The Isle of Jethou lies somewhat centrally in the Channel Islands three miles east of Guernsey and 500 yards south of Herm Island. Unlike the largely autonomous islands of Sark and Alderney within the Bailiwick, Jethou is administered entirely by the States of Guernsey, and elects members to the States of Deliberation as part of the St. Peter Port South electoral district. The island of Jethou is roughly oval in shape and about a half mile long, and has an area of approximately 44 acres (18 hectares; 0.06875 sq mi/0.1781 km²) of which the central plateau accounts for some twenty. Jethou rises fairly steeply from the sea and its highest points reaches 236 feet above sea level. It is privately leased, and not open to the public. It is flanked by two uninhabited islets, Crevichon to the north and Fauconniere to the south. There is one house on the island and two cottages as well as a large garage where vehicles such as quad bikes and tractors are stored. The island’s name contains the Norman -hou suffix, meaning “small island” or “small hill.”
There is evidence of flint manufacturing in an area exposed only at low water between Jethou and Crevichon which shows occupation around 10,000 BC. It is said that in AD 709 a storm washed away the strip of land that connected the island with Herm. Prior to the Norman Conquest of England the island was granted by Duke Robert of Normandy to his admiral, Restald. From him, the island passed into monastic hands and thus it remained throughout much of the Middle Ages. In 1416, it became part of Henry V’s estate. The last monks were displaced in 1540.
After 1540, Jethou became a hunting ground for deer, rabbits and pheasants until the middle of the nineteenth century when the States of Guernsey began quarrying the granite on Crevichon and Jethou, some of which could have been used in the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Thames Embankment. On the top is a marker. It is said that in earlier times, pirates were hanged on it with chains, as on Crevichon.
The last two centuries have seen a succession of tenants renting the island from the Crown. During the nineteenth century the motives for living on Jethou sometimes involved the opportunities which the island offered for smuggling but nowadays the attractions of tenancy center around the desire to live in peace and quiet and the enjoyment of the Tenant´s privilege of having no taxes of death duties to pay.
Excursions were run in the early 1900s when postcards were sold, there were two cachets, one from 1907 and one from 1909.
From 1920 to 1923 it was leased by Compton MacKenzie along with Herm and remained part of that estate for years, although it is currently part of a different one.
Jethou was first opened to the public by Lt. Col. Withycombe who was Tenant from 1948-1955. The next two Tenants Philip Watkins 1955-7 and Herman Stockey 1957-8 closed the island and it was opened once again by Grp. Cpt. William Hedley Cliff, Tenant from Dec. 1948-1964. His intention was to make the island a financial success by developing farming and tourism, with a regular ferry service and re-opened cafe-gift shop.
There has never been an official postal service to Jethou. With such a small resident population, such a service would never be financially viable. Official posts delivered inward mail to PO Box 5, St Peter Port where it was collected by the Tenant who posted any outgoing mail in St Peter Port.
The carriage of mail to St Peter Port was a little erratic. During the holiday season the idea was that the post box would be emptied and the letters canceled prior to the departure of the last boat of the day back to Guernsey where the boatman would post the mail into a convenient post box. In winter these deliveries were at the mercy of the weather and the desire of the Tenant to go to Guernsey.
The MV Typhoon carried the mail during the Cliff tenancy, and the MV Clacton Gazelle during the Faed tenancy when a café employee posted the mail in St Peter Port on her way home.
The success of the Wood family’s ventures in Herm undoubtedly influenced the decision to issue Jethou’s first set of local post stamps on July 14, 1960. They were sold at the island’s café/gift shop and a post box was added later. Issued to give publicity for the island, the stamps were designed by Charles H Coker, who, as he had with the Herm stamps, produced a wonderful set of artist’s sketches for approval. One was similar to Herm’s “Chart” stamps, which may have been the precursor for a set of a common design, an idea which wasn’t adopted, but the two lower values do have similarities to the Herm design, arms, maps and the values in a seashell being common with both sets.
The first issue, as were most of those that followed, were offset-lithographed by the Guernsey Press Company Ltd. Rather than perforations, the five stamps in the first set were rouletted. They featured symbols and scenes of Jethou and the nearby islands: the 1½-pence value portrayed the Jethou crest (yellow and maroon), 4-pence (carmine and pale blue) pictured Fauconniere Island and a falcon, the 6-pence (green and orange) showed a map of the Jethou Island group, 9-pence (chocolate and Prussian blue) portrayed Crevichon Island), while the 18-pence (yellow and indigo) featured the druid stone in Fairy Wood. The two lower values were printed in sheets of 30 while the three higher values appeared in sheets of 10. Imperforate varieties and numerous proofs in trial colors were also produced.
Being local post stamps, the Jethou issues are not listed in the Scott or Stanley Gibbons catalogues but do appear in several publications written by the team of Anders Backman and Robert Forrester. The first set is listed as numbers 1-5 in The Smaller Channel Islands Catalogue by Backman and Forrester, hence the “B&F” designations here. I have a print copy of the 1989 edition. An abbreviated version can also be found online.
