The richness of Jersey’s history, culture, language, and environment is well-documented, but those who carry out this documentation and research are seldom thrust into the spotlight. Much of this vital work takes place behind closed doors, and a large portion of it behind the doors of the Société Jersiaise, the Island’s oldest heritage organisation.
Since 1873, the Société has been an academic hub for local enthusiasts and experts to pool their research in the interests of preservation and the pursuit of knowledge.
The Société’s various areas of special interest, called ‘Sections’, now total 16 and include: Archaeology, Architecture, Bibliography, Botany, Entomology (the study of insects), Environment, Garden History, Geology (the study of rocks), History, Jèrriais, Marine Biology, Meteorology (the study of weather), Mycology (the study of fungi and mushrooms), Numismatics (the study of coins), Ornithology (the study of birds), and Zoology (the study of animals).
As we look forward to the Société’s Open Day, coming up on Saturday 4th November, where each of these Sections will have an opportunity to share their current and upcoming research with the public via short presentations and stands dedicated to their field, here’s a bit of a teaser about each Section…
Open Day Presentation from 12pm – 12:15pm
The Botany Section of the Société Jersiaise meets regularly throughout the year to record and discuss Jersey’s wild plants. We regularly visit interesting locations across the Island to record what species occur where, to monitor the Island’s priority rare and legally protected species, and to carry out conservation work on key species. We also occasionally arrange botany trips to other islands and to France. Over the winter, we meet indoors to discuss records, practise our identification skills, plan research and help advise on Government biodiversity policy. Société members are very welcome to join us – contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org
Open Day Presentation from 12:15pm – 12:30pm
The Environment Section of the Société Jersiaise meet every last Tuesday of the month to discuss issues of environmental concern and to explore opportunities to support the environment. We go on walks in our lovely island and have presentations on environmental issues at No.7 Pier Road. The Environment Section was established in January 2022, spurred on by the island’s ever-increasing population and the consequent demands on its environment. Proposed developments may be officially commented on by the Section, which is anxious to conserve the beauty and biodiversity of our island. Jersey, and parts of Jersey, cannot exist within a vacuum and ignore their place in an eco-system.
Marine Biology Section
Open Day Presentation from 12:45pm – 1pm
The Marine Biology Section consists of members with wide and varied interests. Between the members there is a wealth of marine knowledge that is a great resource for anyone wanting to learn more about Jersey’s marine environment. Everyone is welcome, from those with a general interest wanting to learn more, right through to those with specialist interests. Jersey’s marine and coastal environment is diverse and fascinating. During the summer months we like nothing more than rolling up our sleeves and investigating the coastline. During the rest of the year various presentations and discussions on all things marine are organised. The Marine Section recently led efforts to establish a No Take Zone in Portelet Bay. This came into force in 2022 and the Section will be involved in the scientific monitoring of the bay over the next few years.
Open Day Presentation from 1pm – 1:15pm
The Meteorology Section is a group of people who have a common interest in the weather and climate. They range from retired meteorologists to enthusiasts, but it is interest and a desire to learn that is the main requirement. We discuss local, and since the weather has no respect for boundaries, overseas weather events. The Section also looks back at past events in Jersey and tries to answer members’ questions on both general and specific aspects of the weather as well as admiring the varied range of clouds and optical effects, which often pass unnoticed in our skies. There are occasional talks and visits, while research projects are undertaken on an ad hoc basis. The Section’s aim is to improve their knowledge of the atmosphere and to do so meets quarterly on Wednesday evenings in the middle of January, April, July and October.
Open Day Presentation from 1:30pm – 1:45pm
Discovering more about the archaeology of Jersey is what drives the Archaeology Section. With so many known and potential archaeological sites, the prospect of a new tantalizing find from prehistoric to modern times is always a possibility. Whilst excavations will normally be our goal, we also carry out significant research both before and after digs! One of our present projects is the Island’s Neolithic landscape some 5-6000 years ago, seeking to establish how and where the people who built the dolmens lived. We have regular weekly activities, events and visits. A keen interest is all that is required – no archaeological experience is required as training will be given.
Open Day Presentation from 1:45pm – 2pm
The Numismatic Section of the Société Jersiaise have members with interests covering all aspects of the Numismatic field from coins to banknotes, tokens to medallions covering periods from ancient to modern. The Section has a number of on-going projects. The first of which is to identify and catalogue the coins in the Société’s collection. The other is identifying and recording all coin finds made in Jersey. We meet bimonthly at Pier Road 7.30 – 9.30pm. New members are always welcome, and we welcome anyone who has an interest in all things numismatic.
