A site of exceptional historical, architectural and archaeological significance to Jersey, with more than island-wide importance. The site is of outstanding significance in its long associations with the history of the States of Jersey and the conflicts between England, France and, latterly, Germany, which are reflected in its fabric, as well as its landscape contribution to Gorey and the east coast of the island.
The castle was the primary means of defence of the island for a period of close to four hundred years, from circa 1205 to 1600, and it preserves the remains of three principal elements in the development of its fortifications - the early thirteenth century hall and tower house; the later medieval curtain walls, gates and round towers of at least three and possibly four Wards; and the bastions, batteries, towers and gun emplacements of the fifteenth and sixteenth century artillery fortress. It continued to operate as a military establishment for a further three hundred years and it was altered and adapted on several occasions during that period. Elements of all periods of its active life as a castle, as an artillery fortress, and as a military garrison are of significance as they reflect the attempts made to adapt the property for contemporary armaments, changes in methods of warfare, and the needs of the occupants. Acted as seat of government and a symbol of Jersey's unique constitutional position.
The castle stands on the site of an Iron Age promontory fort with evidence of Neolithic activity. The castle itself was begun shortly after 1204. Significant parts of the medieval castle survive, particularly to the seaward side. The landward side was mostly remodelled in the Tudor period to cope with the development of artillery. Some 17th and 18th century additions. Defences constructed by German occupying forces 1940-45. (State of Jersey HER)
Rocky site overlooking the sea, defended on two sides by cliffs. First mentioned 1212; probably founded about this time, with keep formed by a row of rectangular towers on a crest of volcanic rock; also a ward flanked by round towers, and a basecourt. Rather crudely built. A cross wall added in the 14th century, artillery towers in the 15th. Entirely remodelled under Henry VIII with a great ramped battery and a huge extension to the keep, forming a cavalier. Various later additions, Elizabethan, Civil War, Napoleonic, and German from 1940-45. Taken by the French, 1461; retaken 1468. Captured 1485 and 1651 in English quarrels. At least threatened 1338 and 1339; attacked unsuccessfully 1373 and 1643. (King 1983)
There is no evidence to indicate the existence of any medieval fortification on the site prior to 1204, when Normandy was recovered from the English by France, and it is between this date and the first reference to a castle at Gorey in 1225 that work must have been commenced on the buildings. The present buildings and the documentary evidence record a long history of construction, alteration, and refurbishment, firstly between 1204 and circa 1470, to provide a fortification for the protection of the island, the seat of the Governor, and some state buildings against attack and siege by hand-held and simple mechanical weapons, and especially in response to major attacks, such as those by the French in the 1380s. It was subsequently refurbished to mount cannon and protect the island against attack by artillery fire, commencing in the 1460s. The biggest development of the castle followed the renewed tension with France inspired by Henry VIII, and between 1520 and 1600 a series of improvements were made by a succession of Governors. These included the construction of a new Tudor keep with a battery of guns on the top and a huge masonry-faced rampart, known as Grand Battery, that were both designed to repel artillery attacks from Mont Saint Nicolas which had previously dominated the castle. Following the establishment of Elizabeth Castle in St Helier Bay, as the principal defence of the island, in the late 1590s Mont Orgueil was not abandoned but became an administrative centre and was refurbished again on several occasions and remained relatively intact until circa 1680. (Mont Orgueil Conservation Plan 2008)
Gorey Castle-as it is popularly known-was built in C13 as the island's main defence against the French whose coastline was only 14 miles away. The castle was built at Mont Orgueil because sea and cliffs protected the castle on three sides. Also, the granite that the castle was built on meant that it was virtually impossible to undermine. The castle is overlooked by Mont Saint Nicolas 200m to the north. This was beyond effective archery range but well within the range of late medieval artillery and the northern defences of the medieval castle where replaced (or encased with and built on) a massive Tudor wall over 14m thick.