Oliver Reed in Guernsey

Oliver Reed moved to Guernsey in the late 1970s. A move to Guernsey was unusual, as many of his fellow actors were instead choosing to relocate to the United States at the time – and California in particular – to escape the British government’s high rates of taxation.

Oliver Reed’s first home in Guernsey

Oliver Reed didn’t immediately buy a house or flat on Guernsey, but lodged at the Duke of Normandie Hotel in St Peter Port.

While staying at the hotel he got into some trouble, after he broke a window when trying to find his friend. He was intoxicated at the time and wearing only his underwear. Moreover, the window was not in his friend’s room, but in the hotel’s staff quarters. He was taken into police custody and later explained what had happened in a TV interview.

Oliver Reed leaves the Duke of Normandie

Despite the incident with the window, Oliver Reed remained at the Duke of Normandie for a year, after which he moved into his own property. He lived there for 15 years with his girlfriend – and later wife – Josephine Burge.

The tax that drove Oliver Reed to Guernsey

Leaving your home country to live as a tax exile isn’t a step you’d take lightly, so just how high was the British level of income tax that encouraged Oliver Reed to move to Guernsey?

The answer: very high.

Britain wasn’t always so afraid of taxing its highest earners as it seems to be today, and in 1974 the top rate of income tax was raised from 75% to 83% (so the government received 83p from every £1 earned). On top of this, a surcharge of 15% was made on any investment income. So, anyone paying the top level of income tax on their earnings would receive just 2p for every £1 of profit they made in investments.

The Channel Islands, on the other hand, had no income tax. It’s easy to see why someone with the potential to earn millions as an actor in blockbuster films would have been tempted to move to Guernsey.

Victor Hugo in Guernsey

Victor Hugo came to live in Guernsey in 1855 when he was in exile from his native France. He had fled his home country when Napoleon III came to power after a coup d’etat.

Despite settling in Guernsey, he first stopped in Belgium, from where he moved on to Jersey. However, he was forced to leave Jersey because of his involvement with an ex-patriot newspaper that had made disparaging remarks about Queen Victoria.

Victor Hugo’s home on Guernsey

Hugo settled in St Peter Port, where he set up home at Hauteville House. The grand, white building on a hill out of town, has a glass writing room at the top, which would have given the author stunning views of Herm and Little Russell.

As a supporter of the ideals of a united Europe, Victor Hugo planted an oak tree in the grounds of Hauteville House, proclaiming his belief that by the time it was mature Europe would be a united country with a single currency. We can see now that he was far ahead of his time, but he would no doubt be a great supporter of the European Union today. That tree is now known as the United States of Europe Oak.

Hauteville House featured in an episode of the Channel 4 television gameshow, Treasure Hunt, in 1984. It also appears on the Guernsey edition of Monopoly.

Victor Hugo’s work on Guernsey

The view that Hugo would have enjoyed from his writing room may well have been the inspiration for one of his most famous books, The Toilers of the Sea, which he wrote while living on Guernsey. It was dedicated to the island and, indeed, was about the island, too. It was first published in 1862 and, although successful, wasn’t considered a master work like its predecessor, Les Miserables.

The Rock Hudson film The Sea Devils, which opened in cinemas in 1953, was loosely based on the story of The Toilers of the Sea.

However, Hugo didn’t only write novels during his time on Guernsey. He also indulged in some journalism and campaigning for social change. He reported the messy execution of John Tapner, the last man hanged on Guernsey, and argued in favour of the building of a lighthouse on Les Hanois reef. Eventually, Trinity House indeed agreed to build Les Hanois lighthouse, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1860.

Victor Hugo’s legacy in Guernsey

Victor Hugo stayed on Guernsey for 15 years, eventually returning to France at the end of Napoleon III’s reign. Following his death in 1885, aged 83, his home in Guernsey, Hauteville House was bequeathed to the city of Paris. Since 1927, Hauteville House is open to the general public as a tourist attraction.

Guernsey thus still benefits from Victor Hugo’s association with the island, and his presence is still felt today, thanks to a larger-than-life statue of the man, which was unveiled in Candie Gardens in 1914.

Films set on Guernsey

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society may be the best-known film to have been set on Guernsey, but it was far from the only one. From horror to comedy and adventure, the island has more than held its own on the big screen.

Here’s a run down of some of the best films set on Guernsey and some of the stars that appeared in them. Also, check out our run-down of TV programmes featuring Guernsey.

Films set on Guernsey

Although only a small island, Guernsey has proved itself to have more than enough to keep cinema audiences entertained.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The most famous film set on Guernsey was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which opened in cinemas in 2018. Despite being set on the island (and, in parts, in London), none of the film was actually shot on Guernsey. Locations in Cornwall stood in, with Bideford acting as St Peter Port.

