Wednesday, 13 June 2012

St Helier in 1932 - Elizabeth Castle

A few more extracts from the 1932 Guide Book to the Channel Islands...

This covers mainly Elizabeth Castle, and its more recent history. The Elizabeth Castle of 1932 looked quite different from that today in many respects - the 1940s saw a legacy of German bunkers and gun emplacements which altered the skyline of parts of its battlements, making a much harder, starker silhouette.

The cost of the castle is pretty amazing £1,500. It is difficult to ascertain what that would be today - the Measuring Worth website says:

In 2010, the relative value of £1,500 from 1922 ranges from £63,900.00 to £491,000.00.

Even at the upper end of the scale, that still seems like a bargain!

The history of the castle doesn't mention that there is a gap of around 600 years between the death of Helier, and the foundation of the Abbey on the castle. It is notable that the life of Helier dates from the time of the Abbey, and is mostly constructed from bits and pieces of other Saints lives. It appears to be more of a foundational document for the Abbey, written up so that more might be known of Helier than simply a name.

The historian Charles Grosset noted that the Passion of St Helier, written in the 10th or 11th century, draws upon two very much earlier lives of St Marculf (A and B), and amends them to suit his narrative.

Grosset's conclusion is that the life of St Helier is extremely poorly documented, and like Balleine, he considers it largely fictional. He sees the writer as having "been given the task of writing a life of the hermit Helier, who lived in Jersey and has a few bare facts known about him: the cave where he lived, healing of the sick, and death at the hands of pirates. He discovered a similar sounding name to Helier in the district of Tongres, and also a hermit called Eletus in the Life of St Marcouf. He did not hesitate to identify Helier with the near namesake in Tongres, or to make an identification with Eletus, taking the story of a miracle set on an island whose place-name was not to be found on the map."

The last item in this extract is the West End Bathing Pool. This is sadly neglected and no longer in use, although it has been suggested refurbishing it would be a good jubilee project. Here it is described in its vibrant heyday - probably very popular with young people, because it permitted mixed bathing!

St Helier in 1932 - Elizabeth Castle

Elizabeth Castle.
Admission-6d. Open daily, Sunday included.
The Castle stands on a detached rock about three-quarters of a mile from the shore. It can be reached by boat or by a causeway, which is completely covered at high tide, but is available about 3 hours after high water, and remains available for about 5 1/2 hours. If the tide is rising, it is not advisable to stay too long, or it may be necessary to remove shoes and stockings to make good one's retreat by the causeway.
In 1922 the Imperial Government offered Elizabeth Castle to the States of Jersey for £1,500. The States accepted, and at once began to put the historical parts of the building in a state of repair. The official handing over of the keys took place, with full ceremonial, on May 21, 1923.
The venerable and picturesque appearance of the Castle at a distance is not confirmed by a close view, but historically the spot is of interest and should be visited.
Close to the rock on which the Castle stands, and enclosed by the breakwater, is the Hermitage Rock, in which the hermit Helerius, or St. Helier, from whom the town derives its name, had his cell in the middle of the sixth century. He was noted for his piety and eloquence. While addressing a band of pirates, he was suddenly attacked and killed by the captain, who feared that his men might be induced to desert him. On the spot -where this occurred a Norman nobleman, Guillaume de Hamon, built an abbey and church in 1126.
In the reign of Edward VI the Governor of Jersey received orders to fortify the promontory, but little was done until the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when the greater part of the fortress was constructed. The lower ward was built in 1626, and the tower nearest the causeway, called King Charles's Tower, was added a few years later by the express desire of Charles II, who, as Prince of Wales, had been much interested in the fortifications which resisted his capture by the Parliamentarians.
Sir Philip de Carteret, Bailiff of Jersey, strengthened Elizabeth Castle on the outbreak of the Civil War. At his death (1643) the faction favouring the Parliament attempted to seize the Castle, but it was strongly held in the King's name. Mont Orgueil Castle was also stoutly defended by the Dowager Lady de Carteret. On the arrival from St. Malo of Captain George Carteret (nephew of Sir Philip) the attack on Mount Orgueil was withdrawn, and Carteret, assuming his rightful office of Lieutenant-Governor of Jersey for the King, soon suppressed opposition. In 1646 the fugitive Prince Charles arrived at Elizabeth Castle. On February 17, 1649, Carteret caused the Prince to be declared King.
Soon afterwards it was deemed prudent that the soi-disant king should retire to the Continent. Lord Clarendon also arrived at the Castle in 1646 and remained two years and one month, during which he began his famous History of the Rebellion. Admiral Blake arrived in 1651, with Parliamentary forces, and in St. Ouen's Bay Sir George Carteret and his Jerseymen fought them for four hours, when the Parliamentarians retired to their vessels and made for other parts of the Island.
When the Parliamentary forces landed, St. Aubin's Castle and Mont Orgueil quickly surrendered, but Carteret stubbornly held out in Elizabeth Castle. It was bombarded from St. Helier Hill (now Fort Regent), and an enormous shell "fired at a venture" did irreparable damage by exploding the powder magazine. Forty men were killed, and among the buildings wrecked were the Abbey Church and the residences of Prince Charles, Lord Clarendon and Sir George Carteret. In consequence of the disaster, the garrison capitulated on December 15, 1651, marching out with honours of war. The siege had begun on October 23.
Slightly to the west of the causeway is the
West End Bathing Pool, or Victoria Lake. It has a sea-water surface of over five acres. Mixed bathing is permitted at all times. The pool is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. There is every convenience for both swimmers and nonswimmers-rafts, spring-boards and double diving stage (5 feet and 9 feet high). A boatman is always in attendance. As the Pool is covered at every tide the water is renewed twice a day.

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