Since we returned to live in Jersey I have become obsessed with the use of granite in various walls, houses, slipways, gates and fortifications.
Granite is embedded deep in Jersey’s DNA. It has been the building stone of choice for thousands of years, back to the earliest prehistoric monuments. Today there are only a couple of quarries working in the island, but you can see the remains of hundreds of disused quarries dotted around. Some were incredibly small and local – opened up just to build a single house or wall. Others were massive and supplied stone not just for Jersey, but for export. In London, significant parts of the pavement and embankment at Westminster are made from granite that was dug out of a quarry less than a mile from where I live.
Even though Jersey is a small island (9 miles by 5), and granite only covers about a third of that area, there are many different varieties that can easily be distinguished, even by the non practiced eye. On the north coast the huge quarry at Mont Mado (now filled in) produced a distinctive grey granite with a purple tinge. It is found in buildings all over the island. Granite in the south western corner is known as Corbiere granite, or Beauport granite, according to the locale, and varies in grain size, mineral composition and colouring.
Sometimes it is the variety of colour that catches my eye, sometimes it’s the patterns formed by the stonemasons, sometimes a small detail, sometimes the fluid design. There’s something about the interaction of human hand in creating a granite structure, and then the way that nature takes it back, softening the lines through erosion, establishing lichen and plant colonies, and turning it into an almost living thing that creates almost accidental beauty.