We held investigations at Elizabeth castle in Jersey between 2010 to 2011 for the charity Anthony Nolan, We also returned in 2013 for an event organised by paranormal promotion company. The castle is absolutely beautiful cut off from the mainland at hi tide we were fortunate enough to have spent several nights there holding ghost events. I believe we were the first and last to hold such events at this location.
The Tidal Island in St Aubyn’s Bay was to become the Abbey (later Priory) of Saint Helier. Named after a hermit, who was born to Pagan parents in Belgium, Helier fled after his father had St Cunibert killed, ending up in Jersey. When Jersey did not provide the quiet life he sought, he decided to settle here. From here, he could see the sails of approaching attackers and signal the shore, warning the inhabitants, so they could scatter.
Following the reformation, the monastic buildings were taken over by the crown, and surviving buildings were used for military purposes.
The construction of the castle was started in 1594, under instruction of Paul Ivy, a Military Engineer. He constructed the Upper Ward area of the Castle, which was finished in 1601. It was named ‘Fort Isabella Bellisima’ by Sir Walter Raleigh, who was then governor of Jersey. He only spent 13 weeks here, staying in the Governor’s house, which is contained within the upper ward area of the castle. Elizabeth Castle became the official residence of the Governor of Jersey instead of Mont Orgueil, and during the English Civil War, it was first used in a military context. The Lower Ward was constructed by De Carteret. This section would defend the Upper Ward, and the Lower Ward was defended by the Outer Ward.
In 1646-7 Fort Charles was built, which defended the causeway approach to the castle, complete with belfry, which warned of 30 minutes until the causeway became submerged. This was a self-enclosed outpost armed with 5 or 6 cannon. Although it became part of the main castle with the construction of the outer ward in 1668, it still retained it’s own drawbridge. In 1651, a fortified windmill was built on the castle green of the outer ward to support Fort Charles. Whilst it was a working mill, it also had loopholes cut into the walls to allow for musket fire. It became obsolete when the lower part of the castle was completed and had been demolished by 1737. The upper ward, or mount was constructed in such a way as to provide better defences, giving advantage to a defending force. This was part of the original castle. Most of the original castle was demolished around 1700, to construct a gun platform overlooking St Aubyn’s bay.
Charles II visited the site in 1646 and 1649, and it was here he was proclaimed King by Sir George Carteret, the Governor of Jersey at the time. Charles stayed within the upper ward and on his return in 16498, he was accompanied by the future King James II. They spent their time here at the Governor’s House. The castle was bombarded with Mortars in November 1651, causing the Abbey house to be demolished on the 9th. This building was filled with ammunitions and stores, and it’s destruction caused Carteret to surrender. The current parade ground and surrounding buildings were constructed on the site of the former Abbey House. The cross in the parade ground marks the approximate site.
Following the surrender by Carteret, the castle was held by Parliamentarian forces for the next 9 years. Carteret was exiled to France, was imprisonned there in 1657, before being exiled from there to Venice. After the Restoration, Carteret was sworn into the Privy Council, as Vice-Chamberlain of the Household, which included the role of Treasurer of the Navy. It was in this role that his life was documented in the diary of Samuel Pepys, the then Clerk of the Acts for the Navy Board. Carteret then traded his position to become Governor of Ireland, and later sold this for the then princely sum of £11000. He had great influence at court, due to his support of Charles II and was granted a vast area of land in America, which he promptly named New Jersey. Prior to his death, it was proposed that he should be given the title of Baron Carteret, although he died prior to being awarded this, so the title was granted to his son instead.
The next major action seen at Elizabeth Castle was the Battle of Jersey. On the 5th January 1781, four divisions of French Troops, roughly 2,000 soldiers, set sail. The 6th of January was still celebrated in Jersey as ‘Old Christmas Night’, so the troops could land undetected. 800 men landed at Grouville, and passed the guards undetected. It later transpired that these guards had abandoned their post to go drinking. Only about half of the total number, roughly 1000 troops, were unloaded onto the island. They set up camp in the market while the town slept. At about 8 am, the governor of the island, Moses Corbet, was convinced by Baron De Rullecourt, the commander of the French force, that most of Jersey had been overwhelmed. He threatened to burn down the town and slaughter the inhabitants if he did not capitulate. Corbet was unable to ascertain the actual situation, and promptly surrendered. He was taken to the Royal Court and was persuaded to order Elizabeth Castle’s commander (Captain Mulcaster) and the troops of Major Francis Pierson at St Peter’s Barracks to surrender.
Jersey had been heavily fortified, due to it’s strategic importance, with gun batteries, redoubts, forts and barracks along the coastline. The local militia comprised 3000 men, and were supplemented by the 95th Regiment of Foot, the 83rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Glasgow Volunteers) and 78th Highlanders, plus around 700 ‘Invalids’- a group of semi-retired reservists, all totalling roughly 9,250 men. These troops refused to surrender. The troops stationed at Elizabeth Castle were marooned, but still refused to surrender. The battle took place in the streets of St Helier, resulting in the deaths of 30 men on both sides, including both Major Pierson, and Baron De Rullecourt. 600 French prisoners were rounded up. The French possessed plans of the fortifications, and a list of all of the defences, with the names of the officers commanding. Among the names on the list was that of a Mr Le Geyt, a Jerseyman who was rounded up with other people suspected of spying. The Death of Major Pierson has been immortalised in a painting by John Singleton Copley, and appears on the Jersey £10 note.
After the battle, the Island was more heavily fortified, including the construction of Fort Regent, which became the main British garrison. The Government finally withdrew from Elizabeth Castle in 1923, relinquishing it to the States of Jersey, which opened it to the public as a museum.
The castle was fortified further during the Second World War. After the liberation, the castle was repaired and eventually re-opened to the public. What does remain is the circular fire control tower, which stands on the 1551 gun platform.
Saint Helier walks to and fro, chanting his psalms. Born in the year 510AD, a bizarre 6th century man. Song and prayer, a church meeting upon the mount Helier’s Island congregation, were at Mont de la Ville, Jersey. Inhabited by only a few nomads and a Monk.
The Saxons brutaly attacked them, at about midday. The Pirates on their fatal day, had been hiding at sea. Fog arrived early morning, anchored off of Corbiere. They came ashore, unseen stealthely in st aubin bay. Crossing sand banks, hiding out amongst oak trees.
Chopping off their heads, playing football with them. They kicked St Heliers head, north of mount bingham. Where the seas high tide, washed it up on the shore. The shore it lay, his tomb-stone now, the church alter. An ideal man rejoiced for his good, a slaughtered saint.
Yes Elizabeth Castle Jersey, it is now being haunted. A man of christian faith, he endured long loneliness. Timeslip into the past, Peering out of his grotto door. His ghost is all alone in his grotto, awaiting us visitors. A real sense of being, paradise with islets and coves.