Rozel

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On the coast
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Rozel


Rozel1858.jpg

Rozel Harbour in 1858. This is a small bay on the north coast of Jersey with a jetty for fishing vessels and pleasure craft


A busy day on the beach in the 1960s
Click to see Rozel today

Origin of name

Rozel Bay was named after Rosel Manor, not the other way round. Rosel is the old French form of roseau, a reed. As George Balleine recorded in his Bailiwick of Jersey, the reeds in question grew in France, not Jersey.

"In Normandy, almost opposite Jersey, stands the Castle of Rosel, whose seigneurs had three reeds as their arms. One of them invaded England with the Conqueror and founded the famous family of Russell. In early Norman days these seigneurs held three fiefs in the islands, two in Guernsey, both called Rosel, and Rozel in Jersey. But the first seigneur of Rozel whose name has come down to us was Ingram de Fourneaux, who, like most of the Norman Barons, when John was expelled from Normandy, sided with the French King and so lost his Jersey estates."

Balleine did not adhere to the convention which is still observed today (although not universally) of spelling the fief and manor Rosel, and the bay and surrounding area Rozel. A postcard exists on which the bay is described as 'Royal Bay' but this is a typographical error and the area has never had this name.

Early records

Rozel is a picturesque cove on the north coast of Jersey whose pier today provides facilities and protection for a variety of leisure craft and small fishing boats.

Although the jetty was not built until 1829, Rozel was a harbour as early as the 13th century, providing a natural and safe anchorage from all but severe northerly storms.

Balleine is very dismissive of the importance of Rozel, preferring to concentrate on the historical sites of Le Couperon and Castel de Rozel on either side.

"When we have said that the barracks were built in 1810 as part of the precautions against Napoleon, and the pier in 1829 to provide accommodation for oyster boats, nothing remains to tell."

The port

The port is mentioned in the Extente of 1274, and appears again in a 1 August 1620 record of the appointment of Nicholas Richardson to coillect the King's dues as supervisor of the havre.

Not only was Rozel a convenient landing place for vessels travelling to and from the south coast of England, but it was also close to the French coast. It was not mentioned as one of the island's safe anchorages in Col Legge's Accompt of 1680, but five years later Philippe Dumaresq mentions it in his Survey of the island:

"About half a league to the north west of St Catherine there is a small creek called Rozel, where Islanders keep several boats, both for fishing and going to Ecreho, thereto to fetch seaweed as they burn and manure their land with."

He might also have mentioned one of the other reasons for travelling to the Les Ecréhous, which was to exchange contraband goods with French sailors coming out of the ports of Carteret and Portbail.

Rozel Hill

Invasion threat

Because it provided a good anchorage and landing place for islanders, Rozel was also viewed as a likely invasion point and the States began to fear that the French would attack from this direction in the 18th century. They first installed a cannon, followed by a guardhouse at Le Houguillon. From 1739 to 1780 there are references in the Acts of the States to improving the fortifications, and finally the barracks were built.

The harbour became very busy in the 1790s and after complaints from the Constables of St Martin and Trinity, whose parishes meet at Rozel, the States agreed to their placing a long chain to which boats could be secured. Some 30 years later the harbour was even busier with the overspill of oyster fishing boats which could not get into Gorey Harbour. Over the decade from 1810 to 1820 the number of boats using Rozel as their home port grew from six to 30.

Their owners were concerned about the dangers posed by rocks in the bay and in 1824 the States agreed to provide £1,000 for their removal.

This was still not enough for the boat owners who petitioned the States through the two parishes on 18 March 1826, to improve facilities further. Here was the first mention of an existing jetty of some description, but in need of repair and with dangerous rocks at its base. The Harbours Committee considered the petition six months later and agreed to spend £2,000 on improvements, but to wait until work on piers at Bouley Bay and La Rocque had been completed.

Acting with the lack of urgency which was typical of the times (and has been a feature of the States in more recent years) the committee did not report back to the States until 1829, when it was agreed to go ahead with the construction of a proper harbour. The contract was given to Philip Godfray, son of Edmund.

Although most of the work was completed quickly, improvements and adjustments were still being made in 1832, but by 1845 Rozel had become a busy port, and would remain so until the oyster fishery went into decline. The amount of activity at the port prompted the States to appoint a Harbourmaster for a three-year term, to collect dues and ensure that port regulations were adhered to. The first holder of the post was George Noel. It is not known how long he served but the only other record of the appointment of a Harbourmaster as that of Thomas Philippe Renouf in 1893.

Picture gallery

Click on image to see larger picture

A 19th century etching of Rozel
A peaceful harbour in the 1930s. Tourism did not take over until after the war
A view in 1937
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