Martello tower no 6, Sandgate, Folkestone
- 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.
- Shepway (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- TR 20229 35375
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 6 survives well, and retains many of its original components and associated features. When viewed as one of a series of six cliff top towers, no 6 illustrates the strategically planned integration of the martello tower system and provides a valuable insight into the defence of Britain during the 19th century.
The monument includes a martello tower, set within a dry moat and situated
above a steep, south facing slope, overlooking Sandgate and the sea beyond.
The tower, which is Listed Grade II, 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 360m north east of tower no 7.
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 brick retaining wall of the
moat, which encircles the base at a distance of around 10m and was intended to
provide further protection against both cannon fire and ground assault. 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, and traces of
this survive. 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 to the north, which
was originally approached by a footbridge which spanned the moat. The section
nearest the tower was designed as a drawbridge, capable of being raised to
seal the entrance. The bridge does not survive, although part of the mechanism
used to raise it remains in place. The doorway is headed by a stone tablet
which originally displayed 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. Two fireplaces heated the rooms, which
were lit by two splayed window openings to the east and west.
The ground floor was reached by a trap door near the entrance, leading down
through a suspended timber floor. This was used to store ammunition and
supplies, and provision for these includes a vaulted magazine, partly recessed
into the thickness of the outer wall. Safety features included a lantern
window in a partition wall, separated from the magazine by panes of glass.
Ammunition lift shafts, linking the gun emplacement to the basement level,
were also inserted into the thickness of the wall during later, 19th century
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
central gun pivot and perimeter step, with both inner and outer iron running
rails in place. Four ammunition stores in the form of arched recesses, and a
smaller niche, thought to have housed a gunpowder flask and later modified to
form the head of a lift shaft, also survive within the parapet wall which
encircles the roof. A brick stack, over one of the original chimney positions
in the parapet coping stones, also remains in place. 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, and the six iron hauling-rings used for traversing
and preparing the cannon, are set into the parapet wall which encircles the
All modern fixtures and fittings, such as the modern danger signs and
materials used to seal the door and window openings are excluded from the
scheduling, although the structures to which they are attached are included.
Also excluded are the modern fences, although the ground beneath them is
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 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:
- Legacy System:
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