La Crete Fort

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On the coast
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La Crete Fort


Su17LaCreteFort1939.jpg

The fort in 1939, before the Germans added substantially to the structure

La Crete Fort was built at Havre Giffard, close to Bonne Nuit in 1834 but there were defensive works at its location as early as the 16th century. Popinjay's 1563 map of the island shows a boulevard in the vicinity of La Crete.


A 19th century engraving of Bonne Nuit showing La Crete Fort in the centre
LaCreteFortBonneNuit.jpg
Photograph by Emile Guiton

Militia review

The minutes of the States of Jersey in the 18th century refer to the construction and maintenance of coastal defences in the area and a Militia review of Jersey's defences in June 1778 recommended creating a two-gun battery at La Crete, which is shown in a map of the island three years later.

The Duke of Richmond map of 1795, drawn from a 1787 survey, shows an upper and lower battery and a guardhouse at La Crete. A letter from Colonel Craig to Captain English in 1797 orders the repair of the guardhouse. In the same year a report on the island's defences shows two batteries at Bonne Nuit with earth parapets and four guns, as well as a further earth parapet with two 18-pounder guns at Havre Giffard. The fort lost its military importance in the second half of the 19th century and was abandoned.

The current fort was completed in 1834, at a cost of £971, at a time when a French invasion was seen as very likely, and housed two 18-pounder guns and four 12-pounders.

Occupation

During the German Occupation the fort was reinforced and housed a tank gun, several machine guns and a mortar and was manned by 20 soldiers.

Before and after the war it was used as a summer retreat by a local family which held it on a long lease, and when that lease expired it was used as a retreat for the island’s Lieut-Governor from 1968.

Now it is one of a number of properties administered by Jersey Heritage which is available as a holiday let. Jerripedia editor Mike Bisson, who spent ten days at La Crete Fort for a family holiday in 2016, cautions that it was not at all suitable as a holiday let for such a time: 'The unit was poorly equipped, in a disgraceful state of disrepair, and outrageously expensive by modern self-catering standards. I hope it has been improved since'.

Heritage entry

The Jersey Heritage Historic Environment Record website has this description of the property:

'Outstanding example of early 19th century fortification. La Crête Fort retains its historical authenticity and completeness as an 1834 fort with the architectural integrity of the buildings in close to their original form and physical context. Fort built in 1834 with Second World War German additions. Until 2006 the fort was used as the official summer residence of the Island's Lieut-Governor. Also known as Bonne Nuit Fort.
'La Crête Fort is built on a headland between Bonne Nuit Bay and Giffard Bay. The fort is essentially a gun battery enclosed in the rear by a defensible guardhouse. A dry ditch - 10 feet deep and between 9 and 20 feet wide - originally separated the walls of the guardhouse from the hill slopes behind the fort. The ditch is now infilled with a series of 20th century rooms, accessed via a side door at lower ditch level. Originally a bridge would have provided access across the ditch.
'The 1834 entrance doorway is raised at second floor level and flanked by a short screen wall with gun loopholes. The doorway leads to a flat platform supported off the brick soffits of the guardrooms below. The guardhouse is single storey and comprises three vaulted rooms. The walls are granite with dressed stones to openings. The arched vaults are in brick. The original doors and windows have been lost. A granite-flagged passageway runs along the north face of the guardrooms. A door and window have been punched through the back wall of the middle guardroom to provide access to the new 'ditch' rooms. A wide set of granite steps leads up from the guardrooms to the battery yard - although now partly interrupted by a later German structure. Adjoining to the east of the guardrooms is the magazine.
'The building has a parabolic plan form and vaulted roof - all in dressed granite. The gutters are also cut from granite and curved to match the shape of the walls. The building appears to be two-storey but the lower part is built over an outcrop, leaving a single upper room accessed via the roof level of the guardrooms. A large granite buttress supports the east side of the magazine. There are small ventilation holes around the building. Larger windows of concrete construction have been inserted on the south and west faces of the building. The walls forming the battery are granite rubble with dressed stones to openings and steps, and a granite flagged floor.
'The southerly part of the battery consists of four large embrasures for cannon. Two of the embrasures survive in their original 1834 form but two were modified by the German forces and now sit inside concrete shelters. A reinforced concrete emplacement was also inserted behind the screen wall. The northerly part of the battery consists of two traversing platforms with circular plan form. The original layout of the upper platform largely survives with the addition of a small reinforced concrete gun emplacement.
'The lower platform is accessed via an enclosed granite passageway. This platform has been overlaid with a concrete structure designed for a searchlight - although the 1834 layout appears to survive beneath. Outside of the fort are two reinforced concrete emplacements built by the German forces. Above on an outcrop to the south of the ditch is a mortar emplacement disguised by a reused granite wall. Below on the rocky slopes to the west of the fort is an emplacement covered over with rough granite as camouflage. All part of Resistance Nest Bonne Nuit Fort.'

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