Anne Port and Archirondel
Archirondel Tower painted by Peter Knight
The legend of Jeffrey's Leap is well known to most islanders, although no one really knows who he was or even what crime he was accused of. However, the rocky outcrop that now bears his name was reputedly an ancient place of judgment.
It has been suggested that Anne Port was the main harbour on the east coast, possibly for the island, before Gorey was developed. The suggestion is that the name may come from the Latin Andii Portus, the port of Andium (the old pre-Viking name of the island). In the 14th century the place was referred to as 'Andeport'.
By the 19th century the bay was used by 'a couple of boats and few fishermen' according to the 1872 Jersey Fisheries Survey. In 1901 the census shows the main fishing families were the Perchards, living at Jeffrey’s Leap; the Le Huquets, living by the slipway; and the Noels who lived further inland. The boats used by the Perchards and Le Huquets were painted white, and had a single spritsail, whereas the Handy, owned by Jack Noel, not only had a mainsail and a jib but was also painted pink.
The granite slipway in the middle of the bay, La Montée d’Anne Port, was already there when the 1849 Godfray map was drawn.
By the late 1990s the cliff face beneath the old Apple Cottage was in danger of erosion and needed to be protected, so the base of the cliffs was reinforced by hundreds of tons of rounded grey and pink rocks. These were brought by barge from a quarry near Cork in Ireland.
Like all potential landing spots in the island, Anne Port Bay had its fair share of military installations to protect it. During the Napoleonic Wars there were gun positions – the North and South batteries – each with two 12-pounder guns on either side of the bay. The North Battery was sited where the old Apple Cottage Tearooms (now demolished) were.
In the renewed tension that grew after Waterloo, the British government embarked on a new round of tower building and in 1837 Victoria Tower, the last of the true martello towers to be built in the island, was named after the newly crowned queen. Its single 32-pounder gun, set on the roof, had a range of three miles.
In 1860 the States spent £1,000 on improving the ‘military road’ from Gorey Castle to the tower at Archirondel, which included building a new road from Anne Port around La Crête.
A fortification was shown on La Crête headland on Richard Popinjaye’s map of 1563. It consisted of a low bulwark with cannon and a guardhouse to accommodate the gun crews and store the gunpowder. It looked out over the small boat anchorage of Le Havre de Madolaine, to the front, and the more sheltered Havre de Fer on the Archirondel side. In 1787 it was armed with two 24-pounder guns and in 1803 a document shows that a small detachment of one sergeant, a corporal and nine men of the 83rd Regiment were stationed here. The battery was manned until the end of the French Wars and then it fell into disuse.
Originally a small detached rocky outcrop, Archirondel takes its name from the Rondel family – Le Roche Rondel. In 1638 it is written as Roche Arondel. Today it is best known for its distinctive red and white painted Conway Tower.
Work began on the tower in November 1792, and it was completed by 1794, by which time it had cost a total of £4,000. The overspend was paid for by cancelling plans for towers at Anne Port and Rozel. In order to save money, instead of four machicoulis projecting from the top, there are only three. Around the base of the tower, Conway had a masonry gun platform built to take four 18-pounder guns, as well as the carronade on the roof. Because of these extra guns the tower was manned by a sergeant, corporal and 19 soldiers. It was the last tower constructed during Conway’s lifetime and served as the prototype for La Rocco Tower in St Ouen’s Bay.
In 1847 the tower became joined to the rest of the island when work began on the building of St Catherine’s harbour of refuge. Originally the idea had been to run a southern breakwater from Jeffrey’s Leap and enclose Anne Port Bay as well, but spiraling costs meant the idea was modified and the start point for the southern arm was moved to Archirondel. Once work reached the low water mark the focus moved to building the eastern arm, running out from Verclut (St Catherine). Work on the project was abandoned in 1852.
In July 1922 the States bought the tower and 700 square metres of land from the War Department for £200. During the Occupation the tower was extensively altered when the original stairs were removed and concrete floors built, when the battery was modified to take heavy machine guns.
Archirondel hit the national news briefly in 1927 when three women visitors had to be rescued from the cliffs. Accounts of their escapade were reported in newspapers from Aberdeen to Cornwall. Their cries for help attracted hundreds of people, many of whom were visitors. Happily they were hauled up to safety through the furze and bracken, whereupon, in the best tradition of cinematic melodramas, all three fainted into the arms of their rescuers.
News from Archirondel had also made the mainland journals in 1824, when, among others, the Southampton Herald and Dublin’s Saunder’s Newsletter and Daily Advertiser reported that Isaac Coutanche, of St Martin, had been judged to have destroyed himself through gluttony. Coutanche had been in a public house near Archirondel Tower on 6 August when he ate six raw eggs, mixed with two glasses of gin, for a bet. He then had another dozen raw eggs washed down with a pint of gin, followed by some raw bacon and two glasses of brandy – all in less than 30 minutes. Unsurprisingly, within an hour, he was insensible and he died two weeks later.
News of a more maritime nature tended to be reported only by the local press such as the case of Matthew Gallichan’s 59-ton yawl London (Captain Cresswell), which ran into trouble off Gorey on 5 November 1861. She was on passage from South Shields to the Breton port of Le Vivier, near Cancale, when she got into trouble when a SSW gale blew up as they were passing the island. In order to save the vessel, Captain Cresswell ran her aground in Archirondel Bay. His actions were successful, and she was floated off soon after, taken into Gorey, where she had been built by John Messervy seven years earlier, for repair. The London continued sailing from the island until she was sold to foreign owners in 1872.
Notes and references
|Gorey Pier||Anne Port and Archirondel||St Catherine|