The construction of Grève de Lecq Barracks began in 1810, at the height of the fear of Napoleonic invasion. They were built as accommodation for 250 garrison troops defending the north of the island. Men were stationed here until the 1920s. Now restored as holiday lets, they are the only surviving barracks in the island.
The meaning of Lecq probably derives from the old Norse La Wik, meaning creek, which was first mentioned in 1215 in St Mary’s parish registers. Grève is French for a sandy shore.
Ever since 1204, when King John lost Normandy, Jersey was in continual danger from frequent and violent French attacks, culminating in the defeat of Baron de Rullecourt at the Battle of Jersey in 1781. The danger from France in Napoleonic times caused the coast of Jersey to be ringed with defence works because any beach which could afford a landing place was a potential danger.
An abortive attempt at invasion by a French force under the Prince of Nassau prompted the hasty construction of a guard house and magazine at Grève de Lecq in 1779, on the orders of the Island's Governor, General Sir Henry Seymour Conway. This was closely followed in 1780 by the construction of a coastal tower. In 1789 a new guardhouse and battery were built on the flanks of Le Câtel, paid for by the States from the proceeds of a public lottery.
Other defensive constructions followed the appointment of General Sir George Don as Lieut-Governor in 1806. He set about the construction of military roads, arsenals, barracks, batteries and Martello towers with great enthusiasm. A map credited to his senior engineer officer, Lt General Humphreys, shows that by 1811 Grève de Lecq was protected by Le Câtel Fort and Battery, Middle Battery, Valle du Fort battery and a round tower. To accommodate the garrison required to man these defences, a barracks was constructed (1810-1815), though the completion of this complex marked the end of the war with Napoleon.
The barracks is an excellent example of a self-contained military unit, and it gave valuable service for over a century. The last regiment to be represented here was the 2nd Battalion of the East Surreys. The Devon's served here in 1911, when they were replaced by the South Stafford's, who trained drafts of men to be sent to the front.
The British Garrison stationed here became a welcome part of island life and all ranks contributed to the social and sporting activities. The sight of a smart regiment of troops in review, on church parade or drilling, and the sound of a military band added glamour and colour to daily life and was greatly missed when these troops were withdrawn in 1926.
The withdrawal of the regular army left the barracks available for use as housing but the buildings deteriorated and fell into disuse. The Barracks were purchased by the National Trust in 1972.
This work included the installation of modern drainage to replace the ancient brick-vaulted conduits and reassessment of the old rainwater cisterns and soakaways. All the stonework required repointing and some doors and windows required repair or replacement. Interior repairs and redecoration were also undertaken. As the project advanced, replacement eaves guttering was fixed and ground level gutters brick lined, with some areas being cobbled. Finally the whole parade ground was levelled and relaid with the help of the Jersey Militia - the Island Territorial Army Field Squadron.