74 Martello Towers were built along the coast of Kent and East Sussex, between 1805 and 1808 to guard against invasion by Napoleon along with other defensive measures such as Forts, Redoubts and the Royal Military Canal (which runs through Hythe).
The inspiration for the south coast implementation of these distinctive round towers came from a British attack in 1794 on Mortella Point in Corsica. The Mortella Point tower resisted attack from the Royal Navy ships HMS Fortitude and HMS Juno, resulting in 60 casualties on the British ships and the ships had to abandon the attack.This article is copyright UK Shore 2008 (uk-shore.com) It was left to the army to eventually take the tower after 2 days of heavy fighting. The tower had achieved this long resistance with only 38 men, one 6-pounder gun and two 18-pounder guns.
The name Martello Tower took a while to settle on by the English military planners, probably originating from ‘Torri de Martello’, the name given to watchtowers in parts of Western Italy, but also perhaps from one Naval officer who described Mortella Point as ‘Myrtello Point’ as the headland that the tower stood on was covered with wild myrtle. Other descriptions used were ‘sea-towers’, ‘bomb-proof towers’, or ‘Corsican towers’ and in 1803 finally as ‘Martello towers’.
The towers never actually saw active service of course, Napoleon’s planned invasion came to nothing particularly after the Battle of Trafalgar defeat for the French Fleet which forced Napoleon to look elsewhere for conquest. (more…)