Restoration reports and plans

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Elizabeth Castle
restoration reports and plans


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Elizabeth Castle was garrisoned for the first time in many years when the Germans took it over during their Occupation of Jersey in 1940.

After the 1945 Liberation the castle was found to have been left in a terrible state. Not only had the Germans built bunkers, gun emplacements and other concrete structures, but they had stripped some of the historic buildings of their wooden floors and left other parts of the castle in ruins.

It would take the States 78 years to agree on a restoration plan and for work to start in 2023, the centenary year of the castle's acquisition by the island

Scaffolding covers an historic building and restoration work first proposed in 1955 is under way in 2023

After an initial clearance, the castle, which had the status of an ancient monument, was opened to the public soon after the end of the war, some sections remaining dangerous to visitors, particularly children.

1955

Ten years would pass before Jersey's Government, which had been ceded the castle by the British Government in 1923, turned its attention to what was to be done with the castle and a detailed investigation and restoration plan were commissioned from the UK Ministry of Works' ancient monuments branch. The report was produced by Baillie Reynolds, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments and T A Bailey, senior architect in charge of ancient monuments in Southern England.

The 1955 report (Jersey Heritage online catalogue - C/B/K/A/2), published a year later, ran to 150 pages and made a long list of recommendations for urgent repairs to prevent further structural deterioration; necessary restoration in the short to medium-term and desirable long-term work.

Not only did the report go into considerable detail concerning the state of the castle and its buildings, but it also made detailed recommendations about the nature of the work to be undertaken, including advice on cleaning stonework and woodwork, treating beetle damage and dry rot, and repairing rusty metalwork. The States can have been left in no doubt about what restoration of an ancient monument involved, because expert advice was included on such basic operations as grouting crumbling stonework.

It is perhaps hardly surprising that virtually nothing was done, apart from some attention being given to urgent work on dangerous parts of the structure.

2006 plan

In the first decade of the 21st century Jersey Heritage, which was now responsible for all Jersey's historic monuments in public ownership, began to commission conservation statements for each of them.

Part 1 of a report and recommendations for Elizabeth Castle was published in 2006, with a second part to follow. These reports were simply a follow-up to earlier proposals for the revamp of the key heritage site.

Given the profusion of reports, proposals, planning applications and budget debates, it is not surprising that journalists would become confused about exactly what happened when.

Bailiwick Express reported in December 20 that 'plans for the restoration of Elizabeth Castle have finally gone in, 40 years after proposals for the revamp of the key heritage site were first mentioned'.

'The planning application includes restoration of the Hospital Block as a museum, as well as a refurbishment of the coal store and the stables, engineers’ store, and coal yard buildings to provide toilets, catering, lecture and exhibition facilities.
'It comes after a long battle, spanning 40 years, to get the castle restored. AC Saunders, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments at the UK Department of the Environment, first put forward plans for future developments at the heritage site back in 1980'. No mention of the Ancient Monuments report of 1955.
'Across the years, these plans kept being pushed back due to a lack of funding. The tide only seemed to turn in 2019 when States Members agreed funding for the project, following a comprehensive survey of the condition of the castle, but that hit another roadblock - the originally proposed Government Plan 2021-24 pulled £3.4m worth of funding for the restoration plans.

This about-turn prompted Jersey Heritage to hit out at the Government’s “embarrassingly long history of inaction” with regards to the castle. Attempts to obtain £2.6m for urgent maintenance were watered down and only £750,000 was agreed. Then Jersey Heritage, having been classified as a registered charity, became eligible for more grants, donations and tax advantages and received a £1.1m ‘top up’ grant.

The plan was to restore the hospital block, giving the public given access to it for the first time in many years.

"This is an important building, not just in relation to the history of Elizabeth Castle, but nationally as a rare example of a purpose built military hospital," historic building consultant, Anthony Gibb, wrote in a design and heritage statement.

It was also proposed to replace tiles, repair the timber roof structure and damaged masonry, as well as lime plastering. The refurbishment of the coalyard, stables and engineers’ store would provide toilets, a kitchen and a function room.

Existing elements, including the staircase, the flagstones in the kitchen and hall as well as doors and windows would be retained.

"The aims of the proposed works are to preserve the special architectural and historical interest of the hospital block and ancillary buildings, to improve universally accessible toilet provision and access to parts of the castle, and to facilitate tourism and education at the castle," Mr Gibb wrote.

2023

A decision on the plans was expected from the planning committee in 2021, but still nothing happened until work finally got under way in 2023 on a project which the Jersey Evening Post reported had been '30 years in the planning'.

It was is expected that scaffolding around the hospital and officers' quarters would be in place for 14 months. Jersey Heritage said that archaeologists would be at the site during certain parts of the project. Chris O’Connor, head of property for the organisation, said:

‘After 30 years in the planning, it is very exciting to see the physical evidence of the restoration work starting at Elizabeth Castle. We carried out some preliminary works last year to gather essential conservation information, but this year will see the project taking a major step forward.
‘The scaffolding is a necessary part of the restoration work and we hope that visitors and islanders can bear with us while it is ongoing, in the knowledge that it is vital to secure the future of the castle and will provide exciting new opportunities once it is complete.’

The officers’ quarters, which had been used as exhibition space, are being restored and developed and returned to their original use as accommodation, opening up opportunities for the castle to be used in different ways, including during the winter months when it is currently closed to the public.

The Georgian hospital is being restored so that it can be opened to the public. The large 19th century coal store, next to the hospital, is not currently used and is being refurbished to create a multipurpose meeting and function room, with kitchen and toilet facilities. It will provide a location for meetings and events.

Although it did not lead to any progress being made with restoration, the 1955 report is of value to historians, particularly because of the large number of photographs it contains, documenting the state the castle was left in after the Occupation. A selection is included below.


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