January 28, 2022

First with the Alderney News

New look Nunnery has the wow factor

4 min read
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKEYdayPih8
The Nunnery Heritage Site re-opened on Saturday

The new look Nunnery is destined to be the island’s premier tourist attraction.

The Nunnery, home to the best preserved Roman fortlet in Britain, boasts 1,700 years of continuous occupation.

It re-opened on Saturday after six months of work and around 160 visitors filed through the gates to a welcome by Roman soldiers.

For first time visitors and those who had been before, the changes were impressive.

Shrubs have been reomoved and the slopes are grassed
The Nunnery exterior will now be free from parked cars
Visitors were greeted by Roman soldiers

In latter years the Nunnery was a private residence and over time shrubs and brambles crept up to obscure some of its unique facets.

The building recently reverted back to States ownership and Visit Alderney and the States Works, helped by the Alderney Society, Festung Guernsey and former Guernsey Museums Director Dr Jason Monaghan, set about opening it up again. They cleared shrubbery, moved sand and painted and lit interiors of bunkers, grassed the central courtyard and created an extensive information network.

Blending Roman walkways, WW11 defence positions and buildings from the French Revolutionary wars period, the Nunnery Heritage Site is now the most accessible and best interpreted historical destination on the Island.

Visitors can climb up to a Roman walkway along the walls, following in the footsteps of Roman soldiers nearly 2,000 years ago, peer down an escape hatch, learn the intricacies of bunker defence systems and inspect artefacts that are more than 1,000 years old.

How the Roman fort may have looked
The Eastern view of the Nunnery as it is now

Helene Turner, Director of Tourism, said:

‘This all came about a year ago when States of Alderney decided to make the site public again.

‘The amount of history here is quite amazing and we needed to make the most of it and improve it as a visitor attraction.

‘Some major groundwork had to take place first. We had to strip out a lot of shrubbery and bushes and run electricity cables into the bunkers to highlight what is here.

‘We hope it will be an excellent visitor attraction and something that residents will enjoy too.’

Roman soldiers patrolled the perimeter walls to protect the bay
Visitors can walk in the footsteps of Roman soldiers
Part of the Roman walkway

The most striking new feature at the Nunnery is an information room inside the WW2 Crew Room bunker. This contains a timeline stretching round the walls detailing occupation and activity at the site throughout the ages. There are also panels about about archeological work that has taken place in and around the Nunnery and a cabinet displaying some of artifacts from significant periods of its history. In the centre of the room is a model of what the Roman fort may have looked like.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZg5S2E6SZQ
The WW2 Crew Room now houses and information centre
A model of the Roman fort is in the centre of the room
A former dig volunteer inspects the finds
Child-friendly characters appeal to younger visitors

 

The WW2 fortifications at the Nunnery are now the most accessible and most extensively interpreted on the island.

The ‘501 type Group Shelter’ bunker was cleared of sand, painted white and lit. Work revealed an escape hatch, which once cleared of brambles was shown to be complete with iron ladder, extending into the open air. The exit has been enclosed in a perspex dome.

The 501 type Group Shelter bunker has an escape hatch
The escape hatch exit has been covered in a perspex bubble
The remains of a sign showing how to work the anti-chemical weapons ventilation system
German soldiers could fire machine gun round at attackers then slam an iron block over the opening
An original WW2 wardrobe is in the shelter
A machine gun point

The Type 501 Group Shelter was normally used to house up to 12 soldiers in case of attack and contained beds, a table and chairs. There is also a connecting observation position and anti aircraft machine gun position with scenic views of the bay.

This simple rectangular room – decorated with an original WW2 wardrobe from another bunker – has an escape shaft knocked through the 2m thick walls to allow escape if the entrance became blocked , has an elaborate entrance that allows the bunker to be defended against attackers and chemical weapons. Next to the entrance are the remains of an original sign advising how the ventilation system should be worked in case of gas attack.

Some research suggests that this shelter may have been used as a telephone exchange to connect to the French coast with with a submarine telephone cable.

Buildings from the 1790s have also been cleaned up and made accessible, including a gunpowder magazine with a striking brick ceiling.

The bunker system opens out onto scenic views of the bay
The Eastern wall of the Nunnery

 

The 1790 gunpowder store features intricate brickwork

Saturday’s saw Roman soldiers greeting visitors and tea and biscuits served to the 200 or so who made their way there for the opening.

Irene Harvey, from Guernsey, said:

‘It’s an amazing place. It’s got this whole mix of history, from the Romans to the Second world War. It’s incredibly well preserved and presented.’

Resident Nick Winder said he had been impressed by the improvements.

‘It’s beautifully cleaned up and you can actually see much more detail than you could when I was last year. The interpretation is very helpful. I think this is a real asset to the island.’

The Nunnery Heritage Site is open every day from 10am-4.30pm.

Plans of what to see are available to visitors

2 thoughts on “New look Nunnery has the wow factor

  1. The opening up of the Nunnery is fabulous, I am now 81 years old and started to holiday in Alderney when I was fourteen and have been holidaying there each year ever since. I call it my second home, got to know many nice people and have seen lots of changes. My son has now a holiday home in Bray of which my friend and I hope to visit 1st October, obviously depending on state of U.K.
    There is so much history in Alderney and I never tire of looking and hearing about it. I have a named tile which was donated by my son in the, which was swimming pool, which unfortunately hasn’t been completed.
    I hope and pray that things can get back to normal in the not too distance future.
    Thanking you for letting me see part of Alderney history on line.

  2. The opening of the Nunnery is fabulous, I am now 81yrs old and started to holiday in Alderney when I was fourteen and have been holidaying there more or less each year ever since. I call it my second home, got to know many nice people and have seen lots of changes My son has now a holiday home on Braye of which my friend and I hope to visit 1st October obviously depending on state of U.K.
    There is so much history in Alderney and I never tire of looking and hearing about it.
    I have a named tile which was donated by my son in the, which was swimming pool, but unfortunately not being able to be completed as at last year. I hope and pray that things get back to normal in the not too distant future.
    I would like to thank you for letting me see part of Alderney history on line.

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