Jersey has a wide range of defensive fortifications dating from prehistoric times through to the 1940s. There has been an evolution of defensive works on the site of Fort Leicester, from the placement of a single cannon in the late 16th century to the construction of a fort in 1836 as part of an Island-wide defensive strategy against French invasion, to modifications made by the German occupying forces during the Second World War.
Following an attempted French invasion in 1549, the Governor, Sir Anthony Paulet, advised the States that a gun should be placed at ‘La Radde du Boullay’. Another war with France occurred in 1690 and once again the defences of the Island, especially those on the north, came under review. The Constables of the four parishes were empowered to keep the gun at Bouley in ‘a good state’ at the expense of their parishes.
The book Old Jersey Place Names states that the battery became a ‘fort in building’ in 1745. The Richmond map published in 1795 shows the site with a continuous seaward wall and a landward wall to the rear breached by two access points. All documentary evidence discovered so far continues to refer to the site as a battery.
Maps and military reports from 1787 to 1797 show lines of defences around Bouley Bay. A guardhouse is also shown to the south of the site. In an extract from’ Report of the Different Batteries in the Island of Jersey’, there is an entry for a battery left of Bouley Guardhouse with one 12-pounder gun under the charge of the Island Militia.
In the 1830s there was a spate of fort building along the north coast; La Crête, L’Etacquerel and Fort Leicester were all part of this programme. Fort Leicester was developed to house five heavy cannon that were positioned to prevent an enemy making a landing and to control the western side of Bouley Bay while L’Etacquerel Fort controlled the east. It would have been manned by the Militia and would have needed about 30 men and one officer to man the guns. The heavy guns were probably 32-pounders – these had a range of about two miles.
During the German Occupation, various additions were made to the Fort including searchlight housing and gun emplacements within the traversing platforms. This area of coastline was defended by a battalion of the Russiskaya Osvoboditelnaya Armiya under the command of the German Army.
In 1948, plans were proposed to convert the guardhouse into a summer chalet. In the 1980s, an elderly lady lived at the Fort.
Between 1990 and 2005 the Fort was used as accommodation for conservation volunteers and then by the Bouley Bay Boat Owners Club. In 2005, Fort Leicester was transferred to the Public of the Island of Jersey, under the administration of the Environment & Public Services Committee.