Open Day Presentation from 2pm – 2:15pm
The Geology Section aims to promote an improved understanding of the subject, in particular of the rocks that make up the island of Jersey. The Section members carry out research and assist external experts to carry out research on the geology of the island. Members also prepare and maintain guides on the geology of the Island, for use by the general public. The Section meets twice a month, with occasional additional special meetings, to allow visiting experts to talk to the Section. During the summer months, the lighter evenings allow field trips to be organised to locations of particular geological interest. The Section membership is broad, ranging from working professional geologists to members with a personal interest who want to increase their knowledge of the subject. It is not necessary to have any formal qualifications to have an interest in geology and to be a member of the Geology Section. The Geology Section is a friendly group and new members are always made very welcome, as are members of other Société Sections that wish to attend our meetings.
Open Day Presentation from 2:15pm – 2:30pm
The Jèrriais Section is very active, with a full program for the next six months and beyond. We have very recently received work, in Jèrriais, by two prolific writers, which we will, under guidance from the Librarian, be archiving and studying. This will be interesting work which will add to the abundant material already available. We aim to keep the business part of our meetings to a minimum in order that the time be best used to enhance our study and use of this incredible and important language. Les Chaboleurs (shufflers) Jèrriais dance group are getting rather good, and we will be learning the songs to accompany the musicians as we perform these traditional Jersey, Norman and Breton dances, which formed an important part of our culture. The Jèrriais Hub is based at the Société and is a vast resource of material and help. Along with the Section there are classes, children and adult, coffee mornings, walks and other events where we can use and improve our wonderful language. If you are interested, please come along and join us, you will be made very welcome whatever level of Jèrriais you have, and if you do not think you speak any, you would be surprised just how much of what you think is English is actually derived from Jersey Norman French!
Open Day Presentation from 2:30pm – 2:45pm
The Société Jersiaise Entomology Section is a small but dedicated group that studies the Island’s insects from woodland and heathland to sand dunes and grassland and everywhere in-between. Jersey has an interestingly rich variety of insect species, including a number of which are not to be found anywhere else within the British Isles, so it is a great place to get involved if you are interested in insects. We help with their conservation in various ways but mainly by surveying to find out which species we have on the Island, both rare and common, and where they live and what they need as it is this knowledge that is really crucial in helping their conservation now and into the future. So, if you have an interest in helping Jersey’s insects then the Entomology Section meets, mostly online, every fortnight on a Tuesday evening for an informal meeting and everyone is welcome to join us.
Open Day Presentation from 2:45pm – 3pm
The Société Jersiaise Mycology Section is a group that shares an interest in the fascinating world of fungi. Founded in 1995, the Section aims to identify and record the vast variety of species that are present on the island. There are around 1670 species recorded locally so far, with new additions being identified every year. We also help to conserve any legally protected species that are found, as well as look at how other rare and endangered fungi could be added to the list. We hold forays for members every weekend from October to early December, visiting a wide range of environments including woodlands, grasslands, heathlands, sand dunes and even cemeteries. We also try and survey private sites with permission, having visited such locations as St Ouen’s Manor, St. George’s School, La Moye Golf Club and Jersey Zoo in recent years. Although the majority of fungi appear in Autumn/Winter, there are species that grow during other seasons, so we try and arrange ad hoc forays, educational activities and social events throughout the year. We are a friendly, enthusiastic group, and new members are always very much welcome!
Open Day Presentation from 3pm – 3:15pm
The Ornithology Group is a knowledgeable group of birders, who understand and appreciate all aspects of wildlife; in fact, several are active members of the Entomology and Botany Sections. We meet at the Société Jersiaise on alternate Thursday evenings at 20.00. It is an informal gathering where we discuss the bird sightings of the previous fortnight along with the seasonal migration counts. Refreshments followed by a talk with pictures often form the second part of the meeting. All sightings go towards the production of the annual Jersey Bird Report publication and the British Trust for Ornithology Bird Atlas. Our enthusiastic and friendly group include expert, intermediate and beginner birders, all of whom will welcome you with open arms.
