Martello tower no 9, 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.

Folkestone and Hythe (District Authority)
Folkestone and Hythe (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TR 19024 35158

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 merit protection.

Martello tower no 9 survives well, and retains many of its original components and associated features, including its glacis bank. The unique addition of two magazines at first floor level contributes towards our understanding of the subsequent development of the individual towers and, when viewed as one of a series of six cliff top towers, no 9 illustrates the strategically planned integration of the martello tower system and its role in the defence of Britain during the early 19th century.


The monument includes a martello tower, set within a dry moat and outer glacis, and situated on the crest of a ridge on the south western outskirts of Folkestone. The tower, which is Listed Grade II, is the most westerly 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 west of tower no 8. 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. Beyond the moat, an earthen bank, or glacis, was constructed against the outer face of the retaining wall, sloping away from the lip of the moat for a distance of up to 24m. The glacis has been disturbed along its eastern edge by past modern ground disturbance. 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 was by way of a first floor doorway to the north, which was 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. The first floor was originally divided into three rooms by wooden partitions which provided accommodation for the garrison of 24 men and one officer. Two fireplaces heated the rooms, which were lit by two windows to the east and west. The arrangement of rooms was subsequently altered during later refurbishments to provide additional storage for ammunition in the form of two first floor magazines. The ground floor was reached by a trap door near the entrance, leading down through a suspended wooden floor, which does not survive. This was used to store ammunition and supplies, and provision for these originally included a single, vaulted magazine, partly recessed into the thickness of the outer wall. Two further ammunition stores were constructed during later refurbishments and these were accompanied by two ammunition lift shafts, linking the gun emplacement to the ground floor level, and air vents between the ground and first floors, which were inserted into the thickness of the wall. 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, has been sealed in asphalt and, despite continuing vandalism to the parapet wall and coping, it retains many of its original features, including the central pivot and the inner iron gun rail. The surviving parapet coping stones retain the original, raised chimney openings and four ammunition stores in the form of arched recesses, a smaller niche for a gunpowder flask, and the heads of the inserted lift shafts remain within the parapet wall. 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 four of the six iron hauling-rings, used for traversing and preparing the cannon, remain in place on the parapet wall. All modern fixtures and fittings, such as the modern danger signs and the bricks used to seal the doorway, and the modern fence, 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.


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

Legacy System number:
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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

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