Coast: Le Hocq

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Coast:

Le Hocq


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This article by Doug Ford, a respected authority on Jersey's maritime history, was part of his Coast series for the Jersey Evening Post, first published in 2015


Headland

The name Le Hocq is derived from the Jèrriais word for headland. The beach to the west looking back to Rocqueberg is Havre des Fontaines, although it has also been known as Le Havre du Hoc and Havre ès Maques. Commander Richards of the Royal Navy produced a survey of the island, which shows the spring on the shore that gave the bay its name. The sandy beach to the east is called Havre ès Cabots

CoastMapHocq.png

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 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. At the same time 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 ’.

Coastal tower

It is not known exactly when the tower at Le Hocq was built, but it was certainly 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.

Le Hocq Tower

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.

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.

This was not the only fortification in the area. In 1794, during the French Revolution, the States and the British military authorities gave the French Royalist emigrés in Jersey permission to organise themselves into a military force and to build a small fort on the high ground just above Le Hocq, to act as their headquarters. With great originality they called it Le Fort des Emigrés.

In 1795 there were 3,500 male emigrés of military age in the island, and they were all conscripted into regiments to land in Brittany to fight the Revolutionaries. Because so many of them belonged to what could be termed the officer class, there tended to be ‘more chiefs than indians’. Their intervention around Quiberon could not be described as successful and most failed to return. Their fort fell into disuse and was demolished in 1803.

Fishermen and farmers both used the beaches at Le Hocq and at times access for horse and carts was difficult. The usual route down to the beach was to the side of the tower. In April 1861 the Jersey Independent reported that Jurat Lerrière was going to ask the States to build a slipway at Le Hocq, which he thought would cost £450. When he introduced his proposition six weeks later, on 18 May 1861, the cost had risen by 11% to £500. A States committee was set up to oversee the work, and six months later they invited tenders for the work .

In 1873 life in Le Hocq changed dramatically. The Jersey Eastern Railway began its service from Green Street, St Helier to Grouville (it would later run from Snow Hill to Gorey Pier) and Le Hocq got its own station just along Rue du Hocq, which meant that Town was only eight minutes away. The line carried on eastwards joining what is now the main coast road just before the top of the rise leading down to Pontac.


Further reading

Notes and references


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