Grosnez Castle Ruins

Jersey, United Kingdom

Grosnez Castle is a ruined castle built by Sir John des Roches around 1330. The castle's purpose was to provide local farmers with a place of refugee from French attacks. The French captured however the castle in 1373 and 1381. The castle was probably demolished around the time of the French occupation of Jersey (1461–1468). In 1483 the Seigneur of St Ouen was allowed to fortify his manor house and it is unlikely he would have been given permission if Grosnez was still in use. In 1806, a naval signal station was established at Grosnez to send messages to Guernsey.

The castle's position on a clifftop 60 m above the sea means that the natural features of the site protect it on three sides. A ditch dug into the rock provides protection on the fourth side. The remains of ruined walls, mostly footings, are still present. A drawbridge and portcullis protected the gatehouse, which is the only substantial surviving remnant, and would have made it difficult to capture. There are traces of six simple buildings.

The name comes from the old Norse words for 'grey headland' - grar nes - an accurate description of the site when seen from the sea, rather than from the French for big nose. A nearby headland to the west has a similar name, Rouge Nez.

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Founded: 1330
Category: Ruins in United Kingdom

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Margaret Clarkson (11 months ago)
Beautiful tranquil ruins and views to the other Channel Islands and France
doc young (11 months ago)
Great views, we were lucky with a bright sunny day
Antons Gevals (11 months ago)
Lovely place to see , but in summer or good weather as could be super windy ?
John Baker (12 months ago)
Great views of the other Channel Islands. Look for the sign telling the history. Interesting stuff.
Stephen Ward (12 months ago)
Part of the Jersey coastal path at one of the most scenic parts of the island. Fabulous views across to Sark and Guernsey. Love this walk.
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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.