Nicolle Tower, Mont Ubé Dolmen and Dame Blanche
Today’s CBA Event started with a visit to Nicolle Tower, where fifeteen people, lead by John Clarke assisted by…
Council for British Archaeology
FESTIVAL OF BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGY 2015
SOCIÉTÉ JERSIAISE PROGRAMME OF EVENTS 11th to 26th JULY 2015
The beginning of the 2015 Festival Events was determined by the moon to choose a day when the tide was low enough to walk to the first site and at a week-end when a guide was available.
Saturday 4th July
At one o'clock before setting off for Icho Islet a group of 46 people were briefed on the importance of awareness of the rapidity of the rising tide and the importance of the route across the shore. The guides were Mr Bob Tompkins and his wife Jill who are both very experienced marine biologists and knowledgeable about the area. The group set off and were joined by geologist, Dr John Renouf, Mr Robert Waterhouse and Mr Ian Ronayne.
Soon everyone was up to their ankles in the retreating tide and our guide was demonstrating various fauna and flora of the shore zones. The 19th century Icho Tower was reached and everyone filed up on the rocks around the entrance ladder to be met by the tenant Mr David Yettram. Dr Renouf gave a talk on the formation of the coastline in prehistory and the structure of the Islet.
This was followed by a talk by Mr Waterhouse on the archaeology that had been carried out early in the 20th century by the Société Jersiaise, the finding of human remains and occupation material from the late Neolithic to early Bronze Age. He also pointed out many signs of post medieval activities and the remain of workmen's or fishermen's huts and quarrying. Mr John Clarke said a little about the Tower and 19th century defence of the coast, after which groups of 12 at a time went into the Tower where Mr David Yattram spoke about its present condition and use as a navigation mark. The views from the top were quite spectacular. Groups were then advised to set off to the beach with a guide leading them around the rocks as the tide would soon fill the gullies. A few people went across the rocks and found themselves crossing the gullies. No one came to any more harm than wet trousers.
On reaching the slipway, time and energy were running out and the numbers were depleted for an explanation of an excavation carried out on the upper beach at Havre des Fontaines of late 18th century "barrel wells" by the Société in 2012.
The Le Hocq Round (Conway) Tower was then opened for the party to visit. Fortunately the tower is little altered from its original form with the entrance by an external stair and wooden stairs to the lower and upper rooms. The lower floor magazine and store-room contains some early and interesting brickwork and the gun platform retains its brick vaulted floor and iron ring at the centre. It is through this ring that those accessing the view from the top had to climb a near vertical ladder. Although there were Second World War additions they were underground and now concealed.
Saturday 11th July
Although this was the first day of the National Festival it was the second visit for the Société Programme when a group of 14 met near Grosnez Castle then turning their backs on the ruined castle went along the cliff path stopping to note the gorse covered site of Hougue de Grosnez which was was excavated by Mr Robert Le Sueur with students some years ago. Further along the path a poorly visible track turned off onto a small headland where the way down to La Cotte à la Chèvre was pointed out and an explanation of the archaeology was given. Then in single file the group descended the bracken covered slope to the col above the rock with the cave.
A further steep descent brought the climb down to the edge of the cliff with a narrow path running around its edge to a final rocky scramble onto the platform in front of the entrance to the cave. From the reports of 1911 by Nicolle, Sinel, Rybot and Marrett the area of their excavation was identified.
The finds from those excavations were the earliest in situ evidence of the occupation by humans of the Mousterian culture in Jersey.
Coming back up was a hard climb through waist high bracken to continue along the cliff path to turn off again to a little valley where a spring, La Fontaine Martin supplied fresh water for animals, and the washing place where the farmsteads' families from about 300 yards inland came to do their laundry in the 18th and 19th centuries. The lavoir could be seen to be in good condition but very overgrown with stinging nettles.
Continuing on the main path then turning inland into a field completely covered by bracken the group headed to the highest point of a low ridge where there is a standing stone. This is the Le Prévôté Menhir which the Société Archaeology Section excavated under the direction of the late Mrs Deirdre Shute in January 1992 when it was shown to be late Neolithic. Mr Robert Waterhouse who had prepared the report of the findings gave a talk on the archaeology found and some of the more recent history.
