Le Hocq – What does it mean and why was a tower necessary?

The name Le Hocq comes from the Jèrrias word for headland, cape, or spur of rock

Due to the fresh water streams which bubble up onto the beach to the west looking back to Rocqueberg, this bay has been named Havre des Fontaines, although it has also been known as Le Havre du Hoc and Havre ès Maques.

Around the year 1770 the Island’s Government, the States of Jersey, decided that as the old guard house at Rocqueberg was in such a ruinous state, rather than repair it, it would be better to build a new parish guard house at Havre de Hocq.

The importance of a defensive focal point in this area was reinforced during the American Wars of Independence (1776-1783) when the French declared war on Britain in support of the colonial rebels, making Jersey England’s first line of defence against possible French invasion.

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 the openings in the rocks ‘frequented by the fishing boats and smugglers from France’.

The Tower at Le Hocq- when was it built and by whom?

We do not know 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 passing Le Hocq on his way to St Helier, Du Rullecourt turned his troops inland at Pontac, which gives rise to the question from whom did he obtain his inside information on the Island’s fortifications?.

In 1778 the Governor of Jersey General Sir Henry Seymour Conway ordered a series of round towers to be built. These towers, of which 22 remain, were known as Jersey Round Towers, or Conway Towers (as opposed to Martello Towers which were built some forty years later, in during the early 1800s).

Like the other Conway towers entry to Le Hocq tower was by a door on the first floor, reached by a ladder, which could be drawn inside if there was any danger. The tower tapers slightly from about 10.5 metres in diameter at the base to about 8.7 metres at the top. Inside it is divided so that stores and gunpowder (20 barrels) were kept on the ground floor, while 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 onto 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.

Le Hocq Tower – in Interpretation mode – will be open on the first Sunday of every month until October,  between 1000 – 1600.

This fortified Jersey Round Tower, owned by the Parish of St Clement and leased to Jersey Heritage, now houses a series of pop-up banners, created by Jersey Heritage which tell the story of Le Hocq and the defence of the Island. The banners also contain information about the geology of the area, the prehistoric landscape, the adjacent RAMSAR site and wetland birds.

During the period of opening, the Tower will be manned by voluntary Guides from the Jersey Tourist Guides Association (JTGA) and Jersey Uncovered,  who will be pleased to discuss the contents of the several banners and in particular, the history of Le Hocq Tower.

Entry to the Tower and the viewing of the banners is free but voluntary contributions on departure will be welcomed to support the ongoing work of Jersey Heritage.

Full list of 2019 opening times for Le Hocq Tower:
• Sundays on the following dates:
– 5 May
– 2 June
– 7 July
– 4 August
– 1 September
– 6 October (final opening of 2019)