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martello towers

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martello towers

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martello towers

It was 1794 that the British discovered the defensive advantages of a round tower on Mortella Point in Corsica. At war with France, the Brits attacked the tower by land and sea after pleas for help from Corsican patriots. Six of their own men were killed and 57 wounded before the tower fell. Armed with detailed measurements, they took the idea back home and built "martello" towers, a corruption of the Corsican Mortella. These circular mini-forts were built from stone or rendered brick and had two floors. About 30 feet high and designed to carry a large gun on the roof, 105 were built between 1805 and 1812 to protect the south and east coasts of England during the Napoleonic wars. In fact, they were never actually put to the test. After the Napoleonic threat receded, some were demolished, some used to tackle smuggling, some destroyed in military tests, and others washed away by the sea. Today, just forty-five remain. The tower at St Osyth in Essex is now a museum. Several have been converted to bijou homes, while others are sadly derelict.

Photo: Maria Gibbs


Your comments

symbols of the fight that went on for hundreds of years with the old enemy across the water.

Yvonne Turner

i like different shaped buildings,architecture both functional and unusual,like dan cruikshanks new series,like bernhold lubetkin. agree with bbc tv's jon meades fascist and communist buildings are oppressive. i went to st.osyth when i was 7 in 1960,and 1984 when iwas 31

The northernmost tower is at Slaughden just south of Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast, this one is not the familiar round construction but is built in the form of a cross. The thickness of the moat wall is visible where part of it had to be demolished when the sea defences were built during the 1950s. This tower has been to converted and is now let out as a 'Holiday cottage'
Peter Everson

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I think the National Gallery is part of the heritage of England