Victoria Tower is a monument erected in honor of a visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the island in 1846. As the 1846 royal visit was the first time a reigning monarch had ever visited the island, a small granite stone was laid to mark where the queen had first stepped ashore in St Peter Port harbour. The following year, the architect William Colling was asked to draw up plans for a tower to commemorate the monarch"s visit.
The site chosen for Victoria Tower was an earthen mound opposite the Arsenal, where Guernsey"s militia were housed. On 27 May 1848 the first foundation stone was laid by the Governor of Guernsey, Major General John Bell, during a large ceremony. In the foundations of the tower was a time capsule containing Guernsey and English coins.
A public garden was later created, in which were placed two cannons captured from the Russians during the Crimean War these now sit on the ramparts of Castle Cornet. Years later, other guns were displayed in the garden, but these were scrapped or buried as the Second World War approaced, so that the invading German forces would think the island was not fortified. Two German guns that were buried were excavated in 1978 and are back in the garden.
In 1999 structural problems led to the tower"s being closed to the general public; it was re-opened on 24 May 2006, the birthday of Queen Victoria, during a re-enactment of the ceremony accompanying the laying of the foundation stone in 1848. The Lieutenant Governor, Vice Admiral Sir Fabian Malbon KBE, re-opened the tower in the presence of the Bailiff Geoffrey Rowland.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.