Martello tower no 30, 300m east of Gate Borough Cottage
- 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.
- East Sussex
- Rother (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- TQ 91822 19872
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 30 survives well and retains many of its original components and associated features, including much of its glacis bank. Furthermore, it was one of only two towers to have been equipped with a cunette at the foot of the glacis slope; the other was situated at Walton Ferry in Suffolk. The presence of a cunette and the unusual, inland location of the tower provide a significant contribution towards our understanding of the need for variations in the basic design of the towers, and the strategic integrity of the martello tower system.
The monument includes a martello tower, set within a dry moat, and the
surviving extent of the outer glacis and encircling cunette, situated around
3km inland, on the south western outskirts of Rye. The tower, which is Listed
Grade II, was one of a group of three moated towers, constructed in 1805-6 to
guard Rye Harbour and important sluices on the Royal Military Canal and the
rivers Brede and Tillingham. The other surviving tower of the group, no 28, is
located around 2.5km to the south east, and is the subject of a separate
The slightly elliptical, brick built tower measures around 13m in diameter
externally and stood to a height of about 10m. The upper half of the tower
protrudes above the lip of the moat, which encircles the base at a distance of
around 10m and was intended to provide further protection against cannon fire
and ground assault. The moat has been partly infilled, and the retaining wall
is no longer visible, although it is likely to survive as a buried feature. An
earthen bank, or glacis, slopes away from the outer edge of the moat for a
distance of around 23m, beyond which a wet ditch, or cunette, about 7m in
width, encircled the foot of the glacis. The eastern and north eastern section
of the glacis and cunette has been levelled during the latter half of the 20th
century and four modern houses, with associated gardens, garages and access
track have been constructed in its place.
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 eastern side, the direction from
which an attack was likely to come. The external face of the tower was
originally rendered in a cement mortar 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 west,
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 and the tower is now entered by
a modern ground floor doorway on the north eastern side of the tower. 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 north east
and south west.
The ground floor was originally reached by a trap door near the entrance,
leading down through a suspended wooden floor. Modern steps now rise to the
first floor from the ground floor entrance. The ground floor 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 is reached from the first floor by the original 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 by a series of rope pulleys and iron hauling-rings set into the
encircling parapet wall. The roof retains many of its original features
including the inner, and part of the outer, iron gun rails.
All modern fixtures and fittings on or within the tower, all modern material
stored within the moat and all modern fences, sheds, greenhouses and other
structures are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these
features is 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:
- 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