29th July 1946

Guernsey bought Herm from the mainland

Guernsey bought Herm from the British government for £15,000 on 29 July 1946. The plan had been mooted 12 day earlier. At the time, Herm’s population stood at 30 and Guernsey announced that it intended to open it for visitors.

According to The Times,

The Guernsey States have agreed to purchase the island of Herm from the British Government at a cost of £15,000… the governing principle is the preservation of its natural attractions.

The price would today be worth around £610,000, making it a very worthy investment for Guernsey – and certainly a better option than renting it, as the UK had suggested in April. The Belfast News-Letter reported,

In Guernsey Parliament the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Philip Neame, [had] warned the House that unless Guernsey bought the island there was a danger of a private company establishing a casino and ruining Herm’s ‘fairy-like beauties’. A nudist colony had previously applied to view it.

The 500-acre island had gone on the market in March, less than a year after it had been liberated at the end of the Second World War, throughout which it had been evacuated. At the time, boasted a 9-hole golf course.

The first tenants

Once it had gained possession, the States of Guernsey leased the island to a series of tenants upon the condition that they promoted it as a tourist destination. The first tenant under the new regime was, briefly, AG Jeffries. Jeffries had taken the lease in 1948 but, just the following year, it passed to Major Peter Woods and his wife Jenny. Jenny wrote a book called Our Island Home about the couple’s experiences of renovating the island after moving there.

She outlines how they came to be acquainted with both Jeffries and Herm when Jeffries visited Peter’s parents:

He arrived and brought with him an album full of photographs. He spoke about his island which he said was called Herm, and after coffee was over, opened the album to show his photographs. I drew in my breath sharply as he turned the pages. ‘But I know that island!’ I cried. ‘It’s the one near Sark. I’ve sailed round it and it’s beautiful!’

Although she was raised in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Jenny had frequently holidayed on Sark as a child, and would look across to Herm, which then was occupied by the author Compton Mackenzie.

Jeffries suggested that she and her husband ought to pay it a visit. When they did, they found it in a rotten state. Many of the buildings were close to collapse and, apart from the hotel, seemingly nothing had been renovated since before the war. Nonetheless, aware that they were taking on what would amount to years of hard work, they agreed to buy the lease and organised an overdraft.

They then had to convince the States of Guernsey that they would be worthy tenants – which, over many years, they proved to be. However, Jenny recalls a Guernsey official “gazing speculatively first at Peter then at me, and I was more than a little startled to hear him mutter to himself, ‘You poor people, my heart bleeds for you’.”


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Other events that occured in July

Guernseyman Edward Tupper killed by cannibals 1st
Alderney is occupied by German forces 2nd
Seigneur of Sark, Michael Beaumont, dies aged 88 3rd
Guernsey hosted the Island Games 2003 closing ceremony 4th
New coins are minted for Guernsey 5th
Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum opens 6th
Victor Hugo statue is unveiled in Candie Gardens 7th
First Commando raid of the Second World War 8th
Birth of Sark-based writer Mervyn Peake 9th
Guernsey nurses go on hunger strike 10th
ITV broadcasts first episode of Island at War 11th
A Guernsey man posted himself to Sark 12th
Murderer Peter Robin sentenced to death 13th
Victor Hugo plants his United States of Europe oak 14th
Point Law runs aground off Alderney 15th
Racing yacht Westward is blown up off Guernsey
BBC made its first ever Channel Islands broadcast 16th
The Star received some “grave” news 17th
The Guernsey Martyrs were burned at the stake 18th
Prince Charles and Camilla visit Guernsey 19th
President Garcia is re-floated in Saints Bay 20th
Typhoid suspect holidaymaker flies home 21st
Guernsey Controlling Committee’s Sir John Leale died 22nd
Alderney to Guernsey radio connection established 23rd
Val des Terres was first opened for traffic 24th
The BBC broadcasts from Sark for the first time 25th
Guernsey court escapee was caught again 26th
Braye du Valle was gifted by the crown 27th
Murderer sentenced to death in three hours 28th
Guernsey bought Herm from the mainland 29th
Albert Lamy appointed Guernsey Police Chief Officer 30th
Guernsey to Jersey plane crashed into the sea 31st