Martello tower K and associated battery south west of Walton Mere


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Martello tower K and associated battery south west of Walton Mere
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Tendring (District Authority)
Frinton and Walton
National Grid Reference:
TM 25078 22007, TM 25146 22036

Reasons for Designation

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 a large circular redoubt at Harwich punctuating the northern end. In addition to tower K, five others now remain standing and are similarly scheduled: those at Stone Point (A), Jaywick (C), Eastness (D), Clacton Wash (E) and central Clacton (F).

Martello tower K, the most northerly of the Essex towers, survives well. It has seen some 20th century alterations, but the structure remains substantially intact and retains many details and features dating from the period of construction. In addition, this strategic position also retains a rare example of the contemporary forward battery (in this case built before the tower), one of only two now remaining along the Clacton Beach section of the east coast line. This combination of defensive structures, especially when viewed together with the other surviving towers along this coastline, provides a significant insight into a period when modern Britain faced the most serious threat of invasion prior to the major conflicts of the 20th century.


The monument, which is in two areas of protection, includes a martello tower and the standing and buried remains of an associated forward battery, situated on the landward side of Walton on the Naze overlooking Mill Lane, Walton Town Hard and the Walton Backwaters to the north east of the town. The tower was originally identified by the letter `K' within the series of towers built along the Essex coastline between 1809 and 1812.

Tower K (a Grade II Listed Building) stands complete to its original height of about 10m. The date stone above the door and the denticulated stone mouldings around the door and windows all protrude slightly from the brickwork, indicating that this tower, as with many on the east coast, was originally covered by a layer of coarse stucco. Patches of render, including possible traces of the original coating, still adhere to the exterior brickwork. The first floor entrance, to the south west, retains its original heavy door, now approached by a modern steel staircase. The arrangement of joists for the floor within the garrison room remains substantially intact, although a section has recently been removed to facilitate access to the ground floor and most of the original oak planking has long since been replaced. Many other original features survive; these include the cast iron cooking range (a `Guidwife' model manufactured by Lane and Girson of Bonnybridge) set within the eastern (officers) fireplace, as well as the fireproof flagstones forming the flooring in this area and covering the vault of the main powder magazine below. Sections of the cast iron pipework which fed the basement cistern with rainwater from the roof also remain in place, together with the hoist ring set in the ceiling vault above the position of the former trapdoor to the ground floor. All four of the windows to this floor were framed and glazed during the 1960s when the tower was used as a bar and discotheque, although two of the apertures retain the iron bars installed around 1818 to allow the shutters to remain open for better ventilation.

The stairways to the roof both survive in good condition. The original wooden blast door is still fitted at the head of the southern flight; and although its companion to the north is lying loose nearby, the ring hinges and wooden securing spar remain in situ. Unlike many examples on the east coast, the interior face of the rampart has not been rendered. The masonry of the parapet and gun step is therefore fully visible, together with the box-like recesses used to hold a ready supply of cannon balls and other equipment; one of these recesses still retains its wooden frame. All nine of the iron hauling-rings (used for traversing and preparing the cannons) survive: three attached to the walls of each gun embrasure. The cannons themselves were removed in the 19th century, although two of the pivots for the rotating carriages (cannon barrels embedded muzzle upwards in the roof) still stand in the eastern (forward) and northern (rear) embrasures. The southern rear embrasure contains a comparatively modern concrete water tank. Several sections of the iron track used to support the front wheels of the gun carriages remain fixed to the inner step in the two rear embrasures, and sections of the rear wheel tracks are still set into the concentric pattern of flagstones surrounding the two visible gun pivots.

The ground floor is accessible via a modern passageway cut through the rear wall of an storage alcove on the WNW side of the tower. The other storage alcoves and casemates are substantially unaltered, although the aperture in the lamp passage alongside the main magazine has been bricked up. The original ventilation system - an arrangement of flues set within the thickness of the outer wall and linked to box-like apertures and slots in the alcoves and in the internal walls of the room above - is still very much in evidence.

Tower K, the most northerly in the line of Essex martello towers, was built to command the landing places and safe harbours to the rear of Walton on the Naze; whilst tower J (demolished in 1835-6) stood further to the east on Walton Cliffs and faced out to sea. All the Essex towers, except for that at Holland Marsh (tower H), were built to accompany forward batteries, some of which had already stood for over ten years. The battery near Tower K was built in 1795, during the early stages of the French war, and is one of only two surviving examples on the Essex coast; the other lies near tower A at Stone Point, St Osyth. The remains of the Walton Mere battery stand some 80m to the north east of the tower on the Town Hard. The battery is of the barbette-type: originally a `V'-shaped brick wall pointing towards the Mere, terraced to the rear and equipped with low embrasures to allow three 24-pound cannons to fire from traversing platforms. The northern arm of the wall, some 25m in length and 2.5m high, survives well, retaining the upper courses of dressed stone, the inner rifle step (or covered way) and evidence of two gun embrasures. The southern wall, however, was demolished to ground level in the 1960s, leaving only a broad band of foundation courses visible in the present yard surface. The standing and buried remains of the battery, excluding all features subsequently overlain or attached, are included in the scheduling.

As with all the Essex martello towers, tower K 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 settlement 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 - General F McKenzie being appointed to tower K. Little is known of the tower's use through the remainder of the 19th century although the strategic importance of the Walton Backwaters was such that it continued to mount its 24 pound cannon for some time after the Napoleonic War. During the 20th century the tower has seen a variety of uses related both to the London County Council camping site, which surrounded it before the World War II, and the subsequent development of the Martello Caravan Park. These have included periods as a bar and latterly as a storeroom and electricity sub-station. During World War I, the associated battery was roofed over and was in use as a training centre for the army. In the early years of World War II however, this roof was lost to a storm and the battery was used to store mobile coastal defence guns brought up from the marshes at night.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling, these are; on the ground floor all the modern fixtures and fittings including several rows of electrical transformers (grey metal cabinets) and their associated wiring and switchgear, lightweight partitions and doors (some associated with the former use of the magazine as a darkroom), shelves and a wide variety of stored equipment and furniture, on the first floor a plumbed-in toilet in the north east window alcove, a sink installed in the south east window bay, a decorative brick fireplace, domestic door frames and doors at the bases of the two staircases and glazed wooden frames in all four windows, lino squares on the floor, mirrors and glass shelves on the walls and a set of new handrails surrounding a recent opening in the floor. Also excluded are a concrete water tank on the roof constructed in the 1960s; a steel staircase and a variety of cables and conduits fixed to the exterior of the tower, however the structure of the tower where all these features stand or are attached to it is included. The modern electricity sub-station on a concrete plinth alongside the base of the tower, where it falls with the monument's protective margin is excluded, although the ground beneath it is included.

The original fabric of the building, to which many of these later items are attached, is included in the scheduling, along with such original fixtures as the cast iron cooking range, the drainage system and the exterior doors on the first floor and roof of the tower.

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
Walker, K, 'The Essex Review (October 1938)' in Martello Towers And the Defence of NE Essex in the Napoleonic War, , Vol. 188, (1938), 171-85
Walker, K, 'The Essex Review (October 1938)' in Martello Towers And the Defence of NE Essex in the Napoleonic War, , Vol. 188, (1939), 171-85
discussions with owner, Watling, B, Martello Tower K - recent use, (1998)
Recollections of modern use by tenant, Halls, J, The Tower K Battery, (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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