Le Hocq round tower

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Le Hocq Tower


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Detail from an 1840 painting by W C Stanfield


Le Hocq Tower is on Jersey's south-east coast, about half way between St Helier and La Rocque. The treacherous rocky approach to the coast made this an unlikely landing place, hence the greater separation of towers than is found in Grouville, St Aubin's and St Ouen's Bays

A painting from the 1840s by Le Capelain

Date of construction

Information about the history of this tower is confusing and contradictory. A conservation statement produced for Jersey Heritage in 2006 suggests that the tower had not been built by 1797 because it was not mentioned in a review of the island's coastal defences.

However, most historians agree that the tower was built in 1781, either before the French invasion leading to the Battle of Jersey or shortly after. Work on the tower, which is now owned by the Parish of St Clement, was almost certainly started, if not completed, before the Battle, because it is referred to five months later in an act of the States of 18 June 1781 in terms which suggest that it had been completed by then.

21st century historian Doug Ford, who has written a number of articles for this website, is in no doubt that the tower was there at the time of the Battle of Jersey because in June 1781 the Constable was authorised to build a seawall in front of it. It is also significant that rather than continue along the coast and pass Le Hocq on his way to St Helier, Baron de Rullecourt turned his troops inland at Pontac.

About 1770 the States decided that, because the old guard house at Rocqueberg was in a ruinous state, rather than repair it, a new parish guard house should be built at Havre de Hocq. The importance of some sort of defensive focal point in this part of the parish was reinforced during the American Wars of Independence (1776-1783), when the French declared war on Britain in support of the colonial rebels, and Jersey was once more on the frontline.

In the late spring of 1778 when General Sir Henry Seymour Conway, the Governor of Jersey, ordered a series of round towers to be built around the coast to defend the Island, the Jersey Militia recommended that a tower and battery should be built at Le Hocq, because it was one of openings in the rocks ‘frequented by the fisher boats and smugglers from France ’.

Structure

Like the other Conway towers, entry was by a door on the first floor, reached by a ladder, which could be drawn inside if there was any danger. It tapered from about 10.5 metres in diameter at the base to about 8.7 metres at the top. Inside it was divided, so that stores and gunpowder (20 barrels) were kept on the ground floor, and the upper two floors served as the living quarters for one sergeant and eight or ten men from the Militia.

Four machicolations sticking out from the top of the tower allowed marksmen on the roof to fire down on anyone trying to shelter at its base. On the roof of the tower was an 18-pounder carronade. Next to the tower was a small paved area with a low wall, behind which were another three cannons.

Various references to the tower in the early 19th century suggest that it was used to store military equipment rather than as a manned fortification.

Between 1970 and 1989 the tower served as a base for the Jersey Amateur Radio Society. Today it has a white patch painted on the seaward side which serves as a daymark for shipping.

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