Mont Orgueil Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Certain Artillery Fort

There are major building remains

NameMont Orgueil Castle
Alternative NamesGorey Castle; Jerres', Gurry
Historic CountryJersey
Modern AuthorityJersey
1974 AuthorityA
Civil ParishSt Martin

A site of exceptional historical, architectural and archaeological significance to Jersey, with more than island-wide importance. The site is of outstanding significance in its long associations with the history of the States of Jersey and the conflicts between England, France and, latterly, Germany, which are reflected in its fabric, as well as its landscape contribution to Gorey and the east coast of the island.

The castle was the primary means of defence of the island for a period of close to four hundred years, from circa 1205 to 1600, and it preserves the remains of three principal elements in the development of its fortifications - the early thirteenth century hall and tower house; the later medieval curtain walls, gates and round towers of at least three and possibly four Wards; and the bastions, batteries, towers and gun emplacements of the fifteenth and sixteenth century artillery fortress. It continued to operate as a military establishment for a further three hundred years and it was altered and adapted on several occasions during that period. Elements of all periods of its active life as a castle, as an artillery fortress, and as a military garrison are of significance as they reflect the attempts made to adapt the property for contemporary armaments, changes in methods of warfare, and the needs of the occupants. Acted as seat of government and a symbol of Jersey's unique constitutional position.

The castle stands on the site of an Iron Age promontory fort with evidence of Neolithic activity. The castle itself was begun shortly after 1204. Significant parts of the medieval castle survive, particularly to the seaward side. The landward side was mostly remodelled in the Tudor period to cope with the development of artillery. Some 17th and 18th century additions. Defences constructed by German occupying forces 1940-45. (State of Jersey HER)

Rocky site overlooking the sea, defended on two sides by cliffs

First mentioned 1212; probably founded about this time, with keep formed by a row of rectangular towers on a crest of volcanic rock; also a ward flanked by round towers, and a basecourt. Rather crudely built. A cross wall added in the 14th century, artillery towers in the 15th. Entirely remodelled under Henry VIII with a great ramped battery and a huge extension to the keep, forming a cavalier. Various later additions, Elizabethan, Civil War, Napoleonic, and German from 1940-45. Taken by the French, 1461; retaken 1468. Captured 1485 and 1651 in English quarrels. At least threatened 1338 and 1339; attacked unsuccessfully 1373 and 1643. (King 1983)

There is no evidence to indicate the existence of any medieval fortification on the site prior to 1204, when Normandy was recovered from the English by France, and it is between this date and the first reference to a castle at Gorey in 1225 that work must have been commenced on the buildings. The present buildings and the documentary evidence record a long history of construction, alteration, and refurbishment, firstly between 1204 and circa 1470, to provide a fortification for the protection of the island, the seat of the Governor, and some state buildings against attack and siege by hand-held and simple mechanical weapons, and especially in response to major attacks, such as those by the French in the 1380s. It was subsequently refurbished to mount cannon and protect the island against attack by artillery fire, commencing in the 1460s. The biggest development of the castle followed the renewed tension with France inspired by Henry VIII, and between 1520 and 1600 a series of improvements were made by a succession of Governors. These included the construction of a new Tudor keep with a battery of guns on the top and a huge masonry-faced rampart, known as Grand Battery, that were both designed to repel artillery attacks from Mont Saint Nicolas which had previously dominated the castle. Following the establishment of Elizabeth Castle in St Helier Bay, as the principal defence of the island, in the late 1590s Mont Orgueil was not abandoned but became an administrative centre and was refurbished again on several occasions and remained relatively intact until circa 1680. (Mont Orgueil Conservation Plan 2008)

Gorey Castle-as it is popularly known-was built in C13 as the island's main defence against the French whose coastline was only 14 miles away. The castle was built at Mont Orgueil because sea and cliffs protected the castle on three sides. Also, the granite that the castle was built on meant that it was virtually impossible to undermine. The castle is overlooked by Mont Saint Nicolas 200m to the north. This was beyond effective archery range but well within the range of late medieval artillery and the northern defences of the medieval castle where replaced (or encased with and built on) a massive Tudor wall over 14m thick.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid Reference
Latitude49.1996116638184
Longitude-2.01910996437073
Eastings0
Northings0
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Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

