Martello Towers of the East Coast

The East Coast towers were built around the same time as the South Coast towers starting in 1809. The South Coast towers were built to prevent Napolean’s armies reaching London from the south, and similarly the East Coast towers were intended to prevent the French from reaching London from the East and North. The East Coast lacks the large chalk cliffs of the South Coast and so the flat lands would have made a good alternative landing place for Napolean’s planned invasion despite the longer sea journey, especially if the low countries could have been used for the launch of the invasion.

The East Coast towers were built larger and more heavily armed than the South Coast towers, as a defence against the larger ships that the French might have used if they had chosen the East Coast as the invasion point. In addition to the towers, there were the pre-existing gun batteries, and there were plans to block the entrances to the rivers Blackwater, Colne and Orwell with barges.

Napolean’s invasion plans never came to fruition of course, and the towers were never used in anger, but the remaining towers (6 in Essex, 12 in Suffolk) leave a long standing reminder of that time in history. Some are still open to the public, and Tower A houses a museum.

Essex, 11 towers

A* – Point Clear, St.Osyth, near Brightlingsea. In good condition and home to the East Essex Aviation Museum.
B – Beacon Hill, St.OSyth. Overlooks the river estuaries. Demolished in 1967 for a housing development. Had been used as a private home, and then a radio astronomical observatory until that time.  
C* – Jaywick Sands, near St.Osyth. Located on Martello Beach Holiday Park, in excellent newly restored condition. Close to the sea wall at Bush Wall Point, was a residence at one point. Open for arts exhibitions, and includes a look-out station.
D* – Clacton outskirts near to Jaywick, on Clacton Golf Course and in fair condition.
E* – Clacton Wash, on the outskirts of the former Butlins site. At one point used as a water tower, in good condition but currently unused. Now very close to the sea but protected by the sea wall.
F* – Marine Parade West on Clacton Cliffs, was used as a Scouts’ meeting place, and housed a model village in the 1970’s! Opened as the "Tower F Restaurant" in 2005, and is now Clacton Zoo!
G, H and I – Guarded the Holland Marshes, sold in 1819 (for £2675) with the accompanying land and immediately pulled down. G stood on a hill near to the Sluice House, H was in the centre of the current Frinton Golf Club and it’s materials were used for nearby farm buildings. Tower I was near to Battery Point in Frinton,  
J – Walton Cliffs, was pulled down before coastal erosion could claim it.  
K* – Walton-on-the-Naze, on the Martello Caravan Park in Kirby Road and in good condition, but unused. Overlooks Walton Backwaters, and guarded Walton Creek and the surrounding marshes/inlets.

Suffolk, 18 towers with a circular Redoubt at Harwich

L* – Shotley Gate. On the River Stour within the grounds of the former HMS Ganges, and Shotley Gate Police Training Centre. Site destined for development as possible retirement home site, but the tower will remain.
M* – River Orwell, near Shotley Marina on the outskirts of the HMS Ganges development, at one time used as a water tower but now unused. Good condition
N – Part of the L/M/N formation, located at Walton Ferry (Felixstowe). Had a notably wide ditch (70ft) and a smaller 20ft trench (cunette) at the base. Tower location is now under the docks.
O – Tip of Langer Point, swept away by coastal erosion sometime after the 1870’s.  

P* – Felixstowe seafront, owned by Suffolk coastal district council. Was destined to become a Window on the World attraction in 2009 but this project is now on hold. Used by the Coastguard at one point. In good condition. Did have a moat, but this was filled in at some point. A video interview with the Conservation Officer describing the history of the Martello Towers in the Felixestowe area can be seen on the Felixestowe TV website.

Q* – Felixstowe, Bulls Cliff. Converted to a dwelling in 1946 and in good condition. In a proposed conservation area to include the original military compound area and from Victoria Road to Buregate Road, and from Langer Road to the seafront.
R** – Recently re-discovered when the Bartlett Hospital applied for English Heritage historic listing status. The tower is embedded in the hospital foundations! The hospital site has now been sold for private development and there is no access to the tower. Photo is copyright Felixestowe Museum and displayed by kind permission.
S – Near to Tower R, abandoned in 1835.  
T* – Felixstowe Ferry. Only in fair condition, located within the Felixestowe Ferry Golf Club.
U* – River Deben. Converted to a private residence.
V – Was facing Tower U on the opposite side of the river Deben. Destroyed in 1819. The site is still visible in the grounds of Bawdsey Manor.  
W* – Bawdsey Cliffs. Stands on low cliffs near to the sea, converted to a residence in the 1980’s. Was at extreme risk due to the rapid erosion of the cliffs in this area. Recent sea defences being built around the site will protect it for the forseeable future.
X – At the southern end of Bawdsey Beach, dismantled sometime after the 1870’s. The foundations were used in the base of a World War II gun emplacement.  
Y* – Bawdsey parish. Converted to residential.
Z* – Alderton, near Buckanay Farm. Fair condition with outer brick skin peeling away, exposing approximately 30% of the inner brick skin at top in one area. On the English Heritage ‘at risk’ register and English Heritage are negotiating with the owners over repairs.
AA* – Shingle Street, near Hollesley. Converted to a dwelling and in good condition.
BB – Was sited on a shingle bank near the mouth of the River Ore. Pulled down in 1822.  
CC* – Slaghden, just south of Aldeburgh, unusual quatrefoil design unlike any of the other towers. Had four 24 pounder guns mounted on the roof. Was converted to a dwelling but is now owned by the Landmark Trust and available for holiday lets. Placed 10 miles from Tower BB.

Many thanks to Ian Giles for his role in photographing all of the East Coast towers. Thanks also to the Felixestowe Museum for allowing us to display the very rare image of the remains of Tower R.

References
Martello Towers – A Brief History, Geoff Hutchinson (1994)
Martello Towers, Sheila Sutcliffe (David & Charles 1972)
Felixstowe TV website
Suffolk Coastal District Council
English Heritage
St. Osyth Parish Council

5 thoughts on “Martello Towers of the East Coast

  1. Mike Fisher

    I have discovered a picture of the complete Walton Battery or Dooley Fort (tower N) in a book titled ” Felixstowe More Views From the Past”, the second compilation of postcards and other pictures by Phil Hadwin et al. It is picture 69.

  2. Mike Fisher

    There are two pictures of the remains of Dooley Fort (tower N) on http://www.oldukphotos.com/suffolk-felixstowe.htm. They show the battery that was in front of the Martello tower. As a child I played there. At that time the Martello tower had long been dismantled, leaving just a large concrete circle on the ground where it stood. The site was ‘blown up’, as I recall, to facilitate the extension of the docks, which by then had virtually surrounded the site anyway.

    Regarding tower R, it was never lost! Anyone connected with the Bartlett, as staff or people convalescing could hardly miss it, and it has always locally been known to have been there. I guess you just have find the right person to ask!

  3. JANE LOGAN

    I have a watercolour of a martello tower purchased by my mother in a junk shop before the war, and wonder if you might be able to identify it for me. I don’t seem to be able to attach a photograph to this message, but obviously would be able to attach it to an e-mail

  4. admin

    I assumed that when I saw reports of this tower being ‘under the docks’ it meant in the foundations and unreachable. Can you email me photos, and with your permission I would be pleased to display them on the uk-shore website?

  5. Len Cross

    There is no report of the martello tower and battery overlooking the River Orwell. Now under the Felixstowe Docks. Called the Dooley Fort.

    I have photos of the remains of this fort

    regards, Len

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