Sunday 12th July
Meeting at the car-park at the south end of Les Landes where the German Military had build a heavy artillery battery (Moltke) that has been restored and was opened by the Channel Islands' Occupation Society, 16 people and a dog joined the walk to the edge of the cliff and into the Middle Stone Age. While viewing from a vantage point above a col between the Pinnacle stack and the heath-land plateau, the archaeology of five periods of occupation spanning the earliest Neolithic (4,800 BC) to Roman (181 AD) was pointed out.
Those who wished to explore climbed down a path onto the saddle of the col and received further information about the site as a source on dolomite axe-making material and activity in the Chalcolithic period before the Bronze Age. The foundations of the Gallo-Roman fanum from 181AD were examined.
After recovering from the steep climb back up, the group walked over the path where investigation of flint deposits from the Mesolithic period had been investigated by adult students of Highlands College and more recently by visiting university students from Britain. The investigation had been along the edges of the Canale de Scquez which is a marshy valley with a stream that dries in some summers and falls over the cliff just north of the Neolithic site. Test pits had been dug and many flaked flint tools found from the Mesolithic period when hunter-gatherers were becoming more settled and Jersey was about to become an island.
Monday 13th July
The Société Jersiaise Members' room was the venue for for a talk by the Société's Field Archaeologist Mr Robert Waterhouse. The evening began with coffee and tea being served by two Committee members, Nicky Westwood, Bronwyn Matthews and Pippa to 27 listeners. Mr Waterhouse gave an illustrated presentation of all the archaeological evidence in Jersey from the Roman period and its influence. This included building material, pottery, coins and landscape features. He concluded that there was a great deal more to be found and the south eastern side of the Island was the most likely area to produce more evidence.
Tuesday 14th July
The event programmed for the afternoon was to be a demonstration of work being done in a field next to the Grouville Parish Church where small amounts of pottery had been found. However we learned only a few hours before that a funeral was going to be held and the police advised that there would be traffic congestion and asked us to abandon the event. We can only apologise to the people who came and were turned away, but it is hoped that the investigation will take place later and some test pits will be dug.
Wednesday 15th July
Kindly invited to St. Saviour's Church by Mrs. Angela Swindell, the Rector's wife and a Member of our Executive Committee, a group of 18 assembled at the lych-gate and were met by historian Mr Neil Molyneux, the President of the Société, who welcomed everyone into the pews and gave a lecture on the origin and history of the parishes of Jersey and how St. Saviour's borders had been carved out. He told of some of the colourful members of the parish and how the church was related to the feudal system and later to the militia. Attention was drawn to some of the monuments and features within the church by Mrs Swindell. Geologist Dr. Ralph Nichols then demonstrated some of the geology outside the church including a corner foundation foundation stone of Megalithic appearance. There was also the arch of the cannon door and the site of the militia armoury and drill-hall. Some of the group dispersed to look for particularly interesting graves in the churchyard which included survivors of the Battle of Waterloo, Henry Thomas Bosdet the stained-glass artist, and members of the Société. We all said farewell to Mrs. Swindell who was leaving the next day for Wales with her husband the Rev. Dr Anthony Swindell who had just retired.
Thursday 16th July
In the evening 44 people sat in the church of St. Matthew at Millbrook in the Parish of St. Lawrence to listen to Mr Paul Groden give an illustrated talk. The group included some of the congregation of the church who were keen to learn more about their church.
Paul divided the lecture into three parts. First he talked about the origin of the church of ease and the early days of the school on the site. From archive documents he gave an insight into the conditions of the children in the district at the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century. He illustrated the form of the church in the 19th century Gothic style.
The second part was about the humble origins of Jesse Boot in a poor Quaker family in industrial England, and how his family had developed Boots the Chemists and how he came to Jersey where he met his wife Florence. Their work in Jersey involved the philanthropic establishment of housing for the working classes and provision of facilities for the youth of the Island. Other generous schemes were carried out in education in Nottingham where they were granted the title of Lord and Lady Trent.
The third part was about the remodelling of the church in the art deco style of the 1930s and the magnificent interior. For those sitting within this masterpiece of brilliant religious moulded glass the lecture on the life and work of René Lalique the church was brought to life. Both inside and outside the work of the architect Arthur Grayson showed how it harmonised with the sensitive art of the glass maker.
The group then were invited to move around and examine the details inside and out which included the porch side windows with the original stained glass.
