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   Inside Out - South West: Monday 3rd March, 2003

THE BATTLE OF MONT ORGUEIL CASTLE

Mont Orgueil Castle at sunset
THE BATTLE LINES HAVE BEEN DRAWN | what is the future for Jersey Castle?

For hundreds of years Mont Orgueil Castle on the Channel Islands has been England’s frontline defence. Now once again the castle is in need of defending.

Built in the early 13th Century, the castle has had an interesting history. From prison, to spy station, to seat of government, Mont Orgueil has been an icon for Jersey pride and independence.

Now, in the 21st Century, the future of Mont Orgueil is looking uncertain.

Boosting visitors

View from the castle
Surrounded on three sides by sea and cliffs, Mont Orgueil was an impenetrable fortress

The Jersey Heritage Trust have run the castle since 1994 and are planning to open up large parts of the castle in a bid to increase visitor numbers.

At a glance, it may be difficult to understand why this move could be viewed as anything but a positive step, but when some experts and academics discovered the Trust’s plans for restoration, it opened a huge can of worms.

The Trust intends to build a Tudor Hall within the castle keep, but there is a strong school of thought that would challenge whether this is historically accurate, or worse, a threat to the structure.

Dispute

Opponents are not convinced that the Jersey Heritage Trust can rebuild a Tudor Hall without risking danger to the castle structure.

They say that the Trust has not provided any hard evidence to show that the physical structure of the keep has been examined by engineers.

View out of the castle window
Should the castle be restored to Tudor style?

Because the walls have been roofless, and therefore wet for many years, there is a danger that if the walls are roofed, the complex ‘hydrology’ of the stone will be upset.

In simple terms, the stone will become too dry and draw up water from the ground.

Any changes to the ‘hydrology’ of the walls is potentially damaging and the worry is that because the walls will be plastered to complete the Tudor Hall effect, any changes may go unnoticed until it is too late.

If the Trust truly do believe that roofing the keep is the best way to protect the building, opponents believe the Trust must be prepared to conduct a trial.

This isn’t the first time the castle has sparked debate, and it’s only thanks to the foresight of one man, that the castle remains today.

Sir Walter Raleigh, Jersey’s Governor in 1600, ignored advice to demolish Mont Orgueil, insisting it would make a good second line of defence to new fortress Elizabeth Castle.

The castle went on to prove its worth right up until 1907, when it became a public monument.

Bodged conservation

The castle
The restoration project has secured a £3m grant

It has since, been damaged, firstly by bodged conservation work and then again by occupying Germans, who used the castle as a barracks and observation centre.

It looks as if once again, the castle is under threat not from bodged conservation work, or enemy occupation, but from disputed evidence.

The restoration project has secured a £3m grant. More than a third of the grant has been spent already and the restoration proposals are in the hands of the Jersey planners.

The planners decision could prove to be the most significant since Walter Raleigh’s intervention 400 years ago and for once, the castle's defences are going to be of no help in this battle.

See also ...

On the rest of the web
Jersey Heritage Trust
Mont Orgueil Castle
Jersey Tourism

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Heather Cummings
It is so important to preserve the castle in it's natural state and not to add structure that is not in keeping with the original stone and build purely for commercial gain.

rosemary mesch
I am dismayed by the JHT plans for Mont Orgueil castle. Instead of an expensive speculative recreation for commercial reason, the JHT should be spending its money on conserving and repairing the parts of the castle that are literally falling down.

Jill Palmer
I don't see any evidence to prove that there was a Tudor Hall in that exact position within the castle. Hence, creating one on this site cannot be classified as restoration.

Michael Falle
Restoration as proposed is a very sad prospect. There are many knowledgable historian in the Island who all seem to know better, alas I fear they will be ignored for financial gain.

This is the new Jersey ethic.



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