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28 October 2014

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You are in: Guernsey > History > Local History > Victoria Tower

Victoria Tower

Victoria Tower is a prominent St Peter Port landmark, built in the 19th Century, which symbolises Guernsey's links to the English Crown.

Victoria Tower

Victoria Tower.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert paid a surprise visit to the island in August 1846, which whilst brief was the first visit to Guernsey by a reigning monarch.

A granite stone was laid marking where Queen Victoria stepped ashore at St Peter Port Harbour and the tower was commissioned to commemorate the visit.

The following year an architect was appointed; William Colling was working for a Scottish architects firm and drew up the design.

The site chosen for the Victoria Tower was an earthen mound opposite the Arsenal, where the militia were housed and now home to the Fire and Rescue Services, formerly the site of the New Ground Mill.

The foundation stone was laid on 27th May 1848 with a large ceremony which included a procession from the Assembly Rooms to the site.

The Governor of Guernsey, Major General John Bell, laid the stone in the presence of the Bailiff Peter Carey as officials and the poorer classes looked on. This was the first time the lower classes had been allowed to attend such a ceremony and showed how the project involved the whole island.

The event was recorded in the London Illustrated News: " seven o'clock, the whole of the town, and the shipping in the harbour and the roads, were profusely decorated with flags..."

The tower cost around £2000 and the workforce included inmates from the Town Hospital. Laid in the foundations was a time capsule which included coins from Guernsey and England including an example of Maundy money, which are the alms distributed to the poor by the monarch.

One of the German guns in the garden

One of the German guns in the garden.

After the Build

A public garden was later created at the base of the tower. Two cannons captured from the Russians during the Crimean War were placed in it, one at each end, and these now sit on the ramparts of Castle Cornet.

In 1922 four guns were placed on the site. Two were scrapped in 1938 and the other two were buried in 1940 so the invading German forces would think the Island was not armed.

In 1978 the guns of German manufacture were excavated and returned to the garden.
The tower was closed to the public in 1999 due to structural issues which the former Heritage Committee said had to be addressed.

The repairs included the top wooden staircase, significant electrical work, the intermediate floors and the Home Department took the time while it was closed to install communication systems.

In a recreation of when the foundation stone was laid the Lieutenant Governor, Vice Admiral Sir Fabian Malbon KBE re-opened the tower in the presence of the Bailiff Geoffrey Rowland on Wednesday 24th May 2006, the birthday of Queen Victoria.

When Is It Open?

The tower is open to members of the public provided they collect and return a key from the Guernsey Museum in Candie Gardens which is open 10am - 5pm in the Summer and 10am - 4pm in the Winter.

last updated: 03/04/2008 at 15:03
created: 14/06/2007

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