The British Martello towers were constructed between spring 1805 and 1812 as a defence against landings by the French under Napoleon
. 103 of these squat, oval brick towers were built, situated at intervals of around 600 yards and stretching from Seaford to Aldeburgh along the South coast. The towers were designed by military engineer
Captain William Ford in 1803, however, there design was based upon an existing gun tower at Martella, on Corsica
The Corsican Tower got its name from the word Motella meaning Myrtle
bushes, shrubs which surrounded the tower. Its strength amazed the British when they attacked Corsica in 1794; it withstood attacks from two British warships
, the HMS
Fortitude and the HMS Juno, with a grand total of 106 guns. Ground forces overwhelmed the tower two days later, however its design was impressive enough to warrant their appearance on the coast of England10 years later.
Each tower was a brick building of two storeys, surrounded by a moat and accessed by a drawbridge
. Their flat roofs housed a long-range 24-pound cannon
while their moat level stored food and gunpowder. An average tower housed 24 men and an officer on the first floor. The last tower in the chain at Seaford, as an example, cost £18,000 and half a million bricks to complete.
Although none of the towers were involved in fighting during the Napoleonic wars many, including Seaford, housed military personnel for many years. In 1910 Seaford was sold to a private owner who replaced the drawbridge with a railway carriage and turned the moat into a roller skating
rink. After these rather bizarre alterations it was sold to the Seaford Museum of Local History in 1979 and it currently houses a museum of local history.