Nautical History and the T Flag

Fort Regent overlooking the town of St Helier is a 19th century military base, which was converted into a leisure and entertainment centre in the 1970’s.  It occupies a unique place in the nautical history of not just Jersey but the in the UK because it still has a working visual Signal Station.
The first signal station probably dates back to 1708 and was used to warn Islanders of the threat of invasion.  Over the years a number of signals have been flown from the mast above St Helier, including such useful information as the fact that the mail had arrived in the Island etc.
Sadly financial cuts and changes in technology meant that in December 2004 the Fort Regent Signal Station, which was the last manned station in the British Isles closed down.
Fortunately in January 2007 it proved possible to hoist flags again, in a limited fashion including the T-flag, which signifies high tides over 38 feet (11.6 metres) and the strong wind and gale warnings.  It was also possible to re-introduce hoisting a few other flags when appropriate such as Trafalgar Day.
Today’s high tides and strong winds meant that this morning the Signal Station was flying the flag and the ball and cone indicating potentially difficult conditions for those at sea and for people living along the coast.  Driving into St Helier you very quickly get into the habit of looking up towards to Fort, treasuring our own slice of nautical history, and seeing if any flags are flying.
Signal Station
Visual warnings from the Fort Regent Signal station today. Strong winds from the north and T Flag
 The signal station above Fort Regent at approximately 12.00 today.  The T Flag is flying on the left hand side whilst the cone and ball indicates strong winds from the north.
Nautical history and the T Flag
When this flag is flying it signals that the tide is above 38 feet.

Fort Regent Signal Station

Fort Regent
The Fort Regent Signal Station with the north cone and ball flying. Strong winds from the north are forecast.

A rather bleak day but this interesting feature towers above the ramparts at Fort Regent.  It is thought that the first signal station was built here, in 1708, to warn the Islanders of a possible invasion.  Eventually there were 10 built around the Island and it was possible to communicate with the other islands via the one at Grosnez.  In the past information was indicated about commercial ferries, naval ships etc.  After a huge storm in 1859 Admiral Fitzroy introduced a number of coastal stations which sent their weather data to London and in 1861 he introduced the storm cone.  A triangle to be hoisted when winds of Force 8 and above are predicted.  In Jersey the ball was introduced in about 1971 and it is hoisted when of Force 6 are expected.  The apex of the cone indicates the wind direction, so here it is pointing up so strong winds from the north are indicated.  Although I can state at the time it was blowing from the south west.
There are other flags which are raised at certain times, for example the T Flag.

As far as I am aware it is the only signal station left in operation and as a kayaker it is always interesting to look up when heading through town as it gives a very quick indication of possible conditions out at sea.