Martello tower A and associated battery, Stone Point
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Jan-2021 at 20:25:31.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Tendring (District Authority)
- St. Osyth
- National Grid Reference:
- TM 08240 15661, TM 08300 15692
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 the north bank of the Colne Estuary to Walton on the Naze - with the large circular redoubt at Harwich punctuating the northern end. In addition to tower A, five others now remain standing and are the subject of separate schedulings : those at Jaywick (C), Eastness (D), Clacton Wash (E), central Clacton (F) and Walton Mere (K).
Martello tower A, the earliest and most southerly tower on the east coast of England, survives well. Despite a range of later uses, the structure remains substantially unaltered and still retains numerous features dating from the period of construction. In addition, this strategic position also retains a rare example of a contemporary forward battery, one of only two now remaining along the Clacton Beach section of the east coast line.
Although manned in World War I, the most notable addition to the tower is the observation and command post constructed in World War II. This structure is now recognised as being significant in its own right. It reflects a further period of intense national crisis and relates specifically to the defensive measures deployed in the east coast estuaries and the preparations for the counter-invasion of Europe.
The monument, in two areas of protection, includes a martello tower and the
standing and buried remains of an associated forward battery, situated near
the tip of Point Clear (Stone Point) to face Mersea Island across the mouth of
the Colne Estuary.
The tower, which is Listed Grade II, was the first to be built in the east coast series (and consequently identified by the letter `A'). It was constructed in an isolated location known as Lost Marsh, on land purchased under Act of Parliament in 1808. It now stands between a cluster of seafront bungalows dating from the period between the two World Wars and a modern holiday park. The tower 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 are flush with the exterior, indicating that the brickwork of this tower, unlike many on the east coast, was originally left exposed and not coated with coarse stucco. The first floor entrance, on the east side of the tower, was designed to be approached by ladder as is clearly shown by the stone chute at the foot of the frame. The oak flooring in the first floor garrison room remains substantially intact, although a small section was removed in the 1930s to allow a staircase to the ground floor. The trapdoor which originally provided the only access to the magazine and stores still survives, complete with the iron hoist ring set in the ceiling above. The flagstone flooring surrounding the officer's fireplace (and covering the vault of the main powder magazine) is also fully intact, although the original iron cooking range has long since been removed. The two northern windows have been framed and glazed since the 1930s. They also retain sets of iron bars, parts of which may date from around 1818 when such bars were installed in most Essex towers to allow the shutters to remain open and relieve the constant problem of damp. The window embrasure to the south was expanded in the late 1950s or 1960s to provide a passageway to a small two-storey, brick-built annex attached to the outer wall. This structure, formerly part of a post-war cafe and now containing a small kitchen and toilets, is not included in the scheduling. The south east window alcove, at the foot of the southern staircase, has also been widened, allowing access to a steel fire escape (excluded from the scheduling), itself replacing a set of wooden stairs. The internal stairways to the roof both survive although the southern passage is currently blocked and used as a wood store. Unlike many towers on the east coast, the interior face of the rampart has not been subsequently rendered and the masonry of the parapet and gun step retains its original appearance. Several of the box-like recesses for ready-use cannon balls and other equipment also survive unchanged, together with some of the iron hauling-rings used for traversing and preparing the guns. The cannons themselves were removed in the 19th century, and the pivots for the three rotating gun carriages (further cannon barrels embedded muzzle upwards in the roof) are also missing, presumably removed during the World War II. The forward embrasure is almost completely obscured by an observation post built during World War II. The forward section of this brick-built structure is constructed over the original gun emplacement and matches the curvature of the stone parapet. A slot-like aperture facing seaward beneath its concrete roof is now glazed, but it was originally open and probably served as a light gun position. Attached to the rear of this structure is a small rectangular tower, now roofed, but built as an open-topped command post to control the detonation system for a pattern of mines laid across the estuary. In the later stages of the war these structures were used to observe large scale invasion exercises in preparation for Operation Overlord. The entire installation, with the exception of the modern roof on the command tower, is included in the scheduling.
The ground floor of the martello tower is accessible via a passageway on the east side, which was cut through the rear wall of a storage alcove in the early 1940s. The other internal alcoves and the main magazine remain substantially unaltered, although the floor level throughout was raised with concrete during the World War II. The original ventilation system - an arrangement of flues set within the thickness of the outer wall and linked to slots and box-like apertures in the alcoves and in the internal walls of the room above - is still very much in evidence.
All the Essex towers, except for that at Holland Marsh (tower H), were built to accompany forward batteries, some of which had already been in place for over ten years. The battery at Stone Point was built in conjunction with tower A, and it is now one of only two surviving examples on the Essex coast; the other lying near tower K at Walton on the Naze. The remains of the Stone Point battery stand some 50m to the south west of the tower, in the gardens of Nos.31-33 Tower Estate. The battery is of the barbette-type: a massive `V'-shaped brick wall pointing east towards the estuary mouth, terraced to the rear and originally equipped with five 24-pound cannons, set on traversing carriages behind lower sections of the parapet. The northern arm of the wall, some 40m in length and 2.5m high, survives particularly well, retaining the upper course of dressed stone, the inner rifle step (or covered way) and two embrasures complete with carriage pivots embedded in platforms below. The central section of the southern arm also survives near to its full height and retains evidence of two further embrasures. The seaward point of the battery (including the forward embrasure) and the eastern end of the south wall however, have been overlain by later houses or reduced leaving only the lower courses and massive foundations in place. The standing and buried remains of the battery wall and gun emplacements, excluding all features subsequently attached or overlain, are included in the scheduling.
As with all the Essex martello towers and batteries, martello tower A was armed and provisioned but not fully garrisoned after its completion around 1810. A report by the Ordnance Barrack Department in 1812 emphasised 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 - John Brewerton being appointed to tower A. Given its position overlooking the vulnerable River Colne the tower continued to mount cannon for some time after the Napoleonic War; and the same was also true for the opposing battery at Brightlingsea, which was later destroyed by railway construction. The tower remained in Crown hands into the early 20th century, first as a coastguard station and later as a piquet station in the World War I. After the war the tower was converted for use as a restaurant, serving the seafront properties which developed around Stone Point in the late 1920s and 1930s. During World War II the tower, and later the entire point, was commandeered for military use. The tower was used as a tea room in the late 1950s and 1960s, although it was unable to match its pre-war success. It was briefly adapted as a bar and discotheque for the new holiday park, although by the mid 1980s the tower had fallen into disuse. The park's owners subsequently allowed the tower to be used by a local museum group. This group (The East Essex Aviation Museum Society) has undertaken renovations and equipped the interior with displays concerning World War II (with particular reference to military aviation) and the history of the tower.
The metal porch covering the ground floor entrance on the south east side of the tower; the former supermarket building (now museum workshops and stores) attached to the tower's north side and the brick built annex to the south are not included in the scheduling.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the steel fire escape on the south east side of the tower, together with all other interior and exterior fixtures and fittings which post-date World War II; all museum displays and exhibits and all modern materials and equipment stored within the tower, although the structure of the tower where these features stand or are attached to it is included. All features attached or overlying the standing and buried remains of the battery wall and gun emplacements are also excluded, although all the original structures beneath are again included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
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
Conversation with local resident, Lawless, Mrs B, Stone Point during World War II, (1998)
Conversation with long term resident, Lawless, Mrs B, (1998)
Conversation with tower's curators, Sippet, B and Scott, A, (1998)
Discussion with museum group, Sippet, B and Scott, A, Martello Tower A, (1998)
MPP Scheduling proposal, Went, D, SM:29434 Martello Tower K, west of Walton Mere, (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