Friday 17th July
An energetic group of 13 met at the gate of St. Mary's Church for a three mile walk guided by Blue Badge Guide, Mrs Sue Hardy. On leaving the churchyard she described the features of the farmstead adjacent to it which shows repeated stages of development. Then it was off down Rue du Potirons ('pumpkin lane') pointing out historic construction of buildings on the roadsides. At the point where the lane becomes La Dimerie ('the tax collection') Mr. John Clarke described the investigation carried out by the Société Archaeology Section during the demolition of La Fontaine Farm and the features recorded. These included the date stone still visible as a feature in the garden of the house opposite. A short walk down the valley brought the group to the ruins of Gigoulande Mill. This Crown owned water-mill was working into the 20th century with two vertical tandem wheels each driving machinery on separate floors. It suffered deliberate destruction in the Second World War at the hands of the German Forces (as did La Fontaine). The ruins were excavated and recorded in 1992 by Dr. Warwick Rodwell and the Société Jersiaise with the hope of some conservation. However the ruins are now overgrown with brambles and nettles. After noting features of a water-wheel on a house below the road, and having crossed the main road the climb up Mont Remon was a challenge for the unfit! The top of the hill gave views across much of the Island before heading north and down towards The Elms. Now the headquarters of the National Trust for Jersey this property was a working farm until the 1980s and has a range of intact farm buildings which were examined. Viewed from the meadow with its water-cress bed, the farm walls contain several ornate granite carved features which must have come originally from a high class building. By a footpath through the meadow and along fields the route came out at the archway of Perry Farm. The arch shows that it has been rebuild wider and taller by the addition of a keystone and base stones. From there the final journey was directly back to the village and everyoneone with a thirst was guided into the nearby inn.
Saturday 18th July
To coincide with a low spring tide at 3.20 pm a group of 19 set off from the slipway at Havre de Saie to walk down the beach to a sandy area where there are lines of stones that have been placed carefully in position for a purpose that is not obvious. As the stones became uncovered Mr Waterhouse explained how after the Société had examined them he had made an accurate record of each stone. No definitive conclusions have been drawn and no dating evidence was found except that they are historic. Theories were suggested they were arranged to trap fish or a site for piling seaweed or stone imported from Les Ecréhous of even a Viking ship burial. No identical arrangement of stones have been found on the Island but Jersey's coast has many lines of stones once used to trap fish or secure nets or with woven barriers.
Leaving the beach as the tide advanced the next site visited was Le Couperon gallery grave. Identical with allées couvertes in Brittany, these graves contained the remains of large numbers of people. They are parallel sided with a single row of capstones. Usually built low down near the shore, the other example in Jersey is at Ville ès Nouaux on the edge of St Aubins Bay. It was explained that the original excavation was mid-18th century and the restoration was not carried out with great accuracy. Adjacent to the prehistoric monument is a 18th century guard house and magazine with a rock carved gun platform which was the last site of the visit.
Sunday 19th July
Sixteen walkers met at 2 pm on the common of Jardin d'Olivet above Bouley Bay. The group set off after having a brief account of the raid on Jersey by the French after their capture of Sark in 1549 when a battle took place and the invaders were routed by the Militia soldiers then departed to St. Malo with many dead. From here also the parliamentarians landed cannon to besiege Mont Orgueil Castle.
The walk led into overgrown woodland, formerly theVictorian garden of a banker (later imprisoned for bankruptcy) who build the nearby house. There was a view of the Gothic revival house with a hexagonal tower, an arched gateway, a belvedere and even a tunnel into a subterranean ice-house. The base of a flag pole which once stood above the cliff was found in the undergrowth. By climbing over fallen trees two Gothic castle follies were found, complete with cross-bow loops.
A stroll through about a mile of country lanes brought the walk to Chastel Sedament, a place where there are the remains of a defended area. Much of the earthworks have been totally ploughed out and a farmstead has been built near one side. Mr Waterhouse who had done some work on the site guided the group though the fields and explained the earth banks which had survived. He explained that some shards of medieval and Roman type pottery were found. But the date of construction was still uncertain. Tradition has it that it was a refuge in 1406 when the Island was ravaged by Pero di Nino after the defeat at the dunes in St Aubin's Bay.
Monday 20th July
The Landmark Trust generously allowed a visit to Nicolle Tower their only site in Jersey and thanks to Mrs Julie Rotheram and Tracey a few people were allowed into the building having removed any boots. Seventeen in the group went in four at a time and were impressed at the accommodation and the fantastic views of over 180 degrees of panorama, while others examined the carvings on the rock on which the tower stood or hunted in the overgrown hedges for the remaining dugouts of the German strong-point.
