THE ISLAND OF HERM
Auction Particulars and Contract of Sale, Tuesday 29th July 1884


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“The inhabitants of these outlying possessions, these ancient fiefs of the Queen, regard themselves as independent of Parliamentary jurisdiction, being governed by their own Houses of Assembly, and by officers appointed by the Crown, without reference to the laws of England.”

The following more particularly affecting the Island of Herm, viz. :-

“That part of the island of Herm permanently above water is an irregular oval, measuring about a mile and a-half from south to north, and half as much across. As in Guernsey, the southern and eastern part of the island is high and precipitous, while the western and northern parts are lower and more accessible. The low grounds of L'Ancresse are represented in Herm by a long stretch of beach; but while in Guernsey the sand is entirely quartz, in Herm it consists exclusively of small shells and fragments of shell, ground into a powder by the sea.On the north-eastern side of the island is a small bay, similarly provided with a shell beach.”

“The summit of Herm is flat. There is a valley at the north end, opening out to the smaller shell beach, and a well-marked, though narrow depression, on the south side, near Jethou. The central table land is for the most part cultivated; but the slopes, especially near the sea, are still wild, and covered with coarse, wiry, tufted grass, brambles and gorse.”

“The scenery of the coast is remarkable. A beautiful white and black granite rock forms the hard back bone; and may be recognised at intervals, around the coast, sometimes projecting from the ground in jagged pinnacles, sometimes seen in boulders and detached rocks. This granite is intersected by many wide veins, extremely variable in their nature, but generally either soft or readily decaying. Deep ravines have consequently been cut by the sea at various places, terminating in small caverns, none of which, however, run in very far. Where the vein is decomposing it turns readily into soil; a great thickness of micaceous sand and fine gravel exists at the surface, and the entrances to the caverns are, in these cases, deeply and richly fringed with ferns whose brilliant metallic green singularly and beautifully contrasts with the peculiar square, hard lines produced by the parallel walls and straight top of the sides and roof.”

“But besides these caverns, eaten in by the sea, there is also a noble creux in this little island. The top is about as large as the Pot in Sark, but the depth is less considerable. At the bottom is a tunnel, communicating with the sea. The origin of this creux is clearly to be traced to the action of the water from the surface; and is quite unconnected with the sea; although, no doubt, when the water had once made its way downwards and a channel at the bottom was opened, the carrying away of the fallen rubbish greatly facilitated the enlargement of the hole above.”

“Singularly wild and picturesque are the rocky bits to be seen at the back of Herm. Some rocks, now quite detached at half tide, are worn into battlements and pinnacles; blackened, and presenting all the features of a ruined mediaeval castle. Some large flat expansions of hard, but much weathered rock, afford a kind of irregular pavement, on which those shod with stout boots can walk pleasantly enough, except when it is interrupted by deep fissures with vertical walls, serving as inlets to the sea. Here and there is a Cyclopean mass of ruined masonry, of nature's own construction.”

“It is in many places almost impossible, or at any rate very troublesome, to get down to the sea at the back of Herm; but when the coast is reached, and with a falling tide, a large part may be walked over with only the ordinary difficulties of cliffing, and with more than the ordinary satisfaction derived from doing a difficult thing, owing to the nature of the veins, and the variety of minerals met with in a short space.”

“The granite of Herm has been quarried to some extent.”

“Parts of the decomposing granite form an excellent soil, which would repay any amount of cultivation.”

“Nowhere very high, though generally lofty enough to be quite inaccessible, the hills and cliffs of Herm subside towards the north, terminating there, as has been already said, in a broad expanse, covered very deeply with innumerable fragments of shells. It is a curious sight to watch these sands; sometimes a vast solitary blank, without a pebble, a ripple mark, or a worm cast upon them - one mass of myriads of-shelly particles and shells ; at other times, during an excursion from Guernsey, peopled by women and children sweeping into their bags this great wealth of cowries and limpets, and separating from the mass before them all that seems most beautiful or valuable.”

 
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