Elizabeth Castle was built to the site of earlier Catholic St. Helier abbey. The monastic buildings were finally taken over by the Crown at the Reformation. Surviving buildings were used for military purposes. The construction of the Elizabeth castle was started in 1594 when the power of cannon meant that the existing stronghold at Mont Orgueil was insufficient to defend the Island and the port of St. Helier was vulnerable to attack by ships armed with cannon. This work was carried out by the Flemish military engineer Paul Ivy.

Sir Walter Raleigh, the Governor of Jersey between 1600 and 1603, named the castle Elizabeth Castle after Elizabeth I of England. The Lower Ward was constructed, between 1626 and 1636, on the site of the ruined Abbey church. This area of the castle became a parade ground, surrounded by a barrack building and officers' quarters. Wells and cisterns for water existed within this area.

The castle was first used in a military context during the English Civil War in the 17th century. Charles II visited the castle in 1646 and 1649, staying in the Governor's House, and was proclaimed King by governor Sir George Carteret despite the abolition of the monarchy in England. In 1651, a windmill was constructed half-way between Fort Charles and the Lower Ward. In the same year, the Parliamentarian forces landed in Jersey and bombarded the castle with mortars. The destruction of the mediaeval Abbey church in the heart of the castle complex which had been used as the storehouse for ammunition and provisions forced Carteret to surrender, and Jersey was held by Parliamentarians for nine years. In 1668, or shortly afterwards, King William's Gate was constructed, which is located between the Outer Ward, and Lower Ward.

During the Seven Years War, French prisoners were kept at the island. Perhaps the most well known was Jean-Louis Le Loutre. The castle was next involved in conflict in the late 18th century, this time it was with the French. A two-story barracks hospital building was constructed in the early 19th century. A plan to link the castle to the mainland as part of an ambitious harbour project in the 19th century was abandoned. A breakwater linking L'Islet to the Hermitage Rock on which the Hermitage of Saint Helier is built remains, and is used by anglers.

During the Second World War the Germans, who occupied the Channel Islands, modernised the castle with guns, bunkers and battlements. After the Liberation, the castle was repaired and was eventually re-opened to the public.



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Founded: 1594
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom


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User Reviews

Derek Williams (5 months ago)
Elizabeth Castle is a remarkably well preserved large castle estate with many well preserved buildings. The castle can be reached in foot across a raised causeway or by amphibious bus that crosses regularly whether to tide is out or the causeway is totally flooded. The museum and audio visual presentation are worth finding and the climb to the highest tower is rewarded by great views of the coastline and the nearby capital of Jersey, St Helier. Check the tide tables before crossing the causeway on foot as the tide is fierce and rises fast. The ticket office for the amphibious bus and castle is opposite the Jersey Grand Hotel.
Anna (5 months ago)
I've been to Elizabeth castle twice and both times it has been great! I recommend going on a warm cloudless day. You can walk all around the castle and the old buildings as well as walk down some stairs to find an old chapel/church and a sort of pier. Worth the money for the fun day trip.
Christopher Dias (5 months ago)
An amazing castle with so much history and a must see in St Helier. Best to get a ferry and tour which takes approx 3 hours to complete but the guides are very helpful and knowledgeable especially Juliette who took us around. Stunning views throughout although was very windy when we went in April. We were also able to see a live demonstration of a Musket being fired! The ticket office to book a tour is located a short walk down the main promenade from Liberation Square (don't go to the main ferry station). You can also walk across the causeway when the tide is out from the ticket office.
Julie (5 months ago)
We’d bought the Heritage pass so used it this visit. Loved going in the amphibious vehicle- staff were entertaining and it was fun to use such a “boat” to access the castle as the tide was still high. The castle has a fascinating history and though the map we bought for £1 was ok it was trial and error getting around. But it has plenty of details and information boards. The rooms featuring cannon and artillery were interesting given the knowledge of bombardment in Ukraine currently. The things men designed from centuries ago!!?? And the fact that somehow this castle was a stronghold and surrounded by water for 15 hours a day- remarkable it was actually built! The views were terrific on a fine clear day and the cafe was nice too. Enjoyed walking back along the causeway.
Matthew Silk (6 months ago)
Brilliant day out and worth the £16 inc. ferry/bus (amphibious bus) travel. Such a massive site, 25 acres I think the lady said when we arrived. Took us approx 4hrs to totally investigate all Nook's and Crannies. Lovely tea shop on the island with some great coffee and tea, scones and jam. The hut to book your ferry ride and castle entrance ticket is just opposite the The grand Jersey Hotel on the main promenade. Don't make the mistake we did and follow Google maps to the ferry terminal ?
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Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.