Alderney, Channel Islands

Essex Castle, Alderney, Channel Islands

It seems incredible that on an island as smothered with fortifications as Alderney there is only one "Castle".  Alderney's position, isolated from the other Islands, made it a bit of a backwater until fairly recent years.  The first time a need was felt to fortify it strongly was during the reign of Henry VIII.  The Castle was built overlooking Longy Harbour on the west side of the island - to cover the "Race", the area of sea between Alderney and the other islands.  The town of St. Anne would have to wait a long time before it got any fortifications.

After Henry's death, the Protector - Lord Somerset - of the boy king Edward VI pushed the building of Essex Castle forward.  After Somerset was deposed by the Duke of Northumberland the building work ceased until 1550 when spasmodic periods of building took place.  In 1554 Mary I came to the throne and the building work was abandoned.

In the 1840s when the great fortification of Alderney took place the Tudor Castle was demolished and "Fort Essex" built in its place, and it is the remains of this Fort that are today intermingled with a later, modern house which takes the name Essex Castle.

When the Islands were occupied by the Nazis in World War II they too embarked on a great fortification of Alderney - which Hitler wished to turn into his "Island Fortress".  In fact, Alderney was more occupied than any of the other islands because the local population left the island, allowing the Nazis to set up slave labour camps - the only ones on British soil.

The Nazis tended to use all the high points throughout the Islands to construct look-out towers and gun positions, and Essex Castle also had an ugly concrete addition.

The Castle is a private residence but is visible from all sides for Alderney's coastal path.  The Island itself is a forgotten jewel and worth a visit - particularly if you are interested in Napoleonic fortifications!

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