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Books

  • Thornton, Tim, 2012, The Channel Islands, 1370-1640: Between England and Normandy (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) passim
  • Platt, C. and Rushton, N., 2012, Tudor Mont Orgueil and its guns (Jersey Heritage Trust)
  • Rodwell, W., 2006, Mont Orgueil Castle, Jersey: history and architecture (St Helier: Jersey Heritage Trust)
  • Platt, Colin, 2002, Mont Orgueil Castle and the Defence of Jersey 1540-1630 (Woodfield, for the Friends of Mont Orgueil)
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, Castles and Old Churches of the Channel Islands (Malvern; Folly Publications) p. 44-51
  • Saunders, Andrew, 1997, Channel Defences (London; Batsford/English Heritage) p. 79, 89, 122
  • Barton, K.J., 1986, 'Material evidence for medieval defence of the Channel Islands' in P. Johnston (ed) The archaeology of the Channel Islands p. 142-147.
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 543
  • Colvin, H.M., Ransome, D.R. and Summerson, John, 1982, The history of the King's Works, Vol. 4: 1485-1660 (part 2) (London) p. 450-453
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1976, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London) p. 603-6
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 248
  • Le Patourel, J., 1937, The Mediaeval Administration of the Channel Islands 1199-1399 (Oxford University Press) passim
  • Gavey, E., 1906, A Picturesque History of Mont Orgueil Castle, Jersey, with original illustrations by Alfred G.Wright
  • Corbière, J.E., 1890, Mont Orgueil Castle – A tale of Jersey during the Wars of the Roses (London: Briggs and Debenham)
  • Timbs, J.and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 538-9
  • Le Gros, A.A., 1870, Mont Orgueil Castle, its history and its ruins (St. Helier: Ahier)
  • Syvret, George, S., 1832, Chroniques, des iles de Jersey, Guernesey, Auregny et Serk (Guernsey) online copy
  • Grose, Francis, 1787, The Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 6 p. 187-9 online copy

Antiquarian

  • Anon, 1838, Some Account of Mont Orgueil Castle in the Island of Jersey: its present state, its various alterations and additions, with a poetical description of the castle, written by William Prynne, during his confinement therein, from 1637 to 1640 (Jersey)
  • William Camden, 1607, Britannia online copy
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 187 online copy

Journals

  • Time Team (Mike Aston et al), 2011, March 27 (1st broadcast), 'Castles and Cannons' Time Team TV Programme (Time Team, a Videotext/Picture House production for Channel 4) view online
  • Wessex Archaeology, 2011, Mont Orgueil Castle Gorey, St Martin, Jersey Archaeological Evaluation and Assessment of Results (Wessex Archaeology 74153) online copy
  • < >2008, A Conservation Plan for Mont Orguiel, Jersey (Jersey Heritage Trust) online copy < >
  • Clark, Kate, 2008, Valuing the Heritage of the Channel Islands (Kate Clark Associates for Jersey Heritage) online copy
  • N.B. see 2008, A Conservation Plan for Mont Orguiel, Jersey for full bibliography particular the various early 21st century report made in light of proposals to refurbish/repair the castle which, like incandescent light bulbs, created some light and much heat. This was a discussion/argument between one school of opinion, led by Philip Dixon and Warwick Rodwell, and another school of thought, championed by the Friends of Mont Orgueil and Colin Platt. See Selkirk 2002 for a discussion of the bases of this debate.

Guide Books

  • Jersey

Primary Sources

  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol. 1 p. 126
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol. 2 p. 12b, 45b, 96
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1835, Rotuli Litterarum Patentium in Turri Londinensi Asservati (1201-16) (Record Commission) p. 95 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1913, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1367-70) Vol. 14 p. 60 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1900, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward IV, Henry VI (1467-77) p. 1 online copy

Other

  • Ford, D., 2007, Mont Orgueil Castle: a souvenir guide (St Helier: Jersey Heritage Trust)
  • Brown, M., 1986, Guide to Mont Orgueil Castle
  • Harris, J.E., 1971, Mont Orgueil Castle: guide and history (Filleul and Queen Ltd.)
  • Rybot, N.V.J., 1933, Gorey Castle (le chateau Mont Orgueil) (Jersey)
  • Nicolle, E.T., 1921, Mont Orgueil Castle: its history and description (Jersey)