Occasionally Time Team gets invited to a truly special site. Our visit to Jersey began with one of them - Mont Orgueil Castle. Modified over the centuries by successive rulers, the castle served as a key strategic point on the island of Jersey - itself a vital location in ongoing conflicts between England and France. The team had been invited to fill in some gaps in the history of the castle - particularly its layout during the 13th century. Much of the castle from this period had been lost through successive builds or had been removed.
Mont Orgueil proved an enormous challenge. The castle had been constructed on a defensive bluff with steep slopes or rocks on all sides. Undeterred, the geophys team got to work using radar on a very steep slope where, we hoped, remains of the 13th century castle might be found. John and Jimmy had to be kitted out with full climbing harnesses and drag the radar array up and down the slope by rope! Not exactly high tech...
Whilst John and Jimmy dangled precariously from the side of the castle Mick identified another target area - the castle green. Previous investigations and surviving documentary evidence had suggested this area could be home to buildings vital in the operation of the castle, but until geophys were able get down from the castle sides the green would have to wait. Phil wasn't about to stand around so he decided to look at the existing castle walls - from the Tudor period. Phil began to clear away years of plant growth in the hope that remnants of the 13th century structure we were attempting to map had survived underneath them.
With a site as complex as Mont Orgueil an understanding of the standing castle structure and its landscape setting was vital to our success. Stewart had been hard at work examining the vast castle walls and the castle green to see if any of evidence the 13th century remained. Despite extensive rebuilding and modification of the site over centuries Stewart was convinced he could identify a host of features including a defensive ditch and a previously unknown tower.
The dig went better than we had hoped. The team had been able to plot significant parts of the 13th century castle layout - many of which were previously unknown. Several of our finds were unexpected. Phil's explorations revealed Iron Age pottery and even Neolithic flint. These discoveries pushed the known occupation of Mont Orgueil back thousands of years.
The castle had one more secret to reveal. Jimmy had been running radar over the top of the Tudor battery. Underneath? An entire 13th century tower buried within the battery itself. Mont Orgueil castle turned out to be a microcosm of Jersey's history layered on one site. The team had been able to add much to the history of the site - one of the most spectacular locations we had ever visited.