The Greffe, La Chasse Marette, Sark GY9 0SF. Telephone (01481) 832012.