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Martello tower no 28 at Rye Harbour

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 28 at Rye Harbour

List entry Number: 1017353

Location

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

County: East Sussex

District: Rother

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Icklesham

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 25-Sep-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Sep-2000

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 32258

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 28 survives well, and retains many of its original components and associated features, including its glacis bank. Furthermore, when viewed as one of a series of three towers, specifically designed to protect Rye Harbour and the sluices of the contemporary Royal Military Canal, no 28 contributes towards our understanding of the strategically planned integration of the martello tower system and its role 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, set within a dry moat and outer glacis, and situated within the grounds of a holiday village, overlooking the River Rother to the east and Rye Harbour to the west. The tower, which is Listed Grade II, was one of a group of three moated towers, constructed in 1805-6 to guard the harbour and the sluices of the Royal Military Canal. The other surviving tower of the group, no 30, is located around 2.5km to the north west and is the subject of a separate scheduling. The slightly elliptical, brick built tower measures up to around 13m in diameter externally and stands to a 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 protect the tower against both cannon fire and, if necessary, ground assault. Soil was deposited against the outer face of the retaining wall to form an earthen bank, or glacis, which slopes away from the lip of the moat for a distance of up to around 28m. A portion of the surviving glacis in the east and south east has been partly removed, exposing the buttressed wall of the moat. The tower was constructed on three levels, with battered (inwardly sloping) walls, designed to deflect cannon shot, ranging from 1.6m to 4m in thickness, the most substantial section being on the seaward side. The external face of the tower was originally rendered in a cement mortar, which strengthened 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 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 east and west. The ground floor was reached by a trap door near the entrance, leading down through a suspended wooden floor, which is no longer present. 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. Rainwater collection tanks were installed beneath the floor, to supplement the water supply, and air vents, linking the ground and first floors, were set into the thickness of the walls. 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 was designed to accommodate a 24-pounder cannon, which had a range of around 1.5km and could be turned through 360 degrees. The cannon was mounted on a wooden carriage, which was supported on a central pivot and traversed, on an inner and outer running rail, by a series of rope pulleys and iron hauling-rings set into the surrounding parapet wall. The pivot block and rails survive, partly concealed beneath a low, brick and concrete gun emplacement superimposed onto part of the roof during World War II, which is included in the scheduling. Modern danger signs and materials used to seal the door and windows, and all modern fences, telegraph poles, and components of other modern services are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath and/or the structures to which these are attached is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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: TQ 94192 18860

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2017. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1017353 .pdf

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This copy shows the entry on 18-Nov-2017 at 04:02:48.

End of official listing