Jersey Heritage: Preserving Our Island’s Treasures

All information in this blog post is correct as of the publishing date, 03.08.20.

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 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

Walking through the woods

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. 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

Weddings with Jersey Heritage

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 Museum & Art Gallery

Jersey Museum & Art Gallery

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.

Jersey Archive

Jersey Archive

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.

Maritime Museum

Jersey Maritime Museum

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.

Mont Orgueil Castle

Mont Orgueil Castle

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.

Elizabeth Castle

Elizabeth Castle

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.

Hamptonne Country Life Museum

Hamptonne Country Life Museum

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!

La Hougue Bie Museum

La Hougue Bie

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 2020?

2020 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:

People Make Jersey: Our Stories of Immigration

(24 June – 31 December)

This powerful exhibit at the Jersey Museum & Art Gallery recognises the unique stories and experiences of Jersey’s past and present residents. Here you will have the chance to learn about Jersey’s first settlers 7,000 years ago, to those who have since immigrated to the island for religious, political or economic reasons. The fascinating stories are brought to life in this exhibit and paint a colorful picture of how life in Jersey today has been shaped and influenced.

A Day To Remember – Liberation 75

(24 July – 18 April)

Jersey became free from German Occupation on the 9th May 1945, marking a momentous day for all Jersey residents that is still rejoiced every year through Liberation Day celebrations. The powerful emotions of Liberation Day can be experienced 75 years on through this exhibition at Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, as footage from the day captures the crowds from the Royal Square and Pomme D’Or hotel. With first person accounts and a powerful photography and film archieve you’ll be able to step back in time and understand how it felt for them to finally be free.

La Faîs’sie d’Cidre

(17 – 18 October)

La Faîs’sie d’Cidre

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.