View over to herm from the Vale Castle
History of the Vale Castle
The Vale Castle sits on a hill on the island's east coast looking out over what was once the separate island of the Clos du Valle.
Until the Early 19th Century Le Clos du Valle was separated from the rest of Guernsey by the Braye du Valle. This was similar to the Lihou causeway in that it dried up at low tide.
A causeway crossed the Braye at a point half a mile west of the castle.
Le Clos formed the greater part of the Parish of St Michel du Valle, and the Castle was known as the Le Chateau St Michel.
Archeological evidence suggests that an Iron Age fort was built on the hilltop around 500 to 600 BC and that the castle itself was built around 1370-1400.
In 1616 the gateway and walls had to be repaired at the expense of the five northern parishes. A powder house, guardroom and houses for the garrison were added around this time.
During the English Civil War Parliamentarian troops may have been stationed in the Castle. Extensive repairs were recommended in 1680 after the Civil War but it was abandoned shortly after. Nearly a century later it was reported to be in a state of disrepair.
The increased threat of invasion during the American War of Independence from 1778-1783 prompted the castle's complete repair and the building of barracks and garrison by regular army troops.
Two divisions of Russian troops were stationed in Guernsey, Alderney and Jersey in 1799. Hundreds of them contracted disease and the dead were buried close to the Vale Castle.
By the end of the 19th Century the barracks were abandoned, not for the first time, and fell into a neglected state. During World War I the local militia had a small garrison in the castle and between the wars the barracks were used by the States as homes.
German forces demolished the barracks during the Occupation from 1940-1945 and built concrete fortifications in and around the castle. Thus the site has been used for military purposes for over two thousand years.
Large excavations took place in 1980. These indicated the original construction date of around 1370-1400 for the late medieval works.
Under the medieval outer bank was a small turf bank which contained pottery dating to 5/600BC.
Similar pottery was found in a second bank under the 14th Century military buildings inside the walls. This double-banked hillfort is unique in Guernsey.
This double walled fortress must have made the residents of the Clos du Valle feel very secure.
Our thanks to the Guernsey Museum & Galleries Service for providing much of the information.
last updated: 13/10/2008 at 11:12
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