Set on a cliff top overlooking Corbière lighthouse on Jersey’s south-west tip, the Radio Tower is a striking observation tower built during the Second World War. In 1941, the German High Command was ordered to convert the Channel Islands into unassailable fortresses. The numerous artillery batteries that were set up needed an effective system of fire control, and so a comprehensive system of naval direction-finding and range-finding towers known as Marinepeilstäden unde Maßstellen (abbreviated to MP) were planned. Only three towers were completed in Jersey, with the Radio Tower known as MP2.
MP towers are unique to the Channel Islands, not being found anywhere else on the Atlantic Wall. Constructed of reinforced concrete, MP2, is 17.8 metres high with walls no less than 2 metres thick.
MP2 was originally camouflaged to resemble an 18th Century Jersey granite round tower. At the top of the tower was a small cabin housing radio direction-finding equipment that enabled German vessels to obtain their bearings. Surviving features from the 1940s, include the concrete staircase and a steel door to the ground floor.
MP2 was adapted for use by the States of Jersey Harbours and Airport Committee in 1976. A glass panelled control room was added to the top of the tower from which a duty officer could monitor the radio traffic of all shipping passing through the entrance to the English Channel.
In January 2006, the MP2 tower transferred ownership to the Public of the Island of Jersey, under the management of Jersey Heritage.
To read more about the Radio Tower, please see our conservation statement.
Corbière Lighthouse is one of the most photographed buildings in Jersey. Completed in November 1873 to a design by Sir John Coode, it was the first in the British Isles to be made of concrete rather than the traditional stone. In a lecture given in 1880, engineer Imrie Bell gave its cost as £8,001.
The lighthouse stands 45 metres (135 ft) above mean sea level, and the light, originally lit by paraffin oil, can be seen from up to 18 miles away. On a clear day it is one of the first landmarks to be sighted by anyone travelling on the ferry from the neighbouring island of Guernsey.
The light shows for five seconds in every ten, white to seaward and red along the coast to the north and to the east. It was lit for the first time on 24 April 1874, and until 1965 the lens was lit by a vaporising paraffin (kerosene) lamp. It is now driven electrically with a 1,000-watt lamp that gives an intensity of 300,000 candles.
The original fog signal (a bell and an explosive detonator) was replaced in 1933 by a compressed air horn. Today, the electric foghorn gives four blasts (letter C in Morse Code) every minute.
The four keepers, who lived in the nearby cottages, kept watch until 1976, when the light was automated. As well as maintaining the light and fog signal, they passed details of approaching ships to Fort Regent Signal Station and St Helier Harbour Office.
Images can be found at Société Jeriasie