Martello Tower Y

In 1793, revolutionary France declared war on Britain, ushering in more than 20 years of warfare as Britain struggled to contain the expansionist ambitions of the new republic. In 1804, the threat intensified when Napoleon Bonaparte declared himself emperor and showed himself bent on European domination. Britain lay in his sights: its southern coast presented an invitingly soft underbelly, and in his confidence, Napoleon even struck the medals he planned to issue from London following his invasion.

In 1794, French forces for days held a small, round tower at Mortella in Corsica against the British navy. Major-General David Dundas observed and learned from this, and proposed a chain of similar, round, squat towers along England’s south-east coast to fend off French invasion. For some unknown reason, the only exception to the circular model was the most northerly tower at Aldeburgh, rescued by the Landmark Trust in the 1970s. This late example, built from 1808–12, is not round, but a defiant quatrefoil. A large central living area is surrounded by two sleeping spaces that accommodate four people.

England Culture & Tourism Route © Monika Simon Newbound 2020

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