Martello tower D, 450m SSW of the Club House, Clacton Golf Course


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Tendring (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TM 16147 13376

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 and 1812.

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.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Gifford, P R, Resist the Invader: The Story of Essex Forts and Castles, (1982), 31-3
Gifford, P R, Resist the Invader: The Story of Essex Forts and Castles, (1982), 32
Hutchinson, G, Martello Towers - A Brief History, (1990)
Sutcliffe, S, Martello Towers, (1972)
Walker, K, 'The Essex Review (October 1938)' in Martello Towers And the Defence of NE Essex in the Napoleonic War, , Vol. 188, (1938), 170-85
AM107 Long Internal Report (FMW), Patterson, H, Martello Tower D on golf links west of town, (1993)
MPP Scheduling proposal, Went, D, SM:29429 Martello Tower A, Point Clear, St Osyth., (1998)
The interior of martello tower D, Hall, D & Hornby, P, Discussions with officers from Tendring District Council, (1998)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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