5th July 1778

The King approves construction of defensive towers

Jersey had long been an anomaly on the French coast – half French, half British – when French forces looked set to mount a serious invasion in the late 1770s. Thus, in May 1778, Field Marshal Henry Seymour Conway, Governor of Jersey, proposed the construction of 30 towers around Jersey’s coastline to protect the island from its closest neighbour. The King, George III, signed off on the plan on 5 July

However, their planning and construction wasn’t as good as it could be and only four had been completed by the time the French landed for the Battle of Jersey in 1781. Even these weren’t in the locations where French forces came ashore despite the fact that work had been ongoing for two years.

Named after the governor

One of the towers that had yet to be built was Seymour Tower on l’Avarison islet, just over a mile south-east of La Rocque, which was built at some haste to take over from a four-gun position nearby. Although we can’t say for sure, it seems that the tower gained its name from Henry Seymour Conway himself.

Seymour Tower is the only tower whose construction was overseen by Conway to be square. The 22 others – known as Conway Towers – were round and constructed of local stone, rather than the brick used by the eight later Martello towers (one of which was destroyed during the occupation).

The first tower built was, logically, First Tower in St Helier, where it sits in St Aubin’s Bay and is now owned by the States of Jersey. Six others have been destroyed and eight are privately owned, some of which have been adapted to form part of a larger home.


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