Jersey has been fought over for many centuries, and after visiting you’ll see why, but as a result Jersey is littered with castles and forts, from the magnificent Mount Orgueil castle built in the 13th century to the huge German War Tunnels built while the Island was occupied during the Second World War. Jersey’s past goes back much further than even its 800 years of allegiance to the English crown it celebrated in 2004.
The Stone Age monuments from the Neolithic Period (c.4500-3000BC) are the oldest monuments in Jersey, older than Stonehenge and are some of the best examples in Europe. Burial chambers and stone monuments, often covered with a rubble mound, known as dolmens were common in Jersey. Today about fifteen remain. One of the best examples of these monuments is at La Hougue Bie in Grouville. Many of the finds from the 1924 excavation are on display at the Archaeological Museum on the site. There is also a German command post built underneath all open to the public. Open daily from 18 March – 2 November 10am – 5pm.
An example of a late Neolithic ‘Allée Couverte’ (a rectangular chambered tomb with no passage or covering mound) can be seen at Ville-ès-Nouax in St. Andrew’s Park at First Tower.
The earliest known dolmen on the island is the passage grave La Sargente at St. Brelade (c.4500-4000BC) near the end of the cliff walk at La Pulente.
Mount Orgueil Castle, known locally as Gorey Castle, this spectacular 13th Century castle is set on the east coast overlooking the harbour of Gorey. With more than 50 exhibits and plenty going on throughout the year you can watch the eagle-flying demonstration or talk to our wonderful Living History team, the Master Gunner, Master Stephen of Stratford or Lady de la Fontaine who bring history to life. Open daily from 18 March to 2 November 10am – 6pm (last admission at 5pm).
Elizabeth Castle – Jersey was defended from this fortress built on an islet in St. Aubin’s Bay for 300 years from the Civil War to the German Occupation. Experience a soldier’s life at Elizabeth Castle, join the Gunner’s parade and stand to attention as he fires the cannon each day between 10am and 3.30pm. Walk across the causeway from St Helier at low tide or catch one of the amphibious “Ducks” (extra charge). Open daily from 18 March until 2nd November 10.00am – 6pm (last admission at 5pm)
Driving around the coast you will notice numerous round forts that were built to protect the island from French invaders. Most are privately owned and are even parts of people’s houses. One that is open to the public during the summer months is Kempt tower a Martello tower built in 1834, the tower is home to an exhibition on the adjacent Les Mielles conservation area and also facts regarding the tower.
There are also many ruins of forts that visitors can wander through at their leisure all year. One of the most impressive is. Grosnez Castle (ruin) and Le Pinacle, on the headland on the north west of the island, thought to have been built in the 14th century. Le Pinacle, a 200ft high rock which featured as an object of worship for thousands of years. There are also superb views from this area north to the other Channel Islands.
The Germans left a lasting mark on Jersey after Hitler invaded, occupied and demanded it was turned into Fortress Jersey. Many of the sea walls and coast roads we now rely on were built by the Germans. And there are some amazing fortifications around the Island including the world famous War Tunnels (formerly known as the Underground Hospital). Historians and locals have plenty of theories as to what the real purpose behind the building was. Russians, Poles and other nationalities were brought in as slave labour by the Nazis and worked and died here in appalling conditions. A thought provoking visit. There are too many fortifications to list here but as you tour the island you will come across many.
Noirmont Command Bunker
Well-preserved German naval command bunker that controlled the artillery battery “Lothringen” from 1944 – 45. On two floors, this impressive bunker contains numerous displays and exhibits, and guided tours are available on request. Much of the adjacent artillery battery has also been restored, including various gun emplacemnets and an observation tower. Open April – October (Sundays only) 11.00am to 4pm.
Le Moulin de Quetivel
The last remaining working mill in Jersey, the building dates from the 18th century and was restored in 1978 by The National Trust for Jersey. Inside there is a shop, an exhibition on the history of milling and a display of archaeological finds. Open Saturdays May – September 10.00am to 4pm.