The Sea Devils

The Sea Devils, starring Rock Hudson, opened in cinemas in 1953. It was loosely based on the plot of Victor Hugo’s Guernsey novel, The Toilers of the Sea.

The Story of Adele H

Set on Guernsey and in Barbados, The Story of Adele H focuses on Victor Hugo’s daughter, Adele, and her pursuit of a man who doesn’t love her. It was filmed in Guernsey and Senegal, in 1975, with several Guernsey locals playing parts.

The Devil’s Rock

New Zealand film The Devil’s Rock, which opened in cinemas in 2011, tells the story of commandos raiding the German range-finding tower at Pleinmont where they uncover a plot to summon up the devil to help Germany win the Second World War.

Oliver Reed on Guernsey

Oliver Reed lived on Guernsey for many years, initially at the Duke of Normandie Hotel in St Peter Port. He was arrested there after breaking a window while wearing only his underwear, and kept in police cells overnight.

Charlie Chaplin plays St Peter Port

Silent cinema star Charlie Chaplin has the people of Guernsey to thank for his success. They were fairly unreceptive of his spoken comedy act when he appeared in St Peter Port, which helped convince him that silent comedy was the way forward. Thus, even when films started including sound, he persevered with his signature silent slapstick.

Dennis Price

Film and television actor Dennis Price was rushed to hospital in Guernsey from his home on Sark in 1966 when suffering from what his manager described as ‘Sark Tummy’. He was later back in hospital with a broken hip, from which he never recovered. Dennis Price died on Guernsey and was buried back on Sark.

TV programmes set on Guernsey

Guernsey has been the star of many TV shows, from Enemy at the Door and Island at War, to Howards’ Way and Treasure Hunt.

The Channel Islands also have their own regional television station, Channel Television, although its on-screen presence has become less obvious since it was swallowed up in the larger ITV network.

From comedy, to horror, to quiz shows, the various islands of the Bailiwick have enjoyed more than their fair amount of screen time. Click the links below to find out more about TV shows featuring Guernsey. Also check out our run-down of the top films set on Guernsey.

Guernsey on TV

Guernsey has been the setting for several TV shows, and many Guernsey-born actors have starred on television over the years.

Game of Thrones’ Roy Dotrice

Roy Dotrice, who played Hallyne the Pyromancer in Game of Thrones, was born on Guernsey in May 1923. He also played the part of Mozart in Amadeus, and narrated the Game of Thrones audiobooks, for which he earned himself a Guinness World Record.

Puffin’s Pla(i)ce

Puffin’s Pla(i)ce was Channel Television’s birthday corner, in which presenters – accompanied by Oscar Puffin – read out birthday cards that had been sent in for local children. It ran for 50 years from 1963 until 2013, making Oscar Puffin the longest-serving mascot on the whole of the ITV network.

Enemy at the Door

ITV’s drama serial about life in occupied Guernsey came to the end of its run in March 1980, after 26 episodes. Although set on Guernsey it was actually filmed on Jersey by London Weekend Television. It was the first TV series to feature Anthony Head of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Island at War on ITV

Island at War was set on the fictional island of St Gregory, which was a stand-in for Guernsey and Jersey. It told the story of several families during the occupation of the Second World War. Starring Philip Glenister and Joanne Froggatt, it only ran for a single series. It was not recommissioned.

Mr Pye

Channel 4 broadcast a four-part adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s short story, Mr Pye, which was set on Sark. It starred Derek Jacobi in the title role, who in the very first scene was shown taking the ferry to Sark from St Peter Port.

Doctor Who on Guernsey

Time Lord Doctor Who travelled to Guernsey, at least in print, in a book called Just War, which saw him pop up in the middle of the occupation, just as the Germans were perfecting their own Stealth Bomber.

This is Jinsy

The island of Jinsy was a stand-in for Guernsey in this comedy devised by Guernsey-born writers Chris Bran and Justin Chubb. It was piloted on BBC3 and found a home on Sky Atlantic. Stephen Fry, David Tenant, Jennifer Saunders, Olivia Colman and more guest-starred in various episodes.

Channel 4 Treasure Hunt on Guernsey

Channel 4’s helicopter-based gameshow broadcast an episode set on both Herm and Guernsey in 1984. The first shot showed presenter Anneka Rice standing beside Brehon Tower in Little Russell.

Songs of Praise from Guernsey

The long-running religious music programme was broadcast from Guernsey in 2017 in the run-up to that year’s Liberation Day celebrations.

