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WATCH: Castle Cornet dig nears crucial stage

WATCH: Castle Cornet dig nears crucial stage

Saturday 17 February 2024

WATCH: Castle Cornet dig nears crucial stage

Saturday 17 February 2024

The experts digging up Prisoners Walk think Castle Cornet could be ready to give up some of its medieval secrets with a drainage pit due to be excavated in the next couple of weeks.

The drain - which itself could date back to the 1300s - is beneath cobbles which were beneath the more modern surface of the Prisoners Walk.

That pathway is being replaced ahead of the castle reopening for the tourist season at Easter and the planned maintenance work gave the States Archaeologist an opportunity to dig beneath the walk way - something which has never been done before. 

Dr Philip de Jersey, Andy Lane, and Tania Walls were busy working in the narrow tunnel on Friday with time ticking by quickly.

They have to complete all of their work, with the Prisoners Walk reinstated by Easter, which is Castle Cornet's traditional reopening date.

Dr de Jersey said they will be done by then, and he's hoping for some interesting finds to be uncovered over the next few weeks. 

The work so far has revealed a number of items dating back to the 1600s, mainly clay pipes and small animal bones. 

Some ivory and pottery has been found too and there is one item that no one has yet been able to identify. 

Dr de Jersey is hoping someone may recognise it from the pictures below, and be able to piece together its history.

As the excavation work continues apace, the archaeologists know they are getting closer to the oldest part of the castle's Prisoners Walk - with a cobbled section to be removed during the next two weeks.

Dr de Jersey is expecting to find a drainage pit and possibly signs of a past drawbridge. 

"We've removed a lot of the post medieval material, that's everything 17th and 18th century and more modern material," he said.

"We haven't yet found anything medieval so what I'm really hoping for is 14th or even 13th century. I am hopeful that under the cobbles at the far end of the site we might get the drawbridge pit that we've been hoping for.

"We should certainly start getting some medieval evidence that we haven't had so far."

Castle Cornet is known to date back to the 1200s and was on its own islet for hundreds of years before the breakwater was built connecting it to St Peter Port Harbour.

When the castle was on its own islet, Prisoners Walk would have been on that island and the walkway would have had portcullis at both ends to block entry to the islet and castle from enemy forces.

Prisoners Walk is believed to be among the oldest parts of the entire site.

castle cornet

Pictured: Prisoners Walk is at no.12 of the provided map of Castle Cornet. 

The most recent archaeological dig in Castle Cornet was in the 1980s when a rubbish dump was uncovered, and within that a man's skeleton was discovered.

He had a gold coin in his pocket suggesting some wealth and he had been buried "with care" said Dr de Jersey, so how he came to be buried with rubbish remains a mystery.

Notable dates in Castle Cornet's history:

1204 - the oldest parts of Castle Cornet were built in this era

1338 - the French took Castle Cornet and held it for seven years

1642 - Guernsey declared for Parliament at the outbreak of the English Civil War while Castle Cornet remained loyal to the Crown

1800 - Fort George replaced Castle Cornet as Guernsey's main garrison 

1860s - a wooden bridge was built connecting Castle Cornet to St Peter Port

1940 - renamed Stuzpunkt Hafenschloss (Strongpoint Harbour Castle) by the German army, Castle Cornet was used by the Occupying forces who modified it in many ways

1947 - His Majesty King George VI handed Castle Cornet as a gift to islanders

2012 - The then-Prince of Wales attended an event during a Royal visit to Guernsey 

A full history of Castle Cornet can be read HERE


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