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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > United Kingdom > Channel Islands > Alderney

Alderney History, Language and Culture

History of Alderney

The most northerly of the Channel Islands, Alderney is a British Crown Dependency despite being just 15km (9.3 miles) to the west of La Hague on Normandy’s Cotentin Peninsula.

Alderney became an island as waters rose during the Neolithic period and has been inhabited almost as long. There are traces of Roman occupation, but many of the outward signs of the island’s early human history were lost to extensive military construction in the 19th century and then again during the Nazi occupation in World War II – Alderney, along with its fellow Channel Islands being the only part of the British Commonwealth to be occupied by Germany.

The connection to England dates from the Norman invasion of 1066 and although Normandy was incorporated into the Kingdom of France in 1204, Alderney remained loyal to the English Crown.

In June 1940 the population was evacuated in the face of German occupation. Four concentration camps were built on Alderney housing mainly Russian and Polish prisoners of war and some Jewish slave labourers. Around 700 of the 6,000 inmates lost their lives before the Germans surrendered on 16 May 1945.

The island’s hereditary governorship passed through several families until the last of the line, John le Mesurier (not to be confused with the English actor), resigned his patent to the Crown in 1825. Authority is now exercised by the parliamentary States of Alderney presided over by a President elected every four years.

Did you know?
• The last known native speaker of Auregnais, Alderney’s indigenous Norman dialect, probably died in 1960.
• About a quarter of Alderney’s hedgehogs are descended from a single pair of blonde European hedgehogs released on the island in 1960.
• The Nazi's built four concentration camps on Alderney, which largely housed prisoners of war.

Alderney Culture

Religion in Alderney

Church of England, Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregational and Methodist.

Social Conventions in Alderney

Handshaking is the customary form of greeting and normal social courtesies should be observed when visiting someone's home. It is not usual to start eating until everyone is served. If invited to someone's home, a small present such as flowers or chocolates is appreciated. Casual wear is acceptable in most places. Smoking is banned in enclosed public places.

Language in Alderney

English.