La Société Jersiaise



Prince Peter Kropotkin in Jersey


Russia and Jersey

Kropotkin visited the Channel Islands on at least three occasions - 1890, 1896 and 1903.




Un visiteur distingué

Le Prince Krapotkin dont le nom a si souvent paru dans les nouvelles politiques de l'Europe, il y a quelques années, est arrivé Jeudi dernier dans notre pays, et est allé résider à Eagle House, David Place. Le Prince, né à Moscou en 1842, a pris une part marquée dans les questions socialistes, et a rencontré dans le cours de son existence bien des vicissitudes. En 1882, lorsqu'il visitait Thonon, il fut condamné par la police correctionnelle de Lyon, à cinq années d'emprisonnement pour participation dans l'Association Internationale des Ouvriers, cette condamnation rigoureuse ayant eu pour motif le désir du Gouvernement Français de concilier la Russie. Il fut relâché en 1886 et retourna en Angleterre, et durant l'année dernière il a fait des conférences dans diverses parties du pays sur les questions socialistes. Le Prince, dont la résidence permanente est à Harrow, a passé deux journées à Guernesey avant de venir ici; il logeait à l'Hôtel Gardner. Sa visite dans notre pays, où il est venu principalement pour se rétablir après une attaque récente d'influenza, est d'un caractère tout-à-fait privé.

Nouvelle Chronique de Jersey 7/5/1890




Prince Krapotkin

Amongst the passengers to the Island per the Gazelle yesterday was Prince Krapotkin, who was, it will be remembered, some years ago a prominent figure in the political arena of Europe, being a noted Russian revolutionary leader. Born in 1842 at Moscow, he was, says Hazell's Annual, formerly aide-de-camp to the Military Governor of Transkaibalia * (1863-67), during which he made many journeys in Siberia and Manchuria. He studied from 1866 to 1872 at St. Petersburg University, and joined the most advanced Anarchist section of the International Working Men's Association in Belgium in the latter year. Returning to Russia, he took part in the Tchaykovsky conspiracy; was arrested in 1874, and after two years' imprisonment escaped to England. In 1879 he founded the Anarchist paper La Révolte, at Geneva, whence he was expelled in 1881. He then commenced a crusade against Russian Government in the English and French press. In 1882, whilst on a visit to Thonon, he was condemned by the Police Correctionnelle at Lyons to five years' imprisonment for participating in the International Working Men's Association, ths harsh measure being due to the desire of the French Government to conciliate Russia. He was released in 1886, and returned to England, and during the past year has delivered lectures on Socialistic questions in various parts of the country. He is well-known as a frequent contributor to scientific journals on geographical, ethnographical and other subjects, and is stated to hold ultra-revolutionary views and to represent the most Anarchist section of the Russian Nihilist party. The Prince, whose permanent residence is at Harrow, had been staying in the sister Island of Guernsey since Tuesday morning, where he put up at Gardner's Royal Hotel. His visit to Jersey is, we hear, of and entirely private character, being mainly for the purpose of recuperation after a recent attack of influenza. The Prince, who is staying at a private boarding house, travelled alone, but was to-day joined by a Swedish gentleman friend. He is understood to be highly pleased with what he has so far seen of the Island.

Jersey Times and British Press 2/5/1890

* Transbaikalia




Market-gardeners of Paris, Troyes, Rouen, Scotch and English gardeners, Flemish farmers, peasants of Jersey, Guernsey, and farmers on the Scilly Isles have opened up such large horizons that the mind hesitates to grasp them. While up till lately a family of peasants needed at least seventeen to twenty acres to live on the produce of the soil - and we know how peasants live - we can no longer say what is the minimum area on which all that is necessary to a family can be grown, even including articles of luxury, if the soil is worked by means of intensive culture.

From The Conquest of Bread




Another illustration of this sort may be taken from the Channel Islands, whose inhabitants have happily not known the blessings of Roman law and landlordism, as they still live under the common law of Normandy. The small island of Jersey, eight miles long and less than six miles wide, still remains a land of open-field culture; but, although it comprises only 28,707 acres, rocks included, it nourishes a population of about two inhabitants to each acre, or 1,300 inhabitants to the square mile, and there is not one writer on agriculture who, after having paid a visit to this island, did not praise the well-being of the Jersey peasants and the admirable results which they obtain in their small farms of from five to twenty acres - very often less than five acres - by means of a rational and intensive culture.

