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Martello tower no 15 at Hythe Ranges

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Martello tower no 15 at Hythe Ranges

List entry Number: 1017228

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Kent

District: Shepway

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Hythe

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 23-Jan-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 29-Oct-1999

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 32256

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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 merit protection.

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.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 roof. 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 outer wall. 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.

Selected Sources

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)

National Grid Reference: TR 15216 33696

Map

Map
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End of official listing