A team of archaeologists from the University of York has discovered new evidence confirming that there was an Army Barracks at Jersey’s Elizabeth Castle during the late 17th Century.
The excavation also led the team to uncover a rare brass button, which is thought to have been part of an Army officer’s uniform.
The first major excavation of Elizabeth Castle, Jersey
Built on a rocky islet in St Aubin’s Bay, Elizabeth Castle has defended the shores of Jersey for more than 300 years.
Archaeologically speaking, it is a complex site, and has never been excavated in this manner before. It was originally a defensive island fortress during the 16th Century, before falling to occupation by German soldiers during the Second World War.
The dig has been conducted alongside Jersey Heritage and originally aimed to discover the location of barracks blocks, allowing historians to learn more about the people that used the building.
An archives team from the University of York has worked closely with Jersey Archive to use data for the benefit of the archaeologists. They have since been able to identify four key areas where trenches could be created, which has not only framed the search for artefacts, but also detailed potential evidence of the original structure of the site.
The excavation has lasted a week so far, with structural evidence of the barracks, including walls, a cobbled floor and a curious door key, coming to light.
A rare Tudor find: the brass Board of Ordnance button
The brass button comes from the uniform of an officer of the Board of Ordnance, dating to the 18th Century. As there would only have been one Board of Ordnance Officer based at the castle, this is a rare find.
Dr Catriona Cooper, from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology, said: “The Board of Ordnance was a government body established in the Tudor period to act primarily as custodians to the areas required in defence of the country.
“It is exciting to find this button, because there would have only been one officer that wore this uniform at Elizabeth Castle. He would have had oversight of the castle’s defences and its army supplies, such as weaponry.”
Giant haul of findings from nearby hospital block
Archaeologists are also investigating an early 19th Century hospital block, utilising digital visualisation techniques, to produce a better understanding of the make-up of the building. It is hoped that the completed work will assist Jersey Heritage to enhance the visitor experience to the site.
As part of an ongoing partnership between Jersey Heritage and the University of York, the dig has been much more fruitful than the team had first imagined: “We have also uncovered a comb, tokens and coins, as well as lots of clay pipes ceramics and building materials. The aim will be to open these finds up to the public and reveal more about the life at the hospital and barracks sites to allow for a clearer window into the past of this fascinating castle site.”