A whole host of the blighters were constructed by the British around the coast of Ireland during the Napoleonic wars. ,
James Joyce's Ulysses begins in one located in Sandycove, which is beside Dun Laoghaire. Stephen Dedalus spends a night in the tower in which he is scared by a dream of a black panther. The novel continues from there.
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.

Mar*tel"lo tow`er (?). [It. martello hammer. The name was orig. given to towers erected on the coasts of Sicily and Sardinia for protection against the pirates in the time of Charles the Fifth, which prob. orig. contained an alarm bell to be struck with a hammer. See Martel.] Fort.

A building of masonry, generally circular, usually erected on the seacoast, with a gun on the summit mounted on a traversing platform, so as to be fired in any direction.

⇒ The English borrowed the name of the tower from Corsica in 1794.


© Webster 1913.

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