From the National Trust to Historic England, there are many organisations throughout the UK which are dedicated to preserving, maintaining and celebrating our country’s uniquely wonderful heritage. In the Channel Islands, the largest such group is Jersey Heritage, which has responsibility for looking after a wide range of local landmarks, from ancient castles to contemporary museums.
Booking your Jersey holidays by ferry will give you the chance to bring your car with you and travel across the island to explore all the many fascinating sites that Jersey Heritage manage. Before you set off on your break, be sure to read the below guide that tells you all you need to know about the trust, their locations, and some special events they’ll be hosting this year.
An introduction to Jersey Heritage
Founded in the early 1980s, Jersey Heritage was formed with the aim of ensuring the architectural and cultural treasures of Jersey’s past would be protected for many generations to come. As well as its obvious responsibility of maintaining the island’s most famous and historic buildings, the trust also has the important task of safeguarding a variety of other significant local artefacts, including documents, artworks, objects of archaeological interest, and much more.
The trust is not-for-profit, with its continued success made possible by funding from several sources, such as grants from the Jersey government, admission fees from the various venues you can pay to enter around the island, and individual donations. Like many valuable organisations of a similar size, Jersey Heritage is only able to continue operating at its most effective thanks to the generous contributions of residents and visitors who feel a special connection with Jersey and share the trust’s desire to ensure its treasures will still be enjoyed hundreds of years from now. If you think that this is a worthy cause, please click here and consider making a small donation that will help Jersey Heritage carry on its excellent work.
Like many similar organisations, Jersey Heritage also has a diverse range of other activities and opportunities for residents and visitors to get involved with which help to further boost membership numbers and spread the word. Here are just a couple of the many great things Jersey Heritage does around the island, in addition to their historic building preservation:
Walking trails and tours
Jersey has long been a popular destination with both casual and seasoned walkers and, over the years, Jersey Heritage has developed an impressive network of self-guided walking trails and tours which visitors can embark on to learn more about the island’s history. One fascinating example is the Jersey Peace Trail, which crosses the capital of St Helier and focuses on places which had a key role in important historic moments like the reform of the local prison and how relations between Jersey residents and German nationals improved in the years that followed the Nazi occupation of World War II; the full guide for this walk can be downloaded here. Or, if you’d rather not have to carry a map around with you, you could always download one of the five walking tours that Jersey Heritage has made available for free on this page and explore the history of places like Elizabeth Castle, Mont Orgueil and Jersey’s stunning coastline.
Wedding venue hire
If you are engaged but are yet to find that perfect place for you and your partner to tie the knot, why not consider doing it at one of the beautiful sites managed by Jersey Heritage? Getting married in Jersey is easier than you may have thought, so don’t write off the possibility of saying your vows in the incredible setting of somewhere like Mont Orgueil Castle or La Hougue Bie before you’ve read more about it on this page.
As an interesting side note, it’s also worth mentioning that Jersey Heritage was in the news a few years ago when a significant Celtic coin collection was found by two amateur metal detectorists in 2012. Eventually revealed to be the largest horde of its kind ever discovered, the collection includes around 70,000 coins, nearly a dozen gold ‘torques’ (neck rings), a jewellery bag and many other fascinating artefacts. It’s safe to say that the huge discovery has kept the expert researchers at Jersey Heritage busy ever since, although this hasn’t stopped it from being made available for the public to view at the isolated La Hougue Bie museum (a site which also features a passage grave that is said to be one of the 10 oldest buildings in the world).
Which sites do Jersey Heritage look after?
As we have shown, there is much more to Jersey Heritage’s work than the flagship historic buildings they look after. It must be acknowledged, however, that the organisation’s biggest assets are undoubtedly its properties, some of which rank among the most fascinating of their kind in Europe. Here is a brief overview of the main attractions Jersey Heritage manages which you can visit when you come to the island:
Jersey’s flagship museum, this excellent attraction in the heart of St Helier takes on the ambitious task of chronicling the island’s entire human past, which stretches back 250,000 years. There are loads of artefacts and exhibitions to explore here, including objects that belonged to famous local socialite Lillie Langtry and the Merchant’s House, an expertly-designed living history site that will make you feel like you have travelled back to the 19th-century.
If you are serious about your history, you could choose to visit the Jersey Archive, which is also found in St Helier. The archives may not be housed in a building that is as architecturally stunning as the others operated by Jersey Heritage, but what it stores is beyond anything else you will find on the island. Make sure you come here if you think you have family links in Jersey or want to learn more about the German occupation – you’ll be amazed by how much research you can do at this wonderfully-resourced facility.