Open Day Presentation from 3:15pm – 3:30pm
The Société Zoology Section is made up of sub-groups most of whom are standalone registered Jersey charities that specialise on specific genera such as bats, hedgehogs, or small mammals. These charities and other research entities rely on volunteers and research assistants to undertake research, education, outreach, and rehabilitation of injured or young individuals. The sub-sections that are charities such as the Jersey Bat Group and the Jersey Hedgehog Preservation Group run events, talks, and walks throughout the year. There are many individual projects or volunteering opportunities that members of the Société can become involved with across many different taxonomic classes.
Open Day Presentation from 3:30pm – 3:45pm
The Architecture Section was established in January 2022 and has an active programme of work. The aims of the Section are to research and substantially expand our knowledge and understanding of distinctive, diverse and high-quality architecture that has been produced in the Island since the mid-19th century, as well as the architects and clients that created them; and to publish and promote this work through lectures, walks and social media channels. More recently we have become involved in community projects, such as the Neighbourhood Improvement Areas run by the Parish of St Helier, where we provide an historical perspective on the area in question and contribute to discussion on possible improvement initiatives. All of our meetings and events aim to share ideas, expertise and enthusiasm for the subject so that members at all levels of knowledge and experience can contribute.
Open Day Presentation from 3:45pm – 4pm
The Bibliography Section meets every month on the fourth Tuesday at 5.15 pm. The meetings generally last for just over an hour. The membership is small; usually six to ten meet to bring and discuss new publications about the Channel Islands or which, inter alia, make reference to the Islands or Islanders. We have been known, however, to discuss a much wider remit, always interesting and never, but never, dull. Almost every meeting brings a new discovery, and the contribution of every member is valued. But we need a wider membership to bring works which may have missed our attention. Is that you? If so, come along.
Open Day Presentation from 4pm – 4:15pm
The History Section of the Société Jersiaise is a group of enthusiastic individuals who have a passion for Jersey’s history, and we meet monthly. We have a range of talks and walks, and we also study any topics that interest us individually and report back to the Section on these. We are currently researching the individuals whose portraits appeared in the Pantheon, a Victorian collage of the great and the good. No-one is quite sure of the purpose of the Pantheon pictures as they included a wide range of individuals, some already deceased. However, we are having huge pleasure in investigating the different characters. We are a warm and friendly group, and anyone is welcome!
Open Day Presentation from 4:15pm – 4:30pm
Garden History is a small section of the Société Jersiaise and was started in 1987 by the late Frances Le Sueur and Margaret Long, both noted botanists. Garden History has been used for many years in England as a tool in the historically correct restoration of large estate; but has been used in Jersey on a much smaller scale, for example, for the gardens at 16 New Street and Hamptonne’s herb and vegetable areas, both places where the garden design should mirror the age of the buildings; and plants should be age-appropriate. Current projects include assessments of public parks, allotments and cemeteries. The Garden History Section usually meet on the second Thursday of each month at 2.30pm at different locations.
In addition to these short talks by each of the Sections, at the Open Day there will also be presentations from the Jersey Biodiversity Centre (from 12:30pm – 12:45pm) – you can find out more about their work here – and the Société Field Archaeology Department (from 1:15pm – 1:30pm).
About the Field Archaeology Department
The Field Archaeology Department plays a multifaceted role in preserving Jersey’s historical treasures. It oversees the management of heritage sites owned by the Société Jersiaise, while actively promoting the archaeology of the Bailiwick to both the general public and the scientific community. Collaborating closely with members and volunteers from the Archaeology Section, the department engages in research projects and proficiently organizes field surveys, test pits and excavations at sites of particular interest. Additionally, its expertise extends to offering guidance on heritage sites. The archaeologists also maintain strong links with counterparts in France and the UK, recognizing that the island’s archaeological remains contribute to a broader understanding that extends beyond the Channel.
In addition to the presentations, the Société will also be using this event to launch a new award named after and in memory of Nigel Quérée, one of Jersey’s most prominent environmentalists, and a member of the Société’s Executive Committee. The former Senator was passionate about protecting Jersey’s natural environment, with the flooding of Queen’s Valley and the disposal of hazardous waste from the incinerator at La Collette being two prominent issues he advocated against.
The award, consisting of a grant of up to £2,000, is intended to recognise and support relevant research, field work and other projects, and is open to students, citizen scientists, and groups.
For more information about the Open Day and to register for your FREE tickets, click here.
Written by Martha Macdonald