The East Coast Martello Towers post has now been updated with our latest research, which makes it the most complete and up to date general reference on the east coast towers that you will find on the internet! We also collaborated with professional photographer Ian Giles, and many thanks to him for negotiating the necessary permissions and travelling up to Essex and Suffolk to photograph all of the remaining towers.
We now have two Martello towers featured posts:
Both posts feature a google map showing the locations of the towers, and photography of all the towers (still have a few gaps on the South Coast article which will be filled soon…).
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. Continue reading
74 Martello Towers were built along the coast of Kent and East Sussex, between 1805 and 1808 to guard against invasion by Napoleon along with other defensive measures such as Forts, Redoubts and the Royal Military Canal (which runs through Hythe).
The inspiration for the south coast implementation of these distinctive round towers came from a British attack in 1794 on Mortella Point in Corsica. The Mortella Point tower resisted attack from the Royal Navy ships HMS Fortitude and HMS Juno, resulting in 60 casualties on the British ships and the ships had to abandon the attack.This article is copyright UK Shore 2008 (coastpx.uk) It was left to the army to eventually take the tower after 2 days of heavy fighting. The tower had achieved this long resistance with only 38 men, one 6-pounder gun and two 18-pounder guns.
The name Martello Tower took a while to settle on by the English military planners, probably originating from ‘Torri de Martello’, the name given to watchtowers in parts of Western Italy, but also perhaps from one Naval officer who described Mortella Point as ‘Myrtello Point’ as the headland that the tower stood on was covered with wild myrtle. Other descriptions used were ‘sea-towers’, ‘bomb-proof towers’, or ‘Corsican towers’ and in 1803 finally as ‘Martello towers’.
The towers never actually saw active service of course, Napoleon’s planned invasion came to nothing particularly after the Battle of Trafalgar defeat for the French Fleet which forced Napoleon to look elsewhere for conquest. Continue reading