Martello Towers along the coast of Kent and East Sussex were built as a
defense against the threat of an invasion by the French under Napoleon. They
are cylindrical structures approximately 30 ft tall with 13ft thick walls on
the sea facing side and 8ft thick on the landward side.
On top of the tower
was placed a 2.5 ton gun which could fire a 24 pound shot a mile out to sea.
The design for the Martello towers was copied from the defensive tower at
Mortella Point in Corsica. During 1794 two British "Man of Wars"
attacked the tower, and it was only taken after 2 days of fighting, and this
was with the tower defended by only about 20 men. The navy was very
impressed with the functionality that they recorded the tower's design and
only failed to record the name correctly.
In 1804 with the threat of an invasion from the French under Napoleon
looming, the navy carried out a survey from Beachy Head to Dover to find
suitable locations for these towers. In 1805 the construction work commenced
with the Dover to Rye towers, and the remaining towers were completed by
Each tower was a cylindrical construction, with 3 floors, a ground floor
used to house provisions and ammunition. A first floor, which was where the
only access via a heavily protected door was located, this was about 6
metres above the ground and accessed by a ladder which was pulled up into
the structure. This first floor was where the garrison of an Officer and 24
soldiers had their living quarters. The third floor was the roof which was
where the 2.5 ton gun and 2 carronades were located. The design was such that
powder for the gun was pulled up via a hoist to the roof, through a
trapdoor, which reduced the chances of flashback down into the magazine.
The defeat of Napoleon by Wellington at
Waterloo on 18th June 1815 meant that these defenses were never used in
anger, however the Revenue officers used these towers as look out points
for smugglers . Today many of the buildings have been demolished or
removed, and only a few remain, one or two being turned into homes.