Most of my readers will probably be astonished to learn that the soil of Jersey, which consists of decomposed granite, with no organic matter in it, is not at all of astonishing fertility, and that its climate, though more sunny than the climate of these isles, offers many drawbacks on account of the small amount of sun-heat during the summer and of the cold winds in spring. But so it is in reality, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century the inhabitants of Jersey lived chiefly on imported food. (See Appendix L.) The successes accomplished lately in Jersey are entirely due to the amount of labour which a dense population is putting in the land; to a system of land-tenure, land-transference and inheritance very different from those which prevail elsewhere; to freedom from State taxation; and to the fact that communal institutions have been maintained, down to quite a recent period, while a number of communal habits and customs of mutual support, derived therefrom, are alive to the present time. As to the fertility of the soil, it is made partly by the sea-weeds gathered free on the sea-coast, but chiefly by artificial manure fabricated at Blaydon-on-Tyne, out of all sorts of refuse - inclusive of bones shipped from Plevna and mummies of cats shipped from Egypt.

It is well known that for the last thirty years the Jersey peasants and farmers have been growing early potatoes on a great scale, and that in this line they have attained most satisfactory results. Their chief aim being to have the potatoes out as early as possible, when they fetch at the Jersey Weigh-Bridge as much as £17 and £20 the ton, the digging out of potatoes begins, in the best sheltered places, as early as the first days of May, or even at the end of April. Quite a system of potato-culture, beginning with the selection of tubers, the arrangements for making them germinate, the selection of properly sheltered and well situated plots of ground, the choice of proper manure, and ending with the box in which the potatoes germinate and which has so many other useful applications, - quite a system of culture has been worked out in the island for that purpose by the collective intelligence of the peasants.

In the last weeks of May and in June, when the export is at its height, quite a fleet, of steamers runs between the small island of Jersey and various ports of England and Scotland. Every day eight to ten steamers enter the harbour of St. Hélier, and in twenty-four hours they are loaded with potatoes and steer for London, Southampton, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Scotland. From 50,000 to 60,000 tons of potatoes, valued at from £260,000 to £500,000, according to the year, are thus exported every summer; and, if the local consumption be taken into account, we have at least 60,000 to 70,000 tons that are obtained, although no more than from 6,500 to 7,500 acres are given to all potato crops, early and late - early potatoes, as is well known, never giving as heavy crops as the later ones. Ten to eleven tons per acre is thus the average, while in this country the average is only six tons per acre.

As soon as the potatoes are out, the second crop of mangold or of "three months' wheat" (a special variety of rapidly growing wheat) is sown. Not one day is lost in putting it in. The potato-field may consist of one or two acres only, but as soon as one-fourth part of it is cleared of the potatoes it is sown with the second crop. One may thus see a small field divided into four plots, three of which are sown with wheat at five or six days' distance from each other, while on the fourth plot the potatoes are being dug out.

The admirable condition of the meadows and the grazing land in the Channel Islands has often been described, and although the aggregate area which is given in Jersey to green crops, grasses under rotation, and permanent pasture - both for hay and grazing - is less than 11,000 acres, they keep in Jersey over 12,300 head of cattle and over 2,300 horses solely used for agriculture and breeding.

Moreover, about 100 bulls and 1,600 cows and heifers are exported every year, so that by this time, as was remarked in an American paper, there are more Jersey cows in America than in Jersey Island. Jersey milk and butter have a wide renown, as also the pears which are grown in the open air, but each of which is protected on the tree by a separate cap, and still more the fruit and vegetables which are grown in the hothouses. In a word, it will suffice to say that on the whole they obtain agricultural produce to the value of £50 to each acre of the aggregate surface of the island.