A set of five definitives featuring birds common to the area was released on October 2, 1961 in sheets of 12. These were the first Jethou Island stamps to receive line perforations in a gauge of 11 (B&F #6-10). On December 1, 1961, a Europa set of three was issued. Using the plates of the middle values of the previous bird definitives, a special printing was made on thick glazed paper overprinted EUROPA 1961 in red or green (B&F #11-13); a miniature sheet of four of the 6-pence (black on light red) picturing a puffin was also issued on December 10, 1961, using a part of the original plate with an additional overprint (B&F #14). The marginal inscription comes in two sizes with the smaller being more scarce.
Two denominations — 3 pence and 1 shilling, 9 pence — were released as Europa stamps in both 1962 (B&F #15-16 on September 17, 1962) featuring a view of Jethou and its crest, and 1963 (B&F #17-18 on October 16, 1963) portraying a distant view of Jethou and a razorbill in the foreground. Each value was printed in its own sheet of 12 (3×4 for the 1962 issues and 4×3 for the 1963 stamps). The 1964 Europa set featured the same two values and designs as the 1963 stamps, but with a change of colors and change of year in the inscription. These were issued on September 14, 1964 (B&F #19-20). The 1963 and 1964 stamps were offset-lithographed by Thomas de la Rue & Co. of London, the only Jethou stamps not printed by Guernsey Lithoprint. They were comb perforated 12½x13.
From September 1964 until December 1971, the island was occupied by the Faed family consisting of Mr. Angus Faed, his wife Susan Faed and their four children, Colin, Erik, Colette and Amanda. Mrs. Susan Faed was the 22nd Tenant of Jethou. The Faeds continued with the issuing of the island’s postage stamps and other commercial developments until the family returned to Jersey in 1971.
The last new Jethou Island stamp design marked the Norman Year 1966., commemorating the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Released on October 14, 1966, there were four striking designs by Charles Coker: the 3-pence (black and yellow) featured a Norman ship, the 6-pence (black and purple) pictured the arms of William of Normandy and the Jethou arms, the 1-shilling (black and green) portrayed Norman ships, and the 1-shilling, 9-pence (black and turquoise) showed a view of Jethou Island and a Norman soldier. Each denomination (B&F #21-24) was printed in its own sheetlet of four stamps, perforated 11.
Additionally, a miniature sheet of the four Norman Year stamps, imperforate, was issued on the same day (B&F #25) in a printing of just 500 copies — the border inscription in black.
On September 30, 1969, the four Norman Year stamps of 1966 were overprinted in black by Melody Press with the inscription GPO IN GUERNSEY 1794-1069. They were put on sale for one day only as this was the last day of use for all Jethou stamps (as well as those for Guernsey and the local posts of Herm and Lithou) as the Bailiwick of Guernsey had achieved postal independence.
The lack of good sandy beaches on Jethou meant that the island was never really popular and the café/gift shop was the island´s only concession to commercialism. The Isle of Jethou has been closed to the public since since 1970.
In 1972, Charles Hayward founder of the Firth Cleveland Group of Companies, purchased the Crown Tenancy of the island and lived there with his wife Elsie Darnell George until Sir Charles’s death in 1983. Subsequently, Anthony Duckworth took over in 1984. A further change of Tenant followed in 1991 with Peter Ogden and Philip Hulme sharring the Tenancy. In 1995. the States of Guernsey took over the Tenancy of Jethou and the incumbent Tenants became Sub-Tenants.
B&F #10 was released on October 10, 1961, as the high value in the Isle of Jethou’s second set of definitives featuring birds. The 1-shilling, 6-pence stamp was printed in terra-cotta on yellow using the lithography process by Guernsey Lithoprint Ltd.A total of 15,000 stamps were printed in sheets of 12 (3×4), perforated 11. There is a constant plate variety in that stamp number 6 (the right-most stamp in the second row from the top) is missing the top of the bird’s tail. Imperforate proofs exist of both the complete design and the basic design (no lettering). Proofs are also known in several trial colors: black and yellow; black and brown; brown and blue; and orange and yellow. To promote the first edition of The Postage Stamps of the Smaller Channel Islands in 1979, the original artwork of this issue was used to print a series of art cards. These had the appropriate stamp affixed to them and were then signed by the designer and numbered serially up to 200 for each value. These were enclosed in each catalogue.
The stamp portrays a wren — mostly small, brownish passerine birds in the mainly New World family Troglodytidae. About 80 species of true wrens in roughly 20 genera are described. Only the Eurasian wren occurs in the Old World, where in Anglophone regions, it is commonly known simply as the “wren”, as it is the originator of the name. The name wren has been applied to other, unrelated birds, particularly the New Zealand wrens (Acanthisittidae) and the Australian wrens (Maluridae). Most wrens are small and rather inconspicuous, except for their loud and often complex songs. Notable exceptions are the relatively large members of the genus Campylorhynchus, which can be quite bold in their behavior. Wrens have short wings that are barred in most species, and they often hold their tails upright. As far as known, wrens are primarily insectivorous, eating insects, spiders, and other small arthropods, but many species also eat vegetable matter and some take small frogs and lizards.