When everyone had made the visit, they were led across a potato field to Mont Ubé Dolmen where the Middle Neolithic passage grave was explained by Dr Nichols, giving the significance of the orientation and geology of the monument and its relation with other dolmens in the Neolithic landscape.
After descending by the Société's right of way into La Blinerie we set off for one of Jersey best menhirs, La Dame Blanche, noting the remaining signs of the historic Eastern Railway then avoiding the rhubarb. Dr Nichols describe the archaeology of the great stone in the middle of the field where there was previously an orchard. The final archaeology seen was a small menhir built into the brick pillar of an out-building at Les Cigales which could be seen from the roadside. Then it was an uphill climb to return to the car park.
Tuesday 21st July
A group of 27 were invited to assemble in St. Mary's Chapel at Rozel Manor by Mr Neil Molyneux and the generosity of the Dame, Mrs Emma Lempriere-Johnston. Mr Molyneux gave a detailed history of the Fief de Rosel in Medieval times and some of the families that held it. The outside of the building was examined and the huge wisteria is which impressive but hides much of the building. Everyone was impressed by the size of the Chapel and height of the vault.
The farm buildings were then looked at, especially the colombière which had been turned into a house.
Wednesday 22nd July
The afternoon started for 24 people with a walk along the beach from Seymour slipway to a site were in January, Mr Waterhouse had directed an investigation of field ditches in the natural subsoil below the shingle. He explained how they were discovered and how the ditches indicated a prehistoric farming landscape.
Returning past the slipway and along the coast road the group went into the property of Grouville Bay No.1 Tower. Unfortunately the owner Mr Giles Bois was not able to be with the party due to being indisposed. However he had prepared ample historical information and notes so Mr Clarke was able to explain the significance of the tower and its part played in the defence of the Island and its guard's failure to raise the alarm on January 6th 1781 which allowed the capture of the town. The two Militia guard houses were examined which had been the responsibility of St Saviour, St Clement and Grouville in the 18th century. They had also been used as a mess-room by the German Army who had left a graffito of an alpine scene as a mural.
The interior of the tower was not accessed due to its dilapidated and hazardous state. However there was plenty to examine and relate to notes from research by Mr Giles Bois and Mr Jonathan Bull. After rounding up the party and locking the building, after making sure that Mr Le Sueur wasn't inside telling stories, the group continued towards the harbour and returned via the beach to get views of the Tower from the sea side. Then it was back to the slipway and finally into Mary-Jane's Seymour Inn with a thirst to quench (with a cup of tea).
Thursday 23rd July.
It was arranged with Jersey Heritage that the La Hougue Bie site would remain open until dusk and Archaeology Section Members would act as Guides to the various areas of the site. The time arranged coincided with another event of archaeological interest, which was the launch of a new book on medieval Channel Island Houses. This book launch was being held at the Pier Road building. The number of visitors attracted to the CBA event was reduced but those fourteen who came were keen to see everything the Société had at La Hougue Bie and did at their work rooms. The star attraction was a recently discovered framed water-colour by Joseph Sinel dated 1916 depicting the Normano-Breton bay when the sea level was 100 feet lower. The map was found in a dusty loft and had not been seen for 30 years. Mrs Anne Spencer was able to talk about the work being done on clay tobacco pipes and pottery found on sites in Jersey. Dr Ralph Nichols talked about the rocks of Jersey in the Geology Museum and Museum Curator Olga Finch gave talks in the Archaeology Museum. Mrs Cally Noel and her group of Medieval Musicians played under the trees and in the medieval Chapel. Nicky Westwood and Jayn Johnson served tea and coffee outside the veranda until drizzle started when it was time to close the evening.
Friday 24th July.
At the Members' Room talks were given by Dr Matthew Pope and Dr Chantal Conneller. Dr Pope gave a review of the progress of work being done this season at Les Varines and the discovery that the source of flint of upper Palaeolithic origin had come from an area at the top of the slope where the flint had been worked.
Dr Conneller spoke of the work that was ongoing on the cliffs of the north coast of the Island to investigate the evidence of people in the Mesolithic period.
The audience of 27 were invited to view the Sinel map and to examine the display about the work of the Archaeology Section while tea and coffee was available.