Howards’ Way on Guernsey

The BBC’s glamorous 1980s business, boats and fashion series, Howards’ Way, featured several Guernsey-set episodes in 1988, revolving around the development of the ‘Langcrest Marina’. It also featured footage from the Guernsey World Powerboat Championships.

BBC broadcasts from Sark

The BBC made history with a series of ambitious broadcasts from the Channel Islands in 1956. The broadcast from Sark on 25 July featured an interview with Dame Sibyl Hathaway.

Books set in Guernsey

Guernsey has been the setting of many novels and non-fiction books. The most famous – at least to modern audiences – is almost certainly The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was published in 2008 and later turned into a film.

However, it’s not alone. Guernsey and Sark have been the inspiration for many books, while Guernsey itself was the home of one of the most famous writers of all time, Victor Hugo. He had a house in St Peter Port and lives on as a statue in Candie Gardens.

Click the links below to learn more about Guernsey’s literary history and the books and novels set in Guernsey, or written on the island.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Although published in 2008, Mary Ann Shaffer might never have dreamed up the story of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society if she hadn’t been streanded in fog at Guernsey airport 20 years before sitting down to start writing. It tells the story of writer Juliet Ashton who falls in love with Guernsey and the people she meets there through a series of letters.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie film opens in cinemas

Lily James, of Downton Abbey, starred as Juliet Ashton in the cinema adaptation of the famous book about Guernsey. Although the film was set in Guernsey, none of it was actually filmed on the island. Cornwall stood in for many locations.

Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo

This book is not only about Guernsey, but was written on the island and dedicated to it, too. Toilers of the Sea was first published in 1862 in three parts but didn’t sell as well as Hugo’s previous work, Les Miserables. It had originally been called Les Travailleurs de la Mer. Elements of the story were later used in the film The Sea Devils. If you haven’t read it, and don’t intend to, click here for a summary of Toilers of the Sea.

Mr Pye by Mervyn Peake is set on Sark

Novelist Mervyn Peake, who is best remembered for writing the Gormenghast series of books, also wrote the story of Mr Pye, who came to Sark to try and bring religion to the people living there. It was later filmed as a four-part mini-series and broadcast on Channel 4 in 1986.

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is considered by many to be the most authentic story about life on Guernsey. Now a classic, it focuses on the life of Ebenezer Le Page, from his birth in the late 1800s to his death in the early 1960s, taking in the German occupation along the way. It was finally published in 1981, five years after author GB Edwards’ death, having been rejected by several publishers over the years.

A Wrinkle in the Skin by John Christopher

The action in this science fiction book from 1965 follows a series of global earthquakes that have caused massive, irreversible environmental damage to the planet. The main character is a Guernsey tomato farmer who has to get to the mainland to find his daughter. Although most of the world’s population has been killed and there’s no transport, he does have one thing working in his favour: the sea has dried up, allowing him to walk all the way from Guernsey to the mainland’s south coast, by way of Alderney.

Stone de Croze

Although it started as a comic strip in the Guernsey Press, Stone de Croze, the story of a caveman living on Guernsey, later appeared as a collection in two published books.

The Wombles

Admittedly, The Wombles was set in Wimbledon, not Guernsey, but Wombles author Liza Beresford lived on neighbouring Alderney, which is within the Bailiwick of Guernsey and called one of her characters Alderney. Although she was not one of the lead roles, Alderney was the assistant of cook Madame Cholet.

Aurigny Air Services

Aurigny Air Services was founded by Alderney resident Derrick Bailey in 1968 when British United Airways dropped its service between Alderney and Guernsey and it looked like his home island would lose its air link to the rest of the Bailiwick. Aurigny is actually the name of Alderney in Alderney’s local language.

Its aircraft fly in a distinctive yellow and white livery because those are the colours that the jockeys riding Bailey’s father’s race horses used to wear.

Aurigny Air Services was acquired by the States of Guernsey in 2003 to make sure its service to London Gatwick Airport could be maintained.

The entries below chart Aurigny’s history over the years. Click each heading to read the story in full.

1968: Aurigny Air Services founded

Sir Derrick Bailey founded Aurigny in February 1968. The airline flew its first passengers the following month, and carried a total of 45,000 people between the islands over the next year.

1981: An Islander aircraft crashed on Guernsey

An Aurigny inter-island flight crashed on Guernsey when its primary fuel tanks ran dry. It had started to stall on its journey from Jersey as it passed over Herm, and the pilot looked out for a field he could land in. Although the pilot was seriously hurt, the eight passengers escaped unscathed.

2003: The States of Guernsey bought Aurigny

Guernsey’s administration bought Aurigny Air Services in 2003 when British Airways announced the end of its service between the island and London Gatwick. It cost the island £5m.

