Martello Tower Nov 2012




In 1794 during the wars following the French revolution, the British navy needed to capture a fortified tower located on Point Mortella on the island of Corsica. This turned out to be more difficult than expected, because the design of the tower was rather sturdy. It was round and had very thick walls and had a flat top with a gun that could point in all directions. The troops on the tower held the ships at bay for two days, when they were taken by a land based force.
When Napoleon Bonaparte, a former inhabitant of that very island, started to stir up trouble in Europe, Britain felt very vulnerable and the design and prowess of this Corsican tower was remembered and dozens of copies were built along the coasts of Kent and Sussex. Due to a characteristic linguistic mix-up the structures became known as Martello towers. By the end of the Napoleonic wars Martello towers had spread as far as the East Indies and Canada, and several were built in Ireland. Two magnificent examples cover the entrance to Lough Foyle.

The Magilligan Martello tower was built towards the end of the wars in 1812 and is one of the most northerly of the towers built all around the coasts of Ireland. Originally a 24 pounder cannon was mounted on the top. It was fastened to a central pivot and moved on a circular rail so that it could point in all directions. The tower was built on top of a spring to ensure fresh water in case of a siege. Below the gun platform were the living quarters and the ground floor was used to store powder and ammunition. There is a similar tower in Greencastle, on the other side of Lough Foyle. 






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