Council for the Protection of Jersey's Heritage

Forts, Castles and German Fortifications Group

Leader: Paul Burnal

Le HocqThe island of Jersey can be proud of a rich heritage of fortifications both ancient and modern, ranging from the pre-historic (Le Cátel earthworks in Trinity and, possibly, Grosnez Castle, although the precise age of the latter is indeterminate); through the mediaeval period (Mont Orgueil and Elizabeth Castles); the numerous Round or Conway defensive Towers of the 18th century; the Martello Towers of the mid-19th century, erected to counter a perceived threat of a resurgence of French militarism at that time; the massive Fort Regent, which looms above St. Helier, completed in 1814; and the German concrete defences (about 232 of them) of the mid-20th century which are unusual in that, whereas the earlier fortifications were constructed to counter foreign invaders, the German works were erected by a foreign occupying enemy to keep out the British!

Despite the steep cliffs of the north coast, the several small bays to be found here were subjected to assaults by raiders over the years and, consequently, each one has its defensive tower or small redoubt, to say nothing of several guardhouses and gun platforms to be found on the cliffs. Many of the last two named are unfortunately neglected and require attention German defensive thoughts ran along similar lines and each bay on the north coast has its share of concrete defences.

Elizabeth CastleAll of them, however and whoever built them, are all part of the island's military history and are worthy of equal efforts of restoration and conservation. What has been achieved in this direction? The larger constructions (i.e., Elizabeth and Mont Orgueil Castles as well as Fort Regent) are well cared for; Round and Martello Towers and are either used as interpretation centres, some partly as dwellings, or stand empty. However, the Round Tower at Archirondel is in the process of being converted into a "holiday let" which can be open to question, as this Tower is the penultimate Round Tower to be erected in Jersey prior to the watershed date of 1796, when the Martello Towers replaced the Round examples.

The small forts on the north coast are either dwellings or interpretation centres while some, such as Bonne Nuit Fort, Fort Leicester in Bouley Bay, and L'Etacquerel Fort in Trinity, have recently also been adapted as "holiday lets" On the one hand this procedure secures the maintenance of the buildings but, on the other, the necessary provision of mains services means that the fabric of the buildings has to be disturbed.

NoirmontOf the German fortifications, eight (the best examples of each type) have been restored and are in the care of the Channel Islands Occupation Society and are open to the public on certain dates and times; others have been converted into warehouses, or viviers for the storage of live shellfish; some are private museums and, in one case, one has become into a public toilet; while many stand empty and sealed.

When fortification experts of the German Army inspected Jersey's ancient granite forts and towers in 1941, they stated that not only were these defences sited in the best possible strategic positions, but they were all so stoutly built that they only needed the addition of reinforced concrete ceilings and armoured doors and machine gun loopholes to make them ideal fortifications for mid-20th century warfare. This was done, and the results can still be seen today - with the unfortunate exception of an important coastal artillery command post at Mont Orgueil which was regrettably removed in the recent past.

Archaeology, Geology, Landscape and Archaeological Sites Listing
Coastal Strategy, Conservation Policy and Island Plan Revision
Urban Rescue, Waterfront Development and Historic Buildings Listing
Vernacular and Rural Architecture (pre-1799)
Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict

Valid CSS!