Reasons for Designation
Martello towers are small coastal artillery forts constructed after the
renewal of war with France in 1803 to defend England against the threat of
invasion. Their design and name were taken from a tower at Martello Bay,
Corsica. The 103 towers in the chain were developed in two phases, those in
East Sussex and Kent being built between 1805 and 1808, and those in Essex and
Suffolk between 1809 and 1812. The south coast towers were numbered 1-74 (from
Beachy Head to Dover) while those to the east were identified by a system of
letters (A-Z from St Osyth to Alderton and AA-CC from Hollesley to Aldeburgh).
The towers are usually circular or near circular in plan, with an average
height of 10m containing three levels. They were built in brick, and often
rendered. The tower walls are both massive (up to 4m thick on the seaward
side) and battered (slope inwards) so as to resist cannon fire. The top floor,
open to sky and supported by a massive central pillar, carried swivelling
cannon or cannons within a deep embrasure. The middle floor served as living
quarters for about 25 men and contained the only external door in the tower,
some 3m-4m above ground level. The semi-basement ground floor was reached
via a trapdoor from the garrison room above and contained the powder magazine,
alcoves for shot, cartridge and general stores, and a water cistern. Some
towers were supported by forward batteries, and many were surrounded by dry
moats and/or water-filled moats, crossed by bridges or drawbridges. The east
coast towers are slightly larger than the earlier examples to the south,
measuring an average of 17.5m in diameter at the base. They are also oval in
plan rather than circular, allowing a still thicker wall to face the direction
of fire. They carried three guns on the fighting top (usually a 24 pound
cannon and two shorter guns or howitzers) set on swivelling carriages within a
clover leaf shaped embrasure, as opposed to the single rotating cannon of the
southern line, and had an additional internal staircase to speed transfer of
ammunition from the middle floor to the roof. East coast towers have four
windows at the middle level (compared to two on the south coast towers).
The defensive strength of the Martello tower system never needed to be tested
before the end of the Napoleonic War. They were brought to readiness on a few
further occasions in the early 19th century, but the whole concept of the
Martello tower was soon rendered obsolete by developments in heavy artillery.
Some served a variety of other uses (such as signalling or coast guard
stations) into the 20th century, and a few saw use as lookout points or even
gun emplacements during the two World Wars. Of the original 29 towers on the
east coast, 17 now survive. Those which survive well and display a diversity
of original components are considered to merit protection.
Eleven martello towers were originally constructed along the 20km stretch of
Essex coastline known as the Clacton Beach, some adding to existing batteries
or replacing earlier signal stations. The line of towers, identified by the
letters A to K, ran from Stone Point on the north bank of the Colne Estuary
northwards to Walton on the Naze - with the large circular redoubt at Harwich
punctuating the northern end. In addition to tower D, five others now remain
standing and are the subject of separate schedulings: those at Stone Point
(A), Jaywick (C), Clacton Wash (E), central Clacton (F) and Walton Mere (K).
Despite the loss of the associated forward battery, martello tower D survives
well. Externally, the structure remains largely unaltered and it is known to
contain many original features dating from the period of construction. In
addition to its own commanding presence on the sea front, the tower also
stands in sight of its nearest neighbour (tower E) thus illustrating something
of the original appearance of the defensive line.
The most notable alteration to the tower is the World War II observation post.
This later structure is now recognised as being significant in its own right,
reflecting a further period of intense national crisis when the tower briefly
resumed a military role.
The monument includes a martello tower situated on the sea front at Eastness,
between Clacton-on-Sea and Jaywick, and originally identified by the letter D
in the series of east coast towers built along the Clacton Beach between 1809
The Listed Grade II tower stands complete to its full height of some 10m. The
exterior vari-coloured brickwork shows no signs of the rendering commonly
applied to these structures. The brickwork was also fully exposed when the
tower was photographed in 1913, and it is thought likely that this was its
original appearance. The date stone above the door and the stone mouldings
around the door and windows are, also, flush with the exterior face rather
than slightly proud, as is normally the case where traces of stucco survive.
All four windows, the door and the ladder chute below the door, have been
bricked up in recent years to prevent vandalism. The interior is, however,
reported to survive well and to retain many original features.
At the time of its construction, the tower stood some distance back from the
shoreline, behind a forward battery which had been built a few years before.
The battery, a `V'-shaped barbette style brick wall pointing out to sea, had
provision for three 24-pound cannons and was accompanied by a brick guardhouse
and forward magazine. All traces of these structures have long since
disappeared, removed by coastal erosion and the construction of modern sea
defences in the early 1980s.
As with all the Essex martello towers, tower D was armed and provisioned but
not garrisoned after its completion in 1812. A report by the Ordnance Barrack
Department in that year pointed to the unhealthy nature of the Essex coastline
and recommended that the artillerymen be stationed at Weely (some 8km inland)
where barracks had been built for the Essex defence regiments in 1803.
Throughout the period leading up to the appeasement of Europe in 1815, the
entire line of Essex towers was in the charge of `Barrack Sergeant Burnett' of
Great Clacton. After 1816 married pensioners from sapper and artillery units
were appointed as caretakers, and tower D came into the care of of Gunner
James Smith. Little is known of the tower's use through the remainder of the
19th century. In 1904 it was sold to the West Clacton Estate and shortly
afterwards the surrounding land became part of the Clacton Golf Course.
Writing in 1938, the local historian Kenneth Walker mentioned one Dr Sharp,
who had occupied the tower until his death some eight years before. The tower
was commandeered by the army during World War II, when an observation post, a
squat brick-built structure with a flat concrete roof, was constructed above
the original forward gun emplacement. This structure still stands, its curved
seaward elevation matching the shape of the underlying embrasure.
All fences, fence posts and modern made surfaces where they fall within the
monument's protective margin are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath them is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 1 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.