2006: Blue Islands takes to the skies

Blue Islands started competing with Aurigny Air Services on inter-island routes when it came into being on 14 February 2006. It had previously been called Rockhopper.

2007: Aurigny pilot spots a UFO

Ray Bowyer was flying an Aurigny Trislander aircraft from Southampton to Alderney when he spotted a disc-shaped UFO hovering to one side of his craft. The passengers saw it, and so did the pilot of a Blue Islands aircraft over Sark.

2009: Aurigny founder Derrick Bailey died

Sir Derrick Bailey died on Alderney in June 2009. He had been a pilot during the Second World War, so it’s perhaps not surprising that he should have been the man who established Aurigny Air Services.

2013: Aurigny Trislander eats itself

A Trislander aircraft running an Aurigny service from Jersey to Guernsey was damaged when the rear propellor sliced away as some of the housing of the engine itself.

2015: G-JOEY’s last flight

G-JOEY was Aurigny’s most famous Trislander, even starring in its own series of books. After several months running sightseeing flights, it flew for the last time in June 2015.

2016: G-COBO has a bumpy flight

Passengers on Aurigny’s G-COBO aircraft had a very bumpy flight when ice began to build up on the aircraft’s wings and it was unable to maintain the height it required. It turned around and came back to Guernsey Airport.

Guernsey Airport

Guernsey Airport opened for business in 1939, just a few months before the German army invaded and occupied the Channel Islands for the duration of the Second World War. Prior to the opening of the current site, planes landed on level ground at L’Eree.

The pages linked below chart the development of Guernsey Airport over the years. Click each heading to read the full entry.

1935: The States of Guernsey proposes a new airport

Although public opinion was firmly against building the new airport on high ground at La Villaise, in St Andrew, the States of Guernsey voted it through.

1937: Building work begins

Two years after the new airport was approved, work began on constructing four grass runways and a terminal building.

1939: Airport director appointed

Flight Lieutenant FA Swoffer was appointed to run the Guernsey Airport. Swoffer had been shot down in his own plane during the First World War.

1939: Guernsey Airport opens for business

Although the airport opened on 5 May, there wasn’t any time to set up regular scheduled services before German forces used its landing strips to invade.

1939: First arrests made at Guernsey Airport

The airport had only been open for a month when police made their first arrests on the site, of two men trying to board a flight to London.

1940: German forces land at the airport

German planes bombed St Peter Port shortly before forces landed at Guernsey Airport and the Second World War occupation of the Channel Islands began.

1940: RAF bombed Guernsey Airport

British aircraft bombed the runways and hangers, and many German planes that had been parked in the open air.

1954: A plane hit a car while landing at Guernsey Airport

A driver had a lucky escape when an incoming plane clipped the roof of his vehicle with its landing gear.

1961: Car plane crash causes fireball

The pilot and co-pilot were killed when a Silver City Airways plane from Bournemouth crashed while trying to land. It was carrying cars as cargo, as well as seven passengers and one member of cabin crew.

1968: Aurigny Air Services founded

The Islanders’ Airline was founded on neighbouring Alderney when it looked like the island was at risk of being cut off from the other Channel Islands.

1981: An Islander aircraft crashed on Guernsey

The inter-island flight was arriving from Jersey when its primary fuel tanks ran dry and it came down in a field.

1997: AirUK Fokker overshoots runway

The aircraft was arriving from Southampton and had 50 passengers aboard when it came off the end of Guernsey runway in strong winds, cloud and rain.

1999: Channel Express Airways plane crashes

The aircraft hit a house when the three tonnes of newspapers it was carrying shifted and set it off balance.

2004: Guernsey’s new airport terminal opens for business

The new building replaced the 1930s-built terminal. It had taken just under two years to build and had capacity for 30% more passengers than its predecessor.

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The Author

The Sarnian series is written by Nik Rawlinson, who was born in Guernsey and, although he doesn't currently live there, returns regularly. He is a journalist, author and broadcaster working for a wide range of lifestyle titles in the UK and beyond. Find out more at nikrawlinson.com.

The name

The name The Sarnian has two distinct meanings. It's up to the reader to decide which they prefer:

  1. It's the name of the newspaper for which Ollie works
  2. The Latin name for Guernsey was Sarnia. Thus, Ollie could be considered to be the Sarnian of the series title

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This web site, and its contents, are here to support The Sarnian, a series of books set on and around the Channel Islands, and Guernsey in particular. It started as a means of keeping track of each character so that their features, loves, desires, abilities, looks and so on didn't change from book to book and has grown to become a complete encyclopedia of the series. Unless otherwise stated, the images included on this site were taken by The Sarnian author, Nik Rawlinson, who is also the author of the content.


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