SNGO: L’Û d’la Grân Murâłe

L’Û, litterary “The Door” in Sarkese, is the former main gate within the Eperquerie fortifications in the North of the island, known as La Grăn Murâłe, built by French soldiers under the command of the first captain-governor of Sark, François du Breil the elder, in the years of the French capture of the island of Sark, i.e. sometime between 1549 and 1553.

The Eperquerie(s), or lz’Êprikthî in Sarkese (notice the plural), were one of the few save landing spots in Sark in the past, before the Creux Harbour (in Sarkese simply l’Creû) was made accessible via the tunnel. The French soldiers, who were sent to Sark to reclaim the island for the French Crown, fortified the hillsides above lz’Êprėkčì with a long wall and a tourelle. They most probably built also the path leading from the landing directly to a gateway in the wall which presented (possibly) the only passing point through the fortifications, and thus the only access to the island.

The said gate, called simply l’Û in Sarkese (The Door in English), must have been an impressive landmark to see when the Jersey colonists arrived to Sark, after the French soldiers had left their forts and the island itself. After all, it is a noteworthy structure even today despite its state affected by weather over five centuries. It is not much surprising then that the Sarkese gave name to the waters lying beneath the fortifications after the massive gate above. The bay surrounding lz’Êprėkčì was thus called la Bê sû̥ l’Û, litt. “The Bay under the Door” in English.

This name of the given bay was recorded already by Rev. Tourtel from Guernsey and published in his list of place names in Sark (1898), under the name “La baie sous Lu (or Lus)“.

Rev. Tourtel, an ardent celtophile apparently, claimed, as in many other countless cases, that even the word “Lu” in the name of the bay may have been of Celtic origin. Nonetheless, that was just another example of his misleading passion (stating that, we are and always shall be very thankful for his invaluable work in recording the island’s ancient toponyms). There is absolutely no doubt that Rev. Tourtel’s Celtic “Lus” is actually the Sark Norman “l’Û”, a general word for “door” in Sarkese, with the definite article, referring clearly to “The Door” above the bay.

Being an important local landmark, l’Û and its name can be easily traced back even in much older sources than Rev. Tourtel’s list, such as Élie Brévint’s famous notebook from the 17th century (written in French), in which it appears at least twice as “l’huis de la muraille”, i.e. “the door of the wall”. As for the word itself and its etymology, “huis/uis” in Old French that you may know from the still used French idiom “huis-clos”, meaning “closed door”, and “û” in Sarkese both share the same origin, the latin word /ostiu(m)/, meaning “door”. Thus, while in French, over the centuries, a different term for door prevailed, i.e. “porte”, originally “gate” in Latin, in Sarkese we’ve conserved one of the original terms for “door” the Ancient Romans used to use.


Even though the Norman languages in general conserved the original Latin term for “door”, issued from /ostiu(m)/, f.e. in Jersey Norman in the form of /us/, in Guernsey Norman /hus/ or /us/, please keep in mind that in Sarkese the strict Gallo-Romance distinction between long and short vowels still fully applies, therefore the vowel “û” in the name of the gate “l’Û” has to be pronounced long.


1) In his notebook, Élie Brévint states that in his time l’Û, the Door, was repaired by Abraham Guille.