One of fifteen towers built to defend the island against invasion by France.
The late 18th C was a time of great tension between England and France and in 1778 the British Government decided to improve Guernsey's defences by commissioning a chain of 15 towers linked to gun batteries situated around the coast.
The majority of these towers were built around the exposed beaches to the north of the Island. Nine were sited to protect the then separate Clos Du Valle, which was especially vulnerable to landings in force and could, if occupied, pose a serious threat to the southern parishes.
Jim Cathcart talking to Jason Mongahan.
The Rousse and Chouet towers were built on the headlands commanding the entrance to Grand Havre Bay. This led to the saltwater channel (Braye du Valle) which separated the Clos du Valle from the rest of Guernsey.
At Rousse the tower and battery, which replaced an earlier battery closer to the shoreline, are uniquely combined in a single fortification.
The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the building of the Route Militaire and the infilling of the Braye du Valle by General John Doyle reduced the importance of these towers.
Restoration of Rousse Tower and Magazine began in 1994, and was preceded by archaeological excavations carried out by Guernsey Museum in 1993.
Restoration work at Rousse in 2008
The excavation exposed five gun platforms around the tower with cobbling between. The stone used was from Purbeck, Dorset and would have been brought in especially for the construction of the battery. Roman numerals can be seen carved on some of the stones. These were used by the masons as a tally system.
The sod parapet was found to be made of layers of turf and sand. The bricks which had lined the gun embrasures were missing and had probably been re-used elsewhere.
Although they are popularly called Martello towers the Guernsey towers preceded the much larger and stronger true Martello towers named after the 1794 battle of Mortella in Corsica. During this engagement a coastal tower defied the might of the Royal Navy over two days of intensive fighting.
The British Government maintained a permanent regular garrison force on Guernsey. With the threat of invasion by France these troops alone could not defend all potential landing sites so they were supported by the local militia.
Three years military service was compulsory for all Guernsey men and they served in one of four regiments; Town, North, South and West.
Manning the loopholed towers was the responsibility of the militia in whose area a tower stood.
Rousse Tower, magazine and battery were manned by the 2nd (North) Regiment. This regiment was made up of companies from the Vale, Castel and St Sampson's parishes. The North Regiment was denoted by green facings (collars and cuffs) on their uniforms.
The full military strength at Rousse Tower was a Captain, a sergeant and twenty men. The Captain was also responsible for three additional nearby batteries.
Militia men assigned to the towers were drawn from local farmers, fishermen and quarrymen. Because of their work they were permitted to appoint 'substitutes' for their duties at the towers. It was not unusual for a man's wife or child to be nominated to take his place.
last updated: 15/09/2008 at 14:19
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