Saturday 25th July
A group of 49 took advantage of a warm evening to gather in the sunshine on Ouaisné Beach for a talk on the formation of La Cotte de Saint Brélade and the landscape changes that Neanderthal man experienced. He continued his talk at the base of the rocks as the group followed the ebbing tide. Scrambling over the rocks left by the sea and the redundant quarry was challenging which caused only one or two people to return to the beach. Stopping to regroup in the cleft in the point of the headland Dr. Pope explained the view that would have been beyond the present sea in periods of ice-age. Then moving cautiously over the boulder beach to the mouth of the west gully everyone relaxed on the rocks with a good view into the rock arch and the south gully. Dr. Pope described the archaeology and the work that had taken place over the past 110 years. The work is now ongoing on the material from the site and a plan is coming together to conserve the remaining in situ material and make the area safe to work in. A warning was given that there was danger of falling rock and erosion was continuously taking place. Going into the gullies could not be prevented but individuals who did so would be at their own risk. After a very informative talk the group returned on a easier route as low tide was exposing more beach.
Sunday 26th July
It had rained heavily overnight which was unfortunate for the Open Day at the Ice Age site at Les Varines. The open trenches had filled with several inches of water by the time the rain stopped at midday. Nevertheless 37 enthusiasts came including some who have especially come from England for the week-end. The staff were on hand in waterproofs to explain and the students were waiting in the tents to start baling out with sponges and buckets. The season of excavation was nearing the point where the extent of Upper Palaeolithic activity had occurred and conclusion could be reached. Within days the site would be closed, back filled and effort would be directed to post excavation work in the workrooms and laboratories.
Before the rain
Sunday 26th July
At midday the sun had come out and was shining at two o'clock when 18 met at the car-park on the north easterly headland of Jersey to visit Câtel de Rozel. Clad in waterproofs they were guided by archaeologist Mr Sinclair Forrest along the cliff path to view the earth-work and area it would have enclosed in prehistoric times. Then returning to the track the earth-work was approached from the inside displaying its height of six metres and base of ten metres wide with a remaining length of twenty two metres. Moving along to the point where a farm track had been cut through, the archaeological work by Professor Barry Cunliffe was explained. In 1989 the side of the track was excavated to show two vertical sections giving a combined height of 4.2 metres. Built in several phases the first was probably Neolithic and consisted of ryolite rocks and turf about 0.7 metres high. The bulk of the earthwork was soil revetted with turfs laid horizontally. The date of construction extends across late Neolithic to Late Iron Age. During the talk the rain increased and the party moved back noting the extent of the original enclosed area where settlement might have taken place as it was served by a spring and stream with access to the sea.
As the event concluded the rain suddenly stopped and the weather cleared for the rest of the day.
The festival was a success made possible by the many people and organisations involved. Thanks are due to the owners and occupiers of the properties visited for their generosity in allowing intrusion of an unknown number of people. The organisers are pleased at the numbers of people who came with no further incentive than their own curiosity. None of the sites where overwhelmed by numbers and the pace of the events allowed everyone to enjoy the places.
All the events were well attended with the total number of attendances adding up to 408.
Many of the visitors knew these sites existed but had never before gone inside them or knew what was there. The Festival has shown that Jersey has a huge range of archaeology. All periods of history and prehistory are represented and often several at the same site or event. There were events to suit all interests and levles of mobility. Requests to return to places visited in previous years have been accommodated and suggestions of new sites were considered. Advantage is taken of experts who have always shown their willingness to share their knowledge and give their time freely.
The weather for some of the events was perfect and for others not so good, however none was abandoned because of the weather. The investigation of a Gallo-Roman site near the Parish Church was restricted by the limited permission to dig test pits. The open afternoon was cancelled due to a funeral taking place in the church. The work will be carried out at a later date.
For future years it appears that interest will be sustained and new sites of archaeological interest will be found.
Robert Waterhouse, FSA, Field Archaeologist
Dr John Renouf
Dr Matt Pope
Dr Ed Blinkhorn
St. Matthews Church
Rev Dr. A. Swindell
St Saviour's Church
The National Trust for Jersey
The Landmark Trust
Mrs. Emma Lemprière-Robin, Dame de Rosel
Dr Chantal Coneller
Gareth Syvret, Photo Archivist
The Council for British Archaeology
The Jersey Evening Post
Ian Barnes Publishing
And many others who gave their help and support.
Société Jersiaise Archaeology Section
7th August 2015
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