The bay is in some ways the ideal spot for a harbour. There is safe, deep anchorage with at least six fathoms of water close to the shore. It was already called a port in the Extente of 1274. It was called Portus de Boley, the Port of Bouley. Dumaresq wrote in 1685: "Here has been a design to build a mole, which might be made to secure great ships from all winds or weathers, the materials being at hand." But the steepness of the hills would have made it difficult to transport the cargoes, nor could a town of any size have been built on them.
The small pier was not constructed until 1828, although some 150 years earlier it was considered a possible location for a substantial harbour. However, there was too little land at sea level to allow for any significant buildings to be constructed and access was extremely difficult, so the plan never came to fruition. The pier was built by the States for the oyster fishermen and for defence, and the initials of the contractor, F de la Mare, can be seen engraved in the harbour wall.
On the cliff top immediately to the South is Jardin d'Olivet, where in 1549 French invaders who had already occupied Sark were repulsed by the Militia and forced to retreat and head for St Malo. During the English Civil War Parliamentary troops landed at Bouley Bay aiming to capture prominent Royalists, but most had already sought refuge in Mont Orgueil and Elizabeth Castle.
After the Riot of 1769 Colonel Bentinck disembarked his Highlanders here and marched into the town to restore order.
Such a danger-spot obviously had to be guarded. When the first three cannon arrived in Jersey, apart from those in the castle, one was placed in the bay; and from that day forward the States were constantly discussing further defences. Two bulwarks were made, and a guard-house and two magazines. A beacon was erected to give the alarm signal. Then L'Etaquerel Fort was built on the east of the bay and on the west a two-gun battery was erected above the present pier. This is called the Lisscester battery, and a demi¬culverin had been installed there in 1596, hence the name, after the Elizabethan Earl of Leicester. In 1835 a lower battery was built at L Etaquerel, and the one on the west was replaced by a larger five-gun battery.
The Bouley Bay Hill Climb is one of the island's most popular sporting events, attracting large crowds to the slopes of the hill for its three runnings each year, including an international event.
- The history of Bouley Bay, a Jersey Archive What's Your Street's Story? article
- Le Chien de Bouley, an ancient legend relating to the area
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A picture from the 1870s by Ernest Baudoux