Jersey, Channel Islands
Elizabeth Castle, the last of the Channel Islands Castles to be constructed, lies on The Islet, off of the coast of St. Helier.
The History of the Islet goes back long long before the Castle's construction. It was here (in the Hermitage atop the rock on the left of the photo) that St. Helier himself lived until his death in AD 555. An Abbey existed for many years, until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. A great battle happened on the sands in front of the Islet (which is joined to the mainland at low tide) in 1406.
The first fortification was started here around 1550, and the Castle was completed under Sir Walter Raleigh (who was governor of Jersey) around 1601. In 1594 it became the Island's administrative headquarters, by which point it had acquired the name "Elizabeth Castle" (after Queen Elizabeth I). Throughout the 1600s more work was carried out, fortifying the rest of The Islet and building the gatehouse on the landward side, through which the visitor today passes first.
Two sieges occurred here during the Civil War, one in 1643 the other in 1651, but little damage was done to the structure of the Castle. During the Napoleonic Wars, barracks were constructed and more re-fortification work was carried out. In 1781 the French landed at St. Helier but after a brief battle were forced back to sea.
Then a few centuries of peace descended on Elizabeth Castle before the arrival of the Nazis in 1940. As was usual they turned the Castle into a fortress, and today the visitor who toils up to the top of the keep will find it occupied by a concrete bunker placed there around 1943, and constructed by slave labour from Eastern Europe.
Today Elizabeth Castle is open to the public and a glorious place to visit. Try to time your visit so that you have to travel one way by the peculiar and unique "boat/coach" known locally as a "duck" and travel the other way by walking across the sands.
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