Coast: La Moye

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La Moye


Roebuck stuck fast on Kaines Reef in 1911

This article by Doug Ford, retired education officer for Jersey Heritage and a respected authority on Jersey's maritime history, was part of his Coast series for the Jersey Evening Post, and was first published in 2016

'Stony Heap'

The south-west corner of the island is generally referred to as La Moye, which comes from the old French word meaning ‘stony heap’ and was usually applied to headlands as they were seen from the sea. The earliest reference to this name is from 1274.


La Rosière is the small bay below the Highlands Hotel. To its west is a small cove known by the rather bizarre name of La Derrière du Navire, ‘the back of the ship’, supposedly after a wreck washed up there in the early 19th century.

On the eastern side are two caves, rather fancifully called Smugglers Cave and Pirates Cave, supposedly because one of the nearby inns had been frequented by smugglers. Durell, in his 1847 guide calls them:

"Curious caverns, but of recent exploration; the visiting of which would repay the curiosity of the traveller".


Rather than smugglers, the inn was more likely to have been the haunt of quarrymen, because in the 1840s granite was being extracted from the area just to the east of La Rosière. La Moye granite was specially favoured by masons for buildings and ornamental work, because it was a very high quality pink stone. In the 1860s it was used in the Victoria Embankment in London and the Naval Dockyards at Chatham. It was used locally in the seawall at La Haule and Beaumont. In 1870 the Illustrated Times called La Moye Quarry the greatest in the island.

It was the existence of the quarry that was a key element in extending the railway line from La Moye to St Aubin. This happened in 1884, when a station was built at La Moye. Although it was mainly used by quarry workers, in the summer tourists travelled on it from St Helier. When the line was extended as far as Corbiere in 1899, La Moye Quarry became a spur and a new station, known as the Temporary, was built on the other side of the road. The Quarry ceased to operate in the 1950s and in 1957 the Le Quesne family donated the land to the people of the island.

A few mementos of the quarrying still remain: the magazine, where the gunpowder used in blasting was stored, a couple of ruined quarrymen’s cottages and the remains of the engine house which held the winding gear that hauled stone and men up the incline

It was in the old quarry workings that in 1970 the Jersey New Waterworks Company built the Island’s desalination plant to create fresh drinking water from seawater – it was the first in the British Isles. In 1997 it was decided to replace the aging multi-stage flash distillation system with a new plant using the reverse osmosis process. The new system became operational in July 1999.

Just offshore lies the White Rock. Its real name is La Jument which means ‘the mare’ supposedly because it looks like a horse’s head.

La Moye Quarry in the 1870s

Signal station

After the shock caused by the Battle of Jersey in 1781, the authorities decided that the island needed an early warning system, and a series of semaphore stations was set up around the coast to warn of the approach of any hostile shipping. One of these was set on the high ground just behind La Moye Point, manned by a lieutenant, a midshipman and two seamen from the Royal Navy. Their duties included looking out for and giving notice of the approach of British Men of War, Merchant Vessels, Packets and, in the event of an enemy warship, to fire a warning cannon.

When the French Wars ended in 1815, La Moye Signal Station was one of the three stations retained to notify St Helier merchants of approaching vessels. The Chamber of Commerce paid £12 per year towards the running costs. The signalmen mentioned in the various censuses describe themselves as Chelsea Pensioners living in the nearby signalman’s cottage with their families. The signal station eventually closed in 1889 when the electric telegraph allowed the lighthouse keepers in Corbière to send messages direct to Fort Regent.

During the Occupation the German Battery Albrecht von Roon was built here; each of its four 22 cm guns could fire a 104kg shell over 13 miles. Beyond the narrow inlet, with its blowhole, lies the quaintly named cove Le havre de Sert à Rien – ‘the harbour that serves no useful purpose’. On its eastern side are a couple of tidal rocks called Les Houilliées – which rather aptly mean ‘swept by rough seas’ - beyond this lies Fiquet Bay, which takes its name from a local family.


Running parallel to the coast, less than a quarter of a mile from La Moye Point to the eastern end of Fiquet Bay is the Kaines Reef. It was here that just before 9 am on 11 July 1911 the mailboat Roebuck ran aground while on passage from St Peter Port. She remained wedged on the reef with a 100-foot gash in her side, defying attempts to refloat her until Friday 28 July when she was floated clear and put ashore in St Brelade's Bay. She was finally taken to Southampton to be repaired on 29 August.

There was no loss of life. The Morning News reported:

"There was nothing in the shape of panic, although many of the passengers were naturally greatly alarmed. The great majority of them kept perfectly cool, particularly the ladies, who showed wonderful courage and self-possession. The only regrettable incident was that five or six male passengers so far forgot themselves as to enter the first boat to leave the wreck, in which there should have been women and children only".


The headland looking out over the Kaines Reef and the marvellously named Le Pot au Beurre Rossigno ‘Rossignol’s butter churn’, so named because the water froths as it churns around the rocks, is known as Grosse Tete. Beyond lies Beau Port - the ‘fine harbour’. The land sloping down to the bay was given to the Island in 1950 by Jack Campbell Boot, whose father Jesse had bought it as a gift for his wife Florence in 1923. It the past the bay had been seen as a potential landing place for an enemy expedition and, following Strozzi’s failed landing at Bouley Bay in 1549, one of the earliest gun batteries and boulevards in the Island were ordered to be built here. Its position, according to the Popinjay map of 1563, was in the centre of the bay.

Just before the French Revolutionary Wars broke out in 1793, the battery, now called the Dos d’Ane battery (the donkey’s back) was described as being a wooden platform mounting two 6-pounder cannon. These were upgraded to 12-pounders when hostilities commenced. Soon after, flanking gun batteries were set up on either side of the bay, firing 24-pounder cannon.

These all fell into disrepair after Waterloo in 1815 but, as international tension grew once more in the 1840s, a new enclosed battery, mounting five 32-pounder cannon with a guardhouse and loop-holed walls, was built at a cost of £1285. Completed in 1848, it was never used in anger, as the French monarchy was overthrown that same year, and within five years, fear of Russian expansion into the Mediterranean had caused an Anglo-French alliance to be formed. During the Occupation it was reused for military purposes by the Germans.

Beauport was one of the bays used by smugglers. In July 1860 Custom House Officers seized over 1,700 lb of tobacco here, although the smugglers had time to disperse before the officials arrived.

The pilot boats used to anchor just off Beauport in the summer to await incoming vessels approaching Corbière. Once the signal was received, the Pilot cutter would sail out to meet them and put a pilot on boat before returning to the bay to await the next signal.

Further reading

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