From Fields, Factories and Workshops




However, the Channel Islands and Belgium still hold the lead in the development of glasshouse culture. The glory of Jersey is, of course, Mr. Bashford's establishment. When I visited it in 1890, it contained 490,000 square feet under glass - that is, nearly thirteen acres - but seven more acres under glass have been added to it since. A long row of glasshouses, interspersed with high chimneys, covers the ground-the largest of the houses being 900 feet long and forty-six feet wide; this means that about one acre of land, in one piece, is under glass. The whole is built most substantially: granite walls, great height, thick " twenty-seven oz. glass" (of the thickness of three pennies), ventilators which open upon a length of 200 and 300 feet by working one single handle; and so on. And yet the most luxurious of these greenhouses was said by the owners to have cost less than 1s. the square foot of glass (13d. the square foot of ground), while the other houses have cost much less than that. From 5d. to 9d. the square foot of glass is the habitual cost, without the heating apparatus - 6d. being a current price for the ordinary glasshouses.

But it would be hardly possible to give an idea of all that is grown in such glasshouses, without producing photographs of their insides. In 1890, on the 3rd of May, exquisite grapes began to be out in Mr. Bashford's vineries, and the crop was continued till October. In other houses, cartloads of peas bad already been gathered, and tomatoes were going to take their place after a thorough cleaning of the house. The 20,000 tomato plants, which were going to be planted, had to yield no less than eighty tons of excellent fruit (eight to ten pounds per plant). In other houses melons were grown instead of the tomatoes. Thirty tons of early potatoes, six tons of early peas, and two tons of early French beans had already been sent away in April. As to the vineries, they yielded no less than twenty-five tons of grapes every year. Besides, very many other things were grown in the open air, or as catch crop, and all that amount of fruit and vegetables was the result of the labor of thirty-six men and boys only, under the supervision of one single gardener - the owner himself; true that in Jersey, and especially in Guernsey, everyone is a gardener. About 1,000 tons of coke were burnt to beat these houses. Mr. W. Bear, who had visited the same establishment in 1886, was quite right to say that from these thirteen acres they obtained money returns equivalent to what a farmer would obtain from 1,300 acres of land.

I hardly need say that Mr. Rider Haggard, who visited Jersey and Guernsey in 1901, gave of these two islands the same enthusiastic description as his predecessors. "I can only state in conclusion," he wrote, "that for my part, here (in Jersey) as in Guernsey, I was amazed at the prosperity of the place. That so small an area of land can produce so much wealth is nothing short of astonishing. It is true, as I have shown, that the inquirer hears some grumblings and fears for the future; but when on the top of them he sees a little patch of twenty-three and one-third acres of land, such as I have instanced, and is informed that quite recently it sold at an auction for £5,760, to be used, not for building sites but for the cultivation of potatoes, he is perhaps justified in drawing his own conclusions." It need not be added that, like all his predecessors, Mr. Haggard disposes of the legend of extraordinary natural fertility of the soil, and shows at what a considerable expenditure the heavy crops of potatoes are obtained.

However, it is in the small "vineries" that one sees, perhaps, the most admirable results. As I walked through such glass-roofed kitchen gardens, I could not but admire this recent conquest of man. I saw, for instance, three-fourths of an acre heated for the first three months of the year, from which about eight tons of tomatoes and about 200 lb. of French beans had been taken as a first crop in April, to be followed by two crops more. In these houses one gardener was employed with two assistants, a small amount of coke was consumed, and there was a gas engine for watering purposes, consuming only 13s. worth of gas during the quarter. I saw again, in cool greenhouses - simple plank and glass shelters - pea plants covering the walls, for the length of one quarter of a mile, which already had yielded by the end of April 3,200 lb. of exquisite peas and were yet as full of pods as if not one had been taken off.

