Island Life   

    the community website serving the Channel Islands                                                                               celebrating 14 years 2000 - 2014

 

 

 

Guernsey Attractions


Ancient Monuments

Like the rest of the Channel Islands, Guernsey is steeped in history. Up to 6,500BC, the islands were in fact part of the French mainland until the Ice Age came to an end. Discoveries in the 20th century have shown evidence of mankind dating back to 5,000 BC (New Stone Age) when tribes, possibly from Spain moved here. All around Guernsey are traces of neolithic man, including defensive earth works, menhirs and dolmens. These are burial chambers built above the ground and several survive in remarkably good condition. The largest in Guernsey, La Varde Dolmen is near the 17th green of L'Ancresse golf course and measures 10 metres long by four metres wide and has a capping stone pile of five metres long and one metre thick. 

Further dolmens can be found at Hougue de Dehus, which has a burial Chamber of for 10 metres by 1.5 metres , Le Creux es Feies (the fairy grotto) and Le Trepid near to Le Catioroc which Victor Hugo claimed was haunted by the cries of women waiting for their lover, the devil. As mentioned in the section on churches, human figures carved out of granite have also had survived from around 2500.

In January 2001, an excavation at La Route de Carteret has revealed two sophisticated arrow heads, thought to be at least 6,000 years old. They will go on display in the summer along with other material from the site, which will shortly be built on.

A new archaeological dig in the marshy Belgrave Vinery site in the Vale got underway in June 2001. Early finds were promising with the discovery of a substantial standing stone thought to date back to 4,000 BC.  The area is very low lying, has medieval drainage and is thought not to have been developed upon since the Duke of Richmond's map of 1787.  A major housing development is being built on the site.

In June 2011, Delancey Park's Neothlithic grave believed to be over 4,500 years old will undergo a full excavation led by Dr George Nash from Bristol University. The dig will be over 12 days and will aim to give a better undertstanding of the burial rituals.  in 2010 test pits were dug and these revealed neolithic pottery and flint pieces. A  lot of animal bones were also found and an archaeological zoologist will inspect these.

A 20 feet long menhir weighing 28 tons found at L'Ancresse Bay, has been erected near to La Varde ancient tomb in April 2001 as part of the Vale's Millennium celebration. The massive stone has proven to be a logistic nightmare moving it from its sunken position in the sand to the common land. The project was first planned in 1999 but despite modern cranes and machinery, it has proven to be a massive task. It raises questions as to how neolithic man managed to erect these type of structures. It is hoped that it will still be there in another thousand years.

La Longue Rocque, La Route de Paysans, St Peter

This is the tallest menhir in Guernsey at three and a half metres high. Traditional Guernsey folklore said that the fairies used to use it as a cricket bat and some say that it increases fertility if touched, so beware! 

Perry's Ref: 21 E4  


 

La Varde Inside La Varde

La Varde, Mont Cuet Road, Vale

This huge megalithic passage grave was discovered in 1811 during military exercises when human remains were found, and excavated in 1837. It is 10 metres long and with a capstone five metres long and weighing 10 tons, one can not even start to imagine how it was put in place. The structure is tall enough to stand inside and has graduating upright stones from front to rear. There is also a small oval recess. Built between 3,000 to 2,500BC, it was in use until the late Bronze age circa 1,000 BC as indicated by flints, stone tools and pottery. Successive burials or cremations were deposited within the chambers. 

Perry's Ref: 6C2  


 

Le Creux es Faies, La Route de la Rocque, St Peter

Folklore has us believe that this tomb was the entrance to fairyland and that every week, the night fairies would come out to play near Le Trepied Dolmen. This neolithic passage grave is one of many fine examples on the island and date to around 3,000 BC and in use for successive burials until the late Bronze age circa 1,000. It is 9 metres long opening into a round ended chamber. Two original cap stones survive. It was excavated in 1840 and tanged flint arrowheads dated at 1,800 BC were found.
Perry's Ref: 12A5  


 

Le Dehus Inside Le Dehus

Le Dehus Dolmen, La Rue du Dehus, Vale

At first sight it looks like just a grass mound, but it owes its existence to the foresight of John de Havilland who saved it from quarrymen by purchasing it in 1775 for £4.10.s.00.  It was excavated in 1837 by F C Lukis and found to cover a complex Neolithic passage grave, 10-metres long dating back to 3,500 B.C. It has a narrow entrance and broad chamber. There are various side chambers and a capstone originally thought to be an upright, has a unique carving of a bearded archer holding a bow and arrows, discovered in 1916, known as Le Gardien du Tombeau. Well worth a visit

Perry's Ref: 7H4  


 

Les Fouaillages Les Fouaillages site plan

Les Fouaillages, L'Ancresse, Vale

On the Golf course at Ladies Bay and in close proximity to the other ancient graves, this Neolithic burial chamber was only discovered in 1977 amid great excitement as the original part dates back to 4500 B.C. and places it as one of the oldest structures in Europe. Decorated pottery was also discovered inside.

A stone platform, cairn, double open chamber and small enclosed chamber served as an elaborate neolithic ritual concerning death, burial and the afterlife. Around 2,500 BC the site entered a new phase with a turf mound being added with a rectangular chamber and surrounded by a ring of boulders.

Perry's Ref: 6B4  

Medieval wreck site

The most important medieval wreck site in NW Europe near St Peter Port Harbour mouth is larger than first thought. There may be as many as five or more wrecks dating back to 14th century. Guernsey was an important trading point between France and England. A large amount of pottery from the Saintonge region of France has been found, suggesting that the ship was carrying a consignment of earthenware.

Erosion and heavy sea traffic is resulting in the wrecks breaking up and timber is being washed away. Southampton University is engaged in analysing the timbers and if funds can be raised, the wrecks may be lifted. 

Excavations in the Bonded Store area under Market street have also revealed medieval artefacts including pottery, ceramics, a Venus figurine and a small jewel called Intaglis. They have helped build up a picture back to Roman times. The Archaeology department hope to publish a book about Roman Guernsey, later in the year.

 
 
 
 
 
 

  

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