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Our Martello towers

PUBLISHED: 11:40 14 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:57 20 February 2013

Our Martello towers

Our Martello towers

They're dotted along large parts of our suffolk coastline, but how much do you know about Martello towers?

They're dotted along large parts of our suffolk coastline, but how much do you know about Martello towers?

SHELL SHOCK: Martello towers were used during the first half of the 19th century, but became obsolete with the introduction of powerful rifled artillery.

TOWERING ACHIEVEMENT: Between 1805 and 1812, 103 Martello towers were built on the east coast of England to resist a potential invasion by Napoleon. Twenty-nine were built between Aldeburgh and St Osyth Stone between 1808 and 1812 to protect Essex and Suffolk.

PIRATE DETERRENT: These curved forts were inspired by the Genovese defence system at Mortella Point in Corsica, which were first built in 1565. The Corsicans originally built these towers on the coast of the island to protect their villages from pirates.

COM-FORTS: Many towers are privately owned but one at Jaywick has become an arts venue, another, at St Osyth, a museum and two in Suffolk (at Hollesley and Felixstowe) are homes.

SIZE MATTERS: The towers are built of brick, are 13 foot thick on the seaward side to resist cannon fire, and stand about 30-40 foot high. Most were equipped with a cannon on the roof and typically had a garrison of one officer and 15-25 men. A supporting fort, or Redoubt, was built at Harwich.

WHOS THE DADDY? The largest tower is Martello CC, at Aldeburgh, which is effectively four towers joined together. Owned by the Landmark Trust, and available to rent, it was built in the shape of a quatrefoil for four heavy guns, with nearly a million bricks used in its construction. It stands at the foot of the Orford Ness peninsula, between the River Alde and the sea, a few hundred yards from Aldeburgh.

Photograph by BILL PHILPOT


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