Martello tower no 15 at Hythe Ranges
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1017228
Date first listed: 23-Jan-1976
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 15216 33696
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 15 survives well, and retains many of its original components and features, including the original door to the gun platform. As one of the few surviving examples of a chain of original towers, no 15 illustrates the strategic distribution of towers at vulnerable points of the coastline and demonstrates the integration of the martello tower system in the defence of Britain during the early 19th century.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a martello tower, one of a surviving pair of towers,
situated on the beach at the eastern end of the Hythe firing ranges. The
tower, which is Listed Grade II, lies around 320m south west of no 14, and was
constructed in 1805-6 as part of a chain of 11 regularly spaced towers
guarding the coastline from Hythe to Dymchurch.
The slightly elliptical, brick built tower measures up to 13m in diameter
externally and stands to its original height of about 10m. 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 originally 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
Access into the tower was by way of a first floor doorway situated on the
landward side, above which a vertical slot was cut into the wall head for
mounting a flag pole. The door was reached from the ground by a retractable
ladder, although this has not survived. The first floor was divided into three
rooms, and provided accommodation for the garrison of 24 men and one officer.
Two fireplaces heated the rooms which were lit by two windows to the north
east and south west.
The ground floor of the tower was reached by a trap door near the entrance,
leading down through a suspended timber floor, a fragment of which survives.
This was used to store ammunition and supplies, and provision for these
included a single, vaulted magazine, partly recessed into the thickness of the
The open gun platform was reached from the first floor by an internal stone
staircase constructed in the thickest part of the tower wall. The original
door at the head of the staircase survives, with a low, circular hole through
which ammunition could be passed. The circular roof space, designed to
accommodate a 24-pounder cannon mounted on a wooden traversing carriage,
retains many of its original features, including the central pivot and iron
gun rails. Four ammunition stores in the form of arched recesses, and a
smaller niche for a gunpowder flask, also 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 iron hauling-rings, set
into the parapet wall.
The bricks used to seal the door and window openings, the modern danger signs
attached to the external walls, and the rocks deposited as part of the modern
sea defences against the base of the tower in the south 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 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: 32256
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