Jersey has a rich and ancient relationship with the sea, and St Helier’s Maritime Museum explores it in full. One of the most popular attractions on the island, the museum dives into all aspects of local maritime life, with highlights including the five ships of the ‘Heritage Fleet’ that are moored in the marina outside, the chance to see the live restoration of classic boats, and the award-winning Occupation Tapestry, which was created by islanders to mark the 50th anniversary of the Channel Islands’ liberation.
As much as the previous locations are well worth visiting, none of them has quite the same heritage as the incredible Mont Orgueil castle, which has been a dominating presence on the island for 800 years and is widely regarded as one of the best-preserved fortifications of its kind in the whole world. As well as guided tours and interactive activities, visitors will also be able to scale the battlements and admire the stunning views across to France on clear days.
It may not be quite as old as Mont Orgueil, but Elizabeth Castle – which was built on its own rocky islet off the coast of St Aubin’s Bay – has also played a major role in Jersey’s history and arguably represents an even more exciting day out for visitors of all ages. There are lots of immersive, living history-type events taking place all the time at Elizabeth Castle, with canon firing, costumed parades and the chance to speak with historical characters allowing you to travel back in time. The castle can be walked to via a causeway at low tide but can only be reached by a dedicated castle ferry at other times.
Hidden deep in the beautiful Jersey countryside, the Hamptonne Country Life Museum gives visitors a unique insight into the island’s long rural heritage. Explore the 15th-century farm buildings and surrounding land, meet the resident calves and piglets, or time your visit to coincide with the popular annual cider festival!
We discussed the lovely La Hougue Bie site earlier in this article, but it’s certainly worth another mention! Another site that is set in the tranquil countryside, this is far from your standard museum; some of the diverse highlights here include a command bunker built and used during WWII and the aforementioned 6,000-year-old Neolithic passage grave, which is one of the few of its kind anywhere that you can step inside and explore.
If you really want to immerse yourself in Jersey’s past when you visit the island, you might also want to base your stay at one of the fascinating historic properties that Jersey Heritage has taken over and converted into unique holiday accommodation. All of these properties are available to book through the team here at JerseyTravel and include such amazing places as the WWII-era Radio Tower and the 19th-century Kempt Tower.
What events are Jersey Heritage holding in 2019?
2019 has already been another busy year for Jersey Heritage, and the trust has plenty of other exciting events lined up for the months ahead. Below, you’ll find information on some of the biggest and most anticipated highlights that you can look forward to experiencing when you visit:
(1 January – 30 September)
We mentioned that Jersey’s famous Celtic coin hoard is usually on display at La Hougue Bie museum but you may be interested to learn that some of its most valuable and interesting findings will be appearing in various parish halls around the island throughout the year. So, even if you don’t find time to visit the museum, you may be staying at accommodation near where the coin tour is stopping off; visit this page for detailed information of where the hoard will be visiting and when.
(3 April – 30 December)
This unique exhibition demonstrates just how varied the events Jersey Heritage organises can be. The display, which can be seen at the museum in St Helier, focuses on how creativity has played a big part in Jersey’s history, with the pieces on display ranging from genuine Neolithic artefacts to objects that have only just been made by local artists. A ‘Make Space’ area also allows visitors to try their hands at creating something themselves!
(25 May – 31 December)
Like many local newspapers, the Jersey Evening Post has a vast catalogue of photographs in its archives which document the history of the island and its people over the last century. This year, these fascinating photos are being shown at the Jersey Museum, with the option for visitors to add the names of any people or places depicted for which details are missing.
(Selected dates from 22 July – 30 August)
Jersey Heritage goes out of its way to ensure younger guests have a great time during the school holidays, and their Summer of Fun event will visit all the trust’s most popular venues, including Mont Orgueil and Elizabeth Castle. With themes such as ‘Musical Mayhem’ and ‘Wild Play Days’, there are sure to be plenty of great activities for everyone to get involved in.
(12 – 13 October)
Every autumn, the Hamptonne Country Life Museum acts as the perfect setting for Jersey’s annual cider festival. The ‘Great Jersey Bake Off’, cider tasting, delicious food and family fun are highlights of every instalment of this much-loved event.
(30 November – 1 December)
If you’re lucky enough to be staying in Jersey over the festive period, be sure to attend the Victorian Christmas event that will be held at the Jersey Museum to mark the start of Advent. A traditional Christmas celebration in every sense, this lovely weekend will feature handmade gifts created by local artisans that you can take home as a memento of your time on the island, as well as a programme of seasonal music. Why not combine your visit with a look around the rest of the museum too?