The Ecrehos (or in Jèrriais: Êcrého) are a group of islands and
rocks situated six miles (9.6 km) north-east of Jersey, and eight
miles (12.8 km) from France. They form part of the
Jersey and are administratively part of the Parish of St. Martin.
3.2 Chapel and Priory
3.4 Long-term residents
3.5 Resolution of disputed status
3.7 On currency
3.8 Protected status
4 Pilotage and sailing
8 External links
The name 'Ecrehos' is Norse in origin. "Esker" as in Skerry meaning a
stony bank and 'Hou', the toponym found also in Jethou, Lihou,
Burhou and other islets, derives from holm, meaning island.
The first part of the name appears to be traced back to the Norse word
sker, meaning reef. The Ecrehos are actually, geologically, part of
the same island group as
Les Dirouilles (west) and Les Pierres de Lecq
('the Paternosters') (further west).
The most significant islets in the group are:
La Marmotchiéthe ('La Marmotière' in gallicized form)
Lé Bliantch'Île (La Blanche Île in gallicized form);
La Grand' Naithe
All but the three largest are submerged at high tide. There are no
permanent residents on the islands and there is no fresh water there.
Due to erosion, they are now much smaller than they may have been
within historic times. Maîtr'Île, the largest of the islets, is
about 300 metres (0.19 mi) long. There is a small number of
fishermen's huts, some used as holiday residences, on the largest
islets, and one official building, a customs house, on La
Location map of Les Écréhous
During the last Ice Age, sea levels were lower and the islands were
high ground above a plain that connected the European Continent with
The islets, along with the other
Channel Islands and the Cotentin
Peninsula, were annexed to the
Duchy of Normandy
Duchy of Normandy in 933. After
William, Duke of
Normandy conquered England in 1066 the islands
remained united to the Duchy until the conquest of mainland Normandy
in 1204 by Philip Augustus. In 1259 Henry III did homage to the French
king for the Channel Islands. While Edward III in the 1360 Treaty of
Brétigny waived his claims to the crown of
France and to Normandy, he
reserved various territories to England.
Chapel and Priory
In 1203, shortly before the division of
Normandy in 1204, John, Duke
Normandy granted the Ecrehos to the Abbey of Val-Richer that they
might build a church there. The chapel measured 10 feet
3 inches (3.12 m) in width and 16 feet 6 inches
(5.03 m) in length; the priory accommodation for the monks formed
an extension to the chapel. In 1309 it was reported that a prior
was living in the Ecrehos with one monk and a servant; a navigation
light was lit every night.
In 1413 alien priories were suppressed, and the monks returned to
Val-Richer. Their church and priory on La Maîtr'Île fell into
In the 17th century the Ecrehos were used by smugglers. It was
recorded that the main smuggled goods in the 1690s through the Ecrehos
was lead and gunpowder destined for St Malô.
In order to help control voting in Jersey, it was not unknown for
citizens to find themselves taken and stranded on the Islands until
after voting had taken place.:72
Though they are only inhabited sporadically by holidaymakers and
fishermen, in the past there have been more permanent residents on the
Ecrehos due to more abundant vegetation. Two eccentrics who lived on
the Ecrehos for a long time proclaimed themselves to be Le Roi des
Écréhous (The king of the Ecrehos) and claimed that
sovereignty over the islands belonged to them. Philippe Pinel lived on
Bliantch'Île from 1848 to 1898 and exchanged gifts with Queen
Victoria. In the 1960s and 1970s
Alphonse Le Gastelois
Alphonse Le Gastelois found refuge in
the islands from unfounded public suspicion of being the Beast of
Jersey (a notorious sexual attacker of children who was later
arrested, thus clearing Le Gastelois of suspicion).
Resolution of disputed status
In the 19th and early 20th centuries there were several occasions on
which nominal control was displayed – e.g. flags and buoys, and
there were several occasions on which the British government indicated
to the French government that it wished to settle the matter.
France took the Britain to the International Court of Justice
(ICJ) for discussions to decide to which country the
Ecrehos belonged. The French fished in the waters, but Jersey
exercised various administrative rights. Certain maps showed the
Ecrehos islands as not being part of Jersey. The ICJ
considered the historical evidence, and in its Judgment of 17 November
1953 awarded the islands to Jersey.
In 1993 and again in 1994, French 'invaders' from mainland Normandy
landed on the Ecrehos and raised Norman flags. This was done partly in
protest against Channel
Island fishing regulations and partly because
they wanted the Ecrehos to be recognised as part of France[citation
needed]. The 1994 'invasion' was monitored closely by States and
honorary police from Jersey, and the
Union Flag that had been pulled
down in 1993 was guarded by policemen. In the end, after only minor
trouble being caused, the French had lunch on the islands before going
back home. A priest who was part of the expedition
said mass on the islands for the first time since the ruined abbey was
in use (some hundreds of years). He created an outline of a church and
altar using vraic he collected from the sea.
La Marmotchiéthe is depicted on the 2010 issue
Jersey 50 pound note.
In 2005, the States of
Jersey designated it as an area under the
Ramsar convention, signifying it was a wetland of international
importance and giving it an enhanced status and recognition. A
management plan for the area has yet to be published. There was a
public consultation in 2010 into Jersey's management of Ramsar areas
but the results were not made public.
Pilotage and sailing
Entrance to the island can be difficult. However, it is possible to
visit at all states of tide with the main entrance from the
19th century illustration
Maîtr'Île Flag Mast 2008
Maîtr'Île Flag Mast 2008
Maîtr'Île from the South
Looking South from Maîtr'Île
^ Coysh, Victor (1985). Channel Islets: The Lesser Channel Islands.
Guernsey Press Co Ltd. ISBN 0902550128.
^ a b Balleine's History of Jersey. p. 26.
ISBN 1860776507. Balleine's History of Jersey, 1998
^ Balleine, George Reginald (1951). 'The
Bailiwick of Jersey'. Hodder
& Stoughton Ltd. ISBN 0340002670.
^ a b Cooper, Glynis. Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Jersey.
Casemate Publishers, 2008. ISBN 9781845630683.
Minquiers and Ecrehos (France/United Kingdom): Summary of the
Judgment of 17 November 1953". icj-cij.org. International Court of
^ "Les Écrehous & Les Dirouilles, Jersey". rsis.ramsar.org.
Ramsar Sites Information Service.
^ Carnegie, Peter (2015). Channel Islands, Cherbourg Peninsula &
North Brittany. RCC Pilotage Foundation. pp. 131–135.
Files on the ICJ case can be found in the National Archives, mostly in
the FO 371 sequence.
Les Ecrehous, Jersey: History and Archaeology of a Channel Island
Archipelago (ISBN 0-901897-21-3) by Warwick Rodwell.
Minquiers et des Écréhous. Robert Sinsoilliez.
Éditions l'Ancre de Marine.
Les Écréhous: a Toponymy
International Court of Justice: The
Minquiers and Ecrehos Case
(in French), Accord commercial sur la pêche entre la
France et Jersey
Video "Les Écréhou, petit bijou anglo-normand" by MancheLibre
Sentence of the International Court of Justice
The Channel Islands
Bailiwick of Guernsey
Bailiwick of Jersey
Pierres de Lecq