Martello tower no 5 at Folkestone School for Girls
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1017172
Date first listed: 03-Nov-1951
Date of most recent amendment: 29-Oct-1999
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Shepway (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TR 20774 35536
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
Martello towers are gun towers constructed to defend the vulnerable south
eastern coast of England against the threat of ship-borne invasion by
Napoleonic forces. Built as a systematic chain of defence in two phases,
between 1805-1810 along the coasts of East Sussex and Kent, and between 1808-
1812 along the coasts of Essex and Suffolk, the design of martello towers was
based on a fortified tower at Mortella Point in Corsica which had put up a
prolonged resistance to British forces in 1793. The towers take the form of
compact, free-standing circular buildings on three levels built of rendered
brick. The towers of the south coast were numbered 1-74 from east to west,
while those of the east coast were identified by a system of letters (A-Z, and
then AA-CC) from south to north.
Although they exhibit a marked uniformity of design, minor variations are
discernible between the southern and eastern groups and amongst individual
towers, due mainly to the practice of entrusting their construction to local
sub-contractors. Most southern towers are elliptical in plan, whilst the
eastern group are oval or cam-shaped externally, with axes at the base ranging
between 14.4m by 13.5m and 16.9m by 17.7m. All are circular internally, the
battered (inwardly sloping) walls of varying thicknesses, but with the
thickest section invariably facing the seaward side. Most stand to a height of
around 10m. Many martello towers are surrounded by dry moats originally
encircled by counterscarp banks, and/or have cunettes (narrower water
defences) situated at the foot of the tower wall. The ground floor was used
for storage, with accommodation for the garrison provided on the first floor,
and the main gun platform on the roof. The southern towers carried a single
24 pounder cannon, whilst the eastern line carried three guns (usually a 24
pounder cannon and two shorter guns or howitzers). Three large, circular ten-
gun towers known as redoubts were also constructed at particularly vulnerable
points, at Dymchurch, Eastbourne and Harwich. All three survive.
As the expected Napoleonic invasion attempt did not materialise, the defensive
strength of the martello tower system was never tested, and the tower design
was soon rendered obsolete by new developments in heavy artillery. Many were
abandoned and fell into decay or were demolished during the 19th century,
although some continued in use into the 20th century as signalling or
coastguard stations and a few saw use as look out points or gun emplacements
during the two World Wars. Of the original 74 towers on the south coast, 26
now survive, and of the 29 on the east coast, 17 now survive. Those which
survive well and display a diversity of original components are considered to
Martello tower no 5 survives well, and retains a substantial proportion of its original components and associated features, including much of the glacis bank. Features associated with the later 19th century refurbishment also remain in place, providing an important insight into the subsequent use and development of the tower. When viewed as one of a series of six cliff top towers, no 5 contributes to understanding the strategically planned integration of the martello tower system and its role in the defence of Britain during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a martello tower, set within a dry moat and outer glacis
(sloping bank), situated immediately west of the Folkestone School for Girls
in the south west part of Folkestone. It is one of a cliff top series of six
moated towers, constructed in 1805-6 to defend the coastline between Hythe and
Folkestone, and lies around 400m north west of tower no 4.
The slightly elliptical, brick built tower measures up to 13m in diameter
externally and stands complete to its original height of about 10m. The upper
half of the tower protrudes above the lip of the stone built retaining wall of
the moat, which encircles the base at a distance of around 10m and was
intended to provide further protection from both cannon fire and ground
assault. As part of the original design, soil was built up against the outer
face of the moat wall to form a glacis, which slopes away from the lip of the
moat for a distance of up to 20m. Construction of the modern school buildings,
and associated access paths, to the north east of the tower, has partly
levelled the glacis along its north eastern edge. The tower was constructed on
three levels, with battered (inwardly sloping) walls, designed to deflect
cannon shot, ranging from around 1.6m to 4m in thickness, the most substantial
section being the wall base on the southern, seaward side. The external face
of the tower was rendered in a cement mortar, or stucco, which served to
strengthen the outer skin of bricks. A thick central column rises from the
basement to the top of the tower, from which springs the barrel vaulted first
floor ceiling which supports the gun platform on the roof.
Access into the tower is by way of a first floor doorway, which was originally
approached by a drawbridge across the moat, capable of being raised to seal
the entrance. The bridge no longer survives, although the wheels of the
drawbridge mechanism remain in place. The doorway is headed by a stone tablet
displaying the number of the tower. The first floor was divided into three
rooms by wooden partitions and provided accommodation for the garrison of 24
men and one officer. During later, 19th century refurbishments, two partitions
were added, one on either side of the door, forming an entrance hall. Two
fireplaces heated the rooms, which were lit by two splayed window openings to
the east and west.
The ground floor is reached by an opening through the suspended timber floor,
which replaced the original trap door near the entrance. This was used to
store ammunition and supplies, and provision for these includes an unusual
arrangement of two magazine rooms created during later refurbishments. Safety
features included lantern windows in the partition walls, separated from the
magazine by panes of glass. Two slate water tanks were installed beneath the
floor and ammunition lift shafts, linking the gun emplacement to the basement
level, were inserted into the thickness of the wall at the time of the
The open gun platform is reached from the first floor by an internal stone
staircase constructed in the thickest part of the tower wall. The circular
roof space, designed to accommodate a 24-pounder cannon mounted on a wooden
traversing carriage, retains most of its original features, including the
raised central pedestal which held the gun pivot, and the perimeter step which
carried the outer gun rail, all of which was sealed in asphalt, and the
parapet wall rendered, in 1964. The cannon, which had a range of around 1.5km
and could be turned through 360 degrees, was operated by a series of rope
pulleys with six iron hauling-rings set into the parapet wall which encircles
the roof. The lift shaft openings and ammunition stores, in the form of arched
recesses, are also set into the parapet wall.
All modern fixtures and fittings, and all modern fences and ground surfaces
are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features
or the structures to which they are attached are 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.
Legacy System number: 32251
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Sutcliffe, S, Martello Towers, (1972)
Telling, RM, English Martello Towers: A Concise Guide, (1997)
Telling, R M, Handbook on Martello Towers, (1998)
The Conservation Practice, , South Coast Martello Towers - a report of survey, (1996)
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