A new chapter is on the horizon for the charity, which until now has followed the Island’s traditional tourism season from March to October. This has meant that visitor sites were open daily throughout the summer months and some closed or switched to reduced opening hours during the winter.
However, once the sites reopen next month for the 2023 season, almost all of them will remain open daily going forward. The only exception is Elizabeth Castle, which is difficult to reach in bad weather and will still close for the winter.
Jersey Heritage’s Board of Trustees has agreed the new move towards year-round opening largely as a result of increased Government funding for the charity; among other Government-related work, Jersey Heritage cares for and protects a number of publicly-owned heritage sites, including the two castles. The funding increase follows the decision by the States Assembly in 2019 to commit 1% of its overall annual budget to support the Island’s arts, heritage and culture sector.
Jon Carter, Jersey Heritage Chief Executive, said: “The introduction of year-round opening marks an exciting new chapter for Jersey Heritage and the extra Government funding available as a result of the landmark States decision has undoubtedly been a catalyst. Knowing the 1% is there for our sector every year has emboldened us to take the decision to open the sites daily all year round. The incredible local support we have received over the past few years has also played its part; visits by Islanders to our sites have tripled and now account for about 30% of overall visits. We have also seen a significant increase in the number of people becoming Jersey Heritage Members and expressing their support for our work.
“Providing access to the Island’s incredible history lies at the very heart of what we do as an organisation and the new opening hours will add value for anyone interested in discovering more. This includes our Members, who can visit the sites for free as part of the Membership scheme, and visitors to the Island. We know that our heritage sites are popular with visitors and they will now have more choice for excursions if they choose to visit Jersey outside of the traditional holiday months.”
From Wednesday, 1 March, all Jersey Heritage visitor sites will be open daily. This includes Hamptonne Country Life Museum, La Hougue Bie and Elizabeth Castle, which have been closed to the public since 1 November 2022, and Mont Orgueil Castle and the Maritime Museum, which have been open on reduced hours. Jersey Museum, Art Gallery & Victorian House is already open daily throughout the year and Jersey Archive’s opening hours are unaffected by the change.
Jersey Heritage is currently recruiting for a number of positions, including Site Gardiens and Visitor Services Assistants, to cover all the sites being open daily during the summer season, as it does at the beginning of every year. Discussions are already underway with staff, new and old, to offer longer employment opportunities to ensure that the increased opening hours can be covered.
Deputy Kirsten Morel, Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Sport & Culture, said: “This is great news and ties in perfectly with the new Heritage Strategy launched last year and will be welcomed by Islanders and by visitors to the Island, who now have even more opportunities to learn about and benefit from Jersey’s rich history.”