Jersey Museum is the winner of 2 national awards; it uses modern technology & dramatic displays to tell the story of Jersey, its traditions and its industries. The Museum holds art & cultural exhibitions throughout the year. Open Daily 9.30am to 5pm from 18 March – 2 November & 9.30am to 4pm daily from November to March 2009.
Maritime Museum and Occupation Tapestry is another of Jersey’s national award-winning museums. Set in the historic harbour area of St. Helier, the Maritime Museum is home to hundreds of items relating to the people of the sea, seafaring, navigation and the elements. The museum focuses on Jersey’s maritime heritage and the experience of Islander’s both contemporary and historic. Also located at the Maritime Museum is the Occupational Tapestry, made by the people of Jersey to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Jersey from German occupation during the Second World War. Open daily 9.30am to 5pm from 18 March – 2 November & 9.30am to 4pm November to March 2009.
Hamptonne Country Life Museum. There are six centuries of rural life to discover at Hamptonne. Dating back to the 15th century, the house and farm are brought back to life by characters from the Island’s past demonstrating by-gone crafts and skills. Explore Hamptonne house wih the help of the resident housekeeper, the Goodwyf, who tends to the house and will intrigue you with local gossip, stories and quirky traditions. Open daily 10am – 5pm 18 March to 2 November. Closed in winter.
Each of the twelve parishes has its own Parish Church as it’s focal point.
St. Brelade’s Church & Fisherman’s Chapel
In a picturesque part of the Island, the Parish Church sits overlooking one of the best known beaches in Jersey. There are two church buildings here, the Parish Church, and the Fishermen’s Chapel. This occupies the site of the original wooden church built by St. Brelade in the 6th century. The original timber building with a clay floor was built in stone, preserving the Christian site. Adorning the walls are many 14th and 15th century murals. This church has been a centre of Christian worship for over a thousand years.
St. Matthew’s Church (The Glass Church)
St. Matthew’s Church features a plain exterior, but however just through the doors are amazing, breathtaking Art Deco glass fixtures and fittings that were designed in 1934 by Rene Lalique of Paris, thus giving the church its name, Glass Church. The panels, alter cross, alter rail and font were created using a milky opaque glass, as were the Art Deco angels that will leave you awestruck. Don’t expect colourful stained glass, but if Lalique is your thing it’s not to be missed.
St. Helier Church
Named after the town’s patron saint, a hermit who lived on the rocky islet on which Elizabeth Castle now stands. Parts of the church date from the 11th century. The gallant Major Pierson, who defeated the French when they invaded in 1781, is buried here.
Vincent Obbard, the Seigneur of Samares Manor and his wife Gillie welcomes you to their beautiful historic house, set in splendid gardens and grounds, with exotic specimens, herb garden and plant nursery. Visit the Jersey rural life and carriage museum and take a guided tour of the Manor House. The grounds are the venue for several fetes and events, and during the summer outdoor performances of Shakespeare plays take place. For the children there are many animals to see- mules, Shetland ponies, sheep and donkeys. The garden restaurant is open every day (9.30am to 5.00pm).
In the centre of town is the historic Royal Square, with its ‘al fresco’ eating places. The historic building forming one side of the square is home to both the Royal Court and the States Chamber – seat of the Island’s government. The square was the scene of the Battle of Jersey in 1781 – shot marks from the battle can still be seen on the walls of the Pierson Pub. Open-air art exhibitions are held several times a year in the Square, as are various markets and street theatre performances. At the Vier Marche during the Battle of Britain week in September, you can see stall holders in the traditional Jersey bonnets. The Square was the Island’s original market place.
Corbiere lighthouse built in 1873 was the first concrete built lighthouse in the British Isles and is positioned on the south west corner of the Island. Many ships had come to grief on the rocks before the lighthouse was built. The worst winter gales throw spray high over the lantern and rock on which the tower stands. The concrete causeway links the coast with the lighthouse which means it is easy to see the structure in close-up at low tide, a klaxon warns the unwary that it is time to make tracks after the tide turns. To find our more information on tours around Corbiere, or to book your place on the next one, contact Jersey Tourism on 01534 – 500700.