17th January 1803

Guernsey’s Royal Court sits for the first time

Guernsey’s legal and political life revolves around the Royal Court. The St Peter Port building that houses it is home to the island’s parliament as well as its civil and criminal courts.

The institution has moved about over the years. For a while it found a home at Elizabeth College, but on the whole it has been focused on central St Peter Port. It moved into its current position at the start of the 19th century and sat there for the first time on 17 January 1803.

The end of home working

The Royal Court’s website recounts how its former premises had been so small that the island’s clerks (greffiers) had been obliged to keep the island’s valuable records in their own homes. This was unacceptable, so the decision was made to buy a plot of land in Town and construct a new building that would be large enough to hold not only the records, but the essential departments of government and the law under a single roof. Conveniently, the land they chose was owned by William Le Marchant, who at that time was Guernsey’s Bailiff.

The front of the building was completed just before the turn of the century, but within two decades it was already feeling a little cramped once again, and was extended to the rear.

The Court’s needs continued to evolve as the amount of work that it was undertaking grew. As it entered the new millennium it was no longer fit for purpose, so plans were made to extend it for a second time.

The old prison at the back of the building was demolished and new rooms were built in its place including, perhaps most importantly, new court rooms to handle the close-to 2000 cases it was hearing every year. The extension was completed in 2005, and immediately a 12-month process of renovation got underway on the existing buildings so that they could be brought up to a standard to match.


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Other events that occured in January

Alderney elects its first president 1st
Guille and Alles open their library 2nd
Guernsey bans smoking in public places 3rd
Guernsey Press registers its domain 4th
Guernsey Zoo is sold as a going concern 5th
Guernsey opens its wartime files
Guernsey Police moves to its new headquarters 6th
Guernsey Fisher makes its maiden voyage 7th
Work begins on the Val des Terres 8th
A hotel porter goes on trial for murder 9th
Guernsey Police Service appoints its first inspector 10th
Royal theft inquiry heads to Guernsey 11th
Channel Express Airways plane crashes in Guernsey 12th
Sibyl Hathaway, Dame of Sark, is born 13th
Channel Television disappears 14th
Benefactor Osmond de Beauvoir Priaulx dies 15th
MV Prosperity is wrecked at Perelle 16th
Guernsey’s Royal Court sits for the first time 17th
Doctor Who travels to Guernsey 18th
Channel 4 gameshow Treasure Hunt comes to Guernsey 19th
Hanois Lighthouse is cut off by the weather 20th
Guernsey-built prototype plane crashes 21st
Guernsey Steam Tramway stops running 22nd
Radiant Med sinks with loss of life 23rd
Guernsey wins gold at the Commonwealth Games 24th
Sark is awarded Dark-Sky status 25th
Guernsey passengers are battered by storms 26th
Sir Isaac Newton has his say on a mysterious Guernsey invention 27th
Guernsey’s last witch trial takes place 28th
Guernsey poet George Métivier is born 29th
The States of Guernsey proposes a new airport 30th
Guernsey lifeboat performs a chemical tanker rescue 31st