I saw potatoes dug from the soil in a cool greenhouse, in April, to the amount of five bushels to the twenty-one feet square. And when chance brought me, in 1896, in company with a local gardener, to a tiny, retired "vinery" of a veteran grower, I could see there, and admire, what a lover of gardening can obtain from so small a space as the two-thirds of an acre, two small "houses" about forty feet long and twelve feet wide, and a third-formerly a pigsty, twenty feet by twelve-contained vine trees which many a professional gardener would be happy to have a look at; especially the whilom pigsty, fitted with "Muscats"! Some grapes (in June) were already in full beauty, and one fully understands that the owner could get in 1895, from a local dealer, £4 for three bunches of grapes (one of them was a "Colmar," 13 3/4 lb. weight). The tomatoes and strawberries in the open air, as well as the fruit trees, all on tiny spaces, were equal to grapes; and when one is shown on what a space half a ton of strawberries can be gathered under proper culture, it is hardly believable.

From Fields, Factories and Workshops




In Jersey I even saw a row of five houses, the walls of which were made of corrugated iron, for the sake of cheapness. Of course, the owner himself was not over-sanguine about his houses. "They are too cold in winter and too hot in summer". But although the five houses cover only less than one-fifth of an acre, 2,000 lb. of green peas had already been sold as a first crop; and, in the first days of June, the second crop (about 1,500 of tomatoes) was already in good progress.

From Fields, Factories and Workshops




As a rule, the Guernsey and Jersey growers have only three crops every year from their greenhouses. They will start, for instance, potatoes in December. The houses will, of course, not be heated, fires being made only when a sharp frost is expected at night; and the potato crop (from eight to ten tons per acre) will be ready in April or May before the open-air potatoes begin to be dug out. Tomatoes will be planted next and be ready by the end of the summer. Various catch crops of peas, radishes, lettuce and other small things will be taken in the meantime. Or else the house will be "started" in November with melons, which will be ready in April. They will be followed by tomatoes, either in pots, or trained as vines, and the last crop of tomatoes will be in October. Beans may follow and be ready for Christmas. I need to say that every grower has his preference method for utilising his houses, and it entirely depends upon his will and watchfulness to have all sorts of small catch crops. These last begin to have a greater and greater importance, and one can already foresee that the growers under glass will be forced to accept the methods of the French maraîchers, so as to have five and six crops every year, so far as it can be done without spoiling the present high quality of the produce.

From Fields, Factories and Workshops




The excellent state of agriculture in Jersey and Guernsey has often been mentioned in the agricultural and general literature of this country....

Many English writers - certainly not those just named - are inclined to explain the successes obtained in Jersey by the wonderful climate of the islands and the fertility of the soil. As to climate, it is certainly true that the yearly record of sunshine in Jersey is greater than in any English station. It reaches from 1,842 hours a year (1890) to 2,300 (1893), and thus exceeds the highest aggregate sunshine recorded in any English station by from 188 to 338 hours (exclusively high maximum in 1894) a year; May and August seeming to be the best favoured months. But, to quote from the just mentioned work of Ansted and Latham :-

"There is, doubtless, in all the islands, and especially in Guernsey, an absence of sun heat and of the direct action of the sun's rays in summer, which must have its effect; and a remarkable prevalence of cold, dry, east wind in late spring, retarding vegetation" (p. 407). Everyone who has spent, be it only two or three weeks in late spring in Jersey, must know by experience how true this remark is. Moreover there are the well-known Guernsey fogs, and "owing also to rain and damp the trees suffer from mildew and blight, as well as from various aphides." The same author remark that the nectarine does not succeed in Jersey in the open air "owing to the absence of autumn heat" ; that "the wet autumns and cold summers do not agree with the apricot;" and so on.

If Jersey potatoes are, on the average, three weeks in advance of those grown in Cornwall, the fact is fully explained by the continual improvements made in Jersey in view of obtaining, be it ever so small, quantities of potatoes a few days in advance, either by special care taken to plant them out as soon as possible, protecting them from the cold winds, or by choosing tiny pieces of land naturally protected or better exposed. The difference in price between the earliest and the later potatoes being immense, the greatest efforts are made to obtain an early crop.....

The quantities of early potatoes exported varied during the years 1901 to 1910 from 47,530 tons to 77,800 tons, and their value from £233,289 to £475,889.

