30th March 1921
Guernsey adopts Sterling currency
On 30 March 1921, Guernsey adopted Sterling. It had taken the island a long time to align itself with the mainland. Over the previous 300 years, it had used a series of currencies. Some were its own, but many had been aligned with France.
Until 1834 Guernsey used the French Livre. This might sound like common sense, given its location, but France itself had abandoned the Livre in 1795. In 1830 Guernsey introduced its own currency, the Double, which it used alongside the Livre. The Doubles were a series of copper coins, established at 80 Doubles to each French Franc. A Guernsey penny was worth eight Doubles, and 12 Guernsey pennies made a single Guernsey Shilling. A Shilling, was therefore worth either 96 Doubles, or 1.26 French Francs, depending on which currency you were paying with.
If you wanted to settle a bill using a mixture of different currencies, the mental mathematics must have been a challenge, made worse by the fact that the currencies were pre-decimal.
Four years after introducing the Double, Guernsey dropped the French Livre. This would have made things far simpler – had it not introduced the French Franc at the same time. Thus, it was once again operating two currencies side by side, with Doubles and Francs in circulation for the next 100 years.
Switch to Sterling
In the years immediately following the First World War, the Franc was struggling. Its value fell against Sterling, which made British imports to Guernsey considerably more expensive.
In 1921, therefore, the Royal Court issued an ordinance adopting the British pound as Guernsey’s legal currency. It would use it alongside its existing Double coins across Guernsey, Sark, Herm and Jethou. From that date forward, Bank of England notes, any notes issued on Guernsey since the start of March 1921, and any copper coin issued by the States of Guernsey would be valid.
Fortunately, the changeover shouldn’t have been too confusing. The Double to Sterling exchange rate was almost the same as it had been for Francs, with twelve eight-double pieces to each Bank of England shilling.