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Mont Orgueil Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Gorey Castle; Jerres', Gurry

In the parish of St Martin.
On the Isle of Jersey.

Latitude 49.19961° Longitude -2.01911°

Mont Orgueil Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Artillery Fort.

There are major building remains.

This site is a building or structure protected by law.


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.

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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • 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
  • Periodical Articles
    • Platt, C., 2013, ‘King John’s tower keeps at Mont Orgueil and Castle Cornet: the Channel Islands and the tour philippienneBulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 31.1p. 148-55
      Platt, C. and Rushton, N., 2011, ‘Curtain wall and keep: new evidence from Time Team’s excavations at Mont Orgueil’ Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 30.3 p. 362-67
      Myres, M.T., 2008, 'Who actually built Gorey Castle in the early 13th century?' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 29.4 p. 436-48 online transcription
      McCormack, J., 2006, 'The high-vaulted room at Mont Orgueil; hall, chamber or chapel?' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 29.2 p. 184-94 online transcription
      Platt, C., 2006, 'A note note on the chapels of St Marys and St George at Mont Orgueil Castle' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 29.2 p. 195-201 online transcription
      Platt, C. and Mesch, R., 2005, 'Mont Orgueil Castle and General Conway: the lost chapter' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 29.1 p. 99-115 online transcription
      Rushton, Neil, 2003, 'The historical evidence for the sixteenth-century remodelling of Mont Orgueil castle' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 28.3 p. 351-74 online transcription
      Platt, Colin, 2003-4, 'The Debate over Mont Orgueil Concluded - August 2003' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 17 p. 64-6
      Platt, C., 2003, 'The Mont Orgueil debate in the light of recent research' Mont Orgueil Studies No 12 March 2003.
      Rushton, N.S., 2003, 'The historical evidence for the sixteenth-century structural remodelling of Mont Orgueil Castle' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 28.3 p. 351-74
      Marshall, Pamela, 2002-3, 'The Debate over Mont Orgueil' Castle Studies Group Newsletter Vol. 16 p. 48-51
      Renouf, J., 2002, 'Geological examination of the D-shaped and adjacent areas of the inner ward of Mont Orgueil castle' Mont Orgueil Studies No 11 November 2002
      Selkirk, A., 2002, 'Mont Orgueil' Current Archaeology Vol. 183 p. 98-106
      Myres, M.T., 2002, 'Dating of fortification building programmes at Mont Orgueil castle for the evidence of peaks of annual expenditure on them, 1547-1594' Mont Orgueil Studies No 10 October 2002
      Platt, C., 2002, 'Dating the Somerset Tower' Mont Orgueil Studies No 8 April 2002
      McCormack, J., 2002, 'Dating buildings in the Inner Ward at Mont Orgueil castle' Mont Orgueil Studies No 6 March 2002
      2001-2002, 'Mont Orgueil Conservation Plan' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 15 p. 64 (news report) online copy
      Myres, M.T., 2001, 'Transition and change in the armaments of Mont Orgueil castle, 1531-1681 : An introduction to the artillery' Mont Orgueil Studies No 5 December 2001
      Myres, M.T., 2001, 'Reasons why the present "Somerset Tower" at Mont Orgueil Castle was not built, or completed, by 1549 : the documentary evidence' Mont Orgueil Studies No. 3
      2000-2001, 'Mont Orgueil Castle - Jersey' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 14 p. 16.17 online copy
      Finlaison, M.B., 1997, 'Investigations in the Lower Room of the South-West Keep Tower of Mont Orgueil : Part 2' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 28 p. 78-87
      Finlaison, M.B., 1997, 'Investigations in the Lower Room of the South-West Keep Tower of Mont Orgueil : Part 1' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 27 p. 85-102
      Barton, K.J., 1984, 'Excavations in the Middle Ward, Mont Orgueil, Gorey, Jersey' Archaeological Journal Vol. 141 p. 216-242
      Barton, K.J., 1977, 'Gorey Castle, Jersey, Channel Islands' CBA Calendar of Excavations summaries 1976 p. 3
      Barton, K.J., 1977, 'Medieval and post-medieval pottery from Gorey Castle' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 22.2 p. 60-82
      Rybot, N.V.L., 1950, 'A Report on the excavations made in the north-east outer slopes of Mont Orgueil castle during the latter half of the year 1940' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 15 p. 239-48, 465-73
      Rybot, N.V.L., 1942, 'Recent Work at Gorey Castle' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 14 p. 115-20
      Rybot, N.V.L., 1933, 'Reparations and Excavations on Gorey Castle 1931-33' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 12 p. 173-7
      Rybot, N.V.L., 1931, 'Excavations at Gorey Castle, February & March 1930' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 11 p. 274-99, 357-68
      Rybot, N.V.L., 1930, 'Reparation & Investigations on Mont Orgueil Castle(1921-1929)' Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 10 p. 275
      1919-22, Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 9 p. 247-55
      1910-14, Bulletin de la Societe Jersiaise Vol. 7 p. 147-97

      N.B. Mont Orgueil Studies was a relatively short lived series set up by the Friends of Mont Orgueil a, now seemingly defunct, pressure group. These useful pieces of scholarship are unlikely to be widely available and should be digitised.
  • Guidebooks
    • 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)
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete, particularly for the major royal castles and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • 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
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
    • 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
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • 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.
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The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of English Heritage, the various governments of the islands, other organisations and individuals. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
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This record last updated on Sunday, November 16, 2014