As to the fertility of the soil, it is still worse advocacy, bccause there is no area in the United Kingdom of equal size which would be manured to such an extent as the area of Jersey and Guernsey is by means of artificial manure. In the seventeenth century, as may be seen from the first edition of Falle's Jersey, published in 1694, the island "did not produce that quantity as is necesssry for the use of the inhabitants, who must be supplied from England in time of peace, or from Dantzic in Poland." In The Groans of the Inhabitants of Jersey, published in London in 1709, we find the same complaint. And Quayle, who wrote in 1812 and quoted the two works just mentioned, in his turn complained in these terms : "The quantity at this day raised is quite inadequate to their sustenance, apart from the garrison" (General View of the Agriculture and the Present State of the Islands on the Coast of Normandy, London. 1815, p. 77 ) And he added : " After making all allowance, the truth must be told; the grain crops are here foul, in some instances execrably so," And when we consult the modern writers, Ansted, Latham, and Nicolle, we learn that the soil is by no means rich. It is decomposed granite, and easily cultivable, but "it contains no organic matter besides what man has put into it."

This is certainlv the opinion anyone will come to if he only visits thoroughly the island and looks attentively to its soil - to say nothing of the Quenvais where, in Quayle's time, there was "an Arabian desert " of sands and hillocks covering about seventy acres (p. 24), with a little better but still very poor soil in the north and west of it. The fertility of the soil has entirely been made, first, by the vraic (sea-weeds), upon which the inhabitants have maintained communal rights; later on, by considerable shipments of manure, in addition to the manure of the very considerable living stock which is kept in the island; and finally, by an admirably good cultivation of the soil.

Much more than sunshine and good soil, it was the condition of land-tenure and the low taxation which contributed to the remarkable development of agriculture in Jersey. First of all, the people of the Isles know but little of the tax-collector. While the English pay, in taxes, an average of 50s. per head of population ; while the French peasant is over-burdened with taxes of all imaginable descriptions; and the Milanese peasant has to give to the Treasury full 30 per cent. of his income - all taxes paid in the Channel Islands amount to but 10s. per head in the town parishes and to much less than than in the country parishes. Besides, of indirect taxes, none are known but the 2s. 6d. paid for each gallon of imported spirits and 9d. per gallon of imported wine.

As to the conditions of land-tenure, the inhabitants have happily escaped the action of Roman Law, and they continue to live under the coutumier de Normandie (the old Norman common law). Accordingly, more than one-half of the territory is owned by those who themselves till the soil; there is no landlord to watch the crops and to raise the rent before the farmer has ripened the fruit of his improvements; there is nobody to charge so much for each cart-load of sea-weeds or sand taken to the fields; everyone takes the amount be likes, provided he cuts the weeds at a certain season of the year, and digs out the sand at a distance of sixty yards from the high-water mark. Those who buy land for cultivation can do so without becoming enslaved to the money-lender. One-fourth part only of the permanent rent which the purchaser undertakes to pay is capitalised and has to be paid down on purchase (often less than that), the remainder being a perpetual rent in wheat which is valued in Jersey at fifty to fifty-four sous de France per cabot. To seize property for debt is accompanied with such difficulties that it is seldom resorted to (Quayle's General View, pp. 41-46). Conveyances of land are simply acknowledged by both parties on oath, and cost nearly nothing. And the laws of inheritance are such as to preserve the homestead, notwithstanding the debts that the father may have run into (ibid., pp. 35-41).

After having shown how small are the farms in the islands (from twenty to five acres, and very many less than that) - there being "less than 100 farms in either island that exceed twenty-five acres; and of these only about half a dozen in Jersey exceed fifty acres" - Messrs. Ansted, Latham, and Nicolle remark :-

" In no place do we find so happy and so contented a country as in the Channel Islands. . . ." " The system of land-tenure has also contributed in no small degree to their prosperity. . . " " The purchaser becomes the absolute owner of the property, and his position cannot be touched so long as the interest of these [wheat] rents be paid. He cannot be compelled, as in the case of mortgage, to refund the principal. The advantages of such a system are too patent to need any further allusion." (The Channel Islands, third edition, revised by E. Toulmin Nicolle, p. 401; see also p. 443.)

From Fields, Factories and